Interview with Courtney Wirth
We are finally picking our interviews back up again, as we have quite a few new members to share with you all! First up is Courtney Wirth, a delightful and addictive illustration personality who never ceases to bring a humorous outlook to her work. In Courtney’s portfolio, quirky culture either meets surrealistic mash-ups or sentimental scenes, leaving her audience wishing for her next unpredicted move.
Q: Courtney, you have an uncanny ability to capture an attitude, feeling, and outlook in your work that many people in our generation can find something to relate to. What do you tap into within yourself to create these connections with current lifestyles? Would you say you follow trends and pop culture pretty regularly?
A: I think a lot of what shows through in my work comes from the belief that your best work is created when it’s based on what you know or what you’ve experienced. If I don’t have a strong concept, I usually go to what I love to inspire me to keep me active and motivated. So I’ll end up drawing cats, or listening to music, or fictional characters that I’ve grown to love or things I simply just like to do. I’d rather work on something that I can relate to because I feel it makes it stronger. I don’t think I necessarily follow trends and pop culture; I tend to just stick with what I like, which usually ends up being bits and pieces picked up from one trend and another so it becomes a weird mash up of anything. I suppose I’m in between fads in that sense, but I’m pretty comfortable with that.
Q: Your color palettes are really limited, and work so well. How do you choose them?
A: It usually depends on what the piece I’m working on is about. I’ll usually go for one main color that can represent the mood or the main color of a certain item so it stands out. Sometimes it’s based on whatever color I’m obsessed with and from there I figure out the rest of the colors so they work together. I like keeping them limited so one can still keep focus on the subject matter and it can keep your eye moving rather than just losing it in the composition. Color can be overwhelming and I wouldn’t say I’m the best with it (I usually would have every color of the rainbow in a piece if I could successfully pull it off), which is also why I keep my palettes limited.
Q: Would you say that any of your work is autobiographical?
A: I think there are bits and pieces of me in everything I do. A few pieces definitely are and especially in my sketchbook. While ideas and concepts that I have may be based on things I have gone through, I try to separate myself a bit so more people can relate somehow. In ways, that’s how I make my self-portraits, even though they aren’t literal self-portraits. Like I said, I draw and create from what I know and so I guess a lot of it can be autobiographical. Sometimes, I’ll draw people in situations or expressing themselves in ways I wish I could.
Q: Tell us about your journey to becoming an illustrator.
A: I was originally studying fashion design, which I guess you can still see that in how I draw and how I like to dress my figures! I pretty much spent my entire life in school in it and I loved it and then the summer before my senior year I realized, it really wasn’t for me. When I entered the department, I actually had professors ask me if I came from the Illustration department because of my drawing skills at the time. The last two quarters of my junior year, I began to notice that I wanted to do more outside of fashion and I began to not enjoy it. I wanted to draw other things and become more conceptual, even though I loved drawing people with my designs on them. I would start getting caught up in the mood of the collection and the look of the girl as a character more than anything else in my projects. I wanted to expand my visual vocabulary and enhance my abilities with other materials outside of working digitally or with markers and pens (those aren’t only the materials you have to use, but it’s the fastest and was usually recommended with the turn around time for projects). It was a hard decision and I had a tough time coming to terms with it, especially right before my senior year because I was so close to graduation. But I took a chance, and I’m actually really happy I took that risk. I had to stay another year to complete the Illustration curriculum, but it’s not like it wasn’t worth it. Fashion Design is still my minor, and I still love sewing and designing, but I’m just not as in love with the industry as I used to be.
Q: Explain your process, from start to finish.
A: After deciding on an idea, I’ll attempt to thumbnail it out. I’m the worst when it comes to sketching thumbnails, I’m not kidding. I’ll start to draw one out quickly, and I’ll usually end up getting distracted, whether it’s the music I have on, something I want to look up to get a better idea of how it moves (and then I’ll mess around on my computer), or I just try drawing half of one and then decide that I’m wasting time and I’ll just sketch it out. I’ve been getting better about that, honestly, at least if it’s just to draw a few quick shapes to figure out placement. But AFTER THAT, I’ll sketch out the idea in a non-photo blue pencil (I love themmmmm), and that’s where I figure out all of my little details and figure out final lines. Once I finalized it in the blue pencil, depending on how large the composition is and/or what kind of strokes I want, I’ll use a brush or pen and nib with ink. Lately I’ve enjoyed using a brush with ink, but it’s back and forth, and either way, I ink the drawing. After that, I’ll scan it in, and clean it up (so easy with the non-photo blue pencil) and color it digitally in Photoshop. I noticed when I work, coloring is the fastest step for me because I keep my colors limited.
Courtney in the wild
Q: What are your greatest inspirations within the creative world, and outside as well?
A: My top three illustrators are Kevin Wada, Matt Taylor, and Sam Weber. I also like to look at Swoon (a graffiti artist), Gustav Klimt (because I can’t paint), and Nuno Plati (illustrator and comic book artist). I have a huge list actually, and as much as I’m obsessed with their work, I don’t go out of my way to look them up. I find that the more I look at another artist’s work who I admire and wish I could steal their creative genius and abilities, it leaves me comparing myself to them and can put me in a bad place or I’m OVER influenced by them and can appear as an unfortunate knock off. I’ll look at them here and there or if they come up on my feed or see them in a publication. Other creative people I admire are various writers because I love to read and I wish I had more time to just write and get better. And I have too many musical inspirations to list them out.
Q: Walk us through your perfect day in your dream career.
A: Waking up whenever I want and getting whatever food I want delivered. Basing it off that, then I’d throw in drawing as much as I can with music on and taking breaks to read whatever book or comics I have waiting to be opened. And then throw in an hour of when I go out to run or bike to the park. And then if I don’t have food delivered, I go out and meet friends and that’s when I stuff my face. Probably throw in a visit to Midtown Comics or a book store too if needed. I’m a pretty simple person I guess? And I like food.
Q: Most embarrassing moment. You know you want to!
A: I was stuck on this question so long, you have no idea. I even asked my friend if he knew of any good stories to share so I could remember any from my life. I think if there ever was a chance I was embarrassed, I was probably laughing too because I don’t take myself so seriously. I know I’m a klutz, and I can be awkward or say dumb things at the wrong time, but usually without any real punishment. Maybe I’m just the embarrassment for whomever I’m with? If you really need one, I once slipped on a grape in my high school cafeteria. It was actually a grape and I fell on my butt, but since it was so ridiculous that I slipped on a grape, I was laughing too.
Q: Who would your dream date be? And the date from hell?
A: Going to a cool museum, mainly the American Museum of Natural History. And if it’s nice out, going to the High Line or hanging out in Central Park. As it gets darker, I’d probably spend time in Union Square and/or eat in the Chelsea area? I don’t know, I don’t really date, but that’s what I’d like to do! And I guess a date from hell would be any guy from OKCupid or any blind date.
Q: Any plans on the horizon?
A: Work work work work work work work as usual. But, I’ve been slowly working and talking to a writer who has a few ideas and he’d like to me create work for his comic and I have ideas for a graphic novel of sorts too. SOOOO, hopefully this happens soon! Other than that, just catching up on every idea I want to draw out with my hectic schedule.
Q: Anything else you would like the readers to know?
A: Everyone has a struggling period, so don’t ever give up even if it feels like you won’t meet success.
Courtney’s awesome workspace!
Can’t get enough? Check out Courtney’s website here!
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