Today I’m pleased to introduce you to Chris Kemp, an artist very active on social media. He’s making a name for himself by creating great NFL players’ portraits.
I discovered his Twitter account when I saw his illustration of Raiders tackle Menelik Watson back in February. His work caught my eye instantly and I started following him. Over the next few months he posted a lot of great portraits and I thought to myself “I have to interview this guy!”.
I reached out to Chris to see if he would be interested in an interview. He agreed, and this article is the result of our email exchange.
(NOTE: you can find the Italian version of this interview here)
Chris Kemp: I am 26 and live in the United Kingdom.
RI: What do you do for a living?
CK: I work in sales but I am pushing to be a self-employed freelance illustrator.
RI: What kind of art education do you have?
CK: The only art qualification I have obtained was at school (high school). I have only recently picked up drawing again after many years. I have just started an art course at home to develop my knowledge and try other methods of illustration.
RI: When did you start drawing/illustrating?
CK: I’ve been doodling ever since I can remember, I use to be that kid in school who would sit there getting requests from class mates on what to draw next. I was usually asked to draw caricatures of the teachers.
CK: Yes. As you probably already know many designers and artists use references for their pieces, with modern technology and software making this much more easy. However all my pieces are hand done and no effects or apps are used in the creation.
RI: What’s the process? Do you come across a photo and think “I wanna do an illustration based on this photo” or it’s the other way around “I wanna do an illustration of payer X, let’s find a photo”?
CK: It begun with me drawing players who I knew of well and/or who had a unique look about them. However with my growing social media presence I like to get feedback from my followers and ask them what they would like to see and who they would like to see next.
RI: What computer program do you use to make the portraits?
CK: I use GIMP which I have been told is ‘the hobo’s Photoshop’. However this is a free source application and still to this day I find the program much more user friendly for my needs. Much of my other work I use Illustrator.
RI: How long does it take to make one of these portraits?
CK: When I begun these they would take me 2-3hrs to do, however I can complete a few pieces in an evening. My pieces now take up to an hour or two dependant on the detail.
RI: Could you illustrate the various steps? Bring us “behind the scene”…
CK: I have always live by never give your secrets away. However what I have learnt is that many who have told still struggle to do these and I have only come across a few others who seem to do in a similar fashion to myself. The key to my drawings are not the outlines, the trick it to know what to include, take away and add in order to make the piece work.
RI: All the images you do are created digitally or do you also do analog drawings (on paper or on canvas)?
CK: I have tried all forms of media, I still do a lot of hand drawn pieces which then I scan into the computer to digitally ink and colour. I am a firm believer to make sure to keep the traditional forms of art and creation as these will teach you more than any software can.
RI: Have you ever exhibited your artwork?
CK: Never, But it’s something I’d love to do in the future.
RI: What’s your favorite art work?
CK: I don’t have any favourite pieces. However I do enjoy creating my very own characters and seeing them come to life.
RI: I can see you’re trying to reach the players you made portraits of. What kind of feedback are you receiving from them?
CK: This is what I love when I get any feedback if that’s just a like, comment, share and even a follow. I have had feedback over this year from many players from all teams in the NFL, all seem truly thankful for the effort put in and when they share on their own pages it really make it worthwhile.
RI: Have you ever been approached by a player who asked for a portrait?
CK: Yes, Pro Bowl fullback and Oakland Raider Marcel Reece.
RI: What is your dream project?
CK: I would love to work with a team to create all members of the teams and to help with their show guides and booklets.
RI: What’s your favorite team?
CK: This is easy…RAIDERS #Raidernation
RI: What do you expect for the 2015 season?
CK: The Raiders have made some great choices and have put together promising young team for the upcoming season. The season should prove to make an interesting watch…Bring it on!
RI: What are your favorite players (you can name former or current players)?
CK: Derek Carr, Charles Woodson and Marcel Reece.
RI: Which are your favorite and least favorite NFL uniforms?
CK: My favourite uniform is the Seattle Seahawks and least favourite will have to be the Cleveland Browns.
RI: Do you usually stay up late at night to watch games?
CK: Yes, I do. Many people I talk to back here in the UK think I’m mad getting up at 2 in the morning in order to watch a game.
RI: Do you collect jerseys, or any other sports-related stuff?
CK: I am getting into autographs but as of yet I have not got any players. The idea is to send prints of my pieces, one for the player and the other for them to sign and return to me. If this will happen is another thing.
RI: Anything to add?
CK: Dont try to copy other people’s work instead come up with you own unique style. You want people to see your work and say… oh thats ‘X’ work. And never give up doing whatever it is you enjoy.
RI: Thank you very much for your time, Chris.