Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Sebastian Ciaffaglione PIO issue 306 September 2010

What's this illustration for?

This is an illustration I did for Flame Stands Waiting, a picture book written by Corinne Fenton, published by Black Dog Books.

Do you have to wait for a flash of inspiration - how do you start?

Well inspiration does strike, and it’s really great when it happens. I find myself drawing much faster with better images better produced. Unfortunately you can’t always count on being inspired, sometimes a deadline will be looming or a project may have lost some of the appeal it once had and i find myself having to rely on discipline and self motivation.

Usually the beginning of a project is the most inspiring time for me. Which is great because the beginning is when you need to produce all your concepts. I usually start by reading the source material or the brief, and then sketching out anything that comes to mind. Sometimes i think of an artist i love that does work in a similar vein to the brief i am working on and i will spend some time going through thier body of work for inspiration.

How did you get your start as an illustrator?

Well the first project I’d ever done was a book cover. The publisher had seen some of my student work and contacted me about doing some work for them. As is always the case, the work lead to more work, which has lead to more work again. I think getting the initial exposure as an artist is the hardest part, once you have a bit of work out there then its much easier to get more work.

Who or what has influenced your work?

There are so many artists that I love and who influence me that it would take many pages to list them all. Like most everybody I am influenced by my life, by movies that I love, comics that i read and my goals as an artist.

What's your favourite media for creating pictures?

That is a tough question. My favourite media for finishing a brief is definitely digital. I can experiment much more boldly, I can sketch and paint much more quickly and I can deliver work to clients much more easily.

However the most satisfaction that I feel is definitely when I have finished a traditional oil or acrylic painting. When I can sit back and look at it right in front of me. I can hold it and smell the paint. There is something really satisfying about that.

Do you experience illustrator's block - if so, what do you do about it?

Sometimes a job is very hard to get into. Even if I have some really potent ideas, sometimes my hands don’t want to co-operate and my sketches just come out looking pretty bad.

The trick for me is not to get too precious. Not to start heavily doubting myself and convincing myself that I’ve somehow LOST the ability to draw. it’s important to recognize when i am having trouble, so i can tell myself to just 'draw through' the block. Eventually my sketches will start to improve and i can get back on track.

I read somewhere that every artist has a thousand poor drawings inside them and the sooner you get them out, the better. I think of that sometimes when I am not feeling like my work is the best.

What's the worst thing about being a freelancer?

The worst thing is not knowing what will be happening down the track. Right now I am completely flushed with work. It’s great; I have one project after the other to do. but what about January next year? I have absolutely no idea what I will be doing then, I don’t even know if people will still be giving me work. That is easily the worst part. Who knows how things will ebb and flow in the future. That uncertainty that you get as a freelancer can be scary.

And the best?

There are a few things that are really awesome about being a freelance artist. I can set my own hours, if i feel like doing work at 4am i can. Working from a home studio is also really great, I don’t have to worry about my workspace messiness offending any other employees, I can listen to music as loud as I want, that sort of thing. It’s a sense of freedom, of being my own boss.

The very best part of being an artist is getting paid to draw. I remember finishing a piece of work, it was a giant T-rex skeleton being ridden by a medieval warrior. I remember finishing that and sitting back and thinking, I cannot believe someone is paying me to do this!

What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment i am working on a batch of book covers and a whole mess of black and white interior illustrations for various publishers. The most exciting thing I am working on is a proposal for a graphic novel. A writer friend of mine named Earl Leonard approached me with a really amazing idea and we are putting together a package to pitch to publishers, it is just a lot of fun to be working on.

Where can we see more of your work?

You can visit my website at or my art blog

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