I’m a Canadian illustrator, born in the UK and recently transplanted to Austria. I’ve been drawing pretty much non-stop since the first time someone put a crayon in my hand, and it became illustration when I started drawing posters for the punk rock shows a friend and I organized as teenagers. I would be a struggling musician if I weren’t spending all my time as a struggling artist.
Q1. How do you approach starting a new project?
Starting is one part of the process that I haven’t refined nearly so much as the rest of it. Typically I will ponder the text or the concept for a while and draw in my mind’s eye before I draw on paper. I’ve used word-association, metaphor, and things I happen to see on the street as starting points, but one thing that’s consistent is an intense suspicion of the first idea that comes to mind. It tends to suck, and 9 times out of 10 can be dismissed right away. It’s usually the obvious thing and is unlikely to vary greatly from the first idea to pop up in every other artist’s mind.
One thing I’ve been doing the last two summers is shooting hoops at the neighbourhood park. I’ll do this in the morning and it helps me think a thing through. I concentrate on the physical action and let my mind run around the concepts. It’s good to start the day with some light exercise and fresh air, also I’m forced to get up good and early if I want to get some hoops in before the kids show up with their soccer balls (this is Europe after all).
In the end I think that it’s important for me to be loose at the start of a project and so I’m finding myself turning to various different methods and approaches to coax the creative juices into flowing. What yields good results for one project doesn’t always work for the next.
I draw a great deal of creative momentum from the local Viennese architecture and from the forests and hills in Mödling where my fiancée and I go on the weekends.
Q2. Weapon of choice (favorite materials)?
I rely very heavily on the Pentel Pocket Brush, it’s brilliant. I love brush lines but have grown up with pens and pencils, so it’s the perfect thing for me. I will sometimes use a real brush and ink, but generally just on larger pieces.
I’ve been drawing with the Rotring Artpen for ages too, I used to do all my gig posters and ‘zine covers with it after realising that pencil drawings are no good for Xerox-ing. It has a wonderfully juicy line and is just inconsistent enough to take a little bit of your control away. Or at least my 15-year-old one is. Some other pens I used to rely on like the Pilot G-Tec aren’t seeing as much action these days because they’re just too even and accurate, now I just bring them in when wee-ness of line is of the essence.
Q3. Do you have a favourite place outside of your workspace that you like to go to sketch?
I sketch in cafés these days. Vienna is full of amazing cafés and I like to sit down with a tea and a pastry. The tradition in Vienna is that you can sit there for hours on end with just one purchase. I didn’t grow up with that convention so I usually don’t last more than 30 minutes after finishing my tea, but I’m trying to learn.
Q4. Your favourite procrastination pastime?
It’s a constant battle to keep my inner slacker at bay. We all go through periods when inspiration runs low, and if there’s no commission on my table at such a time I’m at risk of wasting inordinate amounts of time with youtube videos: cute kittens, standup comics, TED talks, highlights from the ’94 Stanley Cup finals, “Gorilla vs. Hippo: Who Will Win?” and the like.
I suppose those are my most hated procrastinations rather than my favorites. The ones I feel more positive about would have to be making a hot cup of tea, going for a brisk walk, and getting carried away with Wikipedia tangents. I’m trying to learn to use Twitter as productive procrastination, with mixed results.
Q5. What do you like to listen to while you’re working?
Podcasts mostly. I find it helps a great deal in breaking the isolation of the studio while still allowing me to concentrate on my work. My mind is a bit of an escape artist and a good radio program is like putting it in a straight jacket and hanging it upside down in one of those giant aquarium things. It wriggles free eventually but I can get some good work done before I have to strap it down again. This American Life, Quirks and Quarks, The Moth, Age Of Persuasion, Radiolab, and Ideas are the main favorites these days, but there’s a good five or six others on regular rotation too.
I don’t listen to as much music as I used to, in part because I had to sell off most of my LPs when we moved from Canada and don’t have the space for a turntable at the moment. Jessica Hische wrote that she watches a lot of TV as she works, and I know some others who do it too, but I always figured I wouldn’t get a lick of work done with TV going unless the show was absolute rubbish. However I’ve been doing that of late and I find it works great provided the show is mostly dialogue driven and not too gripping.
Q6. What are some of your sources of inspiration?
I draw a great deal of creative momentum from the local Viennese architecture and from the forests and hills in Mödling where my fiancée and I go on the weekends. More direct inspiration tends to come from either people I see in public, stories I hear, or the work of other artists.
I recently saw an exhibition of Walton Ford’s paintings and was completely floored, it’s some of the best stuff I’ve ever seen. A couple of other contemporaries I’ve been really impressed by recently include Victo Ngai, Vania Zouravilov, Sam Bosma, Ghostshrimp, Duncan Fegredo’s Hellboy and Raúl Martín’s dinosaurs.
I also find the writings of my fellow illustrators do a lot to keep me going. I like to read about how others are faring, and when things are tough it helps to hear from the big guns about their own struggles in the early stages. It’s inspiration of a different kind than looking at art, but for me it’s just as important.
Any links you’d like to include?
Check out http://www.first-stop.org/ - a portfolio site founded to help reduce the need for paper mailers and the associated waste.
Huge thanks to Peter for taking time out of his busy schedule to do this interview and for providing such fantastic Photos!
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All images ©2011 Peter Diamond