Patrick Leger is an illustrator based in North Carolina. Since he began working in 2007, his clients have included The Criterion Collection, the New York Times, Simon & Schuster, Random House, Harper-Collins, The Folio Society, McSweeney's, BBC and numerous publications both domestic and international. Patrick's work has been recognized by The Society of Illustrators, American Illustration and Communication Arts.
Pages and Pages of Tiny Thumbnail Sketches
If you have a degree in what field is it? I have a BFA in painting and drawing from East Carolina University and an MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Have you always been able to draw or was it a skill you learned in college? Drawing has pretty much been my main pastime since I was a child. My mother painted a lot when I was growing up, so there was never a lack of art supplies around.
What was your first paid assignment? My first real illustration assignment was for the New York Times Op-Ed page. I think I emailed the art director a link to my website and he called me that afternoon. It was pretty incredible. And for the next six months or so I did two or three illustrations a month for them.
Which illustrator (or fine artist) do you most admire? There are so many. I think the ones that really stand out for me are the ones who stay in for the longest. It’s such a demanding career that you have to have a deep commitment. My personal tastes in art change frequently but I’m always looking at illustrations from the 1960s by artists like Robert Fawcett, Bob Peak and Noel Sickles because the styles of that time have shaped my own approach.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an illustrator? I would probably still be in a creative field. I became interested in architecture too late to pursue it as a career, but it’s always been something I’ve been attracted to. Apart from that, I could see myself on the other side of the illustration field, working as a designer or an art director.
From where do your best ideas originate? I try to absorb a lot of media. I’m constantly watching films, looking at comics (those by Hugo Pratt and Jean Giraud are personal favorites) and reading. Illustration is a field where flexibility is a valuable asset, so it helps when you can draw from a very diverse pool of creative influences. You never know when you might have to do something that has the feel of a spy novel or elements of a fantasy world.
How do you overcome a creative block? It’s helpful for me to single out key words and phrases from a text and use those as the basis for a concept. Most of what I struggle with is composition; what I want is usually very clear to me, but it’s often in the execution of it that I run into a mental block. I typically generate pages and pages of tiny thumbnail sketches while trying to figure out how things will fit together.
In one word describe how you feel when beginning a new assignment. Anxious.
Do you have a personal philosophy? Never look back at your earlier work.
Do you have creative pursuits other than illustration? I’ve begun writing an outline for a short graphic novel, but I don’t know that I'll ever find the time to work on it.
What music are you listening to right now? I’ve been listening to Johnny Foreigner and El Ten Eleven lately but I listen mostly to podcasts and news documentaries when I'm working.
What’s your favorite quote? “With period clothes, people know less so they accept the pretty drawing that I give them.” —Julie Harris
Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? Try to look at your work from the perspective of the people who are going to hire you. Illustration is a field where it costs a magazine or book publisher the same to hire a kid right out of school as it does a seasoned veteran, so make sure that you're doing work that is compelling enough that they want to take a chance on you. Also, if you have a deep interest in something, utilize that in your work; illustration is always better when an artist can make a personal connection through the subject matter or concept.
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? I wish I had been more educated on just the general business aspects of working professionally. Things like pricing and licensing fees for clients are very vague and can be drastically different and depend on many factors. It’s still a subject that isn’t entirely clear to me.