We recently had the chance to chat with illustrator Shaun Tull of Love Hue Too to discuss his creative practice, illustrative techniques and the future of Shaun Tull
Hi Shaun! Firstly, can you tell me a little about yourself, where you’re from, where and what you studied, and what you are up to now?
I’m an artist from a pretty small place called Pensacola, Florida. It’s a town known more for its sports bars than art and design, but it’s home for me. I studied graphic design at Pensacola State College. Earning a degree in design gave me a good foundation on graphic communication, but after spending time in industry, I realized my passion for drawing overshadowed my passion for design.
Currently, I’m transitioning from a career in graphic design to focus on other passions of mine.
By day I’m a merchandiser for a floral company and by night I’m an illustrator.
What initially got you on the path to becoming an illustrator? Has art and design always been a part of your life, or was there something else before that you wanted to do?
I’ve always known I wanted to be an artist. That’s never changed. Art’s been with me since childhood and I just don’t think I could function without it. That or at least seeing the work of others in books and museums.
I grew up as an only child, so most of my early years meant spending time by myself either watching cartoons or being in my room with just my thoughts to keep me company. That hasn’t changed much, ironically. I think that’s where the need to draw came from. I guess it gave me a chance to rearrange reality, or at least a fictional one more interesting than my own.
I didn't discover design until later on.
Your works are heavily inspired by fashion. When did your interest in fashion begin and who are some of your favourite fashion illustrators?
That came from seeing fashion ads in magazines. In high school, I spent most of my time after class at Barnes & Noble looking for art. It didn’t matter what genre, medium or era. I stayed in the art section for the most part, but one day I started browsing the magazines. That’s where I found fashion photography and design.
Looking back, it might have been an unhealthy addiction but I would spend hours flipping page after page in fashion editorials. I didn’t know what this thing called fashion was, but I was hungry for more of it. The colors, glossy paper, bold typography and layout of products were very seductive for me, I think. Everything just had a luster to it.
My favorite fashion illustrators are Tamara de Lempicka and René Gruau. I didn’t know fashion could be expressed as a drawing or painting until I saw their work.
Would you ever consider diversifying into fashion design? Do you have any interest in designing your own garments/accessories?
I’ve thought about that before. I don’t have formal training in fashion design, but I do like illustrating ideas for fashion. I don’t think I’m a garment designer, but I do have an interest in drawing out ideas for jewelry and accessories. Anything’s possible, they say. Maybe that’s something for the future.
Outside of fashion, what else provides you with inspiration for your work?
I’m drawn to old sayings, inspirational quotes, puns and corny jokes. Sometimes I’m searching for those things online when I need a laugh or advice, and then an idea comes to me. I’m also taken by things I see everyday in nature, architecture, toys and home goods. I’m a hodge-podge of interests most of the time.
Oh, and ‘happy accidents’ are the best inspiration. Sometimes a wrong click in Photoshop can lead to an entirely new piece.
Your work has a really distinct style, can you talk a little more around your creative process and the software and techniques you use?
I use Photoshop and a Wacom Bamboo tablet for painting, but I always illustrate on paper first. The lines on paper set the backdrop for the entire process. In school, I felt pressure to make art directly in Photoshop like the seasoned students, but it never worked for me.
It all starts on paper. About 80% of the drawing must be done on paper first (if not entirely), then the rest can be improvised in Photoshop. I enjoy the program, but I only think of it as icing on the cake, not the batter.
After drawing, I scan the final image into Photoshop for coloring. I use standard paint brushes, nothing fancy or custom. Digitally, I try to imitate how I worked as an oil painter years back. An image can take from 2 days to nearly a week to finish, depending on how much love it needs. By the time the work is done it’s not just an image that’s formed, but an entire relationship between me and the art. Somewhat corny, but that’s how my pseudonym Lovehuetoo came about.
As a commercial illustrator, do you think that it’s important to have a strong and recognisable aesthetic?
I think it could be a good thing. I’m just one of countless thoughts on illustration, but I do think it can be helpful to have artwork that has a family resemblance.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in becoming an illustrator and designer, and how have you overcome them?
Keeping up with new software and deadlines have been hurdles for me, but the biggest is being accepted as a digital illustrator. I think there's a bias traditional and digital artists may have towards each other, and it baffles me. One medium isn’t more valid than the other. It’s all for the sake of creating art.
I think painter Marc Chagall said it best: “ All colors are the friends of their neighbors and the lovers of their opposites.”
What’s on the horizon for Shaun Tull? Are you working on any new projects you can share with us?
Right now I'm focussing on creating more content and showing my artistic point of view in its truest form. I’m exploring a part of me that I left behind years ago, and it feels really nice. Now I’m incorporating my love of nature back into my work. This is an ongoing journey and only time will tell what’s next.
What is one piece of advice would you give to someone who is looking to enter the world of commercial art and design?
Be your authentic self. Looking back at the work I’ve done in the past, I feel nothing. It’s almost as if I didn’t create it. I wasn’t honest with myself about the things I liked to draw, but now I’m living in truth as an illustrator. It’s okay to be a guy who likes flowers.
Thank you for your time, Shaun!
Head to lovehuetoo.com to view of Shaun's works.