NOTE: ALL ARTWORK ON THIS POST BELONGS TO CUN SHI
Cun Shi straight kills it. He is currently attending the Illustration as visual essay program at the School of Visual arts, and has recently won their student spotlight as well as a competition for Playboy. He also does some illustrations for the New York Times. This guy is the embodiment of the idea of Economy of line. Although he presents most of his work in black and white, he uses incredible line variation to create compelling compositions that are both impressively detailed and yet easy to read. He is definitely someone to keep on your radar. I decided to try to get in contact with him for a quick interview and was lucky enough to get a response. What a nice guy! Anyways, here it is:
---How long have you been drawing for? What got you started?
It wasn’t until I was 21 when I started to take drawing seriously. Before that, I was a graphic designer working for a small publishing company in Beijing, and the work I did at the time wasn’t very creatively satisfying. I left my job and along with an artist friend of mine, went backpacking across Southern China. The trip lasted 3 months and we drew constantly. That was when I started to consider art as a serious endeavor, after I returned from the trip.
---What has contributed the most to your skills? What have you done to meet success so soon?
I did quite a bit of study on old masters and it really helped with my drawing. It wasn't until late last year that I felt my illustrations were actually strong enough to start pursuing commercial work, and I've been very fortunate to have had clients reach out to me while still in school.
---The line art that I have seen in your sketchbook alone is incredibly impressive. Would you say that practicing line art alone played a role in your artistic training?
I’ve always been attracted to lines, and a lot of that comes from my early training. It definitely played a big role when I first started to draw, learning to see form in lines rather than shades.
---If you had to guess, about how long do you spend drawing each day?
I spend a lot of time drawing before approaching anything else, trying to work out the ideas and what not. If it’s an 10 hour work day and I have the idea sorted out, I’d probably spend 8 hours of it on drawing alone.
---What are some of your favorite tools?
At the moment, I really enjoy working with the brush. It’s a very versatile tool when it comes to line work, and I also really love drawing with the ball point pen.
---You’ve done some pretty badass ink work for musicians. Does music play a big role in inspiring what you create? What else inspires you?
Sometimes music helps me find emotions for specific pieces, other times it’s the silence, listening to the rustle wind and leaves outside my studio.
I really enjoy reading. Mostly sci-fi genre, or autobiographical novels.
---You managed to create really compelling images, and are able to convey a great amount of information with such great line economy making your images both complex and easily readable. What is your progress? (Planning that goes into it?)
For personal work, the first thing I try to work out is the mood of the image, or what type of mood I would like the finished piece to have. For commercial pieces I take a slightly different approach since the mood is usually set by the article or context of the project. But in general, I start out by looking at reference photos and reading, basically trying to soak myself with as much information as possible. Once I feel I have a pretty good grasp on the subject matter, I’d start sketching thumbnails.
---What have been some of your biggest struggles as an artist? Things you currently struggle with?
To me, being an artist means being comfortable with silence. One of the biggest challenge when I first started painting was getting used to being alone in the studio for prolonged periods of time, because when I was a designer, everything was done as a team, and there were lots of discussions back and forth during projects. When I started painting, I was confined to the solitude of my studio with a blank canvas in my face...and at times that fear of the unknown can be overwhelming. It took me awhile to learn how to embrace the fear and use it to my advantage.
Everyday. It’s always there.
---Any advice for any artists striving for awesomeness?
Well, hard work definitely goes a long way... but I believe one of the biggest challenge that we face as artists is the strive for uniqueness and individuality. There’s a lot of pressure for us to come up with a “style” or something that’s instantly recognizable... but I think it’s important to take it slow and let things mature on it’s own. It’s also very difficult not to be influenced by all the cool stuff out there, but the stuff we like often says a lot about ourselves. With that said, I believe self knowledge is paramount when it comes to creating something that is truly unique and awesome.
All this great art and more can be found on his website:
Check out his sketchblog while your at it:
Check out his sketchblog while your at it: