Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Interview with an Illustrator: Eric Sturtevant

Eric Sturtevant is the only artist I've interviewed so far that I've actually had the privilege to meet in person....several times! It is SO exciting to me every time I run into Eric at a local art festivals because I love his work, I love his style, and I every time I see him I know the world (or at least my area!) is experiencing and buying his fantastic illustrations! Hooray for local artists! So anyway, here is my latest interview with Eric Sturtevant.

How did you get started as an artist/illustrator?
I was tired of working jobs I hated that had nothing to do with art at all. Jan. 1st 2007 I quit my job as a warehouse manager, cashed in my 401k, sold my car and took the plunge into the art world head first. I've always drawn cartoons since I was a kid and really wanted to break into publishing. The dilemma was how do I make money off my work while strengthening my portfolio for art directors.
Growing up in New England, I've always attended local art festivals and noticed a major change occuring in the scene. There were alot of younger people attending the shows, starting families and looking for something different for there homes. Essentially its my generation growing up and becoming our parents, but with different tastes. I also noticed there was a real lack of artwork for kids at these shows. I really felt that there was an untapped market that I could try to appeal to with my work. Armed with a wad of cash (essentially my life savings) and some great advice from some professional artists who also travel the show circuit for a living, I applied to shows full tilt and began selling my work. I'm in the midst of year three full time and things are great. People are extremely enthusiastic about my work and I've gotten some incredible opportunities out of it, including a licensing deal with Barnes and Noble to sell puzzles and games based on my work nationwide. It's so much fun.

What does a typical day look like for you?

It's funny, there really isn't a typical day, which is another reason why I love what I do. I get bored really easily with routine, so there's usually a list of things I need to prepare for each show and I'll tackle them in the order in which I feel like it that day. Sometimes I'll get up and start drawing, or I'll hit the business end of it...mailing out internet orders or making prints of my work, applying to new shows, contacting art directors. After all it is a business and needs to be treated as such. And admittedly, sometimes I just want to watch Judge Joe Brown and do nothing. Just kidding. I'll have him on as background noise when I'm drawing.

Who/what inspires you creatively?
I'm a huge movie nut and really love music. I draw a lot of inspiration from both. Two of my newest pieces were drawn from each. One is called "Tambourines and Elephants",a lyric from a CCR song I really love, and the other is called "Pool Sharks", completely inspired by "The Hustler". I'm a big Paul Newman fan. A lot of it too comes from listening to the public. It's really invaluable the access to opinions and reactions from people at these shows. From a marketing standpoint you find out what works and what doesn't, and then you tweak your work to appeal to an audience.

How has your art/style changed since you first started?
I feel like I've really gotten better since I started three years ago. Its really true, the more you do it (whatever it is) the better you get. I feel my work is more polished...I'm more confident with my work (although I'm horribly self-critical). A big problem artists have is a lack of self esteem in getting your work out to an audience. Let's face it, it's really scary to put yourself out there and get people's reaction no matter what the situation. For me I had to move past that immediately since I was determined to make money off this venture. Again, this is where the public's opinions have been so important. Once I found out what they were looking for, I could just have fun with the ideas and really put myself into each picture without limits. That's really what I try to do each time.

What are three pieces of advice you would give to someone just starting out?

For any artist starting out doing art festivals, I would advise that you stay true to your work and keep it focused. While its always important to explore new mediums to better yourself, in the art show world it can be a bit confusing to the audience to have all kinds of work in a show. Find your niche and stick to it. That's not to say it won't evolve over time, but remember its a business venture too. I'm fortunate to have recognized my passion early on. For some people it takes longer.

Be prepared for a lot of work. It's true that nothing really worth pursuing is easy. Stay focused on the prize ( for me it was working for and supporting myself through my art) and commit yourself to it fully. You will learn to become your best salesperson and get people excited about your work. It's the greatest feeling when someone is willing to spend there hard earned money on your work instead of countless other escapes because you've inspired them. Believe me, once that happens you're hooked.

Most importantly, don't let a closed door deter you from your goals. Not everyone will like what you do. Stay true to your vision and people will see what you're trying to accomplish. Sometimes you have to win them over, sometimes you just can't. Keep going! Forward progress is extremely important. My mantra has become "Let my work take me where it's supposed to." While that may seem like an incredible leap of faith, if you believe in it, you'll find your audience.

What do you hope to accomplish in the future (artistically or otherwise)?

The sky's the limit. My immediate goals are attempting to publish a book I hope to complete next year and continue the pursuit of more licensing agreements to make other products out of my work. I really believe there are many avenues I can pursue and am always willing to explore any opportunity. It's a grassroots effort to get my name out there and fortunately, it's working.

What's one thing you've always wanted to do?

Motorcycle cross country. I'd love to spend a few months exploring this country on a motorcycle. I've taken a lot of road trips by car, but there's nothing like riding on two wheels across an open road.

If you could hang out with anyone for a day (living or dead), who would it be and why?

Martin Scorcese. I think this man is a national treasure and an insanely creative force. I would love to watch him work for a day and see how his mind clicks. His cinematic style is so unique, and he lives and breathes what he does. It's so inspiring.

Well! Isn't his stuff amazing!!! I'm like a kid in a candy store every time I see it! And I can't stop using exclamation marks!!! Aghh!!!! I absolutely love every piece. If you are interested in Eric's illustrations, check out even more of them at http://www.sturtevantillustrations.com/ and if you're in the New England area you can see him at upcoming art festivals in MA, RI and NJ this fall. Thank you so much, Eric!

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