Mario or Sonic? Godzilla or King Kong? Robo-cop or Terminator?
Let's see...Mario, Godzilla, and Robo-cop (since he's from from Detroit)...clearly!
Okay seriously, what was your art training like at Ringling? What was your biggest revelation in school?
It's a great school, but probably the biggest revelation was that if I only did my homework I'd be in for a tough ride. I really try and do my own research and studies outside of class, along with outside gigs to keep me honest. It's easy to only do the required work and worry about "real" jobs after you graduate, but the students that seem to surround themselves with other hard-working, inspired students, and always have a bunch of projects in the works...have a good head start. By far and away, the best thing I've done is take every figure-orientated class that Ringling has to offer. This semester, I've hired my own model and am working on a 80-hr pose...sort of a culmination of all that I know about the figure. I hope to come out of it with a solid, complete painting.
You started Ringling as a computer animation major. Do you plan to return to any kind of animation in the future. Why did you decide against it?
Honestly, no, I won't be doing any serious animation work in the future. I've been thinking of doing a straight ahead, traditional animation of a figure in action, just to improve my drawing skills. But as far as a serious short, or working for a studio....no, that's not my thing anymore. I originally enrolled in animation, because at the time, I naively thought I would make the most money in that field, and it would be the most secure. I also had done animation throughout high school. But the program here is very set in their ways, and many of my ideas didn't work to well with the curriculum. In more words than one, I butted heads a lot since I wanted to make a moving illustration, and they wanted work less based on the art, but more on the technical aspects. So a week before classes of my senior year of animation, I wildly decided to switch majors, and haven't looked back. Very happy with the decision. I'll be graduating from the illustration department this May.
***disclaimer: Not trying to sound overly negative about the program. But it wasn't for me. It actually is very well run!!***
What aspect (technique, concept, etc) of the artists that influenced you do you think made the biggest impression on you? Ilya Repin for instance?
I always try and figure out why I like something. I think I finally figured it out..haha. I like it when an artist feels like he MEANS what he's doing. Rockwell meant it, Repin meant it, Alma-Tadema meant it. Those artists are truthful in their art. In music too...you can tell when a musician is making music for a label, or is making music to preserve the rich tradition they are part of, and leave their unique mark. I am pretty unhappy with my portfolio right now. I hope to have a completely new portfolio by the end of the year. I feel like my images rely too heavily on gimmicks and tricks that are "cool." Hopefully after I post my newer images, you can see the new direction I'm heading.
Besides art, I know you like Hip hop. What about it inspires you?
Yeah, my life is art, my family and loved ones, and hip-hop. It's an enormous aspect of my daily life. I listen to at least 12 hours of music a day, a majority of it rap. I grew up on a tough block in Detroit, and all around me I could hear the bass of cars with speakers that cost more than the car itself. My dad was in a band for 10 years. My mom always was jamming to some sort of album, so they always emphasized the importance of music. I love the creativity and bravado that the good rappers possess. A good jam can really help me to get into the zone while I'm drawing/painting. Being completely honest, if I didn't illustrate, I'd rap.
Right out of college, how did you initially promote yourself?
Well I'm still working on graduating, but I have quickly learned that it's not who you know, it's who knows you. You have to put your face in as many places as possible. A client is much more inclined to hire you if they have had a beer with you, and enjoy interacting with you. So other than the online promotion, traveling a lot has really helped. I've built so many amazing relationships from my travels. It is was worth the hectic hustle of raising the funds for the trips, which is tough for a college student.
Do you have a preferred medium?
Oil and ink. I think they are the purest mediums.
Did you have to train specially to learn the practice of caricature art?
Sort of. About 3 years ago, I needed to get a job in the summers between semesters. I knew I wanted it to be art related so caricaturing seemed to be a good fit. I just sort of showed up and my boss unleashed me on some folks. I did free caricatures for a few days, to sort of learn the ropes. I was terrified, but I picked it up fairly fast. Unfortunately, I haven't done any caricatures in quite some time, but I may pick it up again.
Do you get time to work on personal projects?
Yeah. My thesis is one big personal project. Once I graduate...probably not so much, so I'm trying to take advantage of my last few months of freedom!
If you could adapt any form of literature for an illustration project what would it be?
I'd like to work on a series of illustrations for a children's picture book. Later this year I hope to pitch a super-secret project to some publishers, in hope of landing a book deal. I'm real excited about it.
How did you come to understand your style and be comfortable with it? What processes were involved in developing your visual vocabulary over the years?
Maaan.... I have no idea what my style is. My work is very all over the place. The only thing keeping it somewhat cohesive is the way I draw. I used to do digital work, but I gave that up. Now I work traditionally. But I always viewed style as something that happened naturally and over time. I'm not too worried about it. I'm sure that as I keep cranking out pieces, my work will begin to become more "me."
If you could work collaboratively with any contemporary illustrator/s in the field,who would it/they be?
Good question...haha..Hmmmmm. I would be scared to death to work with him, but working with Daniel Adel would be amazing. It would be fun to do a piece with Sam Weber. Doing a piece with Frank Stockton would be fun, since we share the same ways of thinking. And, of course, my teacher George Pratt..he's an art beastmaster!!!
On your website you ended your biography saying "trying to make a difference." How do you personally feel about the stance that 'commercial art' has taken over the last years. Is commercial art's influence on today's popular culture the reason you chose the field of illustration (Besides having an obvious passion for it)?
This has been a hot topic for me lately. I'm a little bummed with the way illustration is being handled now. It's not that we aren't as talented as the old school guys...it's just that we don't have the time to do work as meaningful as they could. In a time when everyone wants a piece yesterday, it's tough to really invest some serious time in a piece. Which is why digital is so popular. It's so fast. I have a little beef with digital in that so many people use it. It's a medium like anything else. So if a large group of people use the same medium, all that work is going to sort of look the same, among other things. I'd like to see illustrators receive the notoriety that they did back in the Golden Age. I have a secret agenda to bring that back, with some big plans..haha. Or at least, I hope to shake things up a bit.
Hi, I'm Shof and I'm an Illustrator currently residing in San Diego, CA. I'm originally from Lagos, Nigeria. Graduated from the Memphis College of Art in May 2009.
You can email me at shofcoker(at)gmail.com