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
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