It seems like Drew always knew he’d become an illustrator. His grandfather was a painter who predicted that one day Drew’s images would be on national magazines. Painting like a demon as he grew up, Drew honed his personal style and now that dream is a reality.
With a BFA in Illustration and Design from Pacific Northwest College of Art, Drew is based in Portland, Oregon. Whenever he responds to a brief, he asks lots of questions, develops plenty of options and works fast, which clients really appreciate.
Drew sums up his approach in three steps. 1 – Lay down the shapes and draft the composition. 2 – Fill in the textures and patterns. 3 – Finish off the hard lines and details. It’s a system he learned as a sign painter, and Drew’s sign making knowledge is another thing that impresses his clients.
Colourful and larger than life, Drew’s style nevertheless maintains enough detail to tell subtler stories and deal with more intricate themes. That’s why he’s a hit with editorial and online clients across the United States.
Question: What led you to become an illustrator? Drew: When I was young, my Grandfather would always tell me my drawings could be on the cover of the New Yorker. He would get very excited when doing so. I always saw myself becoming an illustrator because of this. Question: Did you study illustration in college? Drew: I studied illustration at Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Oregon. I focused my portfolio on editorial illustration. Question: Where do you live now and what drew you there? Drew: I live in Portland, Oregon. I grew up just outside of the city. I’ve always enjoyed being close to the city and close to the outdoors.Question: Describe your studio for us? Drew: My studio is a desk with my Cintiq Pro 32, iPad Pro, some drawing pads, tracing paper and a few art supplies. I like to keep things clean and simple. This is the best way to do it.Question: Do you have a studio pet? Drew: I have two chihuahuas. The bigger one is named Chicharron and the smaller one is little Lillie. They let me know when it’s time to take a break.Question: Describe the view from your window? Drew: The view from my window is the High School Football field across the street. I have a front row seat to all the sporting events. Question: How do you get your ideas? Drew: I like to cook at home. My personal work is inspired by the food I make at home or the things I’m craving. I made enchiladas this week. That’s definitely on my list to draw next. Question: What are your interests outside of illustration? Drew: When I’m not working on an illustration project, I love to go for a hike with my dogs. I spend a lot of time looking at a computer screen so it’s important for me to unplug and get outside. I always say, “Come on, Dogs! Let’s go see some trees!”Question: What is the first record you bought? Drew: My Dad had a CD subscription service in the early 2000s. He let me pick one out every once in a while. The first one I remember choosing was Blink-182’s “Enema of the State” HA!Question: What was your favourite assignment ever? Drew: It was a recent one with Eater.com and California Avocados. They had me draw a bunch of recipes with avocados. I love drawing food so this was definitely a treat. The art direction was spot-on and the client was so nice to work with. That really makes it a win.Question: What would be your dream commission? Drew: Right now I’m interested in doing packaging. An artsy beer label would be fun.Question: How much of your work is hand drawn? Drew: I start all of my ideas in my paper sketchbook. Lately I’ve been drawing with a ballpoint pen and keeping things real loose. I force myself not to use an eraser when drawing on paper. This makes for a more confident drawing and more hand-drawn looking shapes. I refine my hand-drawings on the iPad Pro. I can’t draw straight digitally. There’s something not quite right about it when I do. Question: If you were not an illustrator, what would you be? Drew: If I wasn’t an illustrator, I’d likely be doing something with food. I’ve had experience in the restaurant industry and I really respect those that work hard at it. I would love to work for a small catering company or create a dinner club with friends.Question: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? Drew: “Be patient” is what I’ve heard from family and mentors. I was so frustrated when I got out of art school. I thought that art directors would be filling my email inbox with requests. I didn’t know the extent of effort it took to build a portfolio and hunt down work. I was not patient, but I learned to enjoy each project and each small step forward as it came.Question: How do you keep on trend and up to date in our quickly changing industry? Drew: I like to follow other illustrators on social media and I’m always looking out for new talent. It’s great to see what other illustrators are being hired for and how they’re handing the subject matter. Trends are set by new ideas entering the field. I try to stay on top of it by trying new things and going outside of my creative comfort zone. Get weird with it - it will likely pay off. Question: What is your go-to comfort food? Drew: Spaghetti and a meaty red sauce. I have a big Italian influence on my Dad’s side of the family. This always tastes like home to me. Question: What do you listen to when you’re illustrating? Drew: Is it weird to say that I don’t listen to anything while working? It’s great when I can wake up before the dogs and get a few hours of work done in the morning when it’s quiet. Question: What do you do when you have creative block? Drew: Step away and come back to it later. I’ve worked through creative block and I’ve worked through burnout. It never works out well. I always end up deeper and deeper in a rut. It’s important to take care of yourself. If I’m not feeling in the mood for drawing, it’s probably because I need to take a break and focus on another part of my life.