An Interview with Ilustrator/Publisher Lon Levin

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I’m quite aware that sticking an interview with myself on this website  is a little self-serving but I believe it’s also constructive. I started the Illustrators Journal because I was interested in how other illustrators work, live and go about their lives. I wanted to connect with them, know them and do right by them. We artists work alone most of the time, and in some cases don’t sleep much or when necessary do “all-nighters”. So reading about each other’s lives is a good way to connect and to know that you’re not alone. So here goes…

How does your work take form?

I start with an idea then thumbnails sketches. The sketches are very crude but they serve as a guide.
Once I have an idea I either collect scrap, use stock or take pictures to support the poses and the look and feel I’m after. I build a rough look in photoshop then switch to Illustrator. I usually sketch over the rough art in Illustrator with a stylus. Then I started rendering using tools in Illustrator. The ability to use layers to separate elements makes it easier to resize or rebuild individual areas without disturbing the entire image.

You were an art director, so you ve worked with many illustrators. It seems like you might have a leg up on other illustrators knowing how they think. How does that affect your work as an illustrator? 

It doesn’t. My time as an art director is over by choice. I love creating imagery that enhances whatever project I’m working on. I want the art director to guide me and give me feedback. Besides things have changed so rapidly in our industry my knowledge of what an art director does these days is very different than it was back 5-10 years ago. 

 

Do you do experimental work completely different from your published work?

Always. In fact I think in many ways that confuses potential clients and/or reps. I know they like to see consistency in an illustrators work. If you show one piece that’s different from 12 others it places doubt in their minds, which I find odd. To me versatility is a gift. It’s what made me such an effective art director and kept me on a roll when I worked as a freelancer.

 

How long do you see yourself doing kid lit art? Do you have any ideas for books you intend to write and illustrate?

I do kidlit art all the time. If I don’t have a paid project I create my own. It gives me a chance to explore new techniques and styles. I have ideas for books and I’ve written a few but I’m not pushing that part of my creativity right now. I’m leaning towards creating large paintings that are more intuitive and not planned. When I start out I don’t want to have a plan of what I want to do. I want to see what forms then shape it as a sculptor would.

Anything new you’ve wanted to do for a while that you are excited about?

The Illustrator’s Journey and Podcast!

My publication partner, Gregg Masters and I have stepped up our efforts to make the Journal a destination publication. I am always searching for great stories, ideas and illustrators to interview. I’ve been very lucky and I’m very thankful that artists worldwide have taken time to speak with me and reveal a little about their life and artwork.

I have some other longer term projects like my semi-biographical graphic comic novel “The Kid From Beverly Hills”  and a series of gallery paintings as yet untitled.

I also created a new publication called REAL CREATIVE. The format is essentially the same as The Illustrators Journal but it encompasses all creatives whether there’re Actors, Musicians or kitchen designers! I still go behind “the curtains” to get to know people.

Digital Illustration by Lon Levin

Do you do your work using traditional materials or do you do work digitally or both. How has working on the computer helped or hindered? Do you do any social media marketing?

I do use traditional materials, specifcally pencils and water oils. I sketch out on cold-press boards and paint into the drawings. Mostly, however I work digitally. It’s more liberating because the concerns an artist would have working traditionally are not a problem working digitally, specifically changes, or alterations. I can also experiment a lot quicker and easier. Additionally I can get real close to my art and fix details which traditionally would be very difficult to do.

Working on the computer has helped me quite a bit, especially timewise. I can do things a number of different ways to cut time which would be impossible traditionally. The only hinderance I perceive is there isn’t a physical piece of art. Somehow I think there are still clients that place a special value on art they can touch and feel. It seems more real to them.

I do tons of social media marketing. It allows me to reach out and communicate to many more people than I ever could call or meet in person

How long did it take you to establish yourself in the kid lit area? Was it hard for you or did it happen very easily?

I’m still establishing! This is tough question for me. I’ve illustrated 15 or so children’s books but none that have broken thru. Most of them are done in a style I no longer work in. I do like some of the work in “There’s A Kid Under My Bed” and wish I still had the art but a Canadian art collector bought them all. I’m working towards getting that one great project that’ll be a break through for me, the publisher and the writer.

How has your wife reacted to having an artist as a husband. Do you talk about your work together?

My wife is a saint. She puts up with my ADD behavior and my very active imagination. As long as I do my chores (washing dishes, making the beds and taking out the garbage) she’s happy.
Actually we talk about everything and though she’s not an artist she is very creative and has great ideas. She is also a brutally honest critic. I couldn’t do what I do without her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Animated Personality: Aglaia Mortecheva

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Animated Personality: Aglaia Mortcheva

 

Screen Shot 2019-04-09 at 8.49.04 AMWhen did you first think about art as something you wanted to do? Were you encouraged or discouraged by family, friends, teachers, mentors?

I always loved drawing, but remember deciding to become an artist at age seven. I had just started school andhated it. Mostly hated getting up so early! I was under the impression that artists don’t have to wake up early or go to school.I was sorely mistaken! My family always supported me. My parents are artists and very bohemian. They hardly noticed what I was doing, but were supportive to a fault. Still are.

 

 

What kind of kid were you? What were your influences?

I was very independent kid and quite wild. I grew up in Sofia, Bulgaria. It was a communist country back then, very closed off and repressed. But as kids none of it affected us too much.My parents made sure to shield us from a lot. My biggest influence was my dad’s amazing library of art books and literature. Nothing was off limits, there were no age restrictions and no censorship. Also, my grandmother Daphna’s crazy stories, very picturesque and saucy. She would embellish them daily, depending on her mood.

Your style is very unique. Did you work on developing a style or is that what naturally came out of you?

It came naturally, but I lost it along the way, especially during my years in art school. I went to art school in Bulgaria. It was very rigid – Socialist Realism all the way, as you can imagine. My weird creatures and playful color pallet were not appreciated.

It took me awhile to get the confidence to bring my natural style back. Illustrating children’s books and working in animation as a character designer helped a to free me and get back to what I love.

You work in a few different areas like children’s books,
animation, magazine illustration, etc. How did that happen?

Mostly it all happens by accident and also very naturally… 

I am  a very curious person and I can’t say no to work. I say yes to all kinds of projects. Often I will take any little job that comes my way, at least half of the time it leads me somewhere interesting and brings more opportunities, and more contacts with great people.

I just think of artistic challenges as adventures. Some people jump off cliffs and swim with sharks, I face a blank canvas and it thrills me.

How has the advent of the computer affected your work? Do you work traditionally and digitally?

I work both ways. I love the new technology. More fun tools to play with and it keeps me learning new stuff. Also, I have become a bit of a clean freak and minimalist in my old age, so when I work
digitally I like how clean my studio is! Also it keeps my toddlers from eating the paints and drinking the solvents…which is very useful! 

 

For More of this interview go to https://issuu.com/lonfellow/docs/ij.best_of_2018_v2

What are the challenges artists face today?

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Illustration by Oleksandr Shatokin

BTCA (Before the Computer Age) getting noticed as an artist was difficult at best. Especially if you were an illustrator working on the West Coast. There just weren’t enough venues handing out freelance work. There were only a handful of reps and they only repped known artists. You could do comp work for movie studios and agencies. But getting a finished illustration in a magazine, newspaper or on a movie poster was rare for a young artist. A few broke thru but the majority worked anonymously handing off their brilliant ideas to older more seasoned illustrators to finish of the work. Some who I knew from art school quit and joined (as my father would say) “the real world”.

My experience as a young illustrator was painful and it finally lead me to taking night courses in art production work and marker comps so as to become an art director. While I honed those skills I worked in construction for my parent’s family business. My thinking was most art directors can’t draw and express there ideas as well as I could so maybe my skill level would set me apart from the norm. I was right and my career as an art director was solid starting out as an art director for 20th Century Fox feature films.

As my career in the entertainment business flourished I still held the thought that one day I’d be an illustrator so I keep creating artwork with the goal of one day leaving my directing positions and stepping into the artist arena.

In 2006 I left my position at Warner Bros and started illustrating kid lit books. I haven’t looked back.

The freelance world had changed drastically and the challenges of being an illustrator in the digital age was challenging and exciting. However, I could see how a young artist might find the whole process overwhelming. Aside from having to master social media, an artist today competes worldwide with artists who are very skilled and will work for less than their American counterparts. What to do?

Connect. Connect. Connect.  Call, eMail, DM, Text send videos do anything and everything to promote your work. Do not be shy, because it’s true that no one cares about what you’re doing unless they see it and see it a lot. 

There are inexpensive ways to reach art directors. publishers and creative directors in every field of art. Think Bomb Bomb, MailChimp etc Post your work everywhere (add copyrights!) and…be yourself. Do what you like to do not what you think will get you  work. This almost never works and can be frustrating if it does. I’ve experienced both and I can say this. I’d rather work in another field and keep my artistic integrity. The only way you will truly discover your “real artistic voice” is to do what please you. Finally and most importantly never, never, never, quit. Your success as an artist may be right round the corner.

 

Happy Birthday Johan Faber

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THE PENCIL KING!

What would we do without our pencils? We artists owe a lot of debt to the Godfather of pencil-making Johann Eberhard Faber. So brush up on your pencil history and start sketching out your tribute to Johann!

Johann Eberhard Faber was born on December 6, 1822 in the village of Stein, near the city of Nuremberg, in Bavaria. His father, George Leonard Faber, was a descendant of the famous Faber family, one of ancient lineage in Bavaria engaged in the profession of manufacturing lead pencils.

He did his primary schooling at a Volksschule and then enrolled to study law at the University of Heidelberg. But he left his studies mid-way to pursue a career in commerce in America.

He moved to the United States in 1848 and in 1849, opened a stationery store at No. 133 William Street, NYC. The store was later moved to Nos. 718-720 Broadway in 1877.

In 1852, he started to export red cedar logs to the Faber pencil factories in Stein, having realized that the red cedar available in America was ideal for lead pencils.

In 1861, he opened the first lead pencil factory along the East River, between 41st and 43rd Streets, New York City. The factory was established under the name of Eberhard Faber.

In 1872, a fire destroyed the factory in New York City, hence a new improved factory was built on a site on Kent and West streets in the Greenpoint district of Brooklyn.[1] The new factory was designed for expansion and by the time Faber died his factory was the largest of its kind in United States and the Faber name was known all over the world.

Faber died on March 2, 1879 in New York City.[2] Faber is interred at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

ARe wE craZy enOUgh Yet?

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Getting work as an illustrator is an art in itself. I read this article today “Majority of illustrators don’t earn enough to live from, new survey shows” http://www.digitalartsonline.co.uk/news/creative-business/majority-of-illustrators-dont-earn-enough-live-from-new-survey-shows/

I realized this fact for myself back in the early 80’s when I made the switch to being an art director, all the while creating art for my job and my own pleasure. This went on for 2 decades until I left my job as Senior Creative Director and art department head at Warner Bros Syndicated TV. I banked enough money to pursue my goal of being an illustrator. However it still is not an easy task. I continue to struggle with this daily. Along the way I bought, renovated and sold homes in Los Angeles which ultimately led to becoming a real estate agent…albeit a creative one which now supports my artistic endeavors and frees me up to explore art and illustration deeply.

What I’ve come to terms with is there are very few illustrators who can support themselves on art alone, and there’s nothing bad about that. In fact it may even help them become more rounded as a business person and more social.

 

Fab Illustrator: Charlotte Church

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I came across Caroline’s work while trolling the internet and I’m fascinated by this style. I’ve done scratchboard art in the past and it is not an easy medium to work in. However Carolinehas mastered it.

Caroline Church is a scraperboard artist, and the perfect illustrator to approach if you’re after something with a vintage engraved look to it. Based in Twickenham, she grew up in Uganda, where she had pet chameleons and was encouraged to make greetings cards by her mother.

Training

First, Caroline got a BA in Illustration at the Chelsea School of Art. She then learned wood engraving as a guest student at Royal Academy Schools.

Approach

Scraperboard is card with a layer of white clay covered in black ink. Caroline marks out an initial drawing using transfer paper and then scrapes away the white layer with a craft knife into the black, creating the look of an engraving.

She has used computer software in the past but finds it frustrating and unnatural. The authentic look requires the tr

Caroline Church Illustrator

ue, physical medium, though sometimes she’ll add a colour wash in Photoshop to come up with something a bit different. When complete, her work is scanned and sent to the client digitally. Amendments can be made either by going back to the scraperboard, or using Photoshop.

Style

Caroline’s style is reminiscent of 19th century engraving, so it tends to lend itself well to projects that aim to convey traditional and time-honoured values. Not surprisingly, her main influences include the engravers Thomas Bewick and Gustav Dore.