Member Spotlight: Britt Spencer


Member Spotlight - Britt Spencer

[ August 11, 2009 ]  

How would you describe the world you create in your illustrations?
It's my attempt, albeit a feeble one, to merge the asinine and the reasonable. I usually just refer to it as nonsensical sanity.

Given that your work is somewhat eccentric how do you approach editorial jobs that require an illustration of less-than-eccentric subject matter?
What I love about commercial illustration is the execution of my style to fit someone else's message. I really enjoy the process of being flexible and having to try and figure out a way to have my illustrative voice speak their words. The gallery world seems so stagnate to me at times... artist doing only what seems relevant to them, somewhat forgetting the necessity of communication to others. I always try to stay focused on my intent to communicate an idea. Sure, I can draw fairly decently but what really sets an illustration off is its ability to talk to the masses. If I can't make an illustration for the cover of Bottled Water Reporter Magazine (one of my earlier commissions) interesting then I am nothing more than a charlatan.

How did you get your first job?
I had been working as a urine collector for a drug testing company and decided I needed to switch my career immediately. I traveled to New York with a couple of portfolios and with blind ambition did my best to get my foot in the door anywhere. I thought the entire trip had been a waste, returning home with nothing but what I assumed were diplomatic letters informing me that they had nothing for me at the moment but they'll be sure to "keep me in their files." Apparently, they actually do keep you in their files, and I was contacted a few months later to illustrate a 48 page children's book.

I noticed you're represented internationally, how has it been working for clients outside of the US market?
It's been wonderful. From what I've experienced the European market is very open to drawings bordering/breaching the realms of the absurd. In addition I find it very stimulating working with clients who are dealing with issues that would otherwise not be my concern due to geography alone. To compensate for my ignorance on the subject matter I often find myself asking more questions than normal to make sure I'm conveying the message they're hoping to convey. The relationship is more engaging and ultimately I think the illustrations benefit from my mere surface-level understanding of the subject matter. My illustrations in Europe have been some of my most successful.

What has been your favorite commission?
I really enjoy the opportunity to draw hopelessly foolish looking characters. I consider myself fortunate that some clients seem to contact me specifically for such purposes. In fact, a former member of Monty Python came to me in need of a character design for an animation he had been developing. It was fun to settle down and draw a character that had been described as an "average Joe" type. To me the title of "average Joe" has pretty rotten connotations of laziness and a general blissful naïveté. I jumped right in -filling a sketchbook up with pictures of this bumbling, oafish, twit of a man and sent them along to the client. Though I was working on the project for a while and clocking rather unusual hours to accommodate the client's time zone it felt like I was on vacation.

What materials do you use?
It really depends on the job. I've never been convinced that my style is somehow tied to the materials I use. I think style easily transcends the medium and can be expressed in any number of ways. But to answer the question, I most often use gouache (as if it were a watercolor) and ink. I've experimented with most types of ink and most types of ink pens, but right now I'm having fun with crow quills and technical pens with Dr. Martin's Black Star. I prefer Holbein's AcrylaGouache for painting because it has great saturation and doesn't reactivate once it sets. Occasionally, I'll ask the client if they wouldn't mind me using other techniques for coloring, like Duoshade with digital coloring or applying an ageing varnish. It truly does vary from project to project.

How do you define beauty?
I try not to, because I've often found I'm wrong.

You seem to draw nude/partially nude men often, why?
I'm not entirely sure why. Given a blank piece of paper and pen, I'd most likely end up drawing some fat naked guy with sporadic body hair. It does seem to be a theme, though I'm not sure of what purpose... I suppose it fits my aesthetic of things that look weird. Nothing more peculiar than a man defrocked and exposed as the frail thing he truly is.

What are you working on now?
I've been working on a largely illustrated novel. I did not write the text, rather it was written by someone who is competent, and who could be trusted with such responsibilities. At any rate, it should be a fun book that tackles complicated ideas of quantum physics, relativity, and other scientific areas of interest, and hopefully explains them in a manner that is entertaining and easy to follow.

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