Chicago-based illustrator Amy DeVoogd‘s work is all over the place, from newspapers and magazines to product packaging, advertising campaigns, and more. We’re thrilled to be working with her to offer high-quality prints on Thumbtack Press and her initial offering here shows why: Cities, fashion, bikes, bags, couples, energy, design, style – it’s city life at its best.
Anyway you can tell from our chat that Amy is also dedicated and so so passionate about her work. We had a blast chatting with her about how going back to grad school affected her process, the lack of faces in her work (and faces in illustration in general), how she was criticized for being too figurative, and more.
You can see her entire initial offering at her Thumbtack Press artist page.
Thumbtack Press: Hi hi
Amy DeVoogd: Hey
TTP: This still a good time?
TTP: Soooo first thing I have to bring up is faces.
Amy: Funny was just talking to an illustrator friend about that…She was admiring something I did and said it was cool how I could capture the mood with no face, and at first I was like, huh? Because I don’t remember that I usually don’t draw faces. And so I went to my website and looked and, sure enough – not many faces! To me it’s just normal! (Not to see the faces I mean.)
TTP: I love that - ”Not to see faces.”
Amy: It started with my not wanting my work to look cartoon-y, and also to leave some of it open to interpretation I guess. Plus my interest is in the shapes and design, and sometimes the face is just a whole ‘nother thing.
Amy: A whole world unto itself, ya know?
TTP: It’s funny there are some people who DO FACES. That’s their thing.
Amy: Right! And I totally admire that. But it’s just not my thing.
TTP: Yeah. And there are other illustators who don’t do faces, but I feel like few have the color your work does.
Amy: So cool that you mention that, because I’m in love with color. It’s all about color and shape. Cool that you noticed both things. And I don’t always like “nice colors” either. I was working on an advertising job a few years ago and was on a conference call with a roomful of people, and the account executive says something like, “And can you make sure not to use those *&;$# colors that you use.” I laughed. Kind of knew what she meant. She wanted acceptible colors, not odd ones.
TTP: Right. She wanted some Pantone. But each of your pieces (or many/most) has a focused color.
Amy: Yeah I love doing 2-color, the challenge of limiting the palette.
TTP: Sometimes with fewer colors the eye is drawn to shape, and with shape, we’re in the design realm…
Amy: I don’t always think “formally” like that (is that the term?) but that sounds good! Mostly just instinct, what feels and looks right. Am I talking too much?
TTP: No! So I looked up some of your other interviews that’re on your website, where you talk more about process.
Amy: The process has changed since then…I went to grad school!
TTP: I was just gonna ask!
Amy: Yeah, so I went through this awesome MFA low-residency program at the Hartford Art School. The program director (Murray Tinkelman) is one of the original illustrators from Cooper Studios!
TTP: Oh wow.
Amy: And he knows everything and everyone. And so anyway, I did a week with Nancy Stahl and Zina Saunders and it changed everything.
TTP: Like what specifically did you take away?
Amy: I had created this process of cutting stencils from frisket and using a paint roller to make flat colors. This stemmed from wanted to subract that “personal” feel that you get from a drawn line. And probably from doing printmaking in undergrad. And then I would scan in the painting and maybe do some touch up, but not much else. This was a one-shot deal, if I messed up I’d have to start all over, and also it was limiting in terms of how small I could cut details.
Amy: So before I spent that week with them, I had done vector work (Adobe Illustrator) but was never happy with the way it looked (too flat and mechanical). But they showed me how to approach my work using digital tools but with my hand-painted mindset. So I tried it and was thrilled that I could make it look virtually the same, with a lot more flexibility! So now it’s a mixture. I still cut out shapes and paint flats of color…but now I assemble everything digitally. And I think my straight-up vector work (which some clients want) got a lot better.
TTP: Are the TTP pieces all from this technique/mix of techniques?
Amy: Uh lemme check…Dressy is the old paint-only method. The rest are a mix. With three of them I was experimenting with other stuff, like in Big Shoulders with a monoprinted background, Emerald City is a pen and ink background.
TTP: Mary Mack is suuuuuuuuuper not flat.
Amy: No, the background is some texture I photographed on the ground or something, and the drawing in the background is vector, and she’s drawn in Illustrator (vector) and then drawn on top of in Photoshop. The bag might be drawn with pencil then scanned in and messed around with in Photoshop. Yeah it’s really just a mix.
TTP: But it’s all much more sort of involved than the old process? More tinkering?
Amy: I guess so, the other method I had been doing for so long I had down pat. And it was all very segregated: I came up with the composition and shapes, then turned off that part of my brain to cut the stencil, then turned that off to focus on color. Now I kind of do it all simultaneously. To be honest I feel as if I’m still working out this new process.
TTP: What about subject matter? Do you see that as having developed as much as the technique/process?
Amy: Oh, I never really thought of that. I guess it’s about people, that’s what I care about, the shapes of people and their clothes. When I was in undergrad I used to get in trouble for using clothing catalogs as reference. I love advertising!
TTP: Really? I thought *everyone* looked through the giant Vogues and such.
Amy: I went to undergrad in the still-lingering days of abstract expressionism – all my profs had been abstract expressionist painter – and I was figurative. I was “criticized” for my work being too “illustrative.” But my heroes at the time were Wayne Thiebaud and Alex Katz, and Ed Ruscha’s gas stations and Munch’s prints and Robert Longo – have you seen his stuff? Awesome big drawings of people looking like they’re falling, or dancing. Life size.
TTP: Yes yes – never seen one in person though.
Amy: I saw one in person! Awesome!
TTP: Like, blank backgrounds? Like the Mad Men opening credits.
Amy: Yeah, just graphite on paper. Love that opening credit animation by the way. I’m currently teaching myself animation -
Amy: Yeah I want to make my images move. I have two “tests” up on Vimeo now, but it takes time and I’m so busy, it so often takes the back burner to work.
TTP: What about gifs – have you messed around with them at all?
Amy: Funny I’m working on one now! but mostly using After Effects with lots of mentoring from Zina Saunders (she’s my
TTP: It’s different if there’s a story or narrative vs. the sort of “illustrative animation” that you see with fashion or such.
Amy: Exactly, I don’t want to do regular old animation by the way, my work is more “documentary” or non-fiction you could say than telling a story
TTP: Right although that’s tricky because there are always stories.
Amy: True. It’s just that I don’t deny being very interested in the aesthetic of the thing and leave the rest open to interpretation.
TTP: Yeah. And you’re still teaching or no?
Amy: I teach a class here and there at SAIC.
TTP: Hence so busy.
Amy: Busy because of illustration jobs. Teaching is just every so often.
TTP: But that’s a good thing!
Amy: Oh yes, definitely! I just didn’t want you to think that I was busy because of teaching. That’s just for fun. I don’t want to give up my career to teach quite just yet!
TTP: Ha! This was really fun Amy I appreciate it.
Amy: This was much more fun that I thought it would be. Thanks!
TTP: Thank YOU. Talk soon.
See Amy’s entire initial collection over here at her Thumbtack Press artist page.