Although Darling's work as a professional illustrator is often
inspired by Jens Lekman,
and the other bands he creates artwork for, he wouldn’t call himself a musician. While growing up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, there was a famous pianist who lived in his neighborhood. Although he would often mow her lawn in exchange for piano lessons, Christopher soon traded his sheet music in for fountain pens, moved to New York City, and the rest is history.
Green Light Go was able to tear Christopher Darling away from his drawing table long enough to tell us what it's like to be on the Other Side:
Green Light Go: How did you get started as a professional illustrator? Was there a defining moment that inspired you to work in this field, or was this career path always in the cards?
Christopher Darling: I earned my Bachelor's degree in Fine Art and Creative Writing at Western Michigan University. When I graduated, the creative job field and the employment rate in the state of Michigan was pretty awful. I had a friend in Kalamazoo who was a flavor chemist at A.M. Todd, which is a large company that produces mint and flavors of candy. I ended up illustrating new concept candy products for A.M. Todd, which turned me on to illustration. Later, I ordered a book on illustration written by Marshal Arisman and loved it. I wrote Arisman a letter and ended up earning an MFA in Illustration under his direction at the School of Visual Arts in New York.
GLG: Over the years you’ve created artwork for bands like Cake. How did you get involved in designing art for musicians and who are you currently working with [or would like to work with moving forward]?
CD: I have always tried to encourage other artists, writers, and musicians, including those I look up to. I believe that having a community is crucial in the art and music world, so I send emails to people whose work I like. A while back, I sent an email to Cake frontman John McCrea, to tell him how much I love his songwriting. He asked me if I wanted to do some artwork for the band. John and I still keep in touch, knowing him has been really encouraging. Currently, I’m working on a series of Robert Johnson drawings for Sony Music. Sony owns Johnson's original recordings, so my drawings will be animated to tell the story of his life and the Blues. I have been talking with Jens Lekman about doing some artwork as well, so we’ll see. I’ve always wanted to do artwork for The Sea and Cake (I must really like cake).
GLG: What tools do you use to create your illustrations and what is your creative process like?
CD: Generally, I use pen and ink, but I'll also use Photoshop once in a while. I like to mix it up occasionally and make a print or a collage...my style really depends on the parameters of the project. I like to begin drawing on inexpensive computer paper, I have stacks of it everywhere. That initial child-like attempt is really important to me; it is an energy I always want to have present.
GLG: Where do you find inspiration for your art?
CD: I find a lot of inspiration in people. I love watching people on the subway. I like to see what kind of shoes they have on, how they wear their clothes, and what kind of music they listen to. I love culture and humor as well.
GLG: From an artist’s point of view, how do you know that you are a good match for a band? What things do you have to keep in mind before agreeing to create art for a musician?
CD: I think having similar interests and sensibilities is important. The art should compliment or reflect the creative spirit of the music (or vise versa). Before agreeing to do artwork for a band, it is important to discuss a budget, a contract, or talk about what type of art direction will be involved, whether that direction comes from the label, a manager, or a member of the band.
GLG: What are the most rewarding and challenging things about being an artist?
CD: Balancing things such as relationships, money, and my ego.
The Other Side highlights the talented folks behind the scenes of the music we listen to. The Other Side features producers, engineers, booking agents, photographers, radio DJs, management teams, and label representatives.
This week’s The Other Side is brought to you by: Lauren Roberts