Lately we’ve been interviewing designers whose work we really admire, and today I’m really excited to publish an interview with designer and illustrator Blake Suarez. He was kind enough to agree to be interviewed about where he gets his inspiration from, his approach to starting new projects and his advice on the importance of stepping away from the screen. Thanks for being on the blog Blake!
Can you give a bit of a background as to how you got started as a designer?
It was pretty gradual. I’m sure all designers started drawing pretty young, as did I, but I slowly recognized I could make a living off of design right before college, which made me quickly realize I couldn’t sit in those big auditoriums. I mean I could, but I wasn’t paying any attention… so I swapped majors. From Organic chem and physical oceanography to art research and practice. I started freelancing around the same time when a close friend connected me with Warner Music. They had me illustrate some merchandise for Wiz Khalifa and Bruno Mars, which spurred a couple more jobs to get me started.
Where do you get your inspiration from, and which other designers work do you admire?
I need as much time away from the computer as possible. I started oystering with a friend who was harvesting off the Stono River in Charleston; Cyrus Buffum started up Seaborn Oyster Company and I immediately wanted in. It sounded like the perfect situation: being outside and something a little more physically demanding. Most of the time on the water we’ve got four hours of harvesting where you just walk, cull, and think, which gives me a lot of time to refresh and sit (or mostly not sit) with ideas. On top of that, I don’t think anything is more inspiring than nature. I could sit for hours watching oystercatchers interact with the pelicans on the oyster reef.
If you had to pick favourites, which of your designs do you like best?
That’s tough because a lot of them mean something to me. A lot of the brands I work for are mom and pop shops in town and I’ve developed wonderful relationships with these people, which makes me look back on the work pretty fondly. If I had to pick… I started illustrating posters for Leon’s Oyster Shop this year. It’s a restaurant in Charleston and the owner has given me a ton of freedom to draw and design whatever I feel like drawing, so that has been a wonderful outlet to experiment with.
What’s your process when you start a new project? Do you plan things out methodically or do you start sketching straight away?
I start sketching immediately, either loosely in a moleskine or right onto the computer. I usually have an idea of how I’d like something to work and then I hope it works when I start pushing the pieces together. If that doesn’t work, I usually need to step away for a while and meditate on the project some more.
Who would your dream client be?
Anyone with an environmental agenda or conservation objective. I’m dumbfounded by the number of people and companies that take this planet for granted. The ones working against those people are my heroes, and I want to work for them. I did some work for Patagonia right after college and would love to create some shirts with them again. Our local aquarium in Charleston also does a wonderful job giving back to mother nature and has a fantastic sea turtle rehabilitation center. They would be wonderful to work with!
What tips would you give to someone looking to get into design?
Remember to step away. When something doesn’t come to me, I go for a walk or sit outside in the hammock and geek out on birds. I just bought a book featuring almost every bird native to South Carolina and each one has about three pages worth of content to mull over. Give your mind a break to chill… or keep it stimulated with something other than screen time, like low-key ornithology.