A graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, Fred Carlson’s illustrations have appeared on over 350 CD covers and the Wall Street Journal. He currently works as an officer with the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators where he continues to draw, teach and write. I was able to ask Mr. Carlson a few questions about his long running career as an illustrator.
Q: How did your time at Carnegie Mellon University shape your work as an illustrator?
A: I studied graphic design within the Design Department at Carnegie Mellon (and my major was a BFA in Design) with many elective courses in drawing, anatomy, and painting taken in the Art Dept and finally, I took independent study projects relating to illustration from a few professors who had active illustration careers. My design course work in Typography, Design Principles, Visual Expression, Photography, Marketing, Calligraphy, and Printing Production gave me a very complete systematic overview of the larger field of communications and problem solving where an illustrator works. My art course work improved my appreciation and depiction of form and eclectic ways of saying the same thing conceptually. I had strong figure work in both departments and this expertise has proved over time to be a strong point in my career that keeps clients coming back for more of my work featuring portraits and the human form in space. The independent project courses taught me how to bear down and technically produce the best possible pieces as I learned various media, and I learned how to present, sell and service my clients from the sharing of the personal histories of these illustration profs. There was not an organized program in Illustration at Carnegie Mellon, one created their own program—isn’t that the way an extended career in this field operates? (one continually re-invents their client list, market niche, and modifies one’s individual style through creative growth over time)
Q:Is there any one artistic medium that you prefer?
A: I work exclusively on Strathmore Bristol paper (textured surface) in graphite, watercolors, dyes, and gouache. This style mix was solidified in the late 1970s as it seemed the most direct and emotionally honest working method for me. The graphite pencils are Derwent 2B graphic pencils from the UK—great black quality when reproduced and the watercolors I apply over the drawings do not move the graphite dust around much. I use Winsor-Newton gouaches and dyes and watercolors.
Q: What inspires your classic style of illustration?
A:I thank you for using the term ‘classic.’ The giants of the arts field down through time, not just illustrators of the 20th century, inspire me. Holbein, Durer, Vermeer, Homer, leading into this century’s masters Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth, and the Brandywine illustrators. We are blessed in Pennsylvania to be within a half day’s drive of the Brandywine Museum and the amazing originals on display there. When the printing industry exploded to the forefront of mass communications between the Civil War and WW I, American greats were there to exhibit the highest standard of design and craft.
Q: Most of your portraits seem to be of famous people. Is there a reason you picked these specific figures?
A: Many of the portraits were the result of commissions so obviously I would be working on those particular pieces, especially my music projects. I do personal work and personal samples all the time to promote my overall craft in different ways to different market niches and like I said above, my work with people keeps standing out thus the repeat imagery related to people and portraiture.
Q: Who were some of the illustrators and artists that inspired you?
A: Besides the ones named above, I note the following people who I continue to be inspired by and admire-often I have or had a direct personal relationship with these noted people through my attending seminars and from the years I taught in the Illustration Program at Carnegie Mellon from 1981-1994: stylists who influenced me-Alan E. Cober, Dick Hess, Bob Heindel, Bernie Fuchs, Tom Allen, Julian Allen, Barron Storey, Simms Taback, Milton Glaser and all the Pushpin Studios alumni; teachers-Herb Olds, Bruce Carter, Lee Goldman, Tom Ruddy, Howard Worner, John Delmonte, Arnold Bank, and from high school-Pat DiCosimo; friends/colleagues: Joseph Fiedler, Ilene Lederer, George Gaadt. I hope that all my students from CMU, and my friends and colleagues from the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators know how much they all mean to me as I look back over the past third of a century of my illustration life, and my hope is that my influence has been inspiring and positive for their careers.
Q: Out of all of your many different types of illustrations, do you have a favorite?
A: My CD covers for reissue projects for BMG/County ‘Bill Monroe: American Traveler’ and the Sony/Copper Creek ‘Flatt & Scruggs: Foggy Mountain Banjo’ stand out as the perfect combination of my passions and my particular way of looking at things. My annual report artwork for Duquesne Light and Koppers Corp also hold a warm place in my heart-they are very strong and the talent of the executives, designers, and writers involved all contributed to their success instead of getting in the way.
Living in Springfeild, OH, Jennifer Brown spent years writing articles for both her high school and college newspaper. In her first published novel, Ms. Brown wrote a psychological thriller based on characters from one of her previous works. I was able to ask Ms. Brown a few questions recently.
Q:In your novel, "In Jen's Words," your character, Jennifer Barnes, suffers from multiple personalities. Was it difficult to write this character and what led you to use multiple personalities?
A:Jennifer, like the other Barnes siblings, were characters in another storyline I used from years ago, and I loved working with them so much I decided to bring them into another one. I’m not sure what exactly led me to write her in as a DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) patient. It just came into the storyline, and it felt right. I had never used that as a component in a book, and the idea of it alone excited me. I wanted the Barnes to be in a series and I thought the aspect of having a main character with alter-personalities would make for interesting storylines.
Q:When you were writing the story, what sort of research did you do on people with multiple personalities or did the details sort themselves out as you went?
A:I did check out a book from a local library which was written by someone who had the disorder, as well as do some research online. I also have a friend who works in the field who has been able to answer some questions that are not available online. Yes, I have managed to come up with some interesting scenarios, that websites just can’t answer. Psychological disorders, may be a frightening thing in real life, but can be quite fascinating and fun for a novelist.
Q:If nothing else, what do you want your readers to gain from "In Jen's Words?"
A:I hope they will be as intrigued and hooked reading it, as I was writing it. As a suspense writer, I aim to surprise and insert some good twists here and there. I want the reader to sit there after reading a chapter or finishing the book, and say to themselves, “I did not see that coming!”
Q:What are you planning to do now that you've finished this novel?
A:I am hoping to have the second book in the series submitted soon. I’ve started a rough draft of the third. I’ve also started on A Writer’s Secret, which is the novel my main character Jen Barnes is about to have published in, In Jen’s Words: Facing the Issues. It’s a fun little experiment writing as one of my characters, and I may share some of it in my newsletter or on the Facebook page for In Jen’s Words. Check out my site www.jenniferbrownauthor.weebly.com for more information.
Q:Is there anything else you think I should know?
A:I got so engrossed with the storyline, I never thought of changing any names in this new storyline. Jen was originally based on myself in the old storyline, where we both were writers and she hung around with characters based on my friends. She was even dating a character based on a guy I liked at the time. Our only difference was she had two older brothers that I didn’t. Now, our main difference is she suffers from D.I.D. I never would have imagined ten years ago, that characters I created just for fun would become part of my first novel today. I love writing about the Barnes, and can’t wait to see where the series takes us.
Michael Farina is a English Major with a Creative Writing Concentration from California University of Pennsylvania.