Andrew Kolb is an illustrator based in Kitchener, ON. You can find out more about Kolb by checking his Web site, blog, Twitter, Flickr and LinkedIn. You can purchase some of his prints at his online store.
Q: What is your background in art?
A: Well I first studied graphic design. I spent a number of years refining and upgrading and it was a blast! The studios I worked in were always filled with really inspiration people and if it’s one thing that I miss, as I transitioned towards illustration, it’s the constant hum of like-minded folk toiling away on their own assignments.
Anyways after a few years of design I realized that I was most successful with the illustrative work I did and also enjoyed it the most. From there it was a big (but necessary) step to shift towards illustration. It took a few years to shed the title “designer who illustrates” but I’m now in the wonderfully fortunate position to now be referred to as an illustrator. It’s a pretty rad gig.
Q: Who or what are your influences?
A: Creatively? Well you’ll possibly notice a lot of throwbacks to mid-century design. The furniture and wardrobe are just too sophisticated to pass up! Plus, it helps balance out the youthful aesthetic I tend to lean towards. Aside from that, I have countless children’s books and animated films, as I love creating whole worlds (even if it’s just with a single image) for characters to exist in.
Whaaaaat else? Looking and the stack of books here I also have heaps of fabric references. The colors and patterns in textile design are two elements I’d love to better control in my work, so hopefully you see some of that come through. Basically if it’s visual, I’ll have likely archived it in my mind for future reference.
Q: A lot of your subject matter includes comic books, video games, television series or even pop culture. How do you decide what it is you would like to illustrate?
A: Well some of the time the content is dictated by the client or, in the case of a group exhibit at a gallery, the theme. There’s definitely an allure to working with characters or designs that have already been established (in the case of pop culture references) but I think it’s more than that.
In that familiarity, there’s a lot of play. The visuals are so recognizable that it’s great to rework and see how far something can be pushed while still retaining its core. So when I’m asked to work with recognizable content, the first thing I do is determine how I can add my only voice to the mix. Once that’s sorted out the rest is just me having a blast drawing Peter Parker.
Q: What is your process when it comes to creating your illustrations?
A: I don’t have a foolproof set of steps but there are some trends to be observed. Time allowing, I’ll usually do a lot of research on the subject (visual, written, etc.) and then consume as much as possible. After that sensory overload, I step away from it. In this time I’ll work on another project or take care of Emails or go and read a book.
I find my favorite ideas come when I’m distracted by something else. If I’m stuck on something I’m not happy with conceptually, then I’ll jot it down, even do a thumbnail, and get it out of the way. Once the idea comes, it usually ends up on what ever scrap or writing surface I can find.
From there, it’s a case of tweaking at a thumbnail size. If it doesn’t work at a very small size for me, I continue to revise until I’m happy with it. At this point I’m usually thinking about color and will enlarge the thumbnail, draw more detail over the basic skeleton, and really refine the line work. This is all before the computer except for the enlarging, as I do that digitally then print it out again.
Once I’m satisfied with the image then I scan it and work it up in Photoshop. It usually changes as I’m working and a good drawing will often get better. I will say that I’ve never had a crummy sketch turn into a great illustration by bringing it to the computer. For me it just multiplies the core. Good (sometimes) becomes great and bad (99% of the time) becomes terrible.
And that’s where are comes from.
Q: How do you take existing works and make it you own? For example, your version of The Walking Dead poster.
A: Well I guess it’s a case of those references you asked about. I try to consume a range of content so that my inspiration doesn’t become too solitary.
In the case of the Walking Dead prints, I saw the original poster for the first season and thought it was a great visual. Some time later, I remember seeing a pattern featuring different types of buses all in a line. That lead me to think about the blocked highway from that first poster and the image just came to me. Does that make sense?
As far as it feeling like the content without adhering too much to the existing properties, I hope I can credit that to a love of the source material. I think passion/interest in what you’re doing is key to getting something that is both your own AND for others.
Q: You’re able to create these whimsical, colorful and fun illustrations that also communicate with your audience and successfully tell a story. How would you say you accomplish this?
A: I have nooooooooooo idea.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators or just artists, in general?
A: It’s probably the same as you’d hear from anybody else. First and foremost: always be open and aware. Like I said, I take regular breaks from illustrating so that I can consume another form of creativity.
The best material comes from an awareness of the world around you. Pop culture is an easy realm to get into, but I would have never have thought to combine the pattern and the poster had I not seen both of them. If I had no idea what the Walking Dead was then I likely wouldn’t illustrate it.
So while I suggest to work hard (and draw everyday!) I also recommend living a life outside of your immediate field/world of interest. I think being engaged with the crazy awesome world around us is pretty important.
So in short, listen to Mr. Banks and go fly a kite.
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: Poolga just opened up their online shop: poolgaprints.com and some of my art is there! I’m working on another set of images for them. Aside from that there’s a great card company getting started called Viva La Card. It’s still in the early stages but if you’re interested they’re taking submissions at vivalacard.com.
Other than that, there’s a few gallery pieces I’m doing for Bottleneck Gallery and Gallery 1988 and all those cool kids so stay posted.
Shameless plugs: complete.