September 28th, 2010 by Daryl Glass
Ralf is a Pretoria based illustrator who combines German precision with a playful sense of humour. He offers a wide variety of styles from photo-realistic 3D and vector illustrations to water-colour, line art and stipple.
When did you first think “WOW, this is what I should be doing for a living”?
Actually it never seemed to be an option, in my early days of employment during the late 80s, I was advised that illustration is a dying trade and with the onset of computers it would probably become obsolete. Illustration work was limited to Storyboards, marker renderings, and presentation layouts… for me anyway.
It was only in the early 90′s, after finding a job as a graphic designer at a small packaging studio in Johannesburg, that I realised how much illustration was still being done. I became the in-house illustrator, instead of “graphic designer”, so I guess it took off from there.
Do you have a favorite medium… if so what is it?
My favourite medium used to be airbrush, pencil and Rotring pens, but I guess now I’d say it’s the digital tablet attached to a Power Mac.
My favorite software: Photoshop, Freehand and Cinema 4D.
What is the least favourite part of your job?
Story boards, corporate cartoon strips, book-keeping and Adobe Illustrator.
Are you a self taught illustrator or did you have a mentor/formal training that showed you the ropes?
I have formal training in Graphic design, but I think illustrating comes naturally, so it’s basically self-taught. I would say my previous employer was my mentor in a sense, he has taught me that there is more to illustrating than just creating a pretty picture. He attached a lot of value and importance to how illustration communicates in packaging on the shelf.
I had a lot of fast learning and personal research to do to keep my job.
Who are some of your favourite artists, who inspires you?
I’m inspired by fantasy art, science fiction and anything super-real that cannot be photographed, but yet looks photographic.
How do you keep your eye fresh and mind inspired?
By just keeping at it. Every new project brings new research, new challenges and new reference.
Is there and bad vibes between more traditional illustrators and digital illustrators?
I know fine artists call commercial artists “prostitutes” but I still consider myself a traditional illustrator. Digital is just a natural progression as I still illustrate the same way.
Instead of an airbrush, brush or pencil, I hold a Stylus pen. I feel no bad vibes between traditional and digital illustrators, not from my side anyway. One of the reasons I went digital was that traditional inks and paints didn’t reproduce well in the various print processes, especially in packaging. The Windsor & Newton Acrylic process CMYK airbrush inks were discontinued in the 90s and the latest Aerograph Super63 (Airbrush) came with the nasty single action Iwata Trigger mechanism, so it was time to look at Photoshop. But I admit, I did fight it initially.
What is your advice for up and coming illustrators?
Make sure your artwork is printable. Also learn more about your computer than just the software packages, you don’t want it to crash on you on that last stretch to make deadline.
What would be your dream illustration?
That one that takes a week but pays half a million! Whether is a portrait of someones or his pet chihuahua, it doesn’t matter. I can already hear the fine artists commenting!
Where to next?
I think I’d like to expand more into 3D imaging. Not to replace illustration but to add to it. 3D is rapidly getting better and more user friendly, so I get the feeling it might start taking a big chunk out of illustrative work available in the future, just like going digital did.
You can contact Ralf via his agent: Sparx – Tel: +27 21 422 0283, Cell: + 27 72 139 7906, www.sparx.co.za
Daryl Glass – creative director
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