Interview and Showcase with the Great Illustrator Phil Dunne
- Jun 23, 2009
Phil Dunne is an illustrator from Dublin, Ireland, which spent the last 29 years drawing, painting, doodling and having amazingly creative thoughts. From 1999 to 2003 Phil was studying at the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) in Dublin to get his degree in Visual Communications. After graduating he started to built his portfolio with several different projects and clients. Since then, Phil has already produced great pieces that you probably already seen around the web or at depthCORE.
Here I will show some of his amazing work and also an interview that I had the opportunity to do with him. Unfortunately the interview was settled via e-mail, even tough I would love to go to Dublin for this, but even through e-mails Phil was very kind and gave us a lot of attention, which by the way, I would like to thank him for. When browsing around his great portfolio Love the Robot and also at his Behance page, I had a hard time picking the images to show here since he has several eye catching pieces, so I really recommend that you check out his work!!
So, enjoy the images and the interview! :)
When you first got interested about art and design?
For as long as I can remember, I have always been drawing and thinking about art. I grew up on comic books, cartoons and doodling in my school books. I always wanted to do art in school, I never ever had any interest in other school work or anything else except drawing. When I was in school I read a lot about artists like Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso and a lot of The Renaissance painters. Their work really inspired me to draw and paint and most of express myself. I also watched endless amounts of music videos and loved the work of Michel Gondry, Hype Williams, Chris Cunningham and Mark Romanek. I wanted to go to art college to be either a painter or a designer. I was happy to find out I could be almost both, as an illustrator! My inspiration and desire to be an illustrator just kept growing as I progressed in college.
How did you discovered your talent for producing art?
When I was in school, my teachers would pay me with chocolate bars and small amounts of money to draw all these pictures so the rest of the class could color them, like big huge coloring books. I used to get called out of my classes sometimes to draw for other teachers and their students. I went to an all boys Irish Christian Brothers school and there was a lot of emphasis on religion and we would incorporate religion into our art. I drew a lot of pictures of Jesus, God and the Devil. I also used to draw things like Superman and Batman, I'd hide them away but my friends would also show the teachers how good I was. But school was tough because when it came to doing other things like mathematics, science and sports I was completely lost.
How did you start working with design and illustration?
I left college in 2003, I worked as an illustrator on a series of roughs for a children's book. It was very traditionally based, all paint and pencils, absolutely no Photoshop. I got a job as a display assistant and designer in a huge department store here in Dublin. I got to design leaflets, signage and create illustrations for retail areas, fashion shows and press ads. But I also discovered my love of fashion, styling and retail so I was very lucky to gain such experience. During my free time working there I began to develop my own style of illustration. I looked at artists like Deanne Cheuk, Justin Maller, Pete Harrison, Derek Lea and was just amazed and inspired by their level of skill and professional work ethic. Their work was crazy beautiful but it was very successful in a commercial manner. I just did a heap of research on my favorite illustrators to see how their creative processes would work. I knew I wanted to be an illustrator so I kept working to discover a balance between my love of traditional illustration and digitally manipulated art. I focused on becoming an established illustrator and trying to better myself and giving people something to enjoy.
How did you improve your work and technique?
I've always been described as a hard worker and a very efficient person. I'm always looking at ways to improve on my workflow. I upgrade a lot of my hardware and software regularly just to make things run more smoothly for me. I get stressed when I'm working a big piece in Photoshop, I haven't pressed 'Save' and then it just freezes up!!! I make a lot of my own brushes in Photoshop. I scan in bits of dirt and paint or old pictures to give all my work a very unique and personalized look. It's fun to build your own library of brushes and textures. I try spent at least a week a month collecting bits of rubbish that could work as a really cool texture in Photoshop. I also do my best to draw as much as I can. You can spend all day sitting at Photoshop and turn into a zombie. I read about some artists who just fire up Photoshop and start working. I couldn't do this, I think any artist needs a sketchbook to rough out ideas, compositions and brainstorm techniques to get the best out of their work. I carry a sketchbook around with me so I can scribble out any impulsive images that pop into my head. I'm trying my best now to avoid using stock imagery. I hate seeing a digital art piece that you know has been based around a random stock image, and then you see the same image being used somewhere else in a completely different context. If I do need to use stock images, I use shots that are rarely used and have something different looking about them. If you can collaborate with a professional photographer that have their own recognized name and style then do that too. Or just shoot your own photography!
What, in your opinion, is the best way to evolve in this field?
Learn about the current trends in art/design/illustration/fashion and avoid them!!! The best way to stay fresh is to do your own thing and not imitate what has been done already. Yes, I can admit I've done some Andy Warhol style pieces (!) but I look at this as an homage and a kind of reinterpretation, much like Picasso when he started doing famous paintings, but in his own style. But I was having fun with it and reinterpreting his iconography to suit my ideas and my style. I thought, 'everybody knows his work so they will understand me taking the piece.' Every artist has their own style and potential it's just a matter of finding it and making people see it. I think illustrators should be more confident about their own ideas and conceptual work rather than just feeling like they should fit into the crowd or go with what they think will get them work. A great line that a friend gave to me years back was 'Remember Phil, the rest are all sheep...you are a wolf!'
What do you like most on your job? And what would you say you don't like about it?
I love that I am able to do art everyday, I waited so long in school to be able to draw and create on a full time basis. I'm addicted to my work...I've never done drugs so art is really my habit I can't kick. Seriously it's not even funny sometimes how obsessed I get with my work. I'm always trying to better my style and try new things so right now the journey is better than the destination. I love drawing, it's the best way to express yourself. I hate not getting paid on time or when a potential job doesn't go ahead. It knocks your confidence into the stratosphere. I grew a thick skin very quickly when I started out. Also I hate people asking me to work for free. It really pisses me off now, it's incredibly insulting to be asked by a company that is obviously generating a lot of money to work for nothing. I am cool with charity based projects however, I feel a lot better when it's going to a good cause.
Which software and hardware do you use to produce your art?
I own a 24' Intel based iMac with 4GB of RAM and a big hard drive. It is superb for adding fine detail to my work as the screen resolution is so sharp and the colors are so vibrant. I use Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended. My work isn't very layered, the best pieces are around five layers with different layer blending modes. I find the best way to add depth and complexity to my work is in the drawings I do. My drawings are done to a large scale, scanned in at around 600dpi, so everything is very sharp and vibrant. I back up everything with an external drive and keep a separate copy on a DVD or a USB stick on my keys, incase somebody might need anything emailed to them. I just bought a little netbook to use while I'm out and about. I don't get much sun here in ireland, it is very important for Vitamin D and my mood. The last thing I want to be is in a room on a computer when the sun is out. So my netbook is my right arm on sunny days.
What kind of "software upgrade" you would say it would make your work much easier?
If somebody could invent an application that could take what I see in my mind and put it up on my iMac screen then I would be delighted. And a teleportation device, like in Star Trek. I get panicky when I'm running late or when I'm tired so to be somewhere in an instant would be very useful. Seriously though a better lasso/magic wand tool on Photoshop would be nice. And better customization on Photoshop would be cool too, like having the ability to completely reconfigure the filter galleries and tools to suit your needs.
What is your main inspiration source?
It changes all the time! I can never really say specifically at what inspires me. I think life is very inspirational. The ability to create and to experience it's reaction gives me a great buzz. Life is so random, you just never know what will happen next. I like strange coincidences and weird events. And people doing something that's not considered everyday, I like asking them a lot of questions.
Which are your goals and future plans for your career?
I want to get over my fear (and hatred :0 ) of photography and start shooting models and incorporate them into illustrations. I want spend a bit more money on personal projects so they fit in seamlessly with my commercial work. I'm thinking now, particularly during this super famous global recession, 'If people won't commission me...I'll commission myself.' I want to avoid using women in my illustrations. I'm getting sick of seeing a hot girl with a lot doodles around her. When I completed my work on the recent Depthcore pack called 'Her' I was like...I've done this to death, a hot girl with swirls. Let's get some guys, monsters, scary creatures or superheroes and start doing pieces with them. I now like to see a cool illustration that features a guy as the model/basis. I need to move on and look at different areas to explore. I think architecture would be cool interpret in illustration, because Dublin just has such unique architecture and it's always inspiring to me. Plus more work with the Depthcore collective...mad respect to all my fellow members, to have joined them and to be involved with all the artists there has been an absolute blessing. I have been very lucky to have had the opportunities and experiences in my career so far, I'm still very young and have a lot to learn and there is so much more to share with everyone.
Do you have any advises to the upcoming artists?
Never give up. If you get knocked back by anyone or anything, dust it off and start again. You have to consider the progressive nature of the design industry and realize that one commission won't make you an overnight success. The best digital artists and designers out there are the dedicated ones because they are trying something new, being confident about what they do. If you stay confident and focused this will show in your work, people will see it and they will want to hire you. Branch out and contact other artists...like me! ;D, ask to collaborate with them and stay fresh. Keep up with the latest trends in digital art, design, art and fashion and just avoid them. Create your own trends, I know that sounds easy to say, but if you work at it and think about it enough, you'll do it. Artists who are successful are the ones who come from the left of centre because they were doing their own thing. I've only started using Facebook, Twitter and soon Youtube...the potential for these are limitless so explore things like these.
Thanks again Phil... and the final words are with you...
Thank you so much. And to finalize I have three simple words...Love The Robot.