James Yang [yangillo]
What is your specialty in illustration?
My work is digitally created illustration with an identifiable style that can range from conceptual to humorous. Scanned textures are also used to create a "warmer" feeling.
What are your regular clients like? What do they expect from you?
Clients include publishing, book publishing, advertising agencies, design firms and corporations. Clients call me for the following reasons:
1)They know I will not be "stuck" for ideas.
2)They like the style
3)They don't have to worry about missed deadlines.
Is there a web address where we can see some of your work?
Have you completed formal art studies, or are you self-taught?
I graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a BFA in Communications Art and Design.
How did you get your first full assignment? What did it involve?
My first assignment was for a small running magazine illustrating a story about joggers in Nazi Germany. This came after taking my portfolio from studio to studio after graduating. It was a small black and white illustration done with ink.
The most important thing I learned was Nazis like to jog.
What past or present day illustrators do you admire most?
Saul Steinberg, Paul Rand, Leo Lionni, Henrik Drescher, Tim Biskup, Dave Plunkert, John Hersey, and many others.
How similar are your current drawings to those you did as a child?
More similar than I like to admit. My compositions are similar and it seems I've been drawing figures with large heads my whole life. In art school I drew more classically so this must be one of those "circle of life" things.
Richard Jackson, the editor at Atheneum Books, once gave me the following advice while we were working on a book:
"I want you to go to the essence of yourself as a child. Find the moment when you were truly alone as a child and let this guide your hand."
His advice still kind of freaks me out.
What was your favorite comic book as a child?
Iron Man was my first comic book. I was always a fan of the Justice League or any comic book with a group of heroes. I liked seeing the variety of costumes and super powers. X-men was also one of my favorites.
Do you have a particular style, or does it vary a lot?
My style is recognizable and if you saw it once you could pick it the next time you saw it. It is pretty varied within the style and has changed over the years, but you would see the same "vibe" in the work.
What is hardest to draw?
Rubble. It doesn't look like anything but everybody knows it when they see it.
What type of music do you listen to while you work?
Indie stuff on internet radio. Some of the stuff I like is Queens of the Stone Age, Elvis Costello, Spoon, Orgone, The Jam, The Cramps, Stevie Wonder, D.J Shadow, Jets to Brazil.
You get the idea.
Most of the stuff I like now was introduced to me by friends who are at least 10 years younger.
Do you have a favorite work of art?
Not one particular piece, but I love the work of Paul Klee and the work of Jim Flora and artists who are influenced by Flora.
My tastes change all the time which I hope is a good thing.
What do you do when a client simply says "I don't like it"?
Fortunately, (knock on wood) this does not really happen because people would not call if they were not comfortable with my approach. Usually this comment comes in the idea stage. Sometimes the client doesn't really know what they want so "I don't like it" comes back as the response. When the client and I are able to focus on the idea that needs to be communicated, the problem gets solved.
If it is a case where a designer or firm sold a client on my approach but the client was not truly comfortable, I just take my lumps. I never take it personally if a client does not like my approach.
Everybody should have the right to like what they like.
What new techniques have you been experimenting with lately?
My main experimenting has been refining my approach to color and experimenting with figures. I love all the Kid Robot stuff and it inspires me to push myself to be more varied with figures.
What part of your work do you do on paper and what part digitally?
The sketches are done with pencil on tracing paper and scanned into the computer to use as a template. Textures are also scanned and kept as part of a swatch library.
Occasionally I will do brushwork and scan it into the computer.
Everything else is done digitally.
What research do you do for your illustrations?
Google is my best friend for image research. I'm reading stuff on my own all the time so I probably have some knowledge about most projects that come my way.
I try not to research too much because it clogs up the creative process. Part of the fun of my style is "misremembering" how things look.
Do you have colleagues with whom you share techniques, tricks, ideas, etc.?
I have a group of illustrators, designers, graphic novelists and artists who are friends. We don't really talk about technique, we talk about stuff we've seen. Occasionally I will bounce an idea off a friend about a book I'm writing to get feedback.
If a friend is stuck, I have no problem helping them with a computer trick and I have learned some cool tricks from friends.
Do you have any specific goals as an illustrator?
My main goals are to keep my work and approach fresh and to keep an open mind.
Fortunately I'm very happy how my life as an illustrator has gone, so I just want to keep the mojo going.
What illustration web sites do you frequent?
I also like various blogs from designers.
What are you working on now?
Just finishing up a wave of work from various magazines.
My rep tells me there is more work on the horizon, so catch my breath and get ready.
What advice do you have for someone who likes to draw and would like to make a living from it?
This is the best advice I've heard and I have said it before.
You can be a second-rate Picasso or a first-rate you.
Try to be a first-rate you.
Brooklyn New York