Randall Enos

If, by some chance, you’re not already familiar with Randall Enos you could be forgiven for thinking you’re looking at the work of the latest hot-shot illustrator to hit the scene. The fact is, he’s been creating his fresh, edgy, in-your-face images for more than 50 years.

A quick stroll through his portfolio reveals a circus of images full of energy and spontaneity, straying delightfully close to the edge of sanity.

Randall’s not only one of the legends of illustration, he’s also one of the nicest guys in the business with a treasure trove of fascinating stories and anecdotes. If you’ve got an assignment for Randall, call (don’t email) Set aside 45 minutes or so and don’t hang up until you’ve heard a tale or two about working with Art Paul at Playboy or the Famous Artists School or the day Satan went to NBC.

Randall took a few minutes from mucking manure on his horse farm in Connecticut to answer my questions . . . and tell a story or two!

Q: Your most recent illustrations seem to be done with the same energy and enthusiasm as your earliest work. After more than 50 years in the business, how do you continue to bring that apparent enthusiasm and freshness to an assignment?

A: I’ve always had a great enthusiasm for just creating something that is unique to me and unlike anybody else. I don’t quite know why I have such enthusiasm for the work but I don’t want to do anything else…no sports, no vacations…nothing. My mind is full of lots of things I haven’t tried yet and want to do. I created my own medium, so to speak, by doing these linocut collages. I’ve never seen anyone do exactly what I do. It’s important to me to be very individual with my work the way the people I admire were with their work. I’ve never tired of my chosen medium and there are still adventures to be found in it.

Q: You’ve worked with a lot of great art directors. Do you have any favorites with whom you’ve particularly enjoyed working?
A:  There have been so many great ones. My favorites were Elton Robinson, Ronn Campisi, Patrick Flynn, Mike Gross (National Lampoon) and a fellow at N.B.C. (now deceased) named Orest Woronewych and Art Paul at Playboy.

Q: From your experience, how do the best art directors work with illustrators to create effective solutions?
A: I think the key is when an art director trusts and respects you and opens the door to lots of freedom. Art Paul and Patrick Flynn and others, for instance, never even asked me for roughs….not that I mind at all doing roughs…it just shows that they felt if they selected you for the job then they were willing to go along with your solution. That doesn’t seem to work in today’s setup. I enjoy working with art directors. I don’t feel that this illustration business is a one man job. I believe it is a collaborative effort. I’ve always been willing to make any changes to create a better page…that’s the important thing after all…the final product in its totality…not my individual picture.

Q: What changes have you observed in the way illustration is used today compared to when you got your start?
A: There are many many differences today than when I started in 1956. One of the big differences is that editors now are the last word on whether or not a rough is accepted. Gone are the days when the major publications had a powerful art director who solely determined the art. Now “word” people make the graphic decisions. Many times they are very literal people and want to dictate the art. They say things like, “Why don’t you draw an angry banker standing in front of a bank?” It wouldn’t occur to them to just have an illustration of an angry bank and eliminate the extraneous banker.

As to the way illustration is USED….well, of course, when I started out, there were still a lot of opportunities to do “narrative” story illustration as opposed to “concept” illustration. One of the major changes is the size that illustrations are used. Magazines have shrunk in size and they seem to want “spot” illustrations mainly. There are no magazines left that have dominant illustrations the way Redbook or Fortune, Holiday, Saturday Evening Post or Sports Illustrated did in the old days. Illustration doesn’t seem to be as important as photography is to the current publications. We are in an age which prefers realism over metaphor I guess.

But I enjoy the challenges of the business today as I enjoyed the challenges of yesteryear. I like making illustrations that the art directors can wrap type around. I have collaborated on many interesting layouts that way. I don’t think we did that so much years ago. Many illustrators nowadays, I notice,  create their pictures squared off…in a “box” rather than the silhouetted or free shapes I prefer. I think they’re thinking more about creating “paintings’ or formal rectangular pictures than creating interesting shapes on a page. Above all, I love the world of graphics and can’t imagine a more interesting life than solving illustration problems.

Read stories of Randall Enos’ “Life on the slanted board” on his blog

See Zina Saunders interview and illustration of Randall

Jon Krause

 

John Krause creates images that are typically characterized by a sense of calm that masks an elegant edginess and witty irony. His intelligent, thought-provoking illustrations firmly grasp the viewers attention at first glance, but the second glance is often rewarded with an unexpected visual twist.

Jon executes his compelling concepts with strong compositions and a tastefully subdued color palette.

As one of the few masters of the genre, I wanted to hear Jon’s secrets for successful concepts.

Q: What do you think makes a strong conceptual illustration?

A: I think that while the communication or suggestion of the text is vital, an image that allows viewers to draw their own conclusions through the illustration makes it much more appealing. Sometimes, I really just like to look at cool pictures too.

Q: What’s the key to an effective artist/art director relationship?

A: Trust, both ways, leads to an effective collaboration.

 

Q: Do you like to have ideas from an art director to start with or do you prefer to develop your ideas independently?

A: I prefer to come up with the ideas, but I’ve worked in situations where a certain idea has been concepted and approved and needs to be adhered to. In those cases I work out a lot of different sketches and compositions to produce the best image I can, staying true to both the clients vision and my own.

Q: What medium do you work in?
A: I work in acrylic, on wood or paper. I also have a Close Encounters of the Third Kind style Devil’s Tower of rejected sketches piling up in my basement.

Christopher Nielsen

 

Christopher Neilsen

Christopher Nielsen’s work mixes a bizarre combination of primitive, naive, and slightly twisted imagery, with weathered surfaces and the bold palette of a vintage arcade. His images evoke a sense of both the familiar and alien. Mundane subjects take on an iconic, timeless quality with a delightful dose of kitsch.

Christopher has been working for almost ten years under the radar of most art directors so I thought you might enjoy getting to know a little more about this Australian illustrator.

Q: You have a distinctive sensibility in all your work that seems to reflect a nostalgia of some kind but I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. Is there an era or genre, etc. that fuels your peculiar vision?

A: I’m really interested in the distressed surfaces of old signage, vintage packaging and characters etc. I also love a lot of the aesthetics in latin and asian design.

 

Q: You’re based in Sydney but have done work for clients around the world. Has it been a challenge to expand your international reach or is geography irrelevant in today’s marketplace?

A: A good agent overseas and a simple functional website will get you started but it’s also about developing relationships with your clients and delivering the best work you can every time no matter what the time difference. I flew to New York to find an agent which is probably not something most Sydney based illustrators are prepared to do so I guess there were challenges in some respects but they all seem worth it.

 

Q: What’s the most interesting project you’ve worked on recently?

A: I’ve just completed a wine label for Preece which has always been on my wish list, being a big fan of the stuff. I recently worked on a great campaign with New Zealand ad agency Clark Newton to do a series of ads for law firm Hesketh Henry called “The Art Of Law”. They were kooky and up for it which is nice to see in a field which is seen as conservative. There is some children’s book stuff involving interesting technology I have cooking as well…

 

Q: What’s your dream assignment?

A: Definitely some kids books. Maybe a big campaign for Coke, or Apple. Those United Airlines people should give me a call! I’d like to do a cover for 3×3 or American Illustration. A cover for TIME, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker. A sellout show at Jonathan Levine Gallery? I’m just being greedy now…

Q: Good budget . . . Good deadline . . . Creative freedom: Pick any two.

A: Good budget. Creative freedom. Lotsa coffee.