I had the pleasure of meeting Gigi Rose Gray by ways of fate. I had one of my first fiction pieces published at Paper Darts magazine, and there, they hire in different people to do illustrations or graphic art for their accepted work. On the day of my story’s launch on their website, the match was made, the wonderful artist who illustrated my story was given a name, and Gray and I have been friendly on Twitter ever since.
It was then that I began perusing her other creative work, and I thought she’d make an excellent candidate for one of my artisan reviews, and here I am, now, writing this intro for this wonderful May feature.
Gray hails from New York, but during working together with her on putting this article together, she made the extensive move all the way across the country, to Los Angeles, California. She does freelance work illustrating for magazines, newspapers, and for short stories, like mine, as well as some more personal work. She’s had her work showcased in the New York Times, SCENE Magazine, and Picame Magazine, among many notable others.
Her style is what attracted me to her the most. You can see each specific stroke of the pencils she uses, and the imperfect yet whimsical shapes she employs throughout her work. And the expressions she gives to her creations are just divine. Most of her work is so incredibly detailed, and you don’t really notice it until you take a closer look. So, be sure to zoom in on these images, folks, so you can really take them in.
I wanted to figure out what made Gray tick, and I thought that an interview would be the perfect way to pick her brain. So I’ll get right to it. To visit her website for more news on her published illustrations, please feel free to visit. And don’t forget to check out the interview below. It’s a real gem!
Gigi Rose Gray interview, with Brittany Connolly
Tell me, how does being an illustrator work? Do people contact you, or do you seek out people with whom to do business?
Working as an illustrator takes a bit of both. Making promotional cards of your best pieces and sending them out to art directors at various magazines, newspapers or publishing houses is one way of getting work or a least making yourself known to them. Another tool I've found quite effective is simply emailing art directors. Most of the time I won't get a response but for every 10-15 emails I send out I'll get 1 which makes the hours of searching for their information completely worth it. Occasionally, someone will see my work online, whether it's on tumblr, interest or a popular blog that features me and my work.
As you know, we first crossed paths when you did an illustration for my story “The Goblin Palisade,” (wonderful work by the way!) published over atPaper Darts Magazine. When you’re doing an illustration like that for a piece of poetry or fiction, how do you know which scenes to illustrate? What speaks to you? Is there a certain type of detail that stands out?
Paper Darts Magazine has some great writing material to work with which makes the job of bringing them to life visually that much easier. I think the process changes depending on the literature and it's context. For instance, illustrating a fictional story gives me more freedom. A visually striking sentence or moment can win out over a crucial plot change. When I read stories, there are times when atmosphere carries more weight than the narrative. I do tend to navigate towards certain visuals so I might feel more inclined to depict the weather, time of day, facial feature, hand gesture or fabric rather than moments of action but it all depends on the story. However for articles the process is entirely different and for me personally more challenging. Having to condense a political or social message that embodies many facts into one single images makes the importance of how it reads the driving force. You want the viewer to understand the illustration as they would the article. That doesn't mean it has to be literal or redundant but it should be less abstract and perhaps more quickly absorbed. Although this can really depend on the art director and their own preferable approach.
Who or what is the inspiration for your artwork? Is there someone you model your artwork after?
The inspiration for my work stems for my love of old photographs, many sourced from my own family, old issues of Life Magazine, National Geographic or boxes teeming with discarded
photos of past lives in flea markets. I find these characters or places so inspiring and like to appropriate them with my own narratives and personalities.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
I have many favorite artists, Henry Darger is one for his personal life story and images of innocent children in sinister and surreal environments which reveal something new with each glance. Edward Gorey for his wit and dark humor. Matisse for his bold colors, patterns and moments of leisure so peacefully yet vibrantly represented. Luc Tuyman for his blurred, soft touch and finding importance in the slightest of details. And finally Marlene Dumas for making images full of discomfort and beauty.
How long, on average, does it take you from start to finish to complete a piece?
The time I spend on average isn't something I could measure. Some projects have a very quick turn-around, 48 hours or maybe a week, and others longer, a month or two. I try to be as diligent as possible with each piece I make and so many hours are spent meticulously shading. Once everything is scanned and ready to be colored it can take a couple hours to finish or a couple days depending on how indecisive I am.
What materials do you work with? Do you enhance your images in any way?
I work with pencil and paper, gouache and watercolor. Everything is drawn separately and then scanned, colored and collaged in photoshop.
What’s the best way for someone interested in doing a collaboration with you to contact you? Which social media sites do you take advantage of?
The best way is definitely e-mail, I find it easy, private and efficient. It took me a long time to accept Twitter in my life, as I never had a Facebook and felt the world of social media scary and intrusive. Though I now embrace fully and have certainly connected with some great people that I may have otherwise never found.