Russell Tate Interview – Designer & Illustrator

by . September 22nd, 2007

Hello Mr. Tate, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. To start, could you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?

I am a Designer / Illustrator and I run my own company I was freelance for a number of years but now work from an office at home with my wife. She is an art director and we sometimes work on projects together. Currently 75% of my work is illustration via the internet.

When did you start getting into your field?


I am a designer who moved over to illustration once computers really took off in the 90’s. I was the first person in the company to learn illustrator and just read every book I could till I got up to speed It was mainly design oriented stuff though, small logos etc.

How did you get your first job?

Well my first Illustration job, hmm, let me see…

I was freelancing at home solely as a designer but playing around with Illustrator in my spare time and wanted to try to get editorial Illustration work It my took 3 months to pluck up the courage to approach a major Sydney Magazine (Good Weekend Magazine) because I was scared they would laugh at my work. But, after seeing a couple of mediocre images in the magazine one issue I decided to make an appointment to see them.

The A/D was helpful and gave me a small job 2 weeks later. About 2 months later he gave me a front cover to do and after that I had an illustration agent ring me up wanting to represent me and other people started seeking me out, so life got a little easier.

What was the hardest job you ever got?

I think that would be the Perplex City project I had to draw a city a whole city, streets, kooky buildings, parks, roads, trees, everything! It took 4 months and I thought it would never end if you can imagine an average building would be about 1/8 of an inch high. The finished file printed at 100% was like 6 feet square. At the end of each day I looked like Mr. Magoo.

Can you remember a job that was particularly fun or enjoyable?

Yeah this one from Dec 06, it was interactive Christmas card. I drew the key frames and an Agency put it all together.

(the trickiest part was the food slowly cooking and then burning!)

What do you think makes your style of illustration distinctive?

Ha, who said it was distinctive! I do try to keep it Un-computer generated wherever possible. I also rarely use pure white (always go for a light cream) and avoid pure black (dark grey works well). I think that’s about it …maybe keeping the blends subtle too. That would be my yardstick.

How long did it take you to define your style as an illustrator?

About a year. I found the best start was to draw like somebody else get to know there style try and draw like them and then hopefully once you have mastered the tools YOUR style will come through. I studied the styles of Louis Fishalf and Ron Chan In the Peachpit press book Illustrator Illuminated in the winter evenings for quite a while.

What do you think is the hardest part about being an illustrator?

Crazy deadlines, and people who don’t know what the F*@/%k they really want!

What is the best part about being an illustrator?

Finishing a job that worked out well, and going to bed with a smile on your face.

Do you have any favorite websites or resources relating to your field?

I check in with these guys on regular basis…

Simon Oxley fellow Istock Illustrator
(don’t know what he smokes but he comes up with some wacky stuff!)

UK DJ and designer Justin Berkovi

Maageezer (Luke) iChat Illustrator buddy in Denmark

What advice do you have for aspiring illustrators?

Have faith in yourself even when everything you first produce comes out looking crappy. (Just straighten up and fly right!

Cheers RT

Russell Tate Portfolio


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