Mike Hirshon: A Crazy Balancing Act of Color, Shapes and Lines

Mike Hirshon’s wonderful illustrations use unexpected color palettes and compositions to convey an almost musical motion. Each one is like a freeze frame from a fantastic place that we want to visit.

How did you get started in the visual arts?
Kind of by accident. There was a time when I wanted so badly to be a writer — I even applied to school to study creative writing. Shortly after I enrolled, I discovered that the school had no creative writing program, and that I was kind of bad at reading university brochures. Scrambling to find something else to study, I tried my luck with art. I’d been doodling since birth, so it seemed like a good backup option. 

I think I realized while studying for finals, that my notes consisted of more drawn marginalia than useful information. Because professional note-scribbler wasn’t a viable career path, I settled on illustration. 11 years later, I’m still doing it and loving it.

Who else’s work has influenced or inspired your work?

I look at my work as a crazy balancing act of color, shapes, and lines. I’d say the lines have been inspired by illustrators like Robert Weaver, Josh Cochran, and John Hendrix. The shapes come from Cubist and Futurist paintings, which always get my brain thinking about geometry (not the part with numbers). And I think my color choice took on a more bold and expressive tone after I’d looked at the works of Edel Rodriguez and D.B. Dowd. 

Can you tell us about your creative process?
My drawings start as plain linework, either drawn in my sketchbook on location, or via my Wacom tablet. Once I’ve finished the linework, I get to have fun in Photoshop finding ways to add shape and color and texture and in a way that will bring the lines to life. I have an extremely flexible workflow; everything has its own layer and can be easily tweaked at my every whim (and there are always quite a few whims). I like to experiment with colors and compositions, and basically think of my drawings as assets that will be manipulated digitally. 

What’s it like being a freelancer?

When I’m drawing robots or hippos in my home-studio, in my pajamas, it’s the most magical job imaginable. When I’m following up on invoices, licking envelopes, and organizing tax paperwork, it’s….not that magical. Overall, I’d say the pros heavily outweigh the cons. 

How do you grow and promote your business?
My business is built on postcards, sent to select art directors I want to work with. It’s probably not hard to guess where I get the postcards from!I also send out monthly emails, regularly update social media, run a couple of blogs, and regularly badger friends who start small businesses. 

What interesting projects have you worked on?

This year alone has been full of very exciting projects: a series of portraits of authors, an illustrated a cookbook by a Mexican food truck chef, packaging for a dog toy company, a clothing line, and a couple of book covers. It’s always great when you can work on such a huge variety of assignments — keeps things fresh.

What areas of your work are you hoping to explore further?
I’ve started to dabble more with digital painting. So far I’ve used what I’ve learned to develop a very different sort of style from my regular work. I think it would be fun to try to bridge the two together into something new and see what kinds of kooky images I can make. There are many times when I feel limited by linework (like when facial expression lines look like elderly wrinkles) so being able to add in some subtly and dimension could open up a lot of avenues.

To see more of Michael’s work, visit: www.hirshon.net

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