[ May 18, 2009 ]
Kristine Lombardi is a New York area illustrator with a love of all things vintage and European. She works primarily in gouache and ink (old school) and then digitally composes the images in Photoshop (not too old school). She works in her studio under the watchful eyes of her beloved tortie cat Miss Freckles-who turns 17 this year.
When did you first realize you'd be an artist?
I think I bonded with my crayons more than the average six year-old. In fifth grade I won a town contest and got to paint a store window in the shopping center. Later, in high school, one of my art teachers really encouraged me to draw and paint. He was a young, recent Kutztown graduate and had an unusual and unorthodox way of teaching. I liked his energy and the fact that he challenged us with more than the same old color wheels. He'd tell stories how he convinced his entire family to don pantyhose over their heads at Thanksgiving dinner and I remember liking his eccentricity. After studying fine art in college and repeatedly told that my assignments looked too commercial, it started to sink in that perhaps I was going against the grain. Did I stop there? No, I went into advertising, determined that art would never be enough of a career. Eventually I learned I'd be miserable doing anything else, but it took years to believe in myself enough to go out on my own.
So, you were an art director? What made you take the leap into illustration?
Well, for years I really liked being an art director and met some great people. Then I switched agencies and found myself toiling endlessly on minutiae and directing photo shoots of whipped cream and margarine for those dreary Sunday circulars. You know, the shiny sections of the newspaper with the coupons? Between that and the fact that my then-agency was fast becoming a cult, it was time to go.
A cult, really?
They hired an efficiency expert to dictate how the creatives should brainstorm. My last days were spent huddled inside my office, trying to drown out the chanting and group cheering coming from the sessions in the conference room. Our company ate all three meals together in a communal dining hall, as one of the so-called perks was a full time chef. Then there were the mandatory sleepovers at the owner's TX ranch for "team building." I used to pass by the schedule taped up by the elevators for weeks and wondered how I'd get out of it. Then I got axed. I never drank the KoolAid and got out in the nick of time, but I still get the shakes looking back.
What is your idea of a dream project?
Geez, where do I start? Children's books have always been high on that list but lately I have been very interested in getting my art onto products. I've been very busy developing a line of images for licensing and am currently pursuing that. Cookbooks and stationery are fun too. Oh! And I'd love to do the titles to a film one day - like they did back in the 60s. The film "With Six You Get Eggroll" comes to mind. It has the most charming opening sequence. I think my hand lettering and style would lend itself nicely in this arena.
What inspires you most and what makes you laugh?
Well, these two seem to go hand in hand. I love travel. Give me Paris any day of the week. But for now, NYC is my main inspiration; the energy and movement. A ten minute ride on the subway provides enough eye candy for days of ideas. And there is often humor in everything I encounter. A panhandler thanked me one day and kneeled down, promising he'd be my "puppet on a string". I loved that! As far as my sense of humor, I'd say it is fairly warped. One of my all-time favorite shows is "Strangers With Candy". There's an episode where the character Geoffrey Jellineck quits his teaching job to make a go as an artist with less than desirable results. "I think I'm going to put that dream on temporary hold and chase some new dreams, like not freezing to death." Classic.
Do you have an agent?
Looking for the right one. I take my career very seriously so it is important that an agent take it seriously too. It's truly a partnership. I'm very prolific and energetic and need one who is aggressive and responsive with a strong backbone. (the same way I like my men. lol.)
Any advice for aspiring illustrators?
Be sure that you are self motivated. I'd say 90 percent of this job is marketing yourself and seizing opportunities, so promote, promote, promote! You can be talented but if you don't get your work in front of people, that phone won't ring. Push yourself to learn new things. Think of new ways to generate income during the slow periods. (Live organ donation, prostitution and drug muling are not advised.) Truly love what you do and never give up. Au revoir!
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