Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Interview: Ty Wilkins.

What is your greatest achievement?
Personally, finding my wife and having two great kids. Professionally, I am excited about the artwork I recently created for an upcoming album by Brooklyn-based Matuto. The album artwork includes custom lettering, an illustrated cover and twelve interior illustrations (one for each song). Matuto's music is a original fusion of hillbilly tunes from the Appalachian mountains and the rhythms of Brazil. Known ingredients combine to form something new, surprising and experimental. In a similar way, when I started on this project I didn't know what the end product would look like, but I did know that I wanted to discover a contemporary mash-up of folk art and modernism. 

How would you describe your work/style to someone who hadn't seen it?
My illustration work tends to be composed of bold minimal shapes, limited colour palettes, geometric patterns and linear elements. Animals are one of my favourite recurring subject matters. My design work sometimes shares similar characteristics, yet is broader and more client driven. 

What piece of advice would you give your 15 year old self?
It would be really interesting to have this kind of opportunity. I would have so many things to say. In terms of professional advice, I would say, "Though animation may be part of your future, graphic design and illustration are really your calling." 

Who/what has had the biggest influence on your work/career?
Mid-century modern graphic designers and illustrators including Charley Harper, Jim Flora, Mary Blair and Alexander Girard. I don't think many people associate modernism with warmth and humour, however illustrators and designers from this era discovered a perfect intersection of geometric shapes and organic lines, playful subject matter and folkloric references, lightheartedness and sophistication. 

What is the worst job you have had?
I once had a job in high school raking my neighbour's lawn. I still vividly recall the misery of raking in the bitter cold as leaves continued to fall off the trees and undo all the work I had just done. On one such day, an older kid in the neighbourhood, named Chris, unexpectedly showed up and volunteered to help me rake. It took half as long that day. 

Who would play you in the movie of your life?
Either Jermaine Clement, Jason Schwartzman or Demitri Martin.

What is the greatest song of all time?
This is a tough one! Much of my favourite contemporary music has strong echoes from the past, specifically records of the 1960s. So, if I had to chose one song it would be "Ticket to Ride" by the Beatles. 

What do you dislike most about popular culture?
The overabundance of poorly printed books. I love the craftsmanship, design and illustration of older books. I'm hopeful though, because I think that a good number of printed books in the future will be conceived as beautiful objects. If a book is merely an inexpensive vessel for words and images, then an eBook is superior. However, a beautifully designed, illustrated and printed hard bound book is timeless. I am encouraged by publishers like Nobrow, who are publishing contemporary innovative works with high production standards.  

What is the greatest invention of all time?
The internet, because of it's enormous potential to bring information and education to all parts of the world. My hope is that people around the globe are able to find innovative ways to rise out of poverty through free information they access online. 

On a personal note, the internet has transformed my industry and allowed me to be an independent designer and illustrator with international clients. I don't think things would have worked out for me as well even three or four years ago. 

If you didn't do what you do. What would you do?
I am always brimming with ideas and dreams, so I definitely would be in a creative field. If I were not a designer and illustrator, I think I would either be a film director, animator, sign painter, product designer or type designer.

All images courtesy of

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