Today, we are joined by Anthony Petrie , he is a Graphic Designer. You can view his portfolio here.
Firstly, I’d like to thank you for the interview. We’d like to understand how your interest for illustration started shaping up. Tell us a bit more about what made you go this route!
The illustration part of it was a mix of happenstance and destiny. Like a lot of artists in my generation, I grew up on a steady diet of comic books, Robocop and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I started drawing around the age of 5 and thankfully my parents were always really supportive of my creativity. Fast forward to college (Rhode Island School of Design). Going into it I was convinced I was going to major in illustration and draw comic books. Then, true story, one day I saw a poster for the Graphic Design Senior Show. The tagline used to promote it was “We’re in it for the money.” You can probably guess what I ended up majoring in. After RISD, I worked mostly as a full-time product designer, first in toys at Fred & Friends in RI, then in sports equipment and footwear at Reebok in MA. After work I would come home, and draw the things that were interesting to me: comic characters, monsters, GI Joes, etc. I screen-printed some gig posters in a friend’s studio. I started posting them online just to catalogue the work. It was definitely a ‘yin and yang’ kind of experience; doing corporate work 9 to 5, then doing my own creative work at night and on the weekends to maintain sanity and feel fulfilled as an artist. Then one day Gallery 1988 in LA called me, said they liked my work, and asked if I would be interested in showing in their gallery. Since then I’ve been in almost all of their group shows and made a small niche for myself in the poster community, which has allowed me to land some pretty sweet illustration gigs.
Tell us a bit more about how you learned it all. What changed in the last few years in terms of ease of expanding your skills and knowledge?
I focused on Graphic Design and Industrial Design in art school, so I’m not what you’d call ‘formally trained’ in illustration specifically. Though, I have done my share of life drawing and personal study of the intricacies of illustration. I look at it like this: I use drawing and illustration as a tool for designing. Like with using any tool, the more you use it, the better you get at it. Fortunately I’ve had the opportunities to allow me to keep practicing and experimenting at a professional level, but even if I didn’t I would still be doing what I’m doing on my own. I try EVERYTHING. I don’t limit myself to illustration and graphic design. I think it’s more important to have an all-encompassing view on design with a broad perspective than focusing on individual skills. See the big picture and focus on the small details. The middle will fill itself in!
What does your creative process look like?
Do you have any recommendations in terms of good books, programs you use, or media choices you’re willing to share with us?
My own work is created with 25% Adobe Illustrator, 5% Photoshop, and 70% iced coffee. I draw on a Wacom Cintiq, which allows me to draw directly on the computer screen with a stylus into Photoshop (huge time saver). To supplement that, I draw on paper with pens and markers every chance I get, just as practice. I’ve honestly found that the best illustrators are the best sculptors and vice versa. If you want to get better at drawing, sculpt in 3D. I don’t exactly have room in my apartment to break out some clay, so I bought Z-Brush, a 3D sculpting program for the computer (Sculptris is another great 3D sculpting program, and it’s free online). Get comfortable working in mediums that make you uncomfortable; it will make you a better artist. In terms of books, the most inspirational ones to me personally are comics, but also buy books made by and about your favorite artists. A great reference for typography is “The Elements of Typographic Style” by Robert Bringhurst. Want to work professionally as a graphic designer? That book is your bible. Learn every rule about type, then break every rule about type.
Do you have a special place or object that boosts your inspiration and helps your creative drive? What is it like and why does it have this effect on you?
Really, any time I leave my apartment it helps my creative drive. I work most of the day in front of a computer screen, so getting outside helps to shift gears a little. I think artists can find inspiration anywhere, as long as they have an opportunity to clear their heads. I live in NYC so I’ll try to head to the Met, MOMA, or Natural History Museums on the weekends as well. I like to travel, so anytime I can explore new cities, or re-visit old ones, it certainly helps with wanting to be creative. Countries with strong cultural influences help drive inspiration. I’ve been to China a few times, planning a trip to Japan right now. Paris is my all-time favorite city.
Could you describe how a productive day would look like from your point of view? Which are the most important hours for you?
I feel most productive when I’ve actually progressed in a project. Sometimes, especially in the ideation and research phase, it will feel like I’m at a stalemate after working for 18 straight hours. The next day I could have a breakthrough after only an hour of doodling, and in cases like that, I would say the latter is more productive. It’s hard to say what hours are most important in the creative process, because at any time a project can feel like it’s never going to progress or you can all of a sudden be reinvigorated in it once an idea hits. For me, it’s times when I’m not even thinking about a project that I will get an idea. I work from 9am to midnight every day, and the 2 minutes that I’m brushing my teeth at night is when I’ll get a breakthrough in ideation. So ridiculous.
What is your stance on today’s ever growing opportunities enabling artists to take on remote design work?
Anything that provides more opportunities for artists to get work I support. If they are more comfortable with working from a remote location, than it should be accommodated whether they are a full-time employee of a business or a freelancer. That being said, I do think it is important for large companies to have in-house design teams. Ultimately it will create a stronger brand identity and allow for a more efficient project workflow. There are a lot of large brands today that support most of their design work with outside freelancers. This is good, because they can route specific projects to specialists and exceed the expectations of the brief. It also gives high paying work to talented and deserving artists and designers. This is also bad [for the brands] because the process for sending all of the work out is often less efficient and way costlier than having it done in-house. I don’t think it should be one way or another. Like anything, there needs to be a balance of both.
What would you prefer: a steady, well paying job in a local agency, or the freedom and often stressful life of a freelancer? Why?
Well, I’ve chosen both. For now. I work at Nickelodeon as the Senior Designer for Off-Air Animated properties (TMNT and SpongeBob). I do all of my freelance work at night and on weekends. I’ve worked both solely as a full-time employee and as a full-time freelancer in the past. I like the security and the steady paycheck I get from working full-time at a corporation. Also, I like having a routine, leaving the apartment, and having working relationships. I think working in a studio with other creatives is an important experience for a designer. Working for yourself full-time can be a stressful life. You don’t know when or where or IF the next paycheck is going to show up. You have to hustle to get the work and maintain your brand. Taxes are a nightmare. For me personally, like I mentioned before, it’s a ‘yin and yang’ thing. I need the balance to be successful in both worlds. I’m fortunate to work at a company that is in the industry that I want to be in, so that helps tremendously with being fulfilled as an artist. But I think the work I do there and the work I do at home, though slightly different, can influence each other in a positive way. I think ideally, I would want my own company as opposed to working for one or working freelance. I think my strengths lie in working towards an overall brand direction, which is something I’d like to do for myself eventually.
How would you describe “the ideal project”? Did you have any recent opportunities to come close to this?
I have had a lot of projects that come close to being ideal. A couple of them I can’t talk about just yet because they’re still top secret. It’s hard to pick one. Honestly, the most ideal situation for me would be creating my own original content work. I want to make toys. I want to create my own brand. Eventually I’ll start working towards these goals. Right now, most of my work is inspired by existing properties. My hope is, that the work I’m doing now will afford me a fan and consumer base that will support me when I want to make my own content.