Why I only do upbeat illustrations (so far)

upbeat illustrations


Recently, I’ve been looking back on my body of lettering work and pondering something—why is my work mostly upbeat illustrations?

When I (mostly) left graphic design, I made a deliberate choice to put myself on a very different track. I had been doing it for over 30 years, so I was ready for something new. While I had all that design experience to lean on, I wanted to put myself in a new frame of mind.

My many years in design were usually steeped in serious, technical work, like branding, designing icons and logos, adhering to technical specifications, fine-tuning typography, etc … The actual process of doing design could be pretty serious. The same could be said for the overall atmosphere. Sure, we had our fun moments‚ usually late at night, punchy from lack of sleep. Or, an inside joke about a product we were working on.

This was a time full of all the agency trappings—revisions, meetings, conference calls, last-minute revisions, more meetings. When I think about the work I’m doing now, I see it as a counter to all that seriousness. Why is it I do the things I do? I talked about being your authentic self here.


I believe your best work comes from your authentic self—drawing (pun intended) on your beliefs and experiences.

I like old, retro signs, airplanes and cats, so they find their way into my art. This doesn’t mean I’m carefree about things. I still have to maintain a schedule, a process, and keep up on technical stuff—like maintaining my website.

Watching the news these days is damned depressing. Making upbeat illustrations is my way of countering all the negativity. I figure I have two choices—I can get on my soapbox, or I can flip things around and create something that will make me smile—and hopefully someone else, too.

These days, I gravitate towards the work of others that I would want to purchase for myself or someone I care about. I want to surround myself with things that are colourful and lighthearted.

So, yes, my work is whimsical, and a bit funny. And I’ve deliberately curated it to be that way. I find it a bit ironic, as I come across as a quiet, serious guy. Maybe I’ll do more serious work one day. But for now, I have too many fun pieces on my list to complete.

What feels right for me may not to you. If you want to project a different tone, then put yourself out there. Just make sure it’s using your authentic self.


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How to (mostly) not be derivative