[March 31, 2008 ]
When Randy Lyhus was nine years old, his 3rd grade teacher asked the class to write an essay on what would be their future occupations, Lyhus entitled his essay "I am an Artist". "It was just kind of a goof " Lyhus relates "I remembered writing it, as I needed a topic for the assignment. I had just drawn a face earlier that day that I was kind of pleased with and thought, hey, I'll do the paper on being an artist. My mom saved that paper I wrote back in third grade and gave it to me a couple of years ago."
Growing up in suburban Maryland near Washington, DC, Lyhus attended public schools. After graduating and a couple of years at community college, he was accepted to the Maryland Institute College of Art. After college Lyhus worked various jobs, warehouse worker, parking lot striper and t-shirt artist. "In the evenings, I would work on my portfolio and really began to look around at what other illustrators were doing and trying to understand what the field was all about. So, in the winter (when it was too cold to paint stripes on parking lots) my freelance career began as I took my portfolio around to the various association magazine art directors in the DC area. The first year I only made about $2500, but the feedback from Art Directors was very positive, it kept me going, and I felt like I was on the right track."
"Being a self-employed artist has got to be one of the greatest jobs. I feel very thankful to have a career as an illustrator... uh where's my next assignment?"
Randy Lyhus' work has appeared in most major publications in the US and has been recognized for excellence by Communication Arts, The Print Regional Design Annual, HOW magazine, Folio, The Artists Magazine, Novum and The Illustrators Club of Washington DC
What is your work process like?
I read the materials sent by the client, then submit sketches. Once a sketch has been approved, I gather any pictorial reference I may need and begin work in my 3d program. I use a German program - Maxon Cinema 4d. After modeling and assembling my scene in 3d space, I render the scene, then bring it into Photoshop to finish up with compositing elements and/ or color correction and other adjustments.
What are your sources of inspiration?
The renaissance painters. Magritte, Edward Hopper. Photographers, Jerry Uelsmann, Duane Michaels, Michael Kenna. Special effects in motion pictures. I find it amazing to be using tools unavailable to artists from previous times and to be able to do things that were impossible until now.
You used to work in a completely different style. How did the transition to your current work come about?
For years, I created illustration that emulated woodcut prints using scratchboard. After so many years, I began to feel a bit like I was imitaiting myself. I was frustrated a bit and somewhat bored. I had always been into Photography and had dabbled in a 3d program that a friend turned me on to. Then one day, I decided to try to "re-do" one of my illustrations in 3d. I had a kind of "Eureka" moment and knew I could do this new work and was extremely excited about it. I started enjoying work much more :-)
Describe your ideal job/ client.
An ideal job to me, is one where the client totally trusts me to do my thing and have matched me well to the assignment. It's always great to work for an AD who will design with the art as opposed to forcing the art into a pre-designed layout and asking for certain colors because they're already in the design. That said, I know it's not always possible with deadlines, schedule to work that way.
What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators?
I would say to get well rounded. Maybe work on things like interpreting manuscripts and conceptualizing within a deadline. Thinking about the business side of illustration, your interaction with clients, how it's essentially a service business. Looking critically at your work and seeing how it fits in the marketplace - then seeing what you need to do to get your work into that market. You need to have your art thing down, that goes without saying. I think most successful illustrators consider these other areas as well.
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