Ben Barnhart

December 23, 2020
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December 23, 2020
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full-time-artist
Hi Andy! What made you decide to pursue a career as a full-time illustrator and graphic designer?

Even from the time I was three or four years old, I knew that I wanted to do something with drawing for a living.

I told my parents that I wanted to be a “drawer” because I didn’t know what an artist was at that point in my life.

Just this year in 2020, I made the switch to full-time freelance illustration and graphic design.

What was your process for learning how to design?

I didn’t go to school for graphic design. My Bachelor’s degree is actually in English!

I've been drawing since I was able to hold a pen or pencil because my mother is an artist and it seemed natural to me. My mom could keep me entertained and quiet for hours just by giving me paper and something to draw with.

Who or what are your biggest influences as an artist?

My mother is my original influence. She is an artist and to this day still encourages me.

Animation and comics have always influenced my style. In grade school, I emulated the comics that I would see in the Sunday newspaper comic strips like Hagar the Horrible, Garfield, and the Wizard of Id. The cartoons that I watched on television, especially shows by Hanna-Barbera, like Yogi Bear and the Jetsons influenced my art style quite a bit.

My two daughters also inspire me with the shows they watch like Dexter’s Lab and the PowerPuff Girls. I always want to draw things to make them smile.

All of these shows and influences really trace back to the mid-century modern design style, which is at the heart of my influences.

ipad design by a full time artist
What’s your favorite thing about being an illustrator?

I just enjoy creating. Whether it's an illustration, a rough animation, a sketchnote (visual note-taking), or a doodle, I just love the process of drawing.

How/why did you start offering training seminars?

I started my own consulting business in 1999, at the height of the dot-com boom, going around the United States teaching Macromedia Flash, because it was the hottest thing in web design at the time. That expanded into teaching all of Macromedia’s products and Adobe’s products at the time.

I have always taught something over the years, whether it was martial arts, computer arts, or yoga (I’m a certified yoga instructor), so it made sense to expand that to this new field. 
I'm hoping to offer some classes soon on Skillshare about illustration.

snow men created by a full time artist
What made you decide to start offering your art through Threadless.com?

When I made the decision to switch to full-time illustration this year, I wanted to think about making income in a multi-stream approach.

I’m excited about the possibilities with Threadless to create a passive income stream.

It's a lot of fun creating designs that I want to wear and that hopefully other people will also want to wear.

full time designer work
The Queen's Gambit
What challenges have you faced in your career? And how did you overcome them?

Really, the biggest challenge has been not being an illustrator.

I have known that I wanted to draw and create all my life, but I chose other career paths because people told me that I wouldn't be able to make a living as an artist.

I have had a very successful career over the last 15 years as UX/UI Design Lead, most recently leading a wonderful UX team in Washington DC. I have worked or consulted for Cult of Mac, iMore, FedEx, AutoZone, Hilton Hotels, Cardinal Health, Ascena Retail Group, and International Paper to name a few.

Getting to weave design and illustration into the products we made has always helped to keep my artistic fires burning.

ipad by a full time artist
What's your favorite tool in Vectornator?

All of the tools! Most of the time I’m using either the Pen tool, Pencil tool, or Node tool.

I just really love how easy Vectornator makes it for me to be able to create illustrations on an iPad.

Don’t get me wrong, Vectornator is incredible on the Mac, especially on the new M1-powered Macs.

However, it is amazing how Vectornator with the Apple Pencil feels natural and intuitive. It feels like carrying a sketchbook around that outputs beautiful vector illustrations.

What other tools do you use in your design process?

Occasionally, I will use an app to draw a preliminary sketch, but most of the time I prefer pencil and paper.

I do use other tools like DropBox for storage, backup, and transferring files. I use Apple Keynote to create simple animations, and Pages for notes on posts and product descriptions.

My most important tool is my sketchbook, because it's where I capture my ideas.

full time artist christmas design
What’s coming down the pipeline? Any big projects we should look out for?

I have a lot of ideas/projects that I want to start soon, especially a children’s book and perhaps a comic strip or two.

I will continue to expand the illustrations in my Threadless shop and my other print on demand shops, like Amazon and TeePublic.

In the coming year, I’m looking forward to working with companies and brands on visual storytelling and illustration.

Thanks Andy! We'll be keeping a close eye on what the new year holds for you!

Andy is a freelance illustrator, full-time artist, and UX/UI Lead Design Consultant. He has worked with many companies over the years including Cardinal Health, FedEx, AutoZone, Fujitsu, Pfizer, the United States Air Force, G.E. Medical Systems, International Paper, and Hilton Hotels. His strong design sense, imagination, and user centered design approach have helped create both beautiful illustrations and useful products.

Andy is also known as an avid sketchnote taker, or graphic recorder as some people prefer to call individuals who combine note taking with illustration. He has covered the Apple WWDC and Apple Special Events for CultofMac.com since 2016.

As an extra bonus, he has a hairless cat named Minerva, and if he just had “some sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads,” who knows what he could accomplish.

You can find Andy's work and support him here:

Portfolio | Website

Instagram | Twitter | LinkedIn

Threadless | Ko-Fi

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