Lindgren & Smith

Interview: What Makes Robert Rodriguez Tick.

Robert Rodriguez is an award winning artist with some pretty high profile assignments to his credit. With five gold and four silver medals, two Patrick Nagel Awards from SILA, the Hollywood Reporter Key Arts Award and others from around the country, the award he might consider to be the one that makes him most proud is the Great Teacher Award from Art Center. That's the only endorsement we need!

Some of Robert's high profile clients include the NFL, USPS, 3M Tape, Ringling Bros. Circus, Quaker Oats, and posters for Boardwalk Empire on HBO, The Two Jakes, The Jewel of the Nile, and City Slickers II in movies, and Lend Me A Tenor, Anything Goes, and Sister Act on Broadway to name just a few. He is exceptionally gifted and talented and as a result stays very busy. Just take a look at a bit of what he does best below and read on to find out more interesting tidbits about Robert. You can view more of Robert's work here.

Hi Robert, 
Thanks for taking some time to answer our questions and giving us a glimpse into your day.
So let’s begin with the really important stuff. How do you start your day? A jolt of coffee? A soothing cup of tea? Or a mad dash to that can of soda?
Starting my day would have to include the coffee idea, but from then on I’d have to go with Dr. Pepper. Lately I’ve been very into coffee and chicory, and beignets whenever possible, but when you’re doing it at home, you have to sacrifice some things.

Speaking of starting your day, describe what your typical day looks like?
Wake up between 10:00 and noon, answer any email, return phone calls (you miss a lot when you sleep late), have breakfast in the little courtyard with a coffee, then start working, usually making revisions on the project I delivered at 5:00am that morning, then work on the new project.
Since my house is being remodeled, I usually have to make several trips to the hardware store, and help with construction suggestions.  It gets a little noisy around here until everybody finishes for the day.  Then I have dinner and really get to work until 5:00am when I go to sleep.

Can you describe for our readers where you get your creative inspiration?
Honestly, everywhere. It often happens that I catch a quick glimpse of something while flipping through a magazine, driving down the street, looking at things online...and I think, “That was amazing. What was it?”  So I go back to look at it more closely, or blow up the image to see what it was, and it often happens that it wasn’t anything. But something about the abstract composition or colors or whatever made me think I saw something great, and that inspired an image that I then feel is mine to create, because I misinterpreted what I saw and came up with something better.
I also wish I could record the images I see just as I am falling asleep. If I could successfully paint those, my work would be in all the best museums!

How well do you work with clients, and any hints on the best methods?
I actually think I work and play well with others. The very best projects are the ones where the client tells me what they want, I give them my design, they suggest some small revisions, I talk it over with them as to why it is a great suggestion or what concerns I have about the impact it will have on the piece as a whole. They listen to me and consider what I have said. We discuss and address their concerns, decide which thing to rework and the collaboration usually evolves into a very strong piece.

What was your favorite project and why?
One of my favorite pieces was the Tenth Anniversary poster for “Tales of the Cocktail”. Since I do this poster every year, I try to do each year in a different style. This particular year the theme was Aged Well, so I was trying to show things that get better with age.  The event is held in New Orleans and centered on the Hotel Monteleone.  I took my inspiration from a bas-relief carving over the entrance.  I worked in a Beaux-Arts style, done digitally in Photoshop.  Keeping in mind the history and symbols for tenth anniversary celebrations, classical mythology and the various cocktails represented, I wanted to make it look like something that had aged well between the Belle Epoch and the present day.
Robert Rodriguez illustration for Tales of the Cocktail Poster

What’s your preference? Traditional media or digital?
For illustration, definitely digital! As nice as it is to have an original to frame, it is such a lifesaver to be able to make changes on demand.... for me as well as my clients. Revisions are 3/4 of my workload, usually because clients often don’t know what they really want until they see it, so digital is the only way for illustration. Digital even works for fine art. I was doing an oil painting for a gallery, and I found myself photographing it, scanning it into the computer and trying different colors before I committed it to actual paint.

If you have an entire day of free time, what would we catch you doing?
With one day of free time, I would be catching up on all the other projects I’ve wanted to do.  But with a month of free we’re talking.  I’d be traveling!

Book or nook?
Book, of course.  You can’t see the pictures as well with digital stuff. 

Rock or Opera?
Rock, of course.  Or, Country-Western - Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Dwight Yoakam. For Blues - Elmore James, Brooks Berry and Scrapper Blackwell, Muddy Waters. Traditional Folk Music - Fairport Convention, Pentangle, Mary MacCaslin, and Jim Ringer.

In a parallel universe, what would you be doing instead of illustrating?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be an archaeologist until I found out that most archaeologists work in the hottest parts of the world with all the mosquitos!  Then of course if I had the skill, who wouldn’t want to be a musician?

Proudest moment?
Seriously, when my kids were born and every time they do something amazing.  With regard to art?  Every time I finish a piece that I truly like.  Better than winning awards even.  Or when an old student tells me I was the reason they went to Art Center.  That’s a pretty nice moment.

Anyone you would like to give a shout out to who has had an impact on where you are either personally or professionally?
Several people definitely - Peter Palombi for teaching me how to be a professional illustrator and to always work to do better than the last piece you did; Ken Dallison, Wilson McLean, and J.C. Leyendecker for teaching me the importance of design and composition and for the inspiration; and to Dallison and McLean, I want to thank them for lending me their styles for a few years while I was learning.

And lastly, what is the one single best piece of advice you can give for an up and coming illustrator or designer?
Don’t do it unless you really love it, and probably more importantly, do not wait until you feel you are “good enough” to try to get started. You will never be good enough, so just go for it as soon as you have five portfolio pieces that are the best you can do, and the minute you think you are good enough you are finished. You should always try to be better. That is what makes art exciting.

Robert Rodriguez Illustration Oyster Riot

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