Thursday, 10 May 2012

Contact with Industry | Thomas James Birrell II

Thomas James Birrell II

Thomas is a fairly new illustrator to the scene, he is based in Scotland and works in partnership with his partner Christopher for their joint firm, FaBi Books and Artworks. Thomas has already had successes including the publishing of two children's books - 'Jenni and Jonsey' and the 'Bramble Bush Gang' series, and a handful of theatre poster designs and promotions. Thomas's work is fresh and bright, it has the innocence of childhood and an overall friendly feel, as described on his page - Thomas's mission is to 'inspire, amuse and keep the inner child alive in everyone possible'.

1. Your work is always so vibrant and detailed - do you work from photographs, life experiences or imagination?
All three. At the very least I will always have Photographic reference although a lot of my works (such as childrens books) require a lot of imagination.

2. How many briefs/projects do you generally work on at a time?
I prefer to really focus all my attention on the one project at a time though with deadlines that is not always possible.There is always a pile of work waiting to be done so I will either push back less important projects or bump up others but either way I like to give my full attention to the client or commission I am currently working on.

3. How long do you usually take to finish a piece? Does this effect your commission rate keeping up with deadlines? 
Anything from three days to three months though with childrens books a little longer.I can take a week on an A4 piece then a few days on A2, it just depends on when I feel I am finished and happy with the end result. (Although commissions often have deadlines so I aim to use the entire allotted/quoted time and get it perfect as opposed to rushing.) This way i do not overcharge for time not used. I prefer to ask a fair price for the time and work involved.

4. Your commisioned work often revolves around theartre, musicals and tv shows - is this a personal passion? 
It is indeed a personal passion but also an area in which I receive a lot of work. Word of mouth is great advertisement and the theater has a strong community eager to enlist the help of an artist/illustrator that specializes in that area.

5. What was your first paid job like? How did you feel upon recieving the request?
My first paid job was a learning curve to say the least. Inexperienced as I was I offered to lend my artistic services to an acquaintance for use with merchandising for his music career.I was just honored to be asked as my work would be used with a record label. Though the artwork would be used through his label I did not request a contract but worked through the acquaintance. I received a low initial payment but the promise of royalties was never forthcoming despite the popularity and good sales of the merchandise itself. I now know better and would encourage anyone to get deals in writing before doing any work.

6. You used to create unique bags and clothing - do you continue with this in your own time? Professionally? Do you intend to expand further in the future in art forms other than illustration?
Other commitments have put the Bags and clothing on the back burner for the time being while I focus on the illustration though they are something I fully intend on coming back to. I appreciate all forms of art and crafts and like to expand and experiment with them all during my free time though my current work is taking centre stage for now.

7. I've noticed, as stated in the information section of your work, that you use a combination of inks and pencil within your pieces 
- have you worked with any other materials? Do you ever work digitally? 

Though I now prefer to work traditionally, college and university encouraged digital artwork and for a long time that is the course I took typically working with a tablet. It got to the point that I found it alien to work on paper and I was reminded by someone dear of the merits of traditional artwork. I worked with inks and got to the point where I could match and surpass my digital work so that is now my preferred method. I have tried my hand at other medium such as pastels, watercolour, acrylics etc but inks are my forte and remain my preference though I always scan the finished piece and often enhance or alter it digitally.

8. Do you have a favourite piece of work? Why?
My favourite piece of work is the illustrations I did for Christopher Farrell's children's book 'Cecil Stays Here'. It was a new style for me using mixed media and was just so vibrant and finished I scarcely believed It was my own work. I thoroughly enjoyed the research and development that comes with character design and it was great to work with the writer to create something that was an amalgamation of two minds. We are both very proud of the end result.

9. Do you have any advice for a budding illustrator, who would like to make a career out of making pictures one day?
Work outside your comfort zone. Draw things you would never normally draw and you will cover a much larger client base. I personally have a think tank with hundreds of random words written on. As often as I can I take two or three words and draw a piece based on the words. It is a good way to get a varied portfolio. Also, the lnie of work requires a lot of working for yourself, so you must be committed and if not don't be afraid to ask for help. If you cant encourage yourself, have someone close by make sure you meet your deadlines.


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