Feb 1, 2012

In the Wednesday SFG Spotlight- Mike Cressy!

© Mike Cressy

1. Tell us a little about yourself and your work.

I've worked as a full time artist from the age of 23. I create fine art paintings in the lowbrow/pop/surreal genre,  illustrate children's picture books, design logos, draw concept designs for computer games and other creative ventures, character design, doodle, create digital abstracts, write stories, work on my graphic novel (with more to come), compose pop tunes, play my guitar and try to sing, even though my range has diminished over the years. LOL...
I have no formal education as an artist. I took about 3-6 months of the Famous Artist School correspondence course when I was about 10 and then took a class at Otis Parson's in L.A. just to learn how a favorite illustrator used his airbrush.

2. What drew you to illustration as a career choice?

I wanted to become a Charles Schultz when I was a kid. I created a ton of comic strips and comic books when I was a kid. I also wanted to draw like Jack Kirby who did a lot of the Marvel comic super heros. I was also fond of the illustrations I saw in magazines as a kid.
I started out as an animator and worked for a bunch of commercial studios in Los Angeles. I would cold call them and say that I wanted to work for them. I was brazen and thought that was how you did it. As it turns out, I was right. At the time I was doing posters and playbills for theaters in L.A. through the LATA, which I think is no longer around. I got tired of animation and was looking at illustration as a way to make money and be happy at what I was doing. 

3.  What creative ways do you use to come up with ideas and concepts?

I get inspiration from all over the place. The key is to have an open mind and let things flow in. You have to filter it to get the right combination of things that fit your sensibility. I’ll listen to something on the radio that may stick in my head visually and then I see something on TV, in a movie, on line, in a magazine or book and then it evolves. Soon I’ve got my own twisted version of that thing I heard on the radio and I’ll do a very loose version in my sketchbook. Sometimes that will make it’s way into a painting or something in Photoshop or Illustrator. When I get an assignment, one of the first things I do is look through the assignment and pick out the most visual elements. Then I need some quick inspiration. I’ll pick up one of my coffee table art books or look on line at all kinds of art until I see a few things here and there that kind of fit what I’m thinking about for an image and then go to my drawing board and sketch out various ideas that came up while taking in all that inspiration. All this can take from 15 minutes to an hour and I’ll have two or three strong sketches from that. Music also helps with inspiration. I have the good fortune to have some quirky tastes in music. A lot of the musicians I listen to have funny and sometimes bizarre lyrics that are quite visual. I’ll do sketches based on some of the music I’m listening to but you wouldn’t put them together if you heard the music and saw what I did from listening to it.

© Mike Cressy

4. Do you get to create much personal work and promotions?

When I have a free moment I work on either a sketch, painting, digital art or some promotion that I think might help to get the word out. I've been sending out promotional postcards for years. They don't have the same effect anymore but I still send them out from time to time. I have a mailing list that I use through one of the subscription services. For the children's picture books I was contacted by the publisher who wanted me to illustrate a story. For my art books I thought about all the art I had in my studio and what I should do with them. Having books of my art helps to sell prints of my art. All the art in the books are available as prints on several art sites on the internet. My art books are print on demand so I don't have to store boxes of them in my garage, and they are available at any book seller on the internet.

5. Is there any successes that stand out that has helped you progress as an illustrator?

I’ve learned so much more from stretching myself then just staying in a box that someone can point to and say “That’s Mike Cressy”. I try to stretch whenever I can. Sometimes it doesn’t feel comfortable but that’s what stretching is all about. Getting out of one’s comfort zone allows your mind to do what it does best,.. figure out how to survive in this new landscape. The one thing you can’t count on in this life is luck. It comes when it comes and it’s not always equal. Sometimes it’s just a small amount of luck to keep you going. Other times it feels like you struck the lucky gold mine. Keeping your feet moving and your mind working will keep you alive longer and help you to foster new relationships and in the process keep your creative mind working. I have several art friends from the old days and they don’t work on the computer and don’t have many outlets for their creativity. They got angry with things changing and let themselves fall into a trap that they can’t seem to get themselves out of. I don’t ever want to be in that trap. I equate it with continuing to exercise every day as you get older. If you don’t continue to do that, then your body starts to break down in some bad ways. Keep yourself on your toes even when it’s difficult to do so and you will thank yourself later. Fall in love with what you do.

6. What is your favourite part about being in illustration? The process? Ideas/concepts? The final artwork?

I use whatever I can that feels comfortable to create what I need to create. I love to draw with a pencil and sometimes pens. I take all my drawings into the computer and create images for clients in Illustrator and Photoshop. I love those two programs for creating art. Flash is good too. I love painting with acrylics on canvas and gessoed masonite for my lowbrow/surreal/pop paintings. I've played the guitar since I was 10 years old but now I can plug it into my computer and record the music I create. All these things are tools for using to get the ideas out of my head and into the world. Hopefully others will like them and hopefully I can influence others.

7. Describe your dream project or client.

There really is no such thing. You always want to be able to continue and create something that you will enjoy and  hopefully others will appreciate it as well. I’ve had all different types of clients over the years. I’ve also had full time positions at game companies.  That being said, I suppose I’d like to continue on the road I’m on and be able to continue to make money as an artist for the rest of my life. After this current graphic novel is finished, I’d like to start the next one. I’ve got a lot of adult stories. I won’t be working on licensed characters or super hero graphic novels… not my thing.

© Mike Cressy

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