Chris was kind enough to answer some questions about his style, approach, and work. I hope you enjoy the discussion…
What lead you to pursue this retro style illustration?
It was never a consideration, it was just what I did. I don’t recall the first time I thought ‘I want to do that’, but I guess it’s from reading comics, the illustrations in the ads, my parents dragging me to garage sales as a kid and always being surrounded by old things and consequently, old illustration.
30s, 40s, 50s illustration, whether you like it stylistically or not, is traditional, good figurative drawing. And I think that’s part of why it’s still hanging around in illustration, and partly I think because there’s a familiarity to it that people respond to on some level, either sincerely or ironically, like macaroni and cheese.
How do you create your work? It looks as if you use the old school pencil, brush and ink? (And I love it). Do you do draw and ink on paper, scan and color on computer?
Pencil sketches, ink the drawing, scan it and color it in Photoshop. I used to watercolor everything, but as deadlines got tighter I had to adapt in order to take more assignments. It was a flat style of color so the difference is negligible in print, especially newsprint. At first it was a practical decision, but I actually like the possibilities Photoshop opened up. I still paint in my sketchbook, but that’s about it.
How much bigger is your original artwork than what typically gets printed? Same? Much bigger?
When I used to paint the illustrations I did them anywhere from 150 to 200% larger. I also inked exclusively with a brush at that point and that required a larger size original. Now I do them at most 125% and use a combination of pens and brushes.
What artists inspire or have inspired you?
It’s been different at different times. When I was a student it was the countless nameless illustrators of old advertisements.
TinTin and the European ‘clear line’ illustrators were big for me for a long time too,
Daniel Torres is another big one,
and whoa, Dan DeCarlo, I love that guy,
DeCarlo was also the illustrator of the Archie Comics series
and Reginald Mount, I wish I could find more of his work.
I was Steven Guarnaccia’s assistant for years and his work had a big impact on me as well, he’s a great illustrator and designer.
As a student I loved all the guys who worked in a retro style,
Mike Klein and
Mark Matcho especially, they are both so good.
And Christoph Niemann, good grief, they should put his brain in the Smithsonian, for my money, that’s as good as ideas get.
If I tried to list all the comics guys and contemporary illustrators I love or am jealous of, we’d be here all day.
What am I missing that you think people should know?
I tend to avoid long-term projects. I love editorial illustration because of the pace, nail a good idea, draw it, move on. I think I need it to move along like that.
I am perpetually working on 2 kids books that I swore to finish this year, a cartoon strip that is NC-17, and a series of animations of various footrests called Ottoman Empire. When you’re alone all the time, strange things seem like really good ideas…
Thank you Chris for your time, and for your art!
The images selected were pieces I found on the internet while researching the artists, they don’t necessarily reflect the pieces that Chris specifically likes. All artwork is © by the respective artists.