Off the Page is a regular interview series featuring National Magazine Award winners. Recently we spoke with Adrian Forrow, who won his very first National Magazine Award in 2016, winning the Gold Medal in Illustration for his series of illustrations featured alongside the article “My Prescribed Life” (The Walrus). The story is a memoir about the longstanding link between mental health and prescription dependency, and it also received an Honourable Mention for Best Health & Medicine article.
NMAF:As splashes of colour that break up pages otherwise saturated by text, magazine illustrations give the reader a welcomed break, a moment’s pause before they jump back into reading. What do you think the role of an illustration is for people reading magazine articles?
Adrian: The role of editorial Illustration should be additive. It should help set the mood of the forthcoming text. The image can help evoke visual interest and transport the reader to a place where ideas and understanding intersect.
NMAF:What details do you need before you can properly begin your creative, designing process? Are there certain elements or information that your client or partner needs to relay, in order for you to develop your concept?
Adrian: What I find that works best for me is to receive the brief and the text and really absorb the core idea before putting pen to paper. Once I feel I have a grasp of the idea, I might discuss the tone of the imagery that I feel is best for the article. This is where collaboration can happen with the art director and it’s a great way to help inform your imagery. I try not to think about the imagery at this stage–just the mood, atmosphere and tone of the picture.
The other detail that is critical for my process is the dimensions of the image. It’s really important for me to consider the whole compositional area. The dimension can ignite my conceptual approach and really make the art feel customized to the space available.
NMAF:You won Gold in Illustration at last year’s National Magazine Awards for your pieces featured in a memoir called “My Prescribed Life.” The story, published in The Walrus, discussed the link between the author’s mental illness and related dependence on medication. How did the subject matter of the memoir influence your creative conceptualization for the piece? How did you decide what tone would be most appropriate?
Adrian:This was a great article and so interesting. It was a delicate and somewhat saddening topic. I knew the colours were going to be really important. I didn’t want to do what was expected. I knew I had to take an approach that might have to be more ambiguous and surreal.
I didn’t want to use this illustration to summarize or define the problem. Instead my intent was to ask a question or pose a contemplative composition so the viewer would be left to decipher the visual symbols that I included.
The colours were mostly primary and that helped carry the idea of youth and aging. The colours also helped to create a surreal or even jarring feeling in relation to the content. The goal was for the colours and composition to carry ideas about an altered state of reality.
NMAF:Your Gold win last year was also your first time being recognized by the National Magazine Awards Foundation. How does winning awards for your illustration work help you, on both a personal and professional level?
Adrian:It feels great to know that my work is being received and appreciated within the industry. Personally, it helps to motivate me to keep developing my skills as a visual communicator. Professionally, it helps to open doors and possibilities for new and exciting opportunities.
NMAF:Your work has adorned coffee cups, been part of the creative for major music festivals and has been made larger-than-life by outdoor mural installations. Your work has also appeared in magazines, including The New Yorker, Corporate Knights and The Walrus. As an illustrator, what types of creative collaborations do you like to pursue? Do you try to not limit yourself to any one medium?
Adrian:I feel that in many ways I am just getting started. I have so many ideas and desires to push what I can do. The best thing about my profession is the variety it offers. One day I’m drawing a coffee cup, the next day I’m painting a huge outdoor mural. Variety is the spice of life, so I try to be diverse in the projects I take on.
I also love the collaborative process and making things that fulfill a need or desire. I have always experimented with different approaches and tools for making images. I think it helps my clients see different possibilities and vary their experiences with illustration.
As of now, I have been collaborating with Warby Parker for a new store mural which I am really excited to share with people. I have also been collaborating with Keilhauer to make some artful promotional products.
Adrian Forrow is a National Magazine Award-winning illustrator whose work has been published in The Walrus, Corporate Knights, Canadian Running & Cycling Magazine and The New Yorker. His debut National Magazine Award was the Gold Medal in Best Illustration, for his series of illustrations featured in The Walrus memoir, “My Prescribed Life“.
Submissions to the 40th Anniversary National Magazine Awards The 40th anniversary National Magazine Awards are open for submissions until January 20, including awards for Illustration and for Best New Magazine Illustrator.
Enter at magazine-awards.com.
In alternate years, the NMAF presents distinct awards for Best New Magazine Illustrator and Best New Magazine Photographer. For this year’s 40th anniversary National Magazine Awards, the Best New Visual Creator award will go to an illustrator whose early work in magazines shows the highest degree of craft and promise.
Read more about the Best New Creators Awards here.
Are you an emerging Canadian magazine illustrator or graphic artist? Have you published your first major piece of visual work in a Canadian consumer or B2B magazine, a university magazine, or an arts journal within the last 3 years? Chances are you’re eligible to be named Canada’s Best New Illustrator from the National Magazine Awards Foundation.
The National Magazine Award for Best New Illustrator goes to the artist whose early work in Canadian magazines shows the highest degree of craft and promise. The award includes a cash prize of $1000, an awards certificate, and nationwide recognition.
ELIGIBILITY Eligible work–including illustration, photo illustration, infographics, graphic narratives and digital images–must have been published in a Canadian magazine (print, online or tablet) between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2016. The work can be a single illustration or a series accompanying an article or editorial package. Candidates must not have published any magazine work prior to 2014. The intent is to restrict this award to students and visual artists with a maximum of 3 years’ experience in professional journalism. One entry per person. See the NMAF’s rules for further information about eligible publications.
HOW TO ENTER Enter your submissions at magazine-awards.com. Submissions may be made by the artist or their art director or teacher, and must include a PDF of the work as well as a letter of reference (see requirements below). The deadline for applications is January 20. The cost to enter is $95 (freelancers who enter their own work may be eligible for the Freelancer Support Fund and an entry fee of just $50).
Upload a PDF of a letter of reference from a teacher, art director, mentor or colleague, which should introduce the candidate to the jury, attest to their eligibility, for this award, and provide context for the work submitted. Both the visual work and letter are reviewed by the judges.
Pay the submission fee by cheque or credit card.
FINALISTS AND WINNERS
A shortlist of up to 5 finalists will be announced in the spring, and all finalists receive a certificate and recognition in NMAF publications and at the gala. The winner will be revealed at the 40th anniversary National Magazine Awards gala.
There is a cash prize of $1000 and an awards certificate, and the right to call yourself a National Magazine Award winner. We’ll interview you for our blog and newsletter, and promote you and your work to art directors and magazine readers nationwide.
ABOUT THE NMAF
The National Magazine Awards Foundation is a bilingual, not-for-profit institution whose mission is to foster, recognize and promote editorial excellence in Canadian publications. The annual program of awards are presented in the spring and are followed by a year-long national publicity campaign and several professional development opportunities.
For this year’s National Magazine Awards the jury has selected 10 finalists for the category Illustration & Photo Illustration. Gold and Silver winners will be revealed at the 39th National Magazine Awards gala on June 10. Tickets are on sale now.
Here are the nominees for Best Illustration & Photo Illustration:
Kagan McLeod The Trial of the Century Maclean’s
Mike Ellis Reduce, Reuse, RIP Maisonneuve
Raymond Biesinger An Anatomy Course Circa 2115 New Trail
Off the Page is back! Our interview series with National Magazine Award winners returns this week with Hudson Christie, winner of the 2015 award for Best New Magazine Illustrator, sponsored by Red Point Media. Hudson generously gave us some of his time recently to talk about his winning work, the significance of his award and building a career as a magazine illustrator.
NMAF: Congratulations on the award for Best New Magazine Illustrator. Your winning piece accompanied a story in Maisonneuve called “A Portrait of the Artist with Testicles in Hand,” (itself a National Magazine Award finalist in the humour category; a personal essay about an angst-ridden young man having a scrotal examination). Can you talk a bit about the process of creating that illustration—from your design brief with Maisy art director Anna Minzhulina, your reading of the text, and the actual construction of the sculptures?
Hudson Christie: This was my first commission from Maisonneuve, and Anna smartly matched me with a simultaneously silly and dark article. I’m happiest when I get to work with unhappy themes! Illustrating a testicular cancer scare demanded both a degree of sensitivity for the reality of cancer while leaving room for the nervous laughter that accompanies the dodging of a bullet.
For the picture, I wanted to express the way that this event interrupted the author’s everyday life. We went through a variety of sketches until landing on the classic thinker pose, contrasting the humor inherent to banal, contemporary life (in the form of frozen food) with the (conveniently phallic) home decor.
NMAF: Your style of illustration—clay sculptures, painted and photographed, and sometimes animated—is striking and unique. (The NMA jury called it a “fresh approach to traditional illustration” that proves you are “unafraid to push boundaries and take risks.”) When did you start developing this style as an editorial art form; was it while you were studying at OCAD, or even earlier?
Hudson Christie: I started working on this approach during my 3rd year at OCAD. I was really charmed by figurative folk sculpture at the time and was trying to come up with a way to integrate its uncanny geometric features and deliberate colour palettes into my work.
I had some mental hurdles to clear in order to figure out a way of making this inherently three-dimensional medium conform to the framed two-dimensionality of editorial illustration.
A huge personal breakthrough was learning how to use the computer to plot measurements of my dioramas, giving me final pictures which are 90% true to the original sketch.
NMAF: One of my favourite recent pieces of yours was your work for Alberta Venture magazine’s “Best Workplaces” issue (June 2015). Every element seems precise and yet whimsical—the oversized water cooler, the dog dish, the first aid kit, etc—conveying a sense of a scene that is both exemplary and fun. What’s the biggest challenge in working with clay to create an illustration like this?
Hudson Christie: There’s always a bit of randomness that takes control between the sketch and the final props I build. For the Alberta Venture cover, I had to employ a bit of trial and error, changing the angle and position of the figures in order to remove confusing contours.
Lighting is another aspect that’s hard to predict during the sketch phase. In this case, lighting the crowd of co-workers while maintaining a sense of depth where they overlapped took plenty of fiddling.
NMAF: Can you describe your studio and workspace? I imagine a large table littered with discarded clay limbs and eyeballs, dog tails and unicorn horns. And of course a large oven emitting the earthy aroma of baked clay. Is that close to the mark?
Hudson Christie: You’re pretty close! I work out of a bachelor apartment in Parkdale, so it’s instead a fairly small desk that’s covered in tiny clay body parts. I also have a separate table (read: piece of plywood with detatchable Ikea legs) where I set up my dioramas. I use two halogen photo lamps and a DSLR camera.
Replace “large oven” with “toaster oven” and “earthy aroma of baked clay” with “vaguely burnt odor of Super Sculpey” and you get the idea. I use polymer clay for the speed and versatility, even though it’s a lot less romantic than the real thing.
Hudson Christie has a distinctive and clear voice that will attract notice from audiences and designers. He uses wit and humour to address a provocative subject and his technique is a fresh and a unique approach to form. — National Magazine Awards jury
NMAF: What is the significance to you as a young illustrator to win the National Magazine Award? Has it helped create other opportunities to publish your work, or amplify your work to art directors and agencies? And is there anything new you’re working on at the moment that you can tell us about?
Hudson Christie: Winning a National Magazine Award in my first year out of OCAD was a really huge honour. Being named in the same breath as other renowned members of the Canadian magazine community made me feel like a real contributor to a larger creative goal.
Since my win, I’ve been featured in The Walrus, another Canadian magazine that I’ve been itching to contribute to since I started freelancing.
NMAF: Do you have any words of wisdom for young and student artists and illustrators about making an impact in the world of magazines and publishing?
Hudson Christie: My first real portfolio of ten illustrations was just my senior year-long project, called “Work Life Balance,” at OCAD, which was based around a self-initiated concept that I was really passionate about.
If you aren’t enrolled in any illustration program, I recommend initiating your own series from scratch anyway. A focused series of pictures is one of the best arguments for your intellectual and artistic ability.
Hudson Christie is a National Magazine Award winning illustrator, a 2014 Medallist in Illustration at OCAD, and the recipient of the 2015 NMA prize for Best New Magazine Illustrator. His work has appeared in Maisonneuve, The Walrus, Alberta Venture, The New York Times, Mother Jones and other publications. Check out his creative portfolio at hudsonchristie.comand find him on Twitter @Hudsons_House.
Canada’s National Magazine Awards will be presented on June 5 at the Arcadian Court in Toronto, and among the prizes to be bestowed is the award for best Illustration or Photo Illustration. The finalists were announced on May 4 and include a great mix of first-time nominees and previous award winners.
Raymond has previously been nominated for 3 National Magazine Awards for work in The Walrus, Alberta Views and Report on Small Business. This year he won 2 nominations: one for a cover illustration in Precedent, which is also nominated for Best Cover at this year’s Kenneth R. Wilson Awards; and the second which appeared in Reader’s Digest.
Min Gyo Chung
Min Gyo is an emerging talent in magazine illustration who is also nominated this year for the award for Best New Illustrator or Photographer for artwork in Corporate Knights. This is his first National Magazine Award nomination.