Joan Varitek [pinkopigtails]
What is your specialty in illustration?
Ink line art with bright, flat color treatment, graphic novel style. Figurative, feminine, provocative, sarcastic editorial and ads for tween to adult market.
What are your regular clients like? What do they expect from you?
My clients are looking for very expressive and identifiable characters with a witty narrative quality.
Have you completed formal art studies, or are you self-taught?
I have completed my BFA in Illustration and Sequential Art at Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design. I have always been drawing; I am influenced by the cartoons and comic books I read as a child.
How did you get your first full assignment? What did it involve?
My first full assignment was an album cover for an indie rock band. It was a digipak format album; so I had to design the front, reverse, and typography that wrapped around. It required several revisions but the final product was great to see in record stores on its national release day.
What past or present day illustrators do you admire most?
Nathan Fox, James Jean, Tomer Hanuka, Yuko Shimizu are the present day illustrators I admire most. My most admired graphic novel artists are Bryan Lee O'Malley, Becky Cloonan, Andi Watson, and Chynna Clugston.
How similar are your current drawings to those you did as a child?
My latest work has definitely evolved to be a more realistic depiction of stylized characters, however I believe the essence and humor is very similar to my childhood drawings.
What was your favorite comic book as a child?
My favorite comic books were manga, like Sailor Moon and Fushigi Yuugi.
Do you have a particular style, or does it vary a lot?
My rendering style is very specific and line-based, the variance happens more often with color treatment, pattern, and texture choices.
What is hardest to draw?
Mechanical objects and some architectural elements.
What type of music do you listen to while you work?
Dance music, punk rock, or experimental.
Do you have a favorite work of art?
My favorite work of art is a landscape Lichtenstein made of waterlilies on a river. It incorporates his recognizable half-tone pattern and bold line with reflective aluminum for the water. I enjoy it because it creates and depicts a world in which his other paintings reside.
What do you do when a client simply says "I don't like it"?
I try to offer them language to help identify the issue that is rubbing them the wrong way. By asking them about different aspects of the image, I can isolate the problem and then offer a way to reinterpret it in the revision.
What new techniques have you been experimenting with lately?
I have been experimenting with colored line art, gradients, and more dynamic perspectives.
What part of your work do you do on paper and what part digitally?
My sketching process happens on paper. Then I do a final pencil drawing, and ink it by hand with a brush. After that, the ink is scanned into Photoshop where I color it digitally.
What research do you do for your illustrations?
I use Internet, print, and sometimes take my own photographs to find the photographic reference I need. I use figure drawings from my sketchbook to help solve anatomical or perspective issues. When an editorial piece demands an understanding about a story, culture, or specific issue, I consult a variety of sources to get a better picture of what kind of visual elements I need to include.
Do you have colleagues with whom you share techniques, tricks, ideas, etc.?
Yes, I discuss the illustration field and artistic techniques with past professors, alumni, as well as peers I have been introduced to. My colleagues are not all illustrators either, some are fine artists, concept artists, animators, etc.
Do you have any specific goals as an illustrator?
To have my editorial work published in high volume magazines, and write and illustrate my own published graphic novel.
What illustration web sites do you frequent?
Homepages and blogs of my acquaintances, The I Spot, Comm Arts, Carbonmade, Threadless, and Deviant Art.
What are you working on now?
I just finished a portfolio and website update; now I am working on promo postcards as well as producing some comics to show at Comic-Con International in July.
What advice do you have for someone who likes to draw and would like to make a living from it?
Be tenacious, perfect your art, take critique, and stay persistent and optimistic.
Chicago, IL, USA