Turnham is an illustrator who has worked for video games and animation studios, most notably at LAIKA Entertainment as an illustrator on the film “Coraline.” Chris has also done freelance illustration work for clients such as Monocle and Scholastic.
Can you tell us a little bit about your project TWILIGHT DIVA CHECKS IN TO THE HOTEL DE PARIS?
This is an illustration I painted for Kevin Dart’s upcoming Yuki 7 Adventure spy story, “Looks That Kill.” Yuki 7 is a character he created based on his love for mid century design and spy flicks. Kevin and I produced this book under our business Fleet Street Scandal, with a planned release and launch party on July 16th.
It looks like you like creating environments, is that true? What do you like to create?
Yes, environments tend to be what I focus on in my work. As a professional artist my career has always put me in the position of painting environments, whether it be as a set design or background painting, or designing specific props within an environment. Even when I worked in video games I did 3D modeling and texturing of environments and props. Personally I love painting environments because I have a specific love for the way buildings and landscapes can become these really graphic elements with an image.
Please describe a typical day?
My days now are anything but typical. I recently made the move to Los Angeles and transitioned from working in a studio to being completely on my own. So my day can vary wildly. Some days I’m really focused and can get a lot of work done. Other days I’ll spend exploring my new environment (LA is a huge place and it contains some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen). I also have to take care of a lot of the day to day tasks that are required to run our business, like packing and shipping but prints and books.
What is your work environment like?
I work at home now so my environment isn’t anything too special. But I have my desk set up with my Cintiq monitor so I can work pretty much as I did when I was at a studio. I have a couple inspiration boards set up above my desk that I can post any images that are particularly moving to me or are my inspiration for an illustration I’m painting.
How did you get into illustration?
Illustration for me was never something I wanted to do when I was growing up. I did create art, like most kids do, but by the time I got into high school I thought I wanted to make graphics for video games as my career. Like any kid my dream was to work for Nintendo! So I went up to Seattle and went to school with the goal of getting into games working as a 3D artist. While I was at school I started getting exposed to concept art for animated films and I found that to be really inspiring, so I started to do illustration in my spare time. After school I ended up working in games as a 3D artist for four years. During that time I continued to do my own illustration in my free time. At the time, my friend Kevin Dart was also my roommate, and he and I decided we should start a business where we market our illustrations together and sell them online and at conventions, so Fleet Street Scandal was born. And from that our art was discovered by different people within the animation industry and I got my first job in animation based on the connections I made at those conventions.
What is your favorite type of commercial project?
My years spent at LAIKA working in stop-motion made me really fall in love with that medium. It was truly inspiring being able to work in an environment where the majority of the creative people in the studio were running around all day, creating real, physical objects with their hands. My job there was to design the sets and props that were going to get built for the movie and it was amazing to be able to send off a drawing and in a couple weeks see it built out of real materials.
Can you recommend 3 marketing tactics for illustrators with a limited budget?
- a) Create an online portfolio! Every artist does this nowadays but it’s important to have one that’s easy to navigate and also easy for other people to share your posts and art. The easier it is to share, the more people will see it. And if you don’t have the technical know-how to create your own site (like me), use a site like blogspot or tumblr to create your portfolio. Tumblr is especially great because once you put a post up it becomes this thing that other people on tumblr can easily reblog and you always get the original credit.
- b) If you can afford to show at comic conventions, do it! I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t done comic conventions. You never know who will walk by your table — it could be someone from a company you want to work for.
- c) And as an extension of that, market your art with a friend whose style compliments yours! It’s more fun to do this kind of stuff in a team, so whether it’s starting a blog together or a business, two brains are always better than one.
Who are some of your favorite illustrators, and why?
Like many animation artists, I’m really inspired by mid-century illustrators. Of course the Disney greats like Mary Blair, Eyvind Earle and Walt Peregoy are always wonderful sources of inspiration. Martin and Alice Provensen are amazing — their “Myths and Legends” book has a permanent spot on my coffee table. I love Andrew Wyeth, I sometimes forget how brilliant he was. Tadahiro Uesugi was and is a huge inspiration of mine, particularly during my early development as an illustrator. If it wasn’t for him and his style I wouldn’t have gotten my first animation job on Coraline. I had the amazing opportunity to work with Lou Romano while I was at LAIKA. He’s one of the modern greats and I always look to him when I need advice on how to simplify.