Levy Creative Management artist RORY KURTZ is featured today in Communication Arts Magazine Insights.
Rory Kurtz is a freelance illustrator living in the US. Born in 1979, he grew up in the Midwest on a steady diet of comic books and fantasy films; helped along by years of commitment to drawing technique and digital illustration software, a love of art and illustration led him to his current career. Self-taught and focusing in ink, pencil, oil and digital mediums, his work is emotional, personal and full of subtle narrative. His influences come from across the board and include film, music, theater and literature. Since breaking into the industry, he’s been recognized by Creative Quarterly, Taschen and Communication Arts and has a client list that includes Rolling Stone, ESPN The Magazine, Runner’s World, Pentax Cameras and The Village Voice. He’s represented by Levy Creative Management.
Something Worth Finishing
If you have a degree in what field is it? Actually, I went to school for theater arts. This was years ago, and I never quite finished. I ended up leaving early to join a touring Shakespeare company, hauling set pieces and holding a spear in Macbeth.
Have you always been able to draw or was it a skill you learned in college? Hard to say… Like most illustrators, I’ve been addicted to drawing since childhood. Not having a formal education, I supplemented the lack of training with a lot of studying on my own. I’d pore over the work of better artists and try to decipher the whats and hows of their techniques and do my best to apply it to my own work. It’s been a life’s work, and continues to this day.
What was your first paid assignment? I did these illustrated covers for a small magazine in my hometown of Milwaukee—a culture rag called INFO. Whether or not they were mind-blowing is up for debate, but I appreciated the editors for letting me run with it.
Which illustrator (or fine artist) do you most admire? Well, it’s pretty obvious when looking at my work that I love all the classic Expressionist painters: Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt and so on. As for illustrators, I’m blown away by so many talents but if I had to choose just one, I’d have to say Sam Weber. His work is so still, but emotionally charged at the same time. He did this piece for an illustrated version of Lord of the Flies of a single shattered seashell on a beach that I couldn’t stop staring at. The colors, narrative and execution of it were as close to perfect as I’d ever seen.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an illustrator? I’d like to say I’d be a roguishly successful con man, complete with Savile Row suit and an apartment in Monte Carlo. But in all likelihood I’d probably just be working at an ad agency in some sort of design capacity.
From where do your best ideas originate? From looming deadlines actually.
How do you overcome a creative block? By just putting the pencil to paper. Sometimes a great image just happens. Mostly though, it takes a great deal of getting all the frustration out on paper before something worth finishing comes out of it. I also have a bit of faith in this cycle of input and output. I go through periods when I’m just receiving information and taking in stimuli—books, movies, music, life—then I come back to the drafting table and let everything that’s been processing come out. Then I go through a period of producing a large amount new work.
In one word describe how you feel when beginning a new assignment? Hyped.
Do you have a personal philosophy? Yeah, too many of them. Mostly, I just try to stay on my personal path. If I get lost, I just keep making right turns.
Do you have creative pursuits other than illustration? Oh sure. I’d love to work more in oil and grow as a fine artist. I’ve worked a bit in photography as well. It can be a challenge to find the balance with illustration work, time spent with the people in my life, and these other creative endeavors. Fortunately, it’s not a race and skill only grows with time.
What music are you listening to right now? At this very moment I’m listening to Massive Attack, Karmacoma specifically.
What’s your favorite quote? “No, you are going to have to turn this opportunity yes!” —Don Logan, Sexy Beast
Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? Commit to it. One can’t dance around the idea of illustration as if starting a freakin’ workout routine. You’ll get out of it as much as you put in. I’ve been asked this question by a good number of college students who see the industry as being a kind of nebulous mystery. Truth is, this industry is leveled by the same laws of cause and effect as anything else. The more you work, the better you’ll get. The more work you put out there, the more work will come to you. You just have to commit to it and have a little faith that things will start falling into place after that.
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? To quit being so bloody hard on my own work. Other people will do that for me.
To view the complete article on the Communication Arts website, go here.