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Maxim Cyr who is also known as RecycledWax is a freelance illustrator and graphic designer from Montreal. With a college degree in multimedia he is currently working on a Bachelor's degree in Graphic Design. Music and cinema are the main two themes that inspires him, he says, he grew up watching Disney's animation masterpieces and continues to feel that influence with Pixar's latest creations. He also designs t-shirts and has won numerous web t-shirt contests. Currently he is working on the sequel of his book and wants to focus more on the publishing industry, making illustrations for kids book. Read more about him in this interview.
Q Hello Maxim, could you tell us a little about yourself, where you’re from and about your formal education. Tell us about your online identity, "RecycledWax". How did you come up with that name?
I'm a Montreal-based illustrator. I have a college degree in multimedia and I just finished my Bachelor in Graphic Design. I've been a freelancer for the last 3 years. In French, wax is "Cire", pronounced the same way as Cyr (my last name). So at first I was known as "Wax". I added "Recycled" in front of it because I always recycle or remix my illustrations to improve them.
Q When did you first feel a calling to be in the field of digital art? Tell us about the first vector illustration you created, was it good? How much has your creativity matured & evolved since then? What programs or software do you use to create your vector art? What does your workstation look like?
When I was young I never thought I would be able to make a living from drawing. So I decided to study multimedia in college. I realized very quickly that web programming was not for me, but I discovered that I liked graphic design. This introduced me to Photoshop and Illustrator, where I realized that I liked using them to draw. I fell in love with vector and all the possibilities that it gives me. My first digital illustration was made in Flash. It was a Robot Dog made with a lot of bad gradients. My style evolved since because I'm drawing a lot now. The more you draw, the better you become. And now I'm mainly using Illustrator for my illustration. My workstation is always messy, I always have more than one contract at a time so sketches and printed copy are everywhere on my desk. I'm trying to keep my desktop clean but it's hard.
Q What's your work flow when creating an image, how long does it take? Do you start with a sketch or do you immediately work digitally?
Even if I'm consider to be a digital artist, I still need to do pencils sketches, otherwise I'll go crazy being on the computer all the time. I love sketching; it's a relaxing part of the process. Once my sketch is done I scan it then trace it in Illustrator. That's the longest part. But after that the fun starts, I apply color on my illustration. Choosing color is the thing I love the most. I love mixing dark color with a happy color palette. Doing an illustration usually takes me around 12 hours including the sketches and sometimes more.
Q A lot of your illustrations have funny and quirky creatures, where do you get your ideas from? What's the first spark of imagination that triggers you to start a piece?
Sometimes I have a concept in mind, otherwise I just have a theme I'd like to do. Music and Cinema are usually the two main themes that inspired me. I like creating new monsters/creatures and using them as elements in my illustration.
Q When and how did you get interested in designing for t-shirts? From the T-shirts you have designed, do you have any favorites and why is it your favorite?
I realized fast that doing t-shirt design was great exposure. It's such a cool medium to work with, and it's making a nice portfolio. One of my favorite t-shirt designs is called "Under My Bed" sold at Threadless. This one is one of the longest illustrations I've made. And the coolest thing about it is that the eyes glow in the dark. I had a blast doing it and I think it shows in the illustration.
Q What is it about vectors that fascinates you? Would you like to share a favorite Illustrator, tool, tip or technique?
I love that you can control vectors; you can have perfect shape and color with it. I love to rework my illustration, so if near the end I'm still not happy with my color palette I can completely change it all. I'm always working with a restricted color palette. I think that having less color helps the flashy color you've picked to stand out.
Q What are you currently working on? Do you have any specific plans for the future direction of your artwork and illustrations?
Last month my first two published books hit the bookstores. So I'm currently working on the sequel, it will be out in the winter. I think I will focus more on the publishing industry because making illustration for children's book is so motivating and exciting.
Q Are there any artists that have influenced your work? What websites do you visit on a regular basis for design inspiration?
I'm a huge fan of t-shirt designer. I think they helped pushing the t-shirt printing technique further. When I started you could only print 4 colors, now so many different techniques are out, like the over-sized print, digital direct and simulated process. I think at first I was influenced a lot by artist like Cuypi, J3Concepts and Bobsmade. For inspiration, I go on the T-shirt website to check what's new.
Q Maxim, thanks for the interview. What advice would you like to give to aspiring illustrators and designers?
I believe that the online contest is one of the best schools for young illustrators. You get direct feedback from the community and you can get paid while experimenting with your style. So it's a win-win situation. The visibility is great and free. I think to be successful in this industry you always have to be out there.