One Minute With…
Hi Matt, thanks for taking time to chat with One Minute With. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work.
My pleasure! I’m a full-time freelance illustrator living in Minnesota with my wife and two kids. I used to work full-time as a freelance web/print designer, but eventually decided to pursue a career in illustration since that’s my real passion. I’ve been doing it for about a year and a half and it’s going great.
Walk us through a typical day in the life of Matt Kaufenberg.
Normally I wake up around 8 (although I’ve been working on getting up earlier), head downstairs and hang out with the fam for a little bit. Then, with some coffee, I’ll go through my new emails and follow up on any potential work. Then it’s time to start working. I normally work on 2-3 projects at a time (unless there’s a pressing deadline, then I’ll concentrate on that). Working at home, it’s nice to be able to take breaks and read books with the kids or play outside for a bit. I normally work until around 5. Then I’ll have dinner with the wife and kids and after that, depending on my work load, head back to work for another hour or so. Sometimes work keeps my up late, but I’m trying to create a more normal working schedule so that i can spend more time with my family and enjoy the evenings.
How did you get into illustration? Was there a defining point in your career, and if so, how did it shape you as a designer?
I’ve always had a love for drawing. I filled NUMEROUS sketchbooks and went through many reams of paper as a kid. When I was fifteen, I won a local art scholarship and ended up being mentored by a fantastic editorial cartoonist by the name of Trygve Olson. It was an amazing experience and fueled my passion for a career in illustration.
How do you approach a new project? What’s your creative process like?
I start with research, looking for anything and everything concerning the topic I’ll be illustrating. Then I like to look around for inspiration. Although the internet is a great source of inspiration, I also enjoying looking through children’s books, vintage album art, listening to music, and anything else that might spark an idea for the project.
You’ve worked on some great personal projects (Most notably, your Illustration-a-Day blog) – How valuable is it, do you feel, to keep personal projects alive along with client work? Do they help in getting more client work, do you reckon?
I’d say it’s extremely valuable to work on personal projects. Sometimes during client work you can hit a creative wall and working on something for myself often helps me break through it and reignite my passion for the project.
You also do a whole bunch of collaboration work (The Essentials Of and Epic Armory, for example) – With a community so tight-knit as ours, how important is it, in your opinion, to constantly get involved like this?
Very important! Freelance illustration can be a very solitary job, and at times leave you feeling worn-out creatively. I find that connecting with other creatives and collaborating on projects can really refresh your creativity and bring back that excitement of drawing, which can diminish when working alone.
If, in some Freaky Friday-like situation, you could live the life of another designer, illustrator or creative, for a day, who would it be, and why?
I’d love to switch lives with a Hollywood film editor for a day. Besides illustration, I love editing film. There’s such an art to it and I find it very enjoyable. If I could try that out professionally for a day, it would be the cat’s pajamas!
What design tools could you not live without?
I’d be lost without my Cintiq, it’s an amazing piece of hardware. I also couldn’t live without Photoshop or Sketchbook Pro since I use them every single day.
And finally, what tips would you give to anybody who is looking to get started in illustration?
Find things you’re passionate about and illustrate those things. When you’re passionate about an illustration, it shows, and potential clients will see that. Also, post on your blog or website on a consistent basis. Things get old fast on the internet and one of the best ways to get new clients is by posting new work.