Mike Fraser

Mike is another one of those illustrators that’s been a big influence on me. Just deconstructing his work has been a big help in my transition from working in the auto industry to working in soft goods for the outdoor apparel industry. Mike has done a ton of work for companies like The North Face, Gerber and Boa Technology, just to name a few.

Mike is one of those guys you won’t see much online, he’s too busy working, so I’m very happy to show his work here.

Illustration by Mike Fraser

Illustration by Mike Fraser

What is your background in Illustration?

After I finished college in 1972, I was a high school art teacher for 3 years before I started
free-lancing. During the summer after I left teaching, ( 1975 ) I put together a PITIFUL portfolio
and started calling on people around town. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing! …but people were nice, and helpful, and pointed me where I needed to go.

Illustration by Mike Fraser

The North Face Back pack

I was lucky and was offered studio space to rent ( not a job, just a studio )…fortunately, there
were a bunch of other artists working there who taught me what I needed to know, a little
at a time. They also sent me “overflow” work. I did mostly print production, and occasionally an illustration here and there. Along the way, I learned a LOT…about art and printing, and picked up clients of my own, and by 1979, I was sending work to some of the other guys.
Over the next 18 years (from 1979 until 1997), I got more and more “illustration” projects, and fewer and fewer “print production” projects…

Illustration by Mike Fraser

Illustration by Mike Fraser

I divide my “career” into 2 parts…“Before” computers ( 1976-1997 ), and “After” computers…
I didn’t get my first computer until 1997, and didn’t get any “good” at it until after 2000.

Illustration by Mike Fraser

Boa Lacing System

Until 2000, I always had a studio “downtown”…and then I moved my office home. From 2000 until 2006, I worked in our “guest bedroom”, using it as as my studio…it was way too small, but I made it work. In 2006, I finally had a contractor build me a “real” studio in the backyard ( built into the garage ) with skylights, vaulted ceilings, and lots of ROOM! Even though it has gotten “smaller” as my work load has grown…it is the greatest workspace I’ve ever had!!!!

Illustration by Mike Fraser

Illustration by Mike Fraser

Illustration by Mike Fraser

Illustration by Mike Fraser

What’s your setup?

I’m working on the Macintosh Platform, using the Adobe Software Suite…I think my background in “traditional” art media really helps me to maintain image “integrity” when working in the computer…after 12 years working on the computer, I’m very comfortable and confident taking on just about any assignment…

Mike Fraser Illustration

Mike Fraser Illustration

Any advice for other illustrators starting out?

My advice to artists just starting out is to talk to as many people actually working in the field as you can…school is great, but it never seems to quite prepare you for the “real thing”…
Always try to learn as much as you can, and constantly try to improve your skills.

Illustration by Mike Fraser

Illustration by Mike Fraser

Look at the work of artists whose work you admire. Then, once you get going, ALWAYS meet your deadlines…whatever it takes…and NEVER be satisfied to let a project go out of your studio that is not the very BEST you can do. As an artist, your reputation for quality work, and your dependability are what you sell.

Illustration by Mike Fraser

Illustration by Mike Fraser

What have you been up to lately?

Lately, I’ve been doing mostly “product” and “technical” illustration and even some photo retouching…one gal I’ve known for years told me that most of the old airbrush retouchers around town never made the switch to the computer. I used to do quite a bit of airbrush work… but after I got used to Photoshop, I never went back. ( my old airbrush is hanging in the corner… I haven’t used it in years! ).

Illustration by Mike Fraser

Illustration by Mike Fraser

If you would like to get in contact with Mike, send an email to mike_fraser@comcast.net

Josh McKible

Josh McKible - Method of Exercising a Cat

Josh McKible - Method of Exercising a Cat

Tell us about your background?
I’m currently living in a suburb of Tokyo, Japan but I’m originally from Upstate NY, from a town called Newburgh thats about an hour north of NYC. I did my undergraduate studies at SUNY Purchase, I went in for painting, but came out doing sculpture. Mostly mechanical, kinetic kinds of things that tended to break down or explode (sometimes on purpose). I think that’s where my fascination with how things work started. I then went to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for an MFA. I came out doing sculpture and kept at it for a few years, until I discovered the Mac. That gradually lead me into graphic design, first as a hobby then as a profession. I art directed a few different magazines in NYC for a few years, until I started doing illustration full-time in 2004.

Josh McKible - Car Exercises

Josh McKible - Car Exercises

Are you a freelancer or in-house?
Full-time freelance, although technically I’m an employee of my own company, MCKIBILLO, INC.

Software of choice?
Adobe Illustrator, plus Pixelmator for sketching and blocking out rough ideas. I’m on a 21.5″ iMac with a second 24″ monitor setup and a Wacom tablet. And SomaFM.org continuously streaming in the background.

Favorite clients/jobs?
The kind where I get to work in the most visually appealing way, “prettiest” for lack of a better word, but where the information is still clearly presented. I love it when a client trusts me enough to push the edges a little. I also like to inject some humor when I can and where it’s appropriate.

Josh McKible - Car Exercises

Josh McKible - Car Exercises

Any advice for illustrators just starting out?
It’s trite but true… follow your bliss, do what you love. Your style and technique will follow from your interests. I took a pretty winding path to find out what I both enjoy doing and what I’m good at. What that means in practice though is to not do anything half way…. find something and then work at it as hard as you can until you really master it.

Tell us about your Nanibird project? Where did it come from and where has it taken you?
As much as I love pushing vectors all day sometimes I just have to make stuff. And if I can collaborate with other designers, even better. NaniBird is a free papertoy I designed, but that also acts as a platform for other artists to work on. So far it has attracted about 100 submissions. Personally though, it’s been a really great outlet and has allowed me to collaborate on a number of projects that otherwise I never could have. It’s been published in 2 books already, led me to organizing a show of papertoys here in Tokyo, I designed a poster based on it for display in Shibuya station in Tokyo (Shibuya is one of the busiest transit points in the world)  and I’ve been invited to submit designs for an upcoming book of Papertoy monsters. And I just recently designed a custom NaniBird for a 40th Anniversary of Woodstock held in San Francisco. It’s led to a lot of very fun and interesting side projects. It’s also just really nice to work in a style and medium so different from my usual work.

Josh McKible - NaniBird

Josh McKible - NaniBird

Josh McKible aka MCKIBILLO’s work can be found at mckibillo.com, Drawger and Nanibird.com.

Max Gadney

Max Gadney - Spitfire Infographic

Max Gadney - Spitfire Infographic

What’s your background? Where do you live, where did you go to school, how long have you been illustrating?
I live in London and went to Middlesex University. I trained in graphic design but have always been interested in information graphics. When I led the team at BBC News Online, half of my team were info-graphics people, so I got into it again in a big way. Towards the end of my time there I started doing work for WWII Magazine, after meeting their editor at a conference (luckily with a load of pre-drawn graphics – including the assault rifle one.)

Are you a freelancer or in-house?
At BBC News, I was in-house. Most info-graphics people who work in the news that I know are in house. My WWII magazine work is freelance.

Software of choice?
Illustrator. Wacom tablet. SketchUp for 3d basics (that I then trace). Being a freelancer and doing this around my day job, I’m finding the iPhone good for drafting scripts on the go & in cafes. I also carry around various sketchbooks. I also made a book of magazine templates ready to scribble on using InDesign created PDFs uploaded and printed as sketchbooks at lulu.com.

Max Gadney - Process

Max Gadney - Process

Favorite clients/jobs?
Being at the BBC for 10 years of major stories was very good. Iraq wars, Elections, London/NY/ terror attacks/ tsunami etc all made for important moments to use visual storytelling. Some of the best infographics were done for the daily small stories. A newsroom lives by its ability to do the smaller stuff well – not just the big specials.

WWII Magazine is a great team to work with – Bill and Caitlin in senior editorial are really constructive with their feedback and Wendy the Art Director always edits a little too. The final results are always better than what I first send – any creative person needs a good editor – a good second pair of eyes. We have a simple back and forth of iteration. Any major disagreements would be hard to resolve with remote working at this distance (I’m in London – they are in Virginia) – so it’s great that I totally trust them.

Max Gadney - Silent Wings Over Normandy

Max Gadney - Silent Wings Over Normandy

Any advice for illustrators just starting out?
Focus on an area that interests you as you will only be top class if you can alter the editorial story of the work. Don’t just be a drawing robot. Seek to inform, to question, to understand first what you then intend to pass on as edited and better articulated knowledge.

Hang out where people are – go to conferences – go to the bar at conferences – talk to people at conferences. That’s what I did and that is why I have the WWII gig.

I think video skills are becoming important – but most important is the ability to understand a problem – to be curious and ask questions about what readers or viewers would want to know – no just figure out how best to draw the thing(s).

On business – The writer Drucker said that the purpose of a business is to make customers. You will need to get out there. Read The E-myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber, all about creating your own business. Designers can be very insular, you will need to get our there and hustle for work.

Max blogs about his process, infographics and visual communication at MaxGadney.com. His work can also be seen on Flickr.com.

Jim Hatch

Being into motorcycles and cars I’ve been a big fan of Jim Hatch for quite a few years.
He’s been a big inspiration for me and I’ve often sought his advice regarding my own illustration career.

Jim was kind enough to take the time to answer some of my questions and I’m thrilled to learn more about this extremely talented illustrator.

How long have you been an illustrator?
– I was first paid for my work in 1991 while still in college, so 18 years now.

Are you a freelancer, do you have your own business or do you work for a company?
– I built my own studio at my home in Santa Barbara, CA

Jim Hatch - Wind Turbine

Jim Hatch - Wind Turbine

Software of choice?
– I am on a Mac using Photoshop and Illustrator on a 30″ Apple monitor and use a Wacom tablet.

Favorite clients jobs?
– My favorite job is the one I’m working on at the present time.
Jim Hatch - Helmet

Jim Hatch - Helmet

What’s your background, how did you get started?
– I went to Otis/Parsons School of Design in Los Angeles from 1987 to 1991 and majored in Illustration so that was the formal start I guess.  My senior year I met with my mentor Kevin Hulsey who offered me a job while still in school and that launched my professional career as well as being an incredible learning experience.  From there I became the Exhibit Designer and Art Director for the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles where I got to create many Illustrations, posters and did tons of graphic & exhibit design.   I left the museum and went freelance and have been on my own ever since.


Jim Hatch - Dunlop

Jim Hatch - Dunlop

Any advice for illustrators just starting out?
– I feel like I am still starting out compared to the people I admire like Kevin Hulsey, David Kimble and Tony Matthews.  I think everyone’s experience is unique but hard work, tons of practice and a true passion for Illustration should translate into results over time.   For me the traditional drawing skills & theory I learned early in my career using ellipse templates, proper perspective and subtle line weight techniques have proved invaluable and form the basis for everything I do.  I see many people coming up that don’t understand what they are drawing and just draw shapes and hope it works out.

Check out the rest of his work on his site, Jim Hatch Illustration