3DValley Featured 2D Artist for December 2007 – John Schwegel. John is an digital artist from the US who create vector drawings in an unique spooky cuteness style. During day time he works at an advertising agency as an interactive designer and in his free time he create his drawings mainly with Adobe Illustrator. Read the interview below to get to know John and his work a bit better.
Christa: Can you tell us a bit about yourself: Who you are and what you do in your daily life?
John: I was born and raised in southern NJ and currently live with my fiancé, our two dogs and ferret in PA. I work at an advertising agency as an Interactive Designer. I mainly design e-cards and web sites and maintain/update some of our client’s sites. Every once in a while I get a chance to do some illustration work. I usually have a couple of freelance jobs that I work on nights and weekends. When I find some free time, I’m usually hanging out by the koi pond in our back yard with the dogs.
Christa: Which software packages do you use for your artwork?
John: I mainly use Adobe Illustrator CS2 at home. Every once in a while I’ll use Photoshop for color touch-ups and effects. I also use Flash for animation on rare occasions and Dreamweaver and Fireworks for Web stuff.
Christa: Do you remember the first time you knew you wanted to be an artist?
John: I’ve always loved drawing ever since I was a little kid. The box that my crib was in was covered in little doodles and I still have a laminated picture I drew in kindergarten. There are a bunch of cats and dogs in the picture doing typical cat and dog things like flying, going to the movies and water skiing in a small pool. I can’t really remember saying to myself that I would like to be an artist some day, it’s just something that’s always been there.
Christa: Where did you go to school and how did they prepare you for your career?
John: I went to the Hussian School of Art in Philadelphia. All of the teachers there were professional artists and they helped prepare us for the real world. I majored in illustration, but also took a lot of design courses. They also had classes on creating a professional looking portfolio and offered internships. Unfortunately, when I was there they did not offer a lot of computer courses, they just covered the basics. I think it was a year or two after I graduated that they started offering more computer classes. So, I pretty much learned all of that stuff on my own.
Christa: Can you tell us a bit of the way you work on your art?
John: If it’s a job for a client, I’ll usually start off with some simple sketches. Then, depending on how good the sketch is, I’ll either scan it in and trace it in Illustrator or just use the sketch as a guide and jump right into Illustrator and start drawing. If it’s a personal piece, I’ll usually just start off in Illustrator and start experimenting. A lot of my work started off with nothing specific in mind and just evolved. That’s probably not the best way to go about things, but it keeps it from feeling too much like work.
Christa: Do you have a favorite piece of your own artwork and why?
John: Hmmm… That’s a tough one. I think my current favorite is Zombie Jr. He just looks really cool and I like the colors I used.
Christa: Who or what would you describe as having the most influences on your work/ style?
John: I’d have to blame that on too many cartoons growing up (and as an adult). One of my favorites was the Groovie Goolies, which no one else seems to remember. It was about a rock band made up of monsters like Frankenstein, Dracula, a Mummy and a Wolfman. Good stuff. I was also a big fan of sci-fi movies and loved listening to music. Some of my current favorite artists are James Christensen, Brom, Brian Froud, Gris Grimley, Brian Despain, Wes Benscoter, Ragnar, Cam De Leon and many more.
Christa: What skills do you feel are important for an illustrator?
John: He or she should probably be able to draw a little bit. It’s also good to have an eye for color and lighting. I feel it’s best to have a good grasp on a traditional style, then try to copy that style digitally. It’s also good to have a lot of patience. And if you’re using Illustrator, it doesn’t hurt to be slightly insane.
Christa: Most of your illustrations are created with vectors in Adobe illustrator. Is there a special reason why you prefer to work with vectors above digital painting for example?
John: I think it just fits my style better and I like the amount of control I have with vectors. It just makes it a lot easier to tweak lines and adjust colors. I’ve only experimented with digital painting a few times, but it’s something I’d like to do a little more of in the future.
Christa: All of your illustrations are little monsters and/or creatures created in your unique spooky cuteness style. They are really wonderful and always make me smile when I see them. What do you personally get from them?
John: They do pretty much the same thing for me,… make me smile. I just like to look at something when I’m done and be able to say “Hey, that looks pretty cool”. Pretty much everything I create is for my own amusement. If someone else happens to enjoy something I’ve created then that’s just a bonus. I always appreciate it when people say they enjoy looking at my work.
Christa: What made you decide to keep your work in a spooky cuteness “friendly” style and instead of a darker spooky like style?
John: I’m not really sure if it was a decision, things just kind of ended up being that way. I enjoy looking at darker art and always wanted to try it out. I guess it’s just more fun for me to do silly stuff than something too disturbing.
Christa: Which area(s) of creating illustrations do you enjoy the most?
John: Seeing the final result has to be my favorite part. But, I also like experimenting in Illustrator and finding new ways to do things. Eyes have always been my favorite part of a character to draw. Most of my illustrations start with the eyes. My least favorite part would have to be research.
Christa: How did your personal website/ portfolio help you to promote your own art?
John: I think it’s been a big help as far as finding freelance work is concerned. I’ve gotten a lot of jobs from people doing image searches on Google that ended up on my site.
Christa: You currently have a day job but I read that you would like to do more freelance work. What would be your dream assignment?
John: I think it would be cool to do character designs for an animated series of movie.
Christa: Can you name a career highlight?
John: I was asked by the authors of the Illustrator CS Killer Tips series if they could use some of my work as samples in their books. I thought that was pretty cool.
Christa: Are you currently working on something new that you can share with us?
John: I’ve been pretty busy with freelance work lately. But I’ve started a zombie girl pin-up that I hope I can get back to soon.
Christa: Besides 3Dvalley.com, which other graphic sites do you visit regularly?
John: I try to promote my work on as many sites as possible and I also use them for inspiration. Some of my most visited sites are DeviantArt, GFXartist, CGsociety, ArtWanted.com, DigitalArt.org, Epilogue.net. I also post my work in a few forums like FlightComics, PencilJack.com, Drawingboard.org, and many others.
Christa: Is their something you can’t work without?
John: Working without music is a real drag. It helps inspire me and keeps me from getting bored.
Christa: What do you do when you are not working or creating something?
John: I have a basset hound, a beagle and a ferret at home that keep me entertained when I have some free time. My fiancé and I like to go camping, kayaking and fishing every once in a while. I also do a lot of “research” for my drawings like watching cartoons and sci-fi movies.
Christa: Thanks for your time and the interview John!