Yo! Jesse Jusek here with my very first post for the GoMediaZine! I recently had the opportunity to do an interview with illustrator/designer Chris Parks of Pale Horse Design. Chris has been creating bold and vibrant illustrations and design work for companies such as Hasbro, DC Comics, Wired Magazine, World of Warcraft, Harley Davidson, Iron Fist, Red Bull, and Dean Guitars.
Ladies and gentleman, Chris Parks!
GoMediaZine: First let’s ask the real tough questions! Who are you and what do you do?
ChrisParks: My name is Chris Parks. I am an illustrator / graphic artist and I run a design studio called Pale Horse in Tampa Bay, Florida.
GMZ: How did you first get interested in design/ illustration? Has it always been something that you have been passionate about or, was it more of a gradual realization?
CP: I’ve always just wanted to make a living doing something I enjoyed and not hate getting up every morning. Fortunately, I found my passion for art and design early in life and have been doing my best to master it ever since.
GMZ: We have all worked on things we have LOVED to do; what was your most favorite project to have worked on/been a part of? What set that apart from everything else?
CP: I’ve recently started working with a movie company called Indomina in Beverly Hills and have just completed a movie poster illustration that will be coming out soon. The project is for a really fun Chinese martial arts / fantasy movie release. I’ve always wanted to get into creating movie posters, so I’m really excited about that one! I’ve also recently had the opportunity to create artwork with Hasbro for some of their brands like G.I. Joe, Star Wars, Transformers, Kreo and Tonka. It’s always a lot of fun working with names that were a big part of my childhood. Those projects are definitely in the labor of love category!
GMZ: I know for a lot of designers have various ways of fleshing out their ideas; mind maps, sketches, notes or, even straight to the computer. What is your creative process like? Where do you typically draw inspiration from?
CP: My best ideas usually come when I’m not trying too hard to come up them. After some initial inspiration, I usually start with a good amount of research on the subject and digital layout sketches before getting started on the final artwork. My preferred illustration method is drawing with my Wacom Cintiq tablet, using Adobe Photoshop and creating typography in Adobe illustrator. A lot of my inspiration comes from travel and a fascination with various cultures, early art religion and mythology. I often take the most interesting elements from each and mix them together to create new imagery combined with my own elements and style. When I get a new idea in my head, I can’t wait to get back to the studio to start drawing it up.
GMZ: There can sometimes be a lot of obstacles involved with being a creative professional. What has been your biggest challenge? How did you overcome it?
CP: I’d have to say that the hardest part is mixing creativity and artwork with the fact that you also have to run a business, pay taxes, make payroll deposits and keep up with all of the other things that come along with owning a studio space. Making art is the fun part and all that other stuff sucks! I’ve gotten a lot better at it over the years and the best thing I’ve done was to hire a good bookkeeper to keep me in line and make sure everything is taken care of.
GMZ: Music seems to be a HUGE influence on what people do, and how they do it. Do you have a favorite artist/genre that puts you in the zone? If so, who/what is it?
CP: My favorite music genre is stoner rock / metal. Bands like Big Business, Clutch, Torche and The Sword usually do the trick. I also listen to a ton of audio books and pod casts while I’m working late nights.
GMZ: What was it like for you, working as the Graphic Design Director, at Robrady Design?
CP: It was definitely crucial to get the design agency experience under my belt before venturing out and opening my own studio. At Robrady, I managed the graphic design department for four years, designing instrument panels and speedometers, graphics and colorways for watercraft, logos, consumer packaging, websites and product graphics. Some of the clients I got to work with were Yamaha, Polaris, Segway, AT&T & Dell. The coolest project was designing the logo, graphics and instrument panel for a fully electric superbike called rMOTO. It went from drawing, to clay sculpture, to working prototype all inside the studio. That bike is wicked fast!
GMZ: When you set out to go solo in 2006 what was the deciding factor? What made you realize that this is what you wanted to do?
CP: During my time at the design agency, I spent my spare time (nights and weekends) creating t-shirt graphics, logos and typography for surf and skate brands and anything else I could get my hands on. I really enjoyed the freelance work I was doing and though it was a huge risk to step out on my own, I valued the creative freedom and opportunity to be my own boss far more than the steady paycheck. It’s definitely a constant hustle, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!
GMZ: How soon after launching Pale Horse Design did you start to attract big name clients? How did it affect business?
CP: I’ve been freelancing full-time for 5 years now and I feel like I’m just starting to figure things out a bit and bigger clients are now finding my work on their own. It’s really a great time to be an illustrator and clients of any size can work with really small studios like mine. I’m amazed every time!
GMZ: Is there advice you would give anyone who wants to start their own company in graphic design/illustration?
CP: Get a good bookkeeper and accountant early on. It will make your life a lot easier in the long run. Also, don’t treat artists in your field as competition. Befriending and collaborating with other artists that you respect goes a really long way. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve got projects or clients from other artist friends, casually putting in a good word here and there.
GMZ: What projects do you have coming up or, are you working on now that you are really stoked about?
CP: I’ve got a new exhibit in the works that will be opening in November this year called “Serious Sh!t”. The show will be a 3-person exhibit with myself, Horsebites and EmBear. I can’t wait to unleash the new series with these killer artists!
GMZ: Everyone has their own particular style and yours seems to have some very unique characteristics, both in subject matter and technique. How would you describe your work to someone who has never seen it?
CP: My style has developed and evolved over time and comes from a combination of different elements. Since I got my start in graphic design and creating screen-printed artwork for t-shirts, I tend to emphasize layout, use a lot of detailed, black linework and a limited, bold color pallet. I think that this, mixed with the fact that my first studio location was shared with a tattoo shop and that I create pieces both for clients and various gallery exhibits every year makes my work what it is today. I’d say that it’s a mix of bold, colorful and detailed illustrations, combined with high-level typography and graphic design elements.
GMZ Lastly, if you could have any super power, even a really obscure one, what would it be?
CP I think time travel would be really rad!