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Our featured designer for this week is Kevin Howdeshell who runs The Brave Union together with his wife Kristen. A father of two, Kevin, has improved on the art of story-telling with his whimsical pieces that are eclectic in design as well as color.
1. How would you describe your design style?
I would describe my style as narrative driven. Visually it’s graphic shapes with a lot of texture. My work has been received as vintage influenced as I’ve studied many illustrators of the past
2. How long have you been a designer for?
My wife and I have been a design / illustration team for over 7 years now. We started dating in college at the Kansas City Art Institute and actually did our Senior thesis together, which was a stop-motion animated piece about a werewolf and Christmas. After graduating we stepped right into freelance work. Since then we’ve formed “The Brave Union, our little studio where we focus on design and illustration projects ranging from editorial illustration, animation, children’s book illustration, and any kind of design work.
3. Where are you from?
I am originally from St. Louis, Missouri where I attended a community college before coming to K.C. where I’ve been for 10+ years now.
4. What project would you like us to feature on the blog?
The project I’d like for you to spotlight on Crazyleaf Design is my Space Alphabet Book we’re currently working on. Our hope is that it is a fun book for all ages, creatives who enjoy illustration and typography and kids who love science fiction stuff. I’m a huge fan of vintage sci-fi book covers and I thought it would be fun to treat each letter of the alphabet as a sci-fi cover. It specifically serves as a coffee table book, but hopefully it’s fun to just pick up and flip through.
5. Who are your design heroes?
The majority of my design heroes are illustrators who were creating work in the 1950’s and ‘60s. Some of those illustrators I admire are Leonard Weisgard, JP Miller, Mel Crawford, and Alice and Martin Provensen, a husband and wife illustration powerhouse team. I looked at a ton of Andrew Loomis’ work in college when I was learning how to draw; studying his books. I also went through a small comic book nerd phase where I was frantically looking at anything Mike Mignola created.
6. Describe your creative design process?
I’m sure my process is very similar to everyone else’s. I work from very small rough thumbnails where I’m just trying to create a composition that works. Because my work is so shape based, in those times I’m trying to make sure the shapes work well together. Typically from there I’m thinking color palette. Because I’ve been doing this for a while I have an idea how the process is going to go but eager to set up my colors first. I try to think as limited in my palette as possible not trying to introduce a thousand different colors. I typically have my focal point of the illustration a color with the background and other elements complimenting that main color or serve as analogous colors. Even though I may set up a palette before hand I let the illustration dictate the colors and try to let the process be natural, letting it have a life of its own. From that point I’m creating the shapes and just rendering out everything.
7. Where do you find inspiration?
These days I’m most inspired by narrative. Earlier I was so set on trying to figure out my ‘style’ that I was hungry looking at other artists for answers on how to solve illustration problems or rendering techniques. Because majority of the time Kristen and I are illustrating kids books I’m inspired by any and all kinds of story. Whether it’s watching the newest season of Daredevil (sooooo good) or enjoying different children’s books with my kiddos. Whenever we do illustration with characters I try to put myself in that world thinking, “could this lead to a story?”
8. What techniques and software tools do you use to keep yourself organized?
My digital tools are just simply photoshop and illustrator. For the longest time I was still using photoshop CS(the first one, haha), and people would gasp when I told them I wasn’t using the newest software. Because our work is so texture based it really didn’t matter if I had the newest version. These days I’m on the newest photoshop using custom made brushes and a lot of Kyle Webster brushes. He’s an illustrator who has made literally the best brushes for illustrators.
For working traditionally I have forever used col-erase pencils first then do my finished lines with a darker pencil. Not the prismacolor kind, but FaberCastell. They draw a nice line and I’ve always used them for structural lines and helping setup my compositions. For all logo stuff I only work in my logo sketchbooks. Because they have all my logo jobs in there it becomes a catalog of rough logo work and gets me in the right working mind and ‘groove.’ Other times, drawings and doodles end up all over the place, mostly envelopes of bills I have to pay, lol.
9. Who would be your dream client and why?
My dream client at this point would be the Kansas City Royals. My wife and I have created two children’s books based on the royals baseball team. Plug– they’re both on amazon, and #1 best seller!!. We believe we could help add a lot of K.C. culture to the ballpark, specifically the kids area in the park and overall.
10. What do you see as the next big trend in design?
I don’t think I can speak to what the next big overall trend but rather what’s trending in K.C. and becoming more and more popular. Particularly we seem to be the hottest entrepreneur city, with more and more startups making it very convenient to be a creative. Kristen and I have been able to do freelance because we’ve received so many motion graphic, design and illustration jobs locally. There are so many opportunities for freelancers to thrive here where businesses need graphics constantly, whatever that looks like.
The other thing that we’ve been doing is self-publishing. With the help of Kickstarter and crowdfunding you do not have to wait and cross your fingers hoping that a publisher picks up your project. Kristen and I pushed on ahead and started producing our own content. Through CreateSpace, an amazon owned self-publishing platform, we’ve been able to produce 4 children’s books now. We’ve always been self-driven and with CreateSpace we’re able to produce as much as we can.