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Tony Catignani - Interview
As program leader of transport design at Umeĺ Institute of Design, one of the
worlds leading automotive design schools, Tony Catignani has good idea of what
it takes to succeed in design.
Pencil Sketching Video Tutorial
To celebrate the creation of his new web site Mikael has put together a new
video tutorial. In it he talks through his methods for creating a powerful
As far as the actual work is concerned, I came from
an airbrush background so it was important for me to maintain the same work
patterns and techniques while using a computer. In that regard, Photoshop is
very similar to airbrush. For me, the biggest change has been the ability to
undo mistakes with a simple keystroke. In the old days, you learned not to make
mistakes - ever - something that required a lot of concentration when putting
100+ hours into a singe piece of art.
The drawings you do are very precise; do you ever feel tempted to try some
more spontaneous emotional work?
There is not much room for spontaneity in technical art. Unlike other forms of
commercial art, technical illustration is the least interpretive and most
straight forward type of illustration. With technical illustration, once you
have decided on an angle of view, you either draw it correctly, or not.
My favourite style of fine art is abstract expressionism from the 1950s, which is
about as far away from technical art as you can get. I have tried painting
abstract art as a hobby but my mind is just not wired that way. Most of the
great abstract expressionists had troubled and antisocial personal lives so it
is not something I have tried too hard to emulate. There art literally consumed
them, whereas my art is simply a job that I love doing.
So which of your pieces stand out as being special to you?
The high-water mark for me was the last cruise ship cutaway I did for Royal
Caribbean. The scale of the illustration - the equivalent of 12 feet in length -
was so large that every tiny detail showed, and 960 hours of work needed to be
crammed into a three month period. There was no photographic reference when I
started, and all of the perspective needed to be mathematically calculated by
hand - no CAD involved.
As complex as the Royal Caribbean project was though, when I look at one of my
original pieces of airbrush work I am more impressed as there was no digital
trickery involved, and in a way, they were much better works of "art."
On the other side of the coin, have there been images that have been
problematic to create or work with?
No. Other than incredibly tight deadlines, the subject itself provides the same
level of "difficulty" no matter how complex or basic. Any subject-matter is no
more, or less, complicated than any other if you break it into small enough
sections. A big, complex object like a car, plane or ship is just 20, 30 or 40
small (easy) illustrations that happen to occupy the same space.
When I work on something that is very complex, I only tackle small sections,
finishing them before I move on to the next area. It is when you look at the big
picture that it can become psychologically overwhelming.
When I would airbrush a car cutaway I would mask the entire board with drafting
vellum and cut out a 2 inch by 2 inch window, moving it around as I worked. This
way, you don't waste time looking at what you haven't done.
Your website is a feast of tutorials and information, is there a reason you
have been so open with how you do your work?
There are tow reasons. 1. CAD is making people lazy, in the same way that the
invention of the calculator minimized the need to learn basic math. It is a sad
reality that CAD is making the technical illustrator obsolete, although clients
like it as it is also making technical illustration much cheaper to produce. 2.
Many books on the subject of technical drawing fundamentals have gone out of
print, and I wanted to put these techniques out there for posterity.
Telling others how I do something has never been a fear of mine. Even with all
of the advantages that digital tools provide, there are very few people with the
patience to sit at a drafting table or computer screen, working on one piece of
art for days or weeks at a time.
Is there any general advice you would give to designers hoping to improve
their illustration skills?
Learn the fundamentals of actual drawing, and don't rely only on software. Even
if it seems totally unnecessary, mastering basic drawing skills will always make
you a better digital artist - even when using CAD. In addition, practicing any
type of hand-done fine art (painting, sketching, etc.) will help train your eyes
and brain to really look at things, studying the way light reflects off of a
surface, or how shapes and perspective planes interact with each other.
Finally, can you tell us how it feels to finish one of your pieces and see it
out there in the world?
Even after nearly thirty years, and thousands of illustrations, it is still fun
to see your work on a billboard or in a magazine, particularly when you aren't
expecting it. This is especially true when traveling overseas where you really
don't expect to see your work. Still, there is nothing more satisfying that the
day/hour when you actually finish a major piece of work. It is a mixture of joy
and sadness, with a healthy does of relief.
To see more of Kevin's work, and of course to have a read of his many
tutorials then visit his website,
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content of external internet sites.
Kevin Hulsey has in the last 20 years earned the reputation as one of the
words leading automotive illustrators. Specializing in technical cutaway,
ghosted or phantom view illustrations his work is mesmerizing in its detail.
Here at DesignerTechniques we wanted to speak to Kevin to find out a little
about what drives him to produce such awe inspiring work.
Tell us a little bit about what your job is exactly.
Technical illustration is a method of visually explaining the complexity and
mechanical operation of an object (product, car, etc.) in an easily understood
format. The basic objective is to provide the lay-person a view into the
mechanical inner-workings of the subject.
It’s a very specialized area, how did you get started? Was art something you
Although I have always enjoyed art (both fine art and commercial art) and
tinkering with mechanical objects - two essential disciplines in technical
illustration - getting into this field was strictly a business decision. I was
looking for a niche that would utilize my strengths, was high paying, and was
not over-saturated (in 1980). Additionally, I have always been interested in how
things work. Technical illustration marries my love of drawing with my interest
in all things mechanical, especially cars and motorcycles.
Were there any artists or designers who particularly inspired your work?
Many of the photorealist artists of the 1950s and 1960s had a huge influence on
my work, but it was a poster of a cutaway Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix car done by
Yoshihiro Inomoto, and a cutaway of Star Trek's USS Enterprise by David Kimble
that really hooked me. It was so gratifying to meet Mr. Inomoto in Japan in 2007
and tell him how much he had influenced my career decisions.
During your career in illustration, what has changed most… apart from the
shift to digital tools?
Much has changed since I began in 1980. Foremost is the total shift away from
print advertising. Web graphics require far less detail due to the inherent
screen resolution and tiny reproduction "size" that is typically used on a
website - about 1/10th the size needed for a print spread ad.
Advertising budgets have also shrunk dramatically as advertising venues have
become so diffuse. During the 1980s, car companies spent millions of dollars
producing slick 20 to 30 page brochures - each with as many as 20 illustrations
of all sizes and complexities. Today, car brochures are considered passé.
Another dramatic change has been the creation of the global market which has
increased job opportunities and competition in equal amounts.
Images Copyright © 2008 Kevin
Hulsey Illustration, Inc. All rights reserved.
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