The Pony Club Gallery had the privilege of interviewing illustrator Vance Lump. He is currently pursuing a BFA in Illustration from the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Oregon. Vance has worked in the medium of comics, printmaking and as a sign painter. He lives on a small farm with his wife, two cats, a dog and four chickens.
Your work displays primary and minimal elements wherein the compositions are stripped down to the essentials to easily communicate a story. Is it a conscious effort on your part to be direct as possible when conveying a message with your illustrations?
I definitely strive to be clear in my communication as that is my main goal when creating images. I find with a lot of extraneous elements the idea gets muddled and hard to understand. For some people that ambiguity is sought after but for me I prefer to be direct. I also like to abstract elements to a very simplified form that more suggests an idea than actually shows an object, for example, a triangle for the idea of a tree instead of drawing something that resembles a tree. The minimalism may be just part of my lifestyle. I try to live a simple life and minimal elements in my illustrations are influenced by that directive.
What inspired you to pursue illustration?
I initially wanted to get into graphic design but the more I learned about it and found that it involved a lot of stuff that wasn’t drawing I realized that was not the direction I wanted to go in. I didn’t know illustration was a viable profession at the time and I think I came across it when looking at design programs at art schools and saw illustration as a focus of study. I quickly realized that much of the art I loved best, even the stuff I saw in galleries, was really illustration and I immediately knew that is what I wanted to pursue.
What facets of illustration do you prefer (editorial, advertising, conceptual, ect.)?
I have a real love for editorial jobs because they take an idea and give it visual form. The most interesting editorial illustrations deal with a very abstract and conceptual subject that when done well in an image has an immediate punch to the viewer. I also like to give the viewer something to think about, like planting a seed inside their head. Apart from editorial stuff I absolutely love making prints of my work. Prints are one of the few affordable ways for the majority of people to obtain a genuine piece of art and I am attracted to that populist method of creating.
Is the majority of your work digital or handmade and can you share your creative process?
These days I do all my final work digitally. I got a Cintiq earlier this year and it has really changed my process. For a long time I was hesitant to get “too digital” (whatever that means) but since getting the Cintiq it makes drawing on the computer feel pretty natural. One reason I like it is that I can draw something that immediately looks like a screen print. It has made my process a lot more intuitive, which I find kind of funny because a lot of people say working digital makes them tighten up.
I still do all of sketches analog though, usually with a pencil in my sketchbook. I try to continue to have time spent in my sketchbook drawing so that I don’t solely create on the computer. I still love pencils!
My creative process usually begins with notes or word lists to get some ideas flowing. I have such a hard time starting with images so I go for words at the beginning. Once some ideas start to form I will thumbnail a lot. Most of the work is done here in the thumbnail stage. I run through as many ideas as I can until I hit something that feels just right or I run out of new ideas. I’ll take my thumbnail sketch, which is usually only a couple inches tall at most, and scan it to the computer and start drawing over it in Photoshop. My finals tend to resemble my thumbs pretty closely. I try not to deviate too far because in the sketching phase there is a lot of great energy that I don’t want to lose in the final. In Photoshop I limit myself to basic tools and only a few layers. I basically forget that Photoshop has so many features because they would just complicate the process. When I have made the digital final I walk away from it for a while and do something completely unrelated to art so that when I come back to look at what I made I have a fresh perspective. There is almost always something I want to tweak right at the end that I didn’t notice while I was intensely working on it and I don’t see that stuff unless I walk away for a while.
What art tools do you like to work with?
I’m a pretty simple guy when it comes to tools. I’ll use just about any sketchbook for notes and thumbs. I’m particular about my pencils though. I only use Tombow Mono pencils, usually an H or F. I’ve also got my beloved Cintiq. It’s a really old model, about 10 years I think, that I bought off eBay, it’s the only way I could afford one. But it is still awesome and it does everything that I need it to. In addition to my digital work I try to stay active in screen printing and I view the printing process as an art tool as well since it changes the end result depending on how I manipulate the process.
What are some influences and inspirations that have shaped your art?
Comics are a big influence. Chris Ware is really inspiring, he’s such a mad man. When I was younger graffiti was a big deal for me but I was never very good at it so I gave it up. But I do think some of my color choices are influenced by my time using and enjoying spray paint. I’m also super into paintings from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. There was so much happening at that time and lots of changes and new developments that I find it to be a wealth of inspiration.
I would be to not mention what would be my biggest influence, my wife Jaime. She is an incredibly creative person that is always pushing my own work to reach new bounds. I continue to learn from her all the time.
What current projects are you working on?
Right now I’m just starting a small Risograph book that should be finished by about the end of the year. It’s the first time that I have taken a stab at writing a narrative and it’s been an interesting process so far. I’m still so early into it I’m not sure what it will be like but I’m excited to see where it goes.
Describe a typical day in the life of Vance Lump?
Well I usually get up decently early, about 7 AM. I’m an avid coffee drinker and I spend some time in the morning making it for me and my wife. Depending on the day, I may start with some farm chores (I live on a small plot of rural land with a house built in 1902). I might have to let the chickens out or water the garden. If I have an assignment to do I get to it pretty early and keep working all day till about 5:00 PM. I don’t really work at night unless I really need to. In the evening I spend time relaxing with my wife and our cats.
If I don’t have a particular assignment to do then I may do some more farm stuff while I think of ideas for other projects. I find myself doing a lot of shoveling these days, whether it’s digging holes or moving piles of stuff from one place to another. I like to get outside and do some physical work so I have been doing a lot of that lately. We’re hoping to expand our little farm family and get goats next year so I have to fence our back field. There is always a farm project to do.
Outside of the art field, what occupation would best suit you, Human Scarecrow or Fortune Cookie Writer, and why?
Definitely Human Scarecrow. I could be out in the field with lots of quiet time to think of ideas. I find it very peaceful to be out in a big field by yourself with nothing in particular to do.