Vince Fraser is a mainstream internationally sought-after digital illustrator known for his vibrant, chaotic and engaging style who has worked with clients such as the BBC, Guess Jeans, British Airways, the Co-operative Bank, T-Mobile and PC World. The 37-year-old east Londoner is also a regular contributor to design and industry publications such as Advanced Photoshop, IDN, Computer Arts Projects and Digital Arts. Growing up a stone’s throw from Brick Lane surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the east end within a thriving creative community has helped inspire Vince to create evocative artwork. So captivated were we with his designs that Flavour had to get him on board to illustrate our Trendsetters cover. Here he tells us what else has been keeping him busy over the past few months.
You started out as an interior designer. How did you make the leap to becoming an illustrator?
I came across digital illustration purely by accident when I was working as an Interior Designer for a global architectural and interior design company in the City. I noticed how much I enjoyed the graphics part of my job and thought it would be far better for me to pursue a career in this field. Interior design was a wonderful academic grounding in design, but I think the profession is too limited by clients and budgets. This is how I fell in love with illustration, which became my sanctuary after spending hours on AutoCAD. Initially, the thought of working for myself was daunting, but it was also exciting. Being able to work from home was a big attraction.
What provides the inspiration for your artwork?
In my Afro series I drew inspiration from the Seventies Blaxploitation films such as Shaft, Superfly and Foxy Brown. Having grown up in the Seventies I always remembered these films with very strong, black, extrovert and sexy looking female characters like Pam Grier. I just thought it would be a great idea to illustrate this era in black history.
How long does it take for you to finish an illustration?
It can be anything from one day to a week depending on the complexity of the project, but I’ve definitely become more efficient at the process over the years.
What range of software do you use for your work?
It has to be Adobe Photoshop CS which I’ve been using since version 4 but Adobe Illustrator CS and 3D Studio Max are good programs too. In terms of hardware, I use dual 21-inch screen displays combined with a Wacom tablet. I’m PC-based, so I have an Intel Dual-core processor with eight gigabytes of RAM which is important when those image files start getting on the large side.
How has the illustration industry changed in the 10 years you’ve been in the business?
The digital age has revolutionized the industry with the use of graphic programs and high-speed web access making it easier to interact with clients and be more accessible to normal people. The frustrating problem with that is, everyone now calls themselves ‘designers’. What they don’t realise is, you still need talent and a highly developed sense of visual awareness to direct its capabilities. It all starts from good ideas and a basic understanding of the process.
How does your family support you when you are working?
My family is very supportive of what I’m doing and have seen me go through the good and bad times. I have two wonderful kids – both boys – and the eldest is 14 years old with artistic skills that would put most accomplished artists and designers to shame (laughs). They are my greatest inspiration and drive to do better.
Apart from art and illustration what other things are you into?
Music is a big part of my life and I try to listen to the internet radio most days while working so I couldn’t imagine living without it. Apart from that, my other passion is weightlifting which I’ve been doing for 12 years, although I’m recovering from a shoulder injury.
What is the hardest thing about being an illustrator?
In a nutshell ‘when it’s good it’s good, but when it’s bad it’s bad’. I suppose it’s the constant struggle to find new work which becomes tiring and frustrating after a while, but this is all part and parcel of being a freelancer. One of the greatest skills needed is to have a strong sense of self-belief and motivation in order to succeed.
How do you find new work?
With great difficulty to be honest! (laughs). Competition within the industry is fierce and completely saturated at the moment, which is making it more difficult to find work for established artists like myself. So you have to always be one step ahead of everyone else constantly re-inventing yourself and coming up with new ideas and ways of self-promotion. I also think a lot of illustrators don’t get the kind of recognition they deserve, and are thought of as people who just draw pretty pictures. A lot of work can come from referrals from previous clients or general networking too.
What are your current projects?
I’ve been invited to Taiwan to give a lecture on illustration at a two day seminar. I’ve just finished a project with Tiger Beer which will be exhibited worldwide in 2009. I’m designing some graphics for skateboards in the US ad I’ve also had some work published in a new fashion illustration book designed for students, writing tutorials and designing T-shirts! I’m looking for more collaborations – so all you entrepreneurs give me a shout!
Words by Annika Allen