Chi Birmingham interview.
Chi Birmingham is an illustrator living and working in Brooklyn, NY.
He received a BFA in Painting and Drawing from the California College of the Arts and recently receuved an MFA in Illustration at the School of Visual Arts.
More about the US artist.
PLEASE INTRODUCE YOURSELF
I’m an artist and illustrator with a studio in Brooklyn, NY. I grew up in California, and moved out to the east coast about four years ago.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR WORK?
Graphic, Direct, Playful.
PLEASE SHARE WITH US YOUR WORKING PROCESS
Most of the work I have been doing lately has been for newspaper and magazine articles. When I get an assignment, I read the text that my illustration will accompany and start to make a list of ideas. Once I am finished I do a rough drawing of all the ideas I have written down. Once I have three or more that I think could work, I do a tighter sketch of each and send it to my Art Director.
For my final illustrations I work in Flash. I import the sketch and do my draw over it on another layer. I use a stylus and build up the images in layers in the way that I would with a painting. (I used to do all of my work with Gouache, and I think I still work with the same approach.) The software allows me to change individual colors very easily, so I typically start with a grayscale version so that I can make sure that the value relationships are working.
HOW DOES YOUR ENVIRONMENT INFLUENCE YOUR ART?
I work in a studio with four of my closest friends. During the day we take a lot of time to talk about or work, or just play cards, and it is a big help in keeping me sane.
WHO ARE YOUR INFLUENCES?
I grew up looking at a lot of painters. Richard Diebenkorn, Luc Tuymans, Jenny Saville, Euen Uglow and of course Lucian Freud were my favorites. I wasn’t interested so much in their subject matter, but was very impressed by the way they rendered forms. For the first few years that I painted I was really only interested in draftsmanship and creating a compelling illusion of a light source.
In college I became more interested in using art to tell stories and started looking at a lot of different narrative painters. I started to look more closely at the children’s books I had grown up with and began to cobble together a world for myself that was based very much on the aesthetic of 60’s era Golden Books.
ANY LAST WORD?
I couldn’t do any of this (and wouldn’t want to) without the support of my incredible wife, Lorissa Rinehart.