Me: First off, why did you decide to become an illustrator in the first place?
Steve: Just before graduating from Design School I found a book by Bob Staake in the library called “The Complete Book of Humorous Art” I've always related more to illustration than design and this book opened my eye's to the fact that one could make a very good living drawing fun illustrations. After reading that book my goals were set on that target. I used my design education to land design jobs until I had built up my illustration career to the point where I no longer needed a day job as a support net. I've never looked back since!
Me: So how did you develop your specific illustration style?
Steve: My style been something that has just evolved over time. I take a lot of style from illustrators I like from the 1950's – 60's and try and incorporate that into my work.
Me: How did you get into designing greeting cards?
Steve: I was very lucky that a greeting card company called Paramount Greetings found me on the internet. They were a great buyer of my illustration and I really built my portfolio on the work I did with them. Unfortunately, they closed their business and I thought it was all over for me! Luckily, right after Paramount shut down I got calls and work from the big two card companies Hallmark and American Greetings. Since that time I've worked under contract to American Greetings and even moved from Canada to Cleveland Ohio to work in-house for a year in the Design Studio for AG. I've since moved back to Canada and I still work with Hallmark and American Greetings as well as many other card companies like Gartner Studios, PK Press, Marian Heath , Up With paper and Designer Greetings. I love doing greeting card illustration!
Me: You also do children's book illustration. How did you get into that?
Steve: After leaving American Greetings in Cleveland to move back to Canada I was introduced to a great illustration agent at Painted Words. I wanted to grow as an illustrator and try my hand at children's publishing as well. My agent has been great and I've really got my foot in the door thanks to her knowledge and help. I am now working on books that I am writing as well as illustrating and working on other authors books too! Publishing is very exciting for me.
Me: What are you most passionate about when it comes to design?
Steve: I don't know if I could pin it down. Quality of line, texture, scale and form are my 4 main areas of concern when I do an illustration. I think if you hit those four on the head you'll come up with something fun to look at.
Me: Your work is wonderfully textured, how do you achieve that?
Steve: The base of my work is all vector illustration in Adobe Illustrator CS4 mixed with real world textures I have created. I like the versatility of a digital file but I like the look of handcrafted work. I create all my own textures and scan them and save them in a big digital archive to use in my illustrations.
Me: Do you use other mediums than your computer?
Steve: Nothing I use professionally. Have recently bought a silk screening 4 colour press as I've wanted to start working on some handcrafted personal illustrations. It's nice to get away from the computer for a little while!
Me: What is your process when designing a greeting card?
Steve: It's a little different with each company. But every company sends me a general outline or a sentiment for the card and I then come up with imagery in my style to suit the occasion.
Me: How do you come up with all those cute characters?
Steve: I just try and do stuff that I think is fun to look at and hope others will like it too.
Me: Any advice for young designers who wants to get into the illustration business?
Steve: Get your name out there on the internet. Develope a strong style and put together a comprehensive portfolio for the specific illustration market you want to go after. For me it was children's publishing and all my work is built around that goal. There are of course other big markets. Editorial, comics, fashion and humour to name a few. Find out which you like best and focus on that.
Me: Any advice on how to develop your own illustration style?
Steve: It's not something that comes easy. Style is always evolving but do what comes natural to you.
Me: Last question. What is your workspace like?
Steve: Ha ha, under-construction! We are remodelling an old house that is on my farm to be my studio. It's from 1908 and it presents a lot of “artistic” challenges.