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Interview with Christian San Jose

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Christian San Jose is a graphic designer and illustrator based in Pasig, Philippines. By day he is a senior web designer for an internet marketing company, and by night he works as a freelance illustrator. His list of clients include Nike Phil., The Coca-Cola Company Phil., ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation, and OctoArts Films, among others. He loves illustration and thinks that it is an amazing way to express oneself. Read more about him in this interview.

Q Hi Christian, give us a little background bio of yourself; tell us where you're from. What is a typical day like for you?

I'm a 20-year old designer and illustrator from the Philippines. A typical day for me is waking up at 8am, heading to the office for my day job as a web designer from 9am to 6pm, and the rest of the night I'm at home doing the fun illustrations you see online.

Q You’re just 20 year old, how did you get started with the digital art field? What formal training do you have or are you self-taught? What tools and applications do you mainly use?

Designing for me has been a whirlwind journey, for lack of better words. I'm self-taught in design and illustration. It started as a hobby when I was 16 working on basketball wallpapers and eventually doing official basketball player websites. I also did more practical stuff like design projects for my school and community. I got interested in it so much that at 17, I put college on hold and decided to pursue it professionally.

I applied for a design job at Team Manila - a local graphic design studio specializing in print, and that's where I learned how to use Adobe Illustrator and leave web design temporarily. Sometime after that, I did illustrations for band shirts and apparel brands, and joined tee design contests. I used to draw straight on the computer, but now I'm teaching myself how to illustrate traditionally with more pencil sketches first before transferring to Illy with the pen tool.

Q Do you currently work for a company, freelance, or some combination thereof? What was your favorite illustration assignment?

By day I'm a senior web designer for an internet marketing company, and by night I'm a freelance illustrator. I pursued both so that I can pay the bills and also have an outlet for more personal creativity. As a freelancer, my favorite illustration job has got to be "Mecha-Labaw" - a shirt design for Design By Humans and the winner of their DBH10K contest.

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Q "Psycho Cupcake Octopi Monsters" is one of your newer designs; tell us something about it, the idea, and the inspiration behind it. It seems to be a collaborative piece, what was your role in the project and who did you collaborate with?

"Psycho Cupcake Octopi Monsters" is a collaboration with Celina de Guzman, a very talented fellow illustrator. She did the pencil sketch and I vectored it in Illustrator. The illustration was a laFraise shirt entry where the contest theme was "Monsters and Fantasy," so we just went crazy and random with it. We're glad it came out well, but sadly it didn't fare well in the contest.

Q Why do you like being an illustrator, what excites you about vector art and illustrations? What illustration job would you love to get (your dream job)?

I love illustration. What's amazing about it is you can express your thoughts freely where it can stand alone as art, or it can stand back in design and be instrumental.

Recently I've had the chance to fulfill my dream job, where I got to work with the Adobe Illustrator team for an illustration and tutorial that showcases the capabilities of their new CS5 software. My remaining dream jobs would be working on illustrations for big companies that promote artists and welcome so much creative freedom - companies like Coke, Nike, and HP.

Q What is your workflow for creating a typical image, how long does it take? Would you like to share with us your favorite vectoring tool, tip or technique?

A typical illustration usually takes anywhere between six hours to a couple of weeks, depending on its purpose. Usually personal artworks and shirt contest entries take the most time, since there's a lot of freedom for concept development, and sometimes that's counter-productive. In comparison, illustrations for clients are easier since the concepts are clearly laid out. The general process is getting the idea and sketching it out, research and gathering references, opening Illustrator and letting the magic happen.

For Illy, a good technique is to keep all materials and versions on one AI canvas, so you can go back constantly and you can keep track of your progress. One of my new favorite tools for Illustrator hasn't been released yet for everyone, but it's certainly something to be excited about in the coming months. They did a great job of improving stroke behavior and workflow, and also pen tablet usage and functionality in the next version.

Q When and how did you get interested in designing for T-shirts? What excites you about it? What project are you currently working on?

Competition inspires me, I got interested in T-shirt design because of contests such as Threadless, DBH, and laFraise, because you challenge yourself to be better than everyone else (and even when you're not, at least you're still pushing your own standard.) The tee is an awesome open canvas for ideas, and it's also a product that anybody who appreciates it can pick it up and be an instant promoter of the design.

I'm currently working on another laFraise submission for their Smart special contest.

Q What do you think your biggest challenge was in terms of design and illustration? Have you overcome this obstacle yet? If so tell us how.

A big challenge every time is to come up with something new that I can add to my illustrations, because I always try to make the latest design better than my previous works.

Q How do you stay inspired? Which artists or designers do you admire? Are there any particular design or illustration website(s) that you browse for inspiration?

I keep myself inspired by following the best designers and illustrator's works. ffffound.com is really good, buamai.com is also a new inspiration site I've been visiting recently. I really admire Vault49, Hydro74, 123Klan, and Alex Trochut.

Q Thanks for the interview Christian. Would you like to give any tips or advise to aspiring digital artists and illustrators?

Always strive to make your own designs better each time, keep tabs on the latest international design trends, and network, network, network!

Christian San Jose on Web

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