Illustrator Richard Borge moved to NYC in late 1994 from North Carolina, where he'd been teaching. He graduated with a BA from Concordia College in Minnesota in 1987 and an MFA from the University of Arizona in 1990. He's done a bit of teaching at SVA and RISD, in Providence, but teaching assignments are not the norm for him; Richard keeps busy with illustration assignments, ranging from editorial, annual reports, music packaging, and the occasional advertising project. Recently he's also become immersed in animation and combining live-action video with animation for music videos and advertising.
A Path of No Regrets
If you have a degree in what field is it? A BA in art and communications from Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota and an MFA in visual communications from University of Arizona, Tucson.
Have you always been able to draw or was it a skill you learned in college? I’ve been pretty interested in drawing ever since I can remember, and would spend entire afternoons sitting outside drawing. To me it was the best thing ever. I was always really interested in making pictures, and was delighted when I finally figured out that someone could do it for a living.
What was your first paid assignment? I think my first paid assignment was to design a T-shirt for a football game at Concordia College.
Which illustrator (or fine artist) do you most admire? There are so many great illustrators but one of my favorites has always been Henrik Drescher—his work is so highly personal and conceptually brilliant.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an illustrator? Well, I was pre-med up until my junior year in college, then something snapped a couple days before classes began and I found myself doing a complete schedule change, from biology and chemistry to studio art and art history. I think I would be an OK doctor though, it runs in my family. I’ve also been doing some animation and music video directing and that’s gotten me really charged and I definitely see progressing more into the area of moving image and film. Time-based media is so different than still images; it allows the telling of more elaborate stories.
From where do your best ideas originate? A lot of times my best images come from seemingly dry topics, because they force me to think more abstractly and symbolically. I always do my best work with very general, rather than specific, art direction. If I’m working for an exhibit or doing personal work, it takes some time for me to break away from thinking like an illustrator and find my personal voice. When I can do anything I want, I’ll often create work that’s social or political. Worldwide injustices make me feel a responsibility to use my voice as an artist; othertimes, I refuse to allow negative energy to enter my creative process.
How do you overcome a creative block? Deadlines are good for me, they keep me moving. I will usually just try and work through it; if I stop thinking and just physically start doing something it’s usually enough.
In one word describe how you feel when beginning a new assignment? Open.
Do you have a personal philosophy? Do what you like to do and work hard.
Do you have creative pursuits other than illustration? I just bought an apartment with a garden in Brooklyn so I’m looking forward to getting into gardening, which will be a first for me. The building was a Civil War munitions foundry that’s been transformed into apartments. The interior of the apartment is all new and modern, while the yard has the garden and some other original elements from the old structure that are still pretty rough. I was also recently surprised to find that I like writing, which I hadn't really done much of since college. When I write a proposal for a music video, I listen to the song and try to come up with a story to go along with it. I’m finding that writing those treatments is really creative and fun.
What music are you listening to right now? I’m just wrapping-up an animated music video for Jesca Hoop’s song, “Money,” so I’ve literally been listening to that over and over. Fortunately it’s a great track.
What’s your favorite quote? It’s by Neil Young and it’s a lyric, "In the field of opportunity it’s plowing time again.” I love that line; change is a lot easier when I look at it this way.
Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? Do what you like to do and work hard and, if you can, deliver the project early. Strong concepts are the foundation of illustration. Continue to develop your own style and your own way of visual problem solving.
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? I don’t really have any regrets with regard to things that happened along the way, so I can’t really think of anything to change. I can say this: If I could go back I would definitely buy Apple (stock) early on.