Canadian Illustrator Sean Lewis
Sharing tips, talking about local community and working with brushed ink.
Interview by Hugo Ross
Illustration by Sean Lewis
Feb 16, 2019
VM: Where did you study?
SL: I went to OCADU for illustration (Ontario College of Art and Design University). It’s an awkward name because the school is better known as the acronym, so they kept college and tacked on University to confuse everyone.
VM: What are your favourite tools for producing non-digital work?
SL: Right now I’m enjoying the immediacy of brushed ink. I like having an inconsistent line and building texture with a dry brush.
VM: Can you teach us any quick tips for the digital programs you use?
Micah Lidberg taught me a great setup for a working colour separation file. This is helpful for spot printing, risograph or screen printing. If you’re working digitally, this is a great working process:
In photoshop, make a Group for every colour you are going to use.
Set each Group to MULTIPLY, this allows you to see how each colour will overlay once printed.
In each Group create 3 Layers. Fill the top layer with a colour of your choice. Set that layer to SCREEN in the blending mode menu.
Fill the bottom layer with white.
In the middle layer, start drawing with a black line. All black marks will display in the colour of the fill layer above it.
Now you have a working file with colour separation!
VM: What are your favourite ways to collaborate?
I love working with people who have different skill sets than me. I have friends who are amazing animators, printers, book makers and they see the possibilities in a way that I don’t. Seeing them take your work and elevate it beyond your own limitations is so gratifying.
VM: How do you seek inspiration and how do you document it?
SL: Conversations, nature, books, movies, games all trigger parts of my brain and give me jumping off points for ideas and imagery.
I have to admit I’m bad at writing things down. I hang on for dear life to the things in my head and hope it sticks around until I’m in front of my desk. Making a point of carrying a little book to capture fleeting ideas would be smarter of me.
VM: What is over the horizon / What is your next project?
I’m working on a comic of short stories, all based around the community where my cottage is situated. I’m lucky to have grown up with one but it’s not the idyllic, lakefront cabin you might imagine. It’s run down and in the middle of an economically depressed village, mostly filled with retirees.
We’ve made great memories there but it’s a strange place. Funny characters live there, and it sits by Lake Eerie which is pretty polluted. The beach is dominated by a giant, decommissioned coal power plant which used to be the biggest polluter in Canada.
Each story is from a different point of view and based off memories and experiences my family has had there.
VM: How long do you work / talk us through your working day!
SL: I work a 9-5, 10-6 sort of schedule. I worked at a VFX studio for a couple of years and that beat me into a regular work week, and I'm more productive because of it.
I take a 20 minute bike ride to my parents' place and work out of my old bedroom that I've set up as a workspace. Toronto is a really expensive city, and a studio is out of reach for me, but I’m very lucky to have my parents here. My Dad is a painter and works at the back of the house so the vibe is creative and communal. There are also two pugs I get to share my lunch break with.
A couple days a week I teach life drawing at my old University.
VM: What do you do to remedy writers/designers block - (hobbies, sports or activities?)
SL: Never thought I’d be this person but I go to the gym and do strength training with friends. I enjoy it a lot and exercise can turn a bad day around for me. More than anything, it’s done a lot to relieve anxiety, I’m at a point where I feel “off” if I haven’t gone consistently.
I’ve also realized that I enjoy cooking and making food for people. Otherwise, being outside, biking, hiking and camping are things that help unstick my brain.
VM: Thanks Sean - a pleasure chatting!