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Gig-sorting resource: Last year I found myself overwhelmed with work, scrambling to keep up and feeling stressed out by the kinds of gigs that I usually love to do. So I developed a tool to help me figure out what jobs to say yes to. I identified the four things that make a job worthwhile to me: passion, money, people and publicity. Then I put a values range on each one and made up some math and a key that told me if I should do the project. It’s proved pretty useful. I still want to do every-thing, but I’ve gotten a little better at saying no. 

Old-school tool: The nine-by-twelve-inch Aquabee Super Deluxe Sketchbooks are the perfect size to carry and pull out anywhere. I draw standing up a lot, and they’re a good size to hold in one arm while drawing, plus the paper is great for both dry and wet media. I rip out the pages to scan. I go through them so fast, I probably have a hundred empty pads.

Smile-inducing illustration: Brian Rea’s artwork in director Mike Mills’s animated personal story for California Sunday Magazine and Google Play was simple, smart, beautiful and inspiring. I love seeing how much can be conveyed—both ideas and feeling—through such simple lines. Made me happy.

Must-read illustrated book: With each panel set from the same vantage point—the corner of a single room—Richard McGuire’s haunting graphic novel Here stretches this scene over 300 million years. The premise sounds impossible, but it’s a really interesting way to think about visual storytelling. 

Eye-opening exhibit: D.B. Dowd has curated a beautiful show of reportage illustration at the Kemper Art Museum here in St. Louis, including mind-blowing drawings by Robert Weaver and Robert Andrew Parker, which feel timeless and modern to this day. The show has made me rethink why an image has durability and what makes art resist the stylistic contrivances of its own era.

Inspiration fuel: I have a bunch of reprinted Sears catalogs from the 1800s, and flipping through them when I’m stuck for ideas has a way of unclogging my brain. Perhaps it’s because the whole thing is basically a visual noun collection. 

Mind-blowing illustration: Bill Mayer is a legend, but it’s inspiring how he keeps experimenting and pushing his work into new places. He has been making these tiny gouache paintings, and I’m amazed at their casual mastery in both form and concept. I hope I’m fortunate enough to have this kind of curiosity for new processes and ideas after an established career.

Timeless tool: When I was in art school, I wrapped this .05mm mechanical pencil in tape until it was about an inch and a half in diameter. It looks terrible today, but it helps to keep my hand from hurting after several straight days of drawing. I’ve tried replacements, but I just keep coming back to it.

Must-read book: I just rediscovered my copy of Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. It’s an incredible breakdown of storytelling through image making that relates to every kind of artist.

Guilty pleasure: I’m a lifelong semi-closeted MMA fan. Please don’t tell anybody.

Mind-blowing illustration: I just found out about this artist named Benze from Budapest, Hungary, who makes these incredibly intricate ink drawings. The piece that did it was Saowa.

Trusty tool: Ink and a good, old-fashioned Japanese calligraphy brush. People constantly ask me why I am not drawing on the computer, but I quit my relatively high-profile (but extremely painful) full-time PR job to become an illustrator. If I eliminate what I love the most, what’s the point of being an artist?

Splurge-worthy purchase: Getting a custom website built, including an online print store. It was not cheap, but it was totally worth every penny. I had a very specific vision and realized it beautifully.

Inspiration fuel: My quick two-mile run in the morning. Luckily, I live next to a large park, so I’m in and out in 20 minutes. Sometimes I don’t feel like doing it, but I always feel more awake, alert and refreshed after it’s done. And I don’t drink coffee anymore!

Filing system: Those 1.5-inch three-ring binders from Staples. I am serious. I have been organizing all the sketches I have ever done since 2002. I think I have around 40 binders now. 

Conference: I have been illustrating for more than twelve years now. To get a fresh perspective, I need to consciously learn something outside of what I do. The OFFF Festival in Barcelona, Spain, is a three-day-long general design conference, where creatives who are doing something completely different have inspired my work.

Splurge-worthy investment: Buying Belgian oil–primed linen by the roll and stretching my canvases with it.

Analog necessity: Raphael Kolinsky Brush No. 3 is a must-have. As the finest detailing brush in the world, it can cover only small areas, but it makes perfect finishing touches to faces. The Siberian weasel hairs have incredible bounce and resilience to go from a fine point to a thick stroke all in one motion.

Dream workspace: A large studio with skylights. Edel Rodriquez has the best studio I’ve ever seen.

The illustrator’s dilemma: The Internet giveth and taketh away. As a result, the publishing world has dealt with pressure since free content has become the norm. It has indirectly shrunk our business and our fees. Glad I got to see both sides, before and after magazine content became free online, as it has educated me greatly.

Creative process: Sketching starts it all, and then I try to find messages in those images. It’s like being a detective and seeing how the pieces fit. Lots of ideas end up on the cutting room floor—usually the weird ones, which I’m always fond of.

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