Jason E. Axtell
Describe your illustration style.
I try to find a balance between simplicity (flat/graphic) and dynamic, colorful compositions.
What is your main medium?
Mixed - Pencil, Ink and Digital
What is your illustration workspace like?
Currently, way too small. It's a corner of my bedroom so it's a little crammed but comfortable. Primarily a drafting table I've laid out flat to set up my computer (a Mac Book Pro, 21" Dell Monitor and Wacom Tab). Somehow I've also managed to fit a couple storage boxes of assorted paints and pastels on the drafting table. This is all flanked by a coffee table turned shelving unit where I hold the rest of my art supplies, scanner and printer. Another drafting table is in storage until I can move into a larger space.
Describe your typical work flow.
I begin everything with sketches to plan out the composition. I deliberately push myself to try differing angles, compositions and subject matter until I've come across something I think will work. I then scan the sketch into Photoshop and enlarge it to the size specified or maybe a little larger. I fill in the image with Cyan set at 20% and Fade using the Screen option. This gives me a nice light (and I do mean light) blue. This is printed out onto HP 32lb LaserJet paper using my InkJet printer (InkJet on LaserJet paper works since I use the printout for pencilling and nothing else).
Side note: I like this paper because of its slick surface; it handles pencil and ink splendidly.
This gives me a blueline version of the rough sketch. On this I go back in with a blue pencil (Prismacolor or Col-Erase) and refine much of the original sketch until forms, perspective and any other details seem right. I then go over that with either pencil (as I do for my comic strip, Strays 'N Gates) or with ink (Town of Hardeeville). I then scan the full pencilled or inked drawing into Photoshop where I use various tools to refine the black line work until it's crisp and clean.
I apply color with my Wacom Tab on a separate layer set to multiply. Sometimes, additional effects require extra layers (the lighthouse glares in Town of Hardeeville). I always make a finalized (and flattened) TIF file and a smaller web version.
Who was your first illustration hero?
Rockwell provided some of the earliest memories of inspiration but another that I believe has had just as much of a profound effect is Philip Travers' cover art for the Moody Blues album, In Search of the Lost Chord. I've always found it hypnotic and majestic, composed to represent and simultaneously transcend space and time.
What is your favorite category of illustration and why?
I'd have to go with Fantasy/Comic Art on this one but that's really generalizing it since even within each of those is a wide variety of styles and technique. I've always enjoyed work that pertains to fictionalized worlds and characters. The amount of research necessary to produce some of the most profound Fantasy/Comic Art goes hand in hand with imagination, not an easy feat, but one that comes with years of experience, open-mindedness and experimentation.
Can you describe the direction your current work is heading?
Certainly more digital, but that's being vague. My goals pertain more to subject matter than style. But I would like to refine (ie. simplify) my work to a graphic style that tells a story at it's most vivid. Telling stories through (or with) my art has always been the aim, no matter what style I choose to communicate it with.
What do you do to promote your work?
I have my own web site, which is in dire need of an update and a re-design, but it doesn't attract as much traffic as I would like. I try to push myself into social networking sites (Facebook, Blog's, etc.) which help, if but a little. I also have some backing from previous employers who have helped get me the contacts necessary to promote some of my work. Craig's List has helped in the past. I'm hoping the IC will do the same (only recently joined). Having an actual physical book to show around at conventions has always been the biggest and best publicity in my opinion.
What advice do you have for someone trying to become an illustrator?
Don't give up. Be persistent. Keep drawing. Don't procrastinate.
Be sure to check Jason's portfolio at the IC of DC website.