Von Glitschka is a designer and illustrator with over 23 years experience. Von’s work has received numerous awards and has appeared in such publications as Communication Arts, Print, HOW Design, Society of Illustrators, Graphis, American Illustration, and Logo Lounge II, III, IV and V. Von has been kind enough to provide Vectips with an interview, so read on to learn about his Illustrator experience and industry insights.
Von Glitschka Around the Web
Hey Von, thanks for taking the time to provide Vectips with an Interview! To start, could you tell us about your illustrating background and what made you become a illustrator?
I’ve drawn since I was very young. My mom is very creative so that kind of rubbed off on me. I use to just hang out in my bedroom with a friend listen to my Star Wars talking record and draw pictures. I was always getting into trouble for drawing on my papers growing up too.
As I went into high school I remember thinking “I don’t want to go to a regular college and do math.” Mind you this was before the internet so the way we did research was to ask our guidance counselor to find information on something and they’d get it. Well I asked for information on film school, I wanted to go into the movies. The guidance counselor came back and said she couldn’t find anything?
I was stumped. A few weeks later a person from the Burnley School of Art came through our art class and the convinced me I needed to go to art school. No math at art school.
I never set out to be a full-time illustrator. I was trained as a graphic designer and illustration was always just an additional skill set I would use when a project needed it. At first I just assumed all graphic designers also illustrated. It wasn’t until around 1995 I realized I could leverage illustration as it’s own marketable talent. And from that point forward I handled it as such.
I have entertained the thought of going to film school after my kids graduate from college. I still think I could direct and or art director better than a lot of movies I see produced. This of course is more of a fantasy than a reality at this point, but not out of realm of possibility. You have to dream new dreams to stay relevant and fresh.
What is your favorite and least favorite thing about the illustrating industry?
Favorite: Unbridled creativity and exploration. Never ceases to amaze me at the depth of unique work being done, and that inspires me of course to pursue my own approach.
Least Favorite: The illustration industry is still embedded with an old school mind set that really holds some back from flourishing with their art. Too many have the idea that a “One style fits all approach” should for some reason be an ironclad rule applied to all illustrators. This is at best a problematic understanding of illustration. That approach might have worked in general in the pre-digital world but it’s at best a flawed methodology in today’s marketplace.
I know what I just said will cause many illustrators to view my comments in the same light as me drop kicking babies. But life wouldn’t be too exciting if you didn’t stir it up at times.
Illustrators in general tend to think of themselves as existing outside of “Graphic Design” as if they are their own unique industry, when in fact they fall under the banner of “Graphic Design.” Their livelihood depends on the design industry and thus their work needs to be versatile enough to work in a range of projects in order to be the appropriate solution for the given project. I’ve always found that illustrators who first worked as designers before moving over to illustration full-time make for better illustrators because they clearly understand this, have a better comprehension of marketing, and also apply a designers eye to their work as well.
Too many non-illustrators view illustration as mere image makers. When in fact they should view us as idea formulators that can also build out what we conceptualize. Good thinking makes for great art and way too many creative directors don’t think that way when working with an illustrator. Part of the problem is most illustrators don’t do a good job of communicating this aspect of their service either, so the problem is two fold.
As a professional Illustrator, what are your thoughts in general when it comes to stock and low cost illustration?
Technically I refer to myself as an “Illustrative Designer.” I call upon both skill sets in nearly all my work and rarely do I do purely illustrative projects that don’t entail a design context such as editorial work. An interesting side-effect of this reality is that most non-illustrating designers call me an “Illustrator” and most non-designing illustrators tend to call me a “Designer.” They both focus on the aspects of my work they don’t do themselves and assume I’m not in their camp.
A few years ago I had my owl illustration hanging in the Society of Illustrators in NYC and got contacted by a web site that lists illustrators inviting me to participate. I said sure but didn’t hear anything back and then got an email from the site saying “Sorry but you were invited by accident. You’re not an illustrator. Frankly I’m not sure what you are?” LOL
I’m OK with stock illustration as long as it allows the illustrator/creator to control the rights and ownership of their art and they’re just granting usage rights to it and not selling it outright for cheap.
Of course not all models being pushed are good ones, such as iStockphoto.com which plays no part in creating the art, has an art Gestapo that forces the creators to adhere to antiquated digital file methods which means rounds of needless alterations and limitations in order to maximize sales to the lowest common denominator, has an automated site, and yet takes a 70% cut of the profits when it sells it for mere peanuts. And they don’t really pay you money, you get credits which are like getting paid with wooden nickels. But I digress.
A few good models for stock sites are:
How did you get involved with the FreelanceSwitch podcast?
Dickie Adams reviewed my first design book “Crumble.Crackle.Burn.” When I emailed him for a mailing address it turned out he lived about a par three from my home studio here in town? I was like “No way!” We’ve been friends ever since and he invited me to be part of the Freelance Radio podcast. It’s fun being able to talk shop, horror stories and all.
I still think my voice sounds stupid when I hear myself talk.
Could you describe your typical workflow for an illustration?
My typical work flow (creative process) doesn’t alter too much from one project to the next. The style and end usage may be drastically different but the general frame work I operate under remains consistent. To fully understand it people can visit my tutorial site at http://www.illustrationclass.com
In 2008 I spoke at the Boston HOW Design Conference on the topic of “Illustrative Design” you can listen to that and view the presentation that goes over my process here: http://snipurl.com/creativeprocess
How has social networking impacted your career positively and negatively?
My mind is always churning. I have funny random thoughts all the time and never bothered to document any of them before. So I look at social networking as a way to archive my random thoughts. Capture funny, clever, spur of the moment ideas and share them. Technically it’s part of my creativity and so far I’ve managed to land a few paying gigs from doing that on Twitter.
I know I enjoy other creatives who do the same such as: @etherbrian His tweets have made me laugh many times because they are drenched in creative thought.
If you could be magically turned into any Illustrator tool, what tool would it be and why?
I’d want the ability to select something and copy/paste it. That way I could do yard work easier. Just walk around drag selecting all the weeds, copy them, walk to the garbage can and paste. It could also serve as a 4th dimensional stash to hide stuff too. The possibilities are endless. Muhahahahaha! <—— Evil Laughter!
What is your favorite Illustrator tip, trick, or technique? Your least favorite?
I love blend modes and blending to transparency in CS4. Layering elements to create a rich depth or detail to an illustration. Least favorite is when I am done working on something and I’ve used all these great blend modes and transparency settings and the client than asks for a CS Ai format because they don’t have CS4. DOH!
It’s frustrating because Adobe Photoshop has always been pretty good about being backwards compatible. But Adobe Illustrator seems like they change the game all the time and don’t give a crAip about legacy files or even provide an easy way to migrate a file accurately to an older one short of rebuilding the art to adapt to a previous version which makes it a pAin in the Aiss for the end user.
I’m just sick of the Adobe politics hampering my work flow.
What aspects of your illustrations reflect parts of your personality?
My humorous side tends to shine through in a lot of work that allows for that to happen. That said I do a lot of serious work too and at times I’ve had Creative Directors look at my portfolio and go out of their way to say “We don’t want this humorous.” as if I wouldn’t realize a funeral home logo shouldn’t be “Ha ha!”
I let the project dictate the style direction I take, this keeps the approach appropriate. My personality still shows within any stylistic context though and I think that is pretty normal. You don’t want design so neutered of intrinsic character that is just looks like a pedestrian variety of vanilla imagery.
In addition to doing client work, you write books, sell Vonster Brand products, and more. Of these, which has been to most finically and personally rewarding?
I get asked about the books a lot. They are a lot of fun to work on, but as I tell everyone who asks “There are no John Grisham authors in design books.” (Bill Gardner of Logo Lounge is the closest to that though) I like doing books because they are rewarding creatively, fun artistically, and enjoyable to share with others.
I haven’t made a whole lot of money from them, but that wasn’t my motive to begin with. I am just thankful to be able to have the opportunity. That said I’m working on my third book now which you can take a peek at here: http://snipurl.com/gsornament
I’ve always really liked designing t-shirts. So every so often I create one and put it up at http://www.zazzle.com/vonster/gifts and that funds my Starbucks habit.
Any new projects on the horizon that you would like to share?
I’m in the middle of a new business venture now I’ve branded “Unica Design.” It’ll be a line of designer concrete tiles I’m creating with a tile manufacture in California which we’ll market nationwide. They’ll be offered to interior designers and come with a matching textile repeat pattern that can be edited color wise to match any environment design.
Right now we are in the prototype stage having molds done via CNC and I’ll be refining them. I suspect we are still a few months out from launching a website and sending samples to the various show rooms nation wide. It’s exciting but is a lot of hard work to pull it all off.
My fingers are crossed.
Thanks again for the interview! Is there advice any that you could give for aspiring and professional illustrators?
Designers should be your best friends, since they’ll be the ones who provide you with your work. So get to understand marketing, and make your work flexible to an ever changing commercial market.
Don’t be afraid to try new things, like illustrating in a different style, fail, try others, fail, share your art online, get no response, share a funny story, get a lot of response, be nice, tell the truth, pursue your dreams, and never stop doodling.
13 thoughts on “Interview With Von Glitschka”
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Von is an awesome illustrator and designer. I have watched several of his Lynda.com videos and have learned tons. What is awesome about Von is you can email him a question about something you are working on and he will promptly respond and give you an answer, or he will give you directions on how to resolve your illustration issue.
Incorrect, as long as I’ve used iStock (since 2007 at least) they’ve paid you in real dollars. They only pay you out once you hit $100 though. I believe the confusion stems from you being able to convert your payout into credit (not the other way around).
This is nice of you. You have the best designs which I have seen and you look to recognize your own stuff.
Von is a great illustrator. Nice interview.
Vonster is the Illustrator/vector god. great honest interview, thanks vectips. Not only is he a great illustrator…he’s a great teacher. It blows me away when I see all that he shares on his websites for us floundering illustrator newbies.
awesome interview. im glad that you take the effort to really emphasize the fact that youre an illustrative designer too. i wonder if thats what i am too…
thanks for the fun read! youve always been an inspiration to me.
Vonster is the man! Love his works. Great inspiration and love his advice in FreelanceSwitch podcast.
I should point out that Joel smokes me when our paths cross on QuakeLive.com LOL
Von is the man. Love your work and love the podcast. Keep up the hunt for those design weasels. 🙂
You’re correct you can exchange it but the exchange rate isn’t 1 credit = 1 dollar, that was my point I just didn’t clarify it too well.
Not sure I agree about your attitude towards iStockphoto – I think that it’s a good source if media for any type of business, and also a good way to promote yourself as a designer. I do believe you can exchange the credits for money, anyway, can’t you?
I can’s say I’ve had problems with converting Ai files into earlier versions, however – I’m not sure a lot of people still use anything below CS anyway…
Still, I admire your work, and particularly like your Digital Life piece. Thanks for the interview, Ryan.
Great interview Von. I always enjoy your straightforwardness and insight on the illustration & design biz. Interesting take on the “one style fits all” situation.
And to clarify on the iStockPhoto thing: everything you said was accurate save for the ‘credits’ thing – you can convert the credits to real dollars. Unless they changed something — haven’t really used it much since I first experimented with it.