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Michael Robertson Updated

December 12, 2022

I last featured the work of Illustrator Michael Robertson back in 2011. Since following one another on Instagram for the last couple of years, I thought it was a good time for an update and so fired a few questions over to Cleveland USA to discover a little more about the artist himself.

Hi Michael, at what age did you first get interested in Art and did you get encouragement by anyone in particular (family, teacher etc) ?
Craig hi there, I have been interested in art for as long as I can remember. I think my mom recognized my talent very early on because she saved one of my first drawings that I did when I was only 2 years old. She thought that out of all her kid’s early artwork, there was just something special about my little drawing of a dalmatian.

How did your style develop into a midcentury one, who are your major influences design wise ?
When I was a child, I would wake up very early on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons. Back then, there was no streaming or internet so if you wanted to watch cartoons, getting up early was the only option! I was particularly interested in the cartoons that had that “modern” feel, such as Loony Tunes, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Pink Panther, The Jetsons and many other Hanna Barbera cartoons that had that quirky drawing style. I also have been an avid collector of mid century art, design and furniture, which has certainly influenced my style. I spend most of my free time combing thrift stores, flea markets and antique shops looking for modern treasures,  including old childrens’ books from the mid century era. Some of my favorite illustrators from the past include Mary Blair, Alice and Martin Provensen, Jim Flora, Helen Borten, Abner Graboff, Paul Rand, Bernice Myers, Leonard Weisgard, to name just a few. I could go on and on!

I see that you worked as a game and toy designer before becoming an illustrator. What prompted the shift in career and how much did that previous training help you become the artist you are today ?
I graduated from college with a degree in painting, but finding profitable work proved difficult until I stumbled into character and toy design at a company called Those Characters from Cleveland. There, I worked on developing characters for licensing as well as developing toy concepts. Some of the toys I was lucky enough to have a hand in have become classics from that era, including My Pet Monster, Popples, Nosey Bears and Madballs. Although I did enjoy toy and character design, I was a bit frustrated that I was never able to produce any finished illustration art. Since I was developing concepts, all my presentation art was done strictly in pencil or markers!

What do you most / least enjoy about working as an illustrator in 2020 ?
Obviously, the pandemic has affected businesses all over the world and I’m certainly feeling the ramifications as well. I’m feeling optimistic that things will eventually turn around and 2021 will be a better year for everyone.

In which direction would you most like your work to follow and why ?
I would like to push my style and make my work a bit edgier, yet still remaining approachable. I would also love to learn some simple animation programs so that I can really bring my characters to life.

Here you can compare Michael’s early sketch to the finished artwork. The additional detail and subtle fine tuning makes the second illustration ‘POP’ !

Are there any market areas you would still like to make a mark in (computer games, books, stationary etc ) ?
Not really, I think I’ve touched on most aspects of publishing- book and magazine illustration, stationary, greeting cards, toys, games, puzzles, wrapping paper, stickers. One thing I am trying is writing and illustrating my own books. I did a lot of writing for fun in the past but never really pursued it. I am currently working on a couple of new ideas that I’m very excited about. The first one is done as far as the writing end, I just have to start the illustration part and hopefully find a publisher.

Which contemporary artists do you most admire ?
There are so many amazing and talented artists and illustrators that I admire. Some that immediately come to mind are Peter Emmerich, Joey Chou, Riccardo Guasco, Chris Sasaki, Johnny Yanok, Satoshi Hashimo, Steven Millington, again, I could go on and on.

What would be an ideal freelance brief for you ?
The jobs that I get that allow the greatest amount of creative freedom are always my favorite kind. I like to get jobs that are challenging. 

Here are a few rough idea sheets and sketchbook pages to show how Michael’s ideas develop.

What advice would you give to someone who is looking to start their career as an illustrator today ?
I would say that one of the most important things is to develop a style that is uniquely your own. Take in inspiration from everything you see. Art, design, nature, film, music-everything you take in influences the way you see things and will help to develop your style. Study other artists, both past and present. Concentrate on what you like. If you love dogs, draw dogs. If you love cars, draw cars. Always carry a sketchbook with you and draw whenever you can. Be yourself, but also be open to advice from others. As an illustrator, you will have to work with art directors who have their own ideas and you will have to be flexible and easy to work with.

Great Advice Michael and thanks again for appearing on Fishinkblog today, It’s been fab having you drop by. You can see more of Michael’s work here.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Sarah kenyon Nygaard permalink
    December 17, 2022 4:06 pm

    I absolutely adore Michael’s mid century style! The silly exuberance of the style is so full of fun. I remember the album covers of my parents jazz records that had that feel and just staring at them and marveling at how they captured the mood and energy of the music. Michaels work with the use of color, simple geometric shape and whimsical expression are so full of life!

    • December 17, 2022 4:16 pm

      Thanks Sarah. I agree re the Jazz covers and I have also compiled posts on those if you quickly search on my site for that : )

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