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Illustrator Interview: Thomas James

19 Jan 2015

Ok, fair enough, it is time to get abroad for our interviews! We had the pleasure to talk with Thomas James, a great California-based illustrator with clients such as The New York Times, WIRED Magazine, Pentagram, Wall Street Journal or Billboard Magazine. Thomas also is Editor and Creative Director at successful websites like Illustration Age and Illustration Friday.

How did you get into illustration? Where did the road to become a illustrator began for you?

Like many illustrators, I grew up with a passion for drawing, painting, and many other forms of art. I chose to pursue illustration because I liked the idea of working with magazines and newspapers to create art for public consumption. I went to art school for a couple of years but was unhappy with the education I was receiving, and plus I was already starting to get work as an illustrator, so I decided to quit and just dive in.

Thomas James

Where do you find inspiration for your work, and how do you melt your sources of inspiration to create a unique, original style like yours?

I'm into all kinds of art, whether it's illustration, music, building things, or whatever. I thrive on anything creative, and since I tend to bring creativity to all aspects of my life, they all feed into each other in one way or another. I also look at a lot of art as the Creative Director of Illustration Age and Illustration Friday, so everything just kind of rolls around in my brain and becomes a nice hearty stew.

We see a lot of startups and projects appearing lately around the world of illustration. Do you think this will continue to grow, or is it some kind of "heat of the moment"?

The internet opens so many doors for artists to create their own projects and share it with the world in a way that was never possible before, or at least very difficult and expensive. I do indeed think this will continue to grow now that it has become accessible to artists all over the world.

What good (and bad) things do you feel the Internet and the new technologies have brought to the illustrator profession?

Adding to my previous thoughts about accessibility, the internet also brings a seemingly infinite community of support for any artist looking for answers, assistance, or simply inspiration. One drawback of the internet is that some companies tend to take advantage of artists by stealing and selling their work without any credit or compensation for the artists. There's just so much art out there for the taking that it's hard to protect yourself from it.

Thomas James

And last, but not least: any advice for aspiring illustrators just starting up their careers?

Two main pieces of advice:

1) Do as much research as you can about ALL aspects of being an illustrator. Read books, listen to interviews, ask questions, read blogs, etc. Learn everything you can about not only the skills and techniques of art, but also the business side of things.

2) Persistence and endurance is really key. Sometimes it can take a few years or more to really get your career going on its own. You have to accept that fact from the start and be prepared to work as hard as you can and as often as you can for little or no reward until you start to notice things starting to happen.

Thanks a lot, Thomas!


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