[photo credit: © Colby Bird]
Christopher Silas Neal is an illustrator and designer, born in Texas and raised in Florida and Colorado. His work has been published by a variety of magazine and book publishers and, has been recognized by Communicatin Arts, American Illustration, AIGA, Society of Illustrators, Society of Publication Designers, Art Directors Club of Denver, Print magazine and Society of News Designers. Christopher exhibits drawings at various galleries across the country. He currently works and lives in Brooklyn and teaches Illustration at Pratt Institute.
Putting Pen to Paper Until Something Good Comes Out
If you have a degree in what field is it? I went to school for music at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Halfway through, I switched to advertising and graduated with a BA in mass communication. My education mostly consisted of learning about concepting ad ideas. There wasn’t much learning available to ad majors in the way of art making and designing but a small design elective led me to a job with a local design studio in Boulder with Michael Signorella. I learned on the job and though I mostly exclusively work on illustration now, the skills I learned with Signorella really paved the way for my career.
Have you always been able to draw or was it a skill you learned in college? Drawing was my favorite pastime as a kid (until I started playing the drums anyway), along with watching movies. I would mostly try to replicate movie posters and record covers and do portraits of characters from action/horror films.
What was your first paid assignment? My first assignment was a portrait of director Peter Jackson for Flaunt magazine. It looked nothing like him. None of my portraits ever do.
Which illustrator (or fine artist) do you most admire? Designer Stefan Sagmeister has always been a huge inspiration. He really puts everything into his work.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an illustrator? Perhaps working at a graphic design firm or playing in a band.
From where do your best ideas originate? I’m not sure where my ideas come from but I do know that watching films, listening to talks and reading interviews by artists and designers inspires me and gets the neurons firing.
How do you overcome a creative block? I put pen to paper until something good comes out. Otherwise, I just put the assignment aside for awhile and hope that I get an epiphany in the shower.
In one word describe how you feel when beginning a new assignment? Hmmm.
Do you have a personal philosophy? Just put yourself out there and the rest will work itself out.
Do you have creative pursuits other than illustration? At the moment, I’m putting all my energy into finishing my long list of illustration tasks.
What music are you listening to right now? The Fleet Foxes, David Byrne’s Big Love: Hymnal, The Arabian Prince.
What’s your favorite quote? “I don't know the key to success but, the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” —Bill Cosby
Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? Illustration isn't a part time job for fine artists; to have any success, you have to put everything into it.
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? It’s OK, sometimes, to say no.