Saturday, 16 April 2011

Scott Balmer - Q&A

Scott Balmer is a UK based illustrator who's work I was introduced to a while back, and absolutely loved!
His work is bold and colourful, with a nice mix of shape, line and hand-made marks and textures. At a young age he aspired to be an inventor, and this sense of imagination and fun inventiveness can be seen throughout his work.
Scott was kind enough to answer a few questions for me, and also sent over a nice range of images for me to post with his answers.

Check out his answers below which were really interesting and helpful, along with examples of his work! Thanks Scott!

1. How did you get into design/illustration?

I’m not entirely sure, drawing has been a part of my life ever since I picked up that first crayon. I would draw loads of things from cartoon characters to weird and wonderful beasts while films such as the explorers and the back to the future trilogy (oh and the inventions from the goonies!) influenced me to the point where I was drawing up inventions such as cars with flamethrowers, go fast stripes and jet packs. You know, things that could only exist on paper without showing any form or knowledge of the technical side. No extensive diagrams on how it works nor designs on a device that would enable time travel. Personally, I sometimes still think that coming up with concepts is similar to creating inventions. After all, your making the impossible possible, more so in drawing creatively since the only limitation is your own imagination. All in all, pretty much like any other creative really.

I think I probably started to take illustration/design more seriously after I had finished an HND illustration course at a local college.

2. What inspires you, both inside and outside the world of illustration?

Probably whatever is in my surrounds at that time, there’s always some
thing going on that could be missed if your not prepared to look for it, its a shame that a lot of people wander about the place with blinkers on these days not noticing the day to day wonders that surround them. Cartoons are another source of inspiration, there’s some really interesting movements in old 30s cartoons that are missing in animation today. I also marvel at the the background designs of a few old and recent cartoons such as the ones done for Dexter’s laboratory and foster’s home for imaginary friends. Generally anything and everything that seems to catch my eye.

(love this image, always wanted his little suitcase of tricks!)

As for inspiration inside the realm, I tend to look at older work done by the past greats such as Paul Rand and the folks at Pushpin Graphic. A time where everything was done by hand and with such skill. I always like the way the old greats can turn a few lines into something magical that speaks volumes on many levels. I do have a look around at the work of recent and talented illustrators/designers that are out there right now as well. Though I think its good to see what other illustrators/designers are up to, I also think that there should be points where looking is not an option. Its pretty much a balancing act, if you want to go further in your own work then sometimes shutting out what others have done gives you more of a fresh approach in your thinking and it also means less chance of being too overly influenced by someone’s else’s work that you end up subconsciously creating something that’s a bit too close to their vision.

3. Did you spend a lot of time developing your 'style'/ working method or did in come quite naturally to you? Is it how you've always worked?

I’d be lying if I said it came naturally, it was more likely a bit of both to be honest. At times it was a slog to get somewhere, while other times it all seemed to fall into place rather easily. I still think its important to keep on pushing forward with your work regardless of what level your at as this will keep everything fresh in the long run, so who knows where my work will take me in the future.

4. A lot of your work is created using cut paper and paint, what draws you to these methods of working when many illustrators have turned to the computer to create work? Do you find there are advantages to mixing digital and analogue working methods?
Actually those pieces are made with a mixture of cut paper, paint and some photoshop to get things into the mix. Some folk may think its better to make the shapes digitally and then add the texture but personally I prefer to cut the shapes out by hand and then scan them in for editing. But its just not cutting one shape and then using that in the piece, oh no, I actually layer a lot of shapes together to create the finished character. Take for instance the latest piece I have done for illostribute, the head alone is made up of a good few triangles, in fact your are actually seeing the triangles layered out on top of one another here since I played about with each triangle’s colour properties. Using traditional elements such as grabbing a piece of paper and drawing/painting on some lines and then piecing it together in photoshop
does add a lot more interesting effects to my illustrations rather than using digital brushes plus its more fun too. Some may say why not digitally paint it in or make the shapes digitally but I think that its being a bit more hands on which brings out the kind of look and feel that I’m after rather than trying to emulate the effect.

I still see the computer as just another tool for creating work on even though I have dabbled into making some vector based illustrations. I’ve seen a lot of young creatives jump right on board the CS software ship without fully understanding the principals of image making be it digitally painting or not fully understanding the fundamentals of the image hierarchy within the piece. If you want to learn on how to improve such things using the traditional methods work better in the long run and then trying to adapt what you have learned into creating imagery on the computer. I’m also going to add doing some form of printmaking can be good for this too since the decisions made are more permanent which usually keeps you on your toes, it was forms of printmaking like block printing that helped me develop an understanding of how to use colour since unlike paint, its not as easy to block another colour over the wrong choice.

5. Your work on your website is split into 'drawn' and 'graphic'. Do you think its important to be able to work in different ways? Is it helpful for getting work to clearly split your portfolio?
I think it is a good thing to have another feather in your cap since it gives clients a few more options to choose from. It can be a problem in some respects though since the industry pretty much likes to pigeon hole you depending on the style and work that you produce. Having two or more styles can be a double edged sword in that respect since your work does need to fit in certain categories that the industry can identify you by, well to start off with at least. At one point I was thinking about putting the other types of work under a different moniker such as the drawings that I have done r
ecently, but I caved in and decided to keep it all under my name. Although I have set up a cargo site with only the new drawing style since I’m still debating whether to separate these styles up into their own sites or to keep them together for the next revision of my website. But in general as long as the different styles that are on offer are of a quality it shouldn’t pose that much of a problem for both you and your clients.

6. How do you go about coming up with ideas for briefs/projects? How do you get through a creative block? (if you get them!)

Usually most of the work I produce starts off with an initial idea in my head, be it some vision of part of something or the whole concept (usually I do this for self initiated pieces) which is then developed further on the fly. This is a bad habit of mine, I always like the rush of conjuring up solutions there and then, constantly thinking what the next move will be. Problem is this doesn’t really sit well with clients who want to see something rather than talking about the vision in my head. Since this is mostly done for clients and occasionally for some personal pieces, I usually break up the ideas process into two stages. At the first stage, I tend to draw what are roughly like thumbnails where I mainly focus on the general concept of the piece while also on the compositional elements that make up the initial idea. I tend to not spend a lot of time drawing these rough thumbnails as its all about squeezing as many ideas out as possible and then moving on to the next stage where I select the concepts that look like potential winners and then flesh them out a bit with some better roughs.

7. When creating an illustration do you work on your own or in a studio with others? If so, do you think it helps your creativity to be around like minded designers?

Its just me on my own right now. I wouldn’t mind being around some like minded creatives or even folks from different fields since this is something that I miss from the days at art school. It would be great to get some feedback on certain things but for me, it would be more for the drive, seeing what others are doing and getting inspired to make something special in return.

8. Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring designers or illustrators?

Take your time on your work, there may be a tight deadline involved but working at you own pace will produce better results rather than rushing the piece and producing something which you might fault with later. Meet your deadlines, clients will remember two things about your work, the quality of it and whether you can deliver on time. If the worst comes to the worst and you can’t meet the deadline make sure that the client is ok with this as usually there is a grace period as long as it can be extended but don’t take that assumption for granted. Try to finish the final illustration the day/night before the deadline, the reason for doing this is that on the day of the deadline, your seeing the illustration with fresh eyes so any little niggles that you missed out on the first time can be fixed before sending off to the client. If you are handed a brief with a subject that pretty much bores the hell out you, try looking at it from a different angle, try to make it more interesting to you. You’ll make a far better illustration if you find a way to turn that bore into something interesting and dynamic.

And finally, be yourself both in the way you treat the client and in the way you handle your work. Try to be more memorable in how you conduct yourself and also with your work. Ok, now its finally, above all don’t give up. There have been loads of potential young illustrators who have given up too early just keep on trucking and something should come your way, just don’t give up and keep on experimenting.

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