Paul, as a long time supporter of miles to go, you approached me with ideas for designs you would like to do for the company. What made you want to work with me and how do you feel about the experience?
Miles to Go has been my absolute favorite indie clothing brand since I first began freelancing commercially, and discovering the world of merchandise design. What first caught my eye was some of my favorite artists were creating these spectacular pieces of art for the brand. Artists such as Dan Mumford, Keaton Henson, Godmachine, and Dave Quiggle, so needless to say I was a fan of the brand completely based on the art. As I started growing as an artist and spending more time online marketing myself and networking, Miles to Go always stuck out in the crowd for me. I watched the company continue to release these amazing lines packed with meaningful works of art based on literature that most people can instantly relate to, created by some of the world's heavy-hitters of the art community. I approached Greg to do some pieces for Miles to Go because I genuinely believe in this company. It's one of the most unique brands out there, and has an incredibly meaningful purpose. The experience I had creating pieces for Miles to Go is hands down the most interesting, challenging, and fun projects I've had.
When designing, how does your process work for brainstorming ideas? Do you see the whole thing in your head and begin to execute it, or do you have a specific process?
When a specific idea for a piece comes to me, it's usually complete in my mind. Composition, color work, illustrative and graphic elements- everything. I don't exactly know how this process works for other artists, but it usually works out great for me. Before I do anything, I jot down a description of the idea, or if I have time draw a loose concept, or a few thumbnails. However, most of the time the way the piece looks complete looks differently than I envisioned it in my head.
How do you feel your art has progressed over the past few years and was there an epiphany moment or example you saw that changed how you view your own work?
I feel like my art has taken a turn for the best throughout the past year or so. When I was first starting out, I would get 95% of my inspiration solely from the internet and other artists. The online community inspiring an artist is ok, but to a certain extent. When an person creates a piece of art that is almost completely based off of something they saw another artist do, chances are it won't look as quality and original as it should. And this is a problem that I fell into. It wasn't until a few fellow artists pointed out that my art was starting to look like others', that I started to view my art as others did. I was sitting there looking at these pieces I was creating day after day thinking to myself "Wow, these look great. I wonder why I'm not getting more clients? I should be." I was living in this little bullshit fantasy that my creations were actually on par with some of the very artists that I was basing my art on. When I realized what I was doing was completely disgusting, I sat there and came to the realization that an illustrative "style" or an artistic "niche" wasn't just something an artist woke up and did. Just like that. An artistic style is something an artist never stops developing. It's not something that comes on instantly, or even after a few weeks or months or even years. After that "intervention" I had with myself, I began to view my art and even my life a bit differently. I sat at my drafting table for hours on end drawing and sketching, thinking of ideas for these weird, depraved scenes I could create with my pen and paper. I fell deeply in love with the pencil and pen, I just couldn't put them down. Coming to grips with myself also meant that I looked down upon my art a hell of a lot more that I already did of course. As much as I'd like to think that each piece is better than my last, I still look at each work and think "I could have done better." And I think that is what keeps an artist's eyes open, and imaginations working; the minute you think, "…well that looks amazing. My work here is done." is the minute you stop creating quality pieces of art.
Who are some other artists you look to for inspiration and respect in the industry?
There are so many artists out there whose work I have seen, and I respect, I couldn't even begin to list them. I primarily work for clothing brands and music acts, but strangely I don't get much inspiration from the other freelancers working in this industry at all. Sometimes I'll see a cool element to a design someone did and think "Shit, why didn't I think of that." or a cool composition of some sort, but oddly, most of the my inspiration from artists comes from photography. Don't get me wrong, I respect everyone who is in this game, and is doing it wholly and honestly. I was an active contributor on Emptees.com until the doors closed, and if it wasn't for other artists telling me what's up, I wouldn't be writing this answer right now. I'm a huge lurk on the website "Ffffound.com" for example- sometimes I'll see someones photo of a landscape, or a portrait of someone, and I'll think to myself "Hmmm, I could somehow incorporate x into the bush there wrapping around the tree, going through this girls torso, creating a void where her heart should be and draw a compass there and…" yadda yadda yadda. It may sound strange to most, but that's just how my mind works for some reason. So a lot of my inspiration from artists come from photographers. A few other artists that inspire me purely by their work ethic, determination, and quality of their artwork are Shepard Fairey, Derek Deal, Craig Robson, Peter Takis, Rob Dobi, Sol Amstutz, Keaton Henson, Dave Watt, Nils Vogeding, and many, many, many more. I'd sit here until 4 in the morning typing names if I had the brain capacity and enough coffee.
How do you feel an artist, like yourself can best promote themselves to reach a level of designing for a living and do you see this as a career or more of an outlet that provides extra income?
I believe that networking is the absolute key to this field of work. If you're an artist wanting to make a career out of what you're doing, you can't just sit on your butt and wait for clients to contact you. Lurk the internet, send some emails, make some phone calls, build some solid contacts and relationships. The further you push, the more you'll get out of it. Word of mouth is also a very powerful thing. As of now, I'm really not sure if I want to make freelancing a full-time career. My dream would be to work as an in-house artist for an established company- such as Coca-Cola, or do editorial illustrations for magazines and catalogs, and continue to freelance on the side. That's what I'm shooting for at this point, but I guess I'll see where life takes me. Also, It's not all about the money for me, it's never been and it never will be. Some designers will whip out a pointless tee shirt design with a skull and neon colors and sell it to a band just to make a quick buck. I think that's just a filthy way of creating.
Artists tend to be their own biggest critic and a while back you had decided that you might stop for a while to continue developing your art. What changed and how do you see your art progressing?
Yep, exactly. As I've stated above, I am positive that I am my biggest critic, as I should be. A couple of months ago I got a bit fed up with my art. I felt like every piece I was creating was garbage. I wasn't happy with anything I did- not even a little bit. I made the decision to take a few months hiatus to kind of take a step back and evaluate myself as an artist all over again. Although it wasn't as dramatic, I still spotted the problem and eliminated it. I have been drawing and creating non-stop again, and I have a ton of new pieces to reveal online in a few weeks. I'm very excited.
Have you taken art classes or gone to school for design? And, where do you stand on the importance of a university education in art verses self-discovery, learning and developing the craft on your own?
In high school, I attended the tech- school program for graphic design for two years. That class taught me a great bit about the beginning stages of freelancing, but that's about it. I'm currently enrolled in art school for graphic design and illustration as well. What I've learned about this industry is 98% self-taught. When I say self-taught, I mean with the help of the internet, friends who are also freelance artists themselves, and my good 'ole fashioned pen and paper. And occasionally the Adobe Suite. My view on this might be a bit different than others- I'm 50/50. I think a quality education in the arts is a great benefit to a person pushing a career in any field of art. The majority of the time, the instructors and professors were industry professionals, and have been involved in art for a very long time. However, there is a downside to that- as some instructors get out of touch with the real world. They just teach the same material to each class that rolls in, thinking it's beneficial, when in reality it's not teaching anyone anything of any worth. On the other hand, I know there's an abundance of professionals creating pieces of art on a commercial scale and have no form of formal education or training in their area of focus. I guess it all depends on the individual. Some people lean heavily on others for advice and information, while others seek and get the information for themselves instead.
Lastly…favorite book or poem and why?
My favorite story still has to be "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allen Poe. When we read that story in grade school, I was like "Holy shit, this is blowing my mind." I mean, I'm a huge fan of all of Poe's works, but that story in particular has stuck with me. I am very glad Greg decided to hire Keaton to create that piece, he did it great justice. Another one that I really love is "Howl" by Allen Ginsberg. Greg gave sent me a few paragraphs to read for the piece I was creating for the line, and I fell in love with it. I must have read the poem about 20 times before finishing the piece. I even watched a documentary on Ginsberg. The way it is written is so unique and almost hallucinogenic, Ginsberg is without a doubt a literary king.