Russell King is one of those creatives who picks up a pencil and creates a masterpiece then picks up a camera to take a stunning landscape photo. A recent graduate, and already with skills to envy, Russell shares an insight into his creative work and the challenges of your first year out of uni.
How long have you been drawing, and what sparked your interest?
I have been drawing since I can remember. One of my earliest memories was drawing in kindergarten. We were all drawing the same basic image of some birds near a tree, but mine happened to catch the eye of my teacher who asked if I would see the principal and show him my work. I believe creativity is not just about talent and practise, but also about a genuine love for your work, and an eagerness to please others with it. That was certainly what helped me in the beginning, and I think the positive response my drawings had was what really sparked my interest. After being recognised for my ability to draw I would always be scribbling away. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but now I can appreciate how much it has helped in the long run. I would draw anything from cartoon lizards to, what I hoped were, realistic trees and landscapes. This is the case with my drawings today; they are often very erratic and don’t make sense to a lot of people.
What tools do you use when creating?
Admittedly, I am one of those people that get excited when I walk down a stationary isle in the shops. Any equipment that helps me create something makes me eager to do so. It’s hard for me to resist scribbling on anything I can get my hands on when I’m holding a pen or pencil, so it’s quite surprising I haven’t wound up as a graffiti artist.
My digital workspace currently consists of a Mac Pro, Wacom Cintiq 24HD, and a Canon 5D Mark III. These tools help me to achieve professional results most of the time, but more importantly, I find them especially enjoyable to work with. I think that should be the focus for anyone working in creative industries. It’s the enjoyment that keeps you going. Money should never be what stops you from enjoying the production of your work. When it comes to drawing or painting on paper, however, I could be given anything and be happy. I often sketch with ballpoint pens, markers, and lead pencils, and paint with watercolour or acrylics.
Beyond your illustration, you are also an amazing photographer. What started your passion for photography?
I almost wish I had never picked up photography, because it has made my career choices even harder to make! I enjoy it so much and would love to pursue it further. It wasn’t until first year at uni that I really gave photography a chance. Photography is one of those things that the general public seem to take for granted, and I was no different. I assumed it was no more than a point-and-shoot procedure.
Unlike the other subjects I took first year, photo media didn’t come very easily to me or my classmates. We thought we had nailed the projects, only to receive average results. Beyond taking a nice photo, it started to become about framing, composition, lighting, and depth. However, once we had learnt these technicalities, we then realised that it was all a part of a much bigger picture: communication. I think it was the challenge that drove me to love photography. It was a creative field that I had not explored and not appreciated, and when I realised I was no good at it, I had to improve.
How does your creative process differ when working on illustration vs photography?
Illustration is a lot more versatile for me. My creative processes vary so much within that one field on its own. If I’m drawing something realistic, I’m so careful and precise. I hate the act of erasing something I’ve drawn, so I try to just get it right the first time. But if I’m just drawing concept art or scribbling, it’s a very instinctual practice. My hand seems to know where to go before my mind knows where to put it. Very rarely will I have to pause and think when I’m sketching. This is the major difference between illustration and photography for me.
Photography is all about the pauses; the moments where I’ll sit and take in what I’m capturing. Time is the most valuable aspect in photography. You don’t always have the time to spare, so you have to just grab what you can while you’ve got it. But my favourite photographs are nearly always produced when I’ve had a chance to really explore my subject, whether it be a landscape, product, or people.
What inspires you when you are working on something?
Inspiration comes from so many places for me. A simple rock can send my imagination running wild. But when I am in a situation where I need to produce work on demand, I would say music is a big help. Music brings out a lot in me when I’m creating something. I get more immersed in what I’m doing, while still enjoying the music I’m listening to. Lately it’s been mainly electronic or atmospheric music that gets me inspired, but it varies a lot. I’m also fortunate enough to have a lot of creative friends to surround myself with. We all support each other’s work and genuinely appreciate what each person creates.
What has been the biggest challenge in wanting to pursue a creative career?
While surrounding myself with such creativity is fantastic for my own enjoyment and inspiration, I suffer from an inability to narrow my focus to one creative field. This means that I spread my small amount of free time dipping my toes into a bunch of them and not knowing where to go from there. I get caught up in the work of others so much that I forget to take the time to appreciate and commit to my own work.
Time seems to move especially quickly when you’re wasting it, so I am now being more productive with my free time and working towards establishing a strong folio of work. I am still on the journey to fully pursue a career in one of my chosen fields, but I look forward to the challenge.
What is next for you?
At the moment I am working on a few different portfolios for different fields, primarily focusing on illustration/concept art, but also producing more work in photography and graphic design. I have recently begun working on some self-branding for a possible business venture which would, ideally, blend some of the creative fields I wish to work in. There are probably too many options for me right now but I just need to commit to something and go for it.