We Chat With Artist Paul Ainsworth

When did you first realize you had a talent and passion for art and what drew you to it?

I first realized my passion and talent for art when I realized that I hated reading. Ha!ha! As a child, I loved drawing and enjoyed reading books that had a higher percentage of images than actual words.

My mother would get me into these book clubs and reading wouldn’t stick until she got me my first comic book. I finally started reading but I’d be amazed at the artwork. I’d copy what I saw and eventually started creating my own characters and plots. My parents have always been very supportive of my talents. If I showed interest and dedication to anything, they were behind me 100%. It wasn’t until friends of mine would tell me how cool my drawings were that I knew I had a knack for it. My brother has always been a big fan of my work. When he’d show his friends my work, I knew I had done something cool. My brother and I would even have drawing competitions on family trips. We’d always get a huge laugh out of it. Most of time we were making fun of each other or our parents.

Did you get a formal art education, and if so where did you go and how do you feel it shaped you as an artist?

When I was in grade 10, I was heavily into reading comics. I was a huge fan of Greg Capullo who at the time was the lead pencil artist for Spawn while McFarlane worked at creating his empire. I found out Mr.Capullo was signing at a comic book convention in Toronto during my summer holidays. My family drove 8 hours down to Toronto to visit family and I took one afternoon to get a couple of comics signed. After an hour waiting in line, I finally got to meet him. I didn’t have time for a long conversation, but I asked him: “Do you think people should go to school to be illustrators or in comics?” I was standing there beside my father who just retired recently as a Director of Education and Greg replied by saying: “Nah… You don’t need any of that shit. If you’re good, you’re good. Somebody will find you.” Obviously that didn’t sit well with my father. Regardless of Greg’s advice, I ended up graduating from the Ontario College of Art & Design in Toronto with an emphasis on Illustration from the Design department. I really do believe that my education made a huge impact on how I draw and how I design. I got to see some amazing artists and designers come out of my graduating class and I’ve always been an observing learner. Most of my instructors were very approachable and helpful to cultivate each person’s talents. All the instructors were working illustrators and designers while they taught so we had great people to look up to. They’d even miss classes because they had meetings with clients. It was all very exciting.

Now you are both an illustrator and graphic designer. Do you have more love for one over the other and how does being both benefit or hinder you?

I’ll always have more love for illustration because it’s something that I created. I didn’t need a mouse to be creative. All I needed was a sharp pencil and some paper. When I was kid, I used to have a bin of old photocopies my dad would bring home from work so that I could draw on the backs of them. I still have most of them.

I think developing my graphic designer brain was more of an economic benefit. Most of the illustrators that I’ve graduated with were hit by this graphics boom and our minds had to become electronic because A. We didn’t land an agent that had the time to go door to door with our portfolios Or B. We couldn’t afford to spend time drawing and painting while the rent needed to get paid. Only a hand full of illustrators would go on to solely do freelance illustration and be successful at it. I had some early success with illustration but found that my electronic style was more sustainable than my editorial style. So I started learning more and more about Adobe products. Some designers out there think that being a jack-of-all-trades is a bad thing. I disagree. It’s like getting your PHD, the more you know the better. I still have a lot to learn and each day I get better at something else that keeps me needed by clients. I’m even now messing with After Effects which takes some work off of my Creative Directors hands.

Are you an artist that needs to be in a particular mood when creating, or can you just design at any time?

I really have to be in a good mood. I procrastinate and sometimes work a lot better in tight situations, but my mood has to be in check. I feel that if I’m in a terrible mood, I tend to forget how to draw and that really gets me pissed. It’s like that dream you always have when you’re running or my case skating (I’m a hockey player) really fast and everyone is passing you with ease. Artistically speaking, if I can’t draw a hand in a certain angle or contortion, you might hear some grunts and sighs. But that’s when I leave the desk and find something other than drawing to do. During my college days in my apartment you’d find little marks all over the walls due to me flinging pencils and crayons in frustration. But that’s when I would do all nighters for projects I had weeks to do them in.

But yes, music, a clean organized environment and a full stomach all lead to a great creative mood.

I’m really digging the your new website layout. Do you do web design as well?

I actually only designed the elements of my website. I just have to give a plug to www.bigblackbag.com who programmed the template. They give you the entire programming framework and you just need to fill in the design and content elements. It’s a quick fix to what I needed at the time and I was really happy with how it came out. One of these days I’ll get into a custom site.

At my day job I have done some web design but not much. I can only do front-end work. I don’t do programming. I think the only real html work I’ve done was back in the Geocities days. I think my site had Comic Sans on it haha! You graphics geeks will know what I’m talking about. I can dabble in Flash but nowhere close to some flash folk out there.

What has been your favorite piece that you have done and what did you like most about it?

The one I got most excited about (excuse my name dropping) was this piece I did for Tony Hawk Skateboard Clothing. I was young and naïve at that time and really needed rent money. I was also fresh out of college. So I would submit work and if they liked it, they would pay for it. That didn’t mean they would use it, and there were no royalties, no usage fees, no nothing, just a small payment for my hard work. Eventually they would tell me that one design would be used in their clothing line. I was so pumped to see it reproduced but they didn’t sell them in Canada. I had to get HR to send me one. A number of months later, Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4 for Playstation came out. Walking home from my retail job, I decided to spend a quarter of my paycheck on the game. After turning it on, I went to the option of choosing a skater to play as. At this point my jaw dropped. Tony himself was wearing my design on his Video game T-shirt. I was initially totally stoked and called my mom up. My mother being the money savvy lady that she is eventually asked me: “Shouldn’t you be paid for that?” then I sobered up on reality and yea, I should have been paid for it. Live and learn I guess. But the Hawk fellas were good to me. They kept giving me work and it got my foot in the door with different projects after that.

Who are some artists that inspired you or that you looked up to over the years?

Like I mentioned before, I’ve always enjoyed Greg Cappullo’s pencils, Todd McFarlane’s work and Alex Ross’s work amazes me. Frank Miller’s usage of shadows has been a huge influence in my black and white work. Recently though, I’ve been really keeping up with a lot of designers and illustrators on your site, forum boards and on Twitter. Rob Dobi, Hyrdo74, Pale Horse, Godmachine, Kyle Crawford at EZ, Maxx242, OG Abel, Shepard Fairey are some of the recent guys that have made me really excited to be an illustrator.

What is the most rewarding part about being an artist?

You get to go to sleep knowing that you’re being fed by something you’ve been passionate about… something you really worked at and developed. I look at the house my girlfriend and I bought and the two of us know that we couldn’t have done this working shift work in retail or in restaurants. Sure it’s not smooth sailing all the time, but we’re proud of ourselves and we work hard at it. She works in the fashion industry so she understands how my passion drives me.

One particular rewarding time that really got to me though was when my sister (who’s a teacher) asked me to do a show and give her kids a little tutorial if we had time. There was a child with autism in her class who had a helper. The helper told me after my little tutorial on drawing that he’s never seen this student so interested and excited about something before. When art can dive into someone’s psyche so deep that you get a breakthrough, it gives me shivers. I was just happy to let this little guy bring what could be a passion of his forward.

If someone wanted to hire you for a project are you available and how can they contact you?

I’m always looking for new exciting jobs in whatever line of work you’re in. I’m of course very busy, but I’m flexible. I can touch my toes even with this beer gut I possess at the moment.

Anyone interested in contacting me or just to have a look around can visit my website www.paidesign.net and click on my contact tab.

Thanks. Love your site by the way.