THE PATH OF AN ILLUSTRATOR | Jeremy Booth
Note from the Editor: Joel Bear: Jeremy Booth has been a fellow artist and friend of ours. His work speaks years beyond his age, reflecting into times past and innovating into the future. We are so excited to applaud his success and share this interview showcasing his latest work with discussions about his growth as an artist.
Joel Bear: Tell us a little bit about what you do?
Jeremy Booth: I am a commercial and editorial illustrator living and working out of Louisville Kentucky. Over the years I have worked with clients like Amazon, Over, Samsung, and recently Eero.
Louisville Kentucky, that's amazing, how did you get to where you are now?
This is certainly a loaded question for me. My interest in graphic design began in high school. With my stolen copy of Photoshop I created hardcore gig posters and experimented with manipulating photos. At the time graphic design as a career wasn’t on my radar.
After high school I moved to Los Angeles. There my interest in graphic design heightened some. I would create flyers and series graphics for my local church, thus continuing down my path of self taught education. It was there that I began showing interest in learning Adobe Illustrator, it was nothing serious, but extremely fun for me.
When I moved back to Louisville and working as a CNA I decided that I should really try to pursue graphic design. After many years of learning and building a craft on my own I decided to freelance on the side. A year later I became ill and began having seizures. When that happened I was no longer able to drive and I was a liability at my job. So I was sick and didn’t have a job, at the same time a local church in the neighborhood I lived in sought me out to work full time there as a graphic designer. Seven months into the seizures and new graphic design job at the church, I had brain surgery to remove a mass on my brain that was connected to the seizures. It was during my recovery that I recognized that illustration was something I was naturally gifted at. I used that down time to explore and try different styles. It was during the time of my sickness that graphic design helped me focus on my new direction and thus distracting me from that dark season..
Once I arrived back to work I kept pursuing different styles and began doing illustration freelance work. I later moved on from the graphic design job at the church to another job that was more illustration focused and later I jumped into freelance and I have been pursuing that ever since. In my early freelance days I did a mixture of graphic design and illustration work.
That's an incredible journey, how did you arrive at your signature style?
A few years ago I began reading books about the business of illustration and I found that the most successful and sought out illustrators were those that practiced one style of illustration. So I took time to really research what style I wanted to pursue. I had already been working in flat vector illustration but I knew I wanted to focus even further. I was really inspired by the style found on Tommorowland posters and drew inspiration from there. I found old and new illustrators that derived from that style and I adopted my own version. From there it has birthed to the style I work in today.
Your work definitely has its own aesthetic with your use of shadows and light. Has this been hard to achieve?
It was difficult at first and sometimes it still is. I had to think like a photographer and understand how highlights, composition, shadows, etc. work. Sometimes I will come across a shadow that is difficult to create, I usually guess what it would look like in reality and hope for the best.
In a style that often appears flat and 2 dimensional, you are able to create such depth in your illustrations how did you arrive at this ?
I am very drawn to flat art but felt an urge to create depth. In this pursuit I began learning how to create in isometry and perspective. This is necessary as a commercial illustrator, you need to create a relatable story and depth to an image makes that happen. It’s real. well, in an artistic way.
I love that your colors feel cohesive, what inspires you for your color pallet?
It really depends on the mood I am trying evoke. I also has to do with the restrictions I am given depending on which company I am working for. Most of the time I am given a few colors to work with and it’s my job to come up with the rest. Right now I am really fond of going back and forth with using primary colors and monochromatic palettes. It all depends on how I feel and the project at hand.
Out of curiosity what has been the response to you art style?
I am thankful, overall the illustration community and others have been very welcoming and are connecting with my artwork. That is what I am pursuing, the connection. That is why I want to create artwork.
Where do you see illustration going and how has that changed over the past couple years?
I think the popularity of illustration is on the rise. The tech industry has really adopted it. I do think illustration isn’t as popular in America. Most of my work is in Europe and I notice that their appreciation of art in advertising is more appreciated and valued. I am hopeful that America will wise up one day.
It's fantastic that your work is doing so well in Europe. You just had a show in Paris in the beginning of the year, how did that come about?
Late spring I signed to an agent in Paris, recently after I was contacted through Sergeant Paper (a gallery and store for digital artists). Sergeant Paper asked if I was interested in them selling my artwork at their store. Being newly represented in France I contacted my agent first before replying. She took a few days to negotiate a solo exhibit with SP and soon after I got an offer to have my own show there this fall. I agreed and began producing. Here I am now, an exhibit finished and showing in Paris, it's been a great ride so far.
From Louisville to Paris, its amazing how global we have become, especially in the art world. How has the global scale changed your view of your own work?
I’m learning a lot more of how the illustration business works in Europe. I think it is much more guarded and cherished over there. Illustrators are much more guarded and if you get close to doing something within their own style they let you know. Here in America that isn’t the case, every artist can create within any similar style as long as no one is copying.
It's so true, I think that here in the states we’re obsessed with innovation and progress, Europe has deep roots in tradition and history.
What is your point of view on printed work vs. digital artwork and do you feel that there is a time and place for both?
I cherish both and each work according to context, sometimes that means both work well together. After the exhibit in Paris and seeing others reactions I am learning that there could be sustainability as an artist in print. I used to think it was the opposite, because of technology I held the belief that digital is the only way to go. I don’t fully believe that any more...art will always exist in physical form.
With your recent work in Paris and a great list of clientele how do you prep-mentally for a creative project?
Tons of research in the beginning and good communication help me from a mental stand point. I find that with confidence in knowing exactly what the client is looking for and knowing I can provide that I become mentally more prepared. If that isn’t the case anxiety usually steps in.
How do you handle and work through a creative block or pre-assignment anxiety?
There is always some form of anxiety in the beginning of each project. That ranges from intense to subtle anxiety. Usually I have to remind myself that I have done this before and I can easily do it again. For creative blocks I find stepping away for a period of time is usually helpful, that is usually in the form of a walk or eating dinner. That allows for new perspectives and it frees my mind of the creative block because I am not focusing on the task at hand. I am then able to come back to the project clear headed and with a new perspective.
As we wrap up, thank you for taking the time to share. In closing what advice would you give to starting illustrators?
I think awareness is key. If you are pursuing illustration be aware of what comes natural to you
and what you love and pursue that. You’ll enjoy the process and reach your artistic goals faster.
Jeremey has also been taking his illustrations to the canvas.
Here's a glimpse of his new work: a 30x40 in wooden panel with acrylic paint.
Check out more of Jeremy's work