I’m delighted to share an interview by Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles Illustration West 57 Chair, Cliff Cramp.
1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How you got started
It would be nice to say I’ve always wanted to an artist, but that would be a total lie. In high school, my dream was to sit behind my big, pearl-white drumset and perform top-40 hits on Disneyland’s Tomorrowland Terrace. After graduation, I headed off to college to study with many of the top jazz musicians in Southern California, but I soon faced the never-ending challenges of a young woman in a male-dominated industry. It was a battle that slowly killed my spirit. I made up excuses for not practicing and stopped auditioning for performances. My passion for music derailed, and I felt like a total failure. Then one afternoon, I walked past the art department’s display case containing posters with large block letters, drawings of fruit, portraits in oil paint. Remembering fondly of the hours I spent listening to Billy Joel and Elton John, and drawing faces from their album covers, I made the fateful decision to change my major from music to visual art, from entertainer to entrepreneur.
2. What’s your daily routine look like?
Honestly, the only thing I can say that’s routine about my day is that at some point my laptop will slip into its case and venture off to a client meeting, classroom lecture or late night coffee shop. As a full-time educator, entrepreneur and single mom, my “routine” means I need to be flexible and resourceful, have multiple backup plans, and a firm belief that everything always works itself out. Having said all that, mornings usually involve tackling smaller client projects and planning curriculum, afternoons are spent coaching students in the classroom, and evenings are dedicated to family time, larger client projects and finishing my memoir Goodness Knows.
3. Who inspires you? What inspires you?
This is an easy question for a parent like myself to answer. My daughter, already an accomplished illustrator at the age of sixteen, inspires me by her commitment to weekly personal projects, her surreal use of visual metaphor, and the painstaking detail she takes in rendering hair. My son, who will soon begin his college career studying fashion and performance art, inspires me through the creative personas he invents. Of course, many others also inspire me, artist/entrepreneurs like Scott Bradlee from Postmodern Jukebox, writer/storytellers like Margaret Atwood and Elizabeth Gilbert, and of course the beautiful work of illustrators Jason Limon, Jeremy Mann, and Charis Tsevis as well as lettering artists Loredana Zega and Jessica Hische.
4. What are some favorite projects that you’ve had the opportunity to work on?
As a creative director in entertainment marketing for over twenty years, I’ve had the good fortune to design and illustrate home entertainment packaging for hundreds of movies, from classics like The Sound of Music and An Affair to Remember to blockbusters like Titanic and The Chronicles of Narnia. But the two franchises that remain as my all-time favorites are The Star Wars Saga and The Planet of The Apes. In each of these campaigns, my team and I contributed original art and photography rather than simply compositing existing material provided by the motion picture studios.
5. What advice do you have for artists and illustrators, beginning and pro?
Haha, this feels less like a question, and more like a lecture series.
If I had to keep things brief, here’s where I would start.
1) Know yourself – your strengths, your fear tendencies, your excuses.
2) Practice your craft. Malcolm Gladwell says in his book Outliers “ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness.”
3) Get your hands dirty, take risks, don’t fly too low.
4) Document your process. Once your art is sold, it will be the only part of your work that is still yours.
5) Clear the desk. Empty the drawers. Wipe the slate clean. Purge. Start over. Creativity needs a place to grow from, not around.
6. Describe your workspace?
I’d like to say I work in a 27th story loft overlooking the Hudson – open-beamed ceiling, 100-year-old restored wood floors, windows spanning from corner to corner, a vintage drafting table and flat files from an old newspaper printing house, a sexy new Wacom Cintiq resting on reclaimed mahogany desk from a 1950s advertising firm – maybe someday! For now, my workspace needs to be practical and portable – a Macbook pro, a well-worn and trusty Intuos 3 tablet, one bookshelf to house reference books, teaching material, and portable hard drives, and another to store the wet stuff like watercolors, inks and lettering tools. There’s more of course – boxes of paints, backup tablets, old craft supplies that I may need someday. Thank goodness for garage storage.
7. What do you find challenging about being an artist/illustrator?
I’ve often said if I had a single superpower, I would freeze time. Too many things get in the way of the ideas that buzz around in my head. I need to either a make good clone or transform into Quicksilver from X-Men. As an Illustrator, I’m also an entrepreneur, which means marketing my work, doing bookkeeping, troubleshooting computers, building my website, cataloging my work, engaging in social media, writing, making videos. There aren’t enough hours in the day for everything, not to mention the crazy notion I have of sleeping in on a weekday.
8. What’s something artistically that you haven’t done that you would enjoy doing?
I would love to get my hands messy with clay, wire sculpting, or even bronze casting. But if I were training for a new career, I would study 3D motion graphics and special effects. Nothing gets me more excited than making the unbelievable seem real.
9. What do you like to do in your free time?
10. Favorite movie and why?
As a huge movie fan, this is like asking a parent which child they love more, or telling a musician to pick their favorite song. There is far too much exceptional storytelling in the world to chose only one, so I’ll offer my top five, in no particular order. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for how it beautifully wraps up a story that took seven movies to tell, yet still leaves fans wanting more. Star Wars, Revenge of the Sith because Anakin’s story is equally inspiring and tragic; and in spite of other fan’s opinions, I enjoyed the performances and cinematography. Amadeus has been on my top five list ever since I left the theater in tears and speechless. The first and last fifteen minutes are absolutely breathtaking, and Tom Hulce’s laugh is ridiculously infectious. Somewhere in Time with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour is also high on my list because, as I mentioned earlier I would have no reservation about time traveling, and I’m a sucker for a good romance. Last but not least, Titanic needs to be added to that top five because it simply has everything – a woman discovering her self-worth, intriguing characters, historical tragedy, heart-wrenching music, and of course an epic love story.
Visit The Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles for their complete series of interviews with judges.