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Art & Life with Colton Starley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Colton Starley.

Colton, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I started drawing from the moment I could hold a pencil. Sharks were my first love; I would check out books from the library by the dozens just to draw from the pictures inside. When I was a kid, I thought I would grow up to be a marine biologist, but when I found out the job wasn’t just drawing various sea creatures, I decided graphic design might be more my speed.

I graduated from the NAU Graphic Design program in May. Over the course of my career, I’ve illustrated for the school newspaper, designed a large chunk of the local Fort Tuthill Military Museum, illustrated three published books, and created branding packages for a dozen local businesses.

Interestingly enough, my passion right now is fonts. I absolutely love good typography, and I despise bad font choices above all else. I’ve developed the wildly-unpopular party trick of pointing out Comic Sans or Hobo Std or any terrible font when it shows up on signs or restaurant menus. One of my favorite school projects was a sans-serif font I designed from the ground up that incorporated a whopping thirty unique ligatures (special characters that connect two or more letters).

My most recent project — and the pinnacle of my illustration career — is a soon-to-be-published children’s book called The Triumph of the Little Daisy, written by Eric Warbasse. Eric gave me a lot of freedom with the project, and it’s turned into something really incredible — original character designs, a gorgeous color scheme, and almost two-dozen pieces of beautiful digital art to accompany his story.

I’m fascinated by the power of design to influence people, and my ultimate goal as an artist is to use my talent for something bigger than myself. For me, that means I hope to someday be able to work with environmental activist organizations and use design to influence public perceptions about environmental issues.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I’ll admit I felt a little out-of-place (as a graphic designer/illustrator) when you first asked me to do this interview because most of the art I do isn’t for myself first and foremost. The fun part of being a graphic designer, for me, is working with clients and finding solutions to achieve their goals.

Graphic design is a combination of art and science — it’s just as closely related to psychology and market research as it is to traditional art, and good designers combine all of those in their work. The thing that makes design fun for me — and one of the reasons why being a painter never appealed to me — is that a good design solution has just as much meaning and thought behind it as any piece of traditional art. Good design is by definition accessible for everyone and doesn’t require a degree or an interpreter to be understood.

What I create is an adjective. I don’t just create nouns like logos or pamphlets; I create for my clients what people feel when they interact with them.

Do you think conditions are generally improving for artists? What more can cities and communities do to improve conditions for artists?
I don’t know that being an artist has ever been the easiest career. I think it’s easier now than ever (with social media) to put your work out there, but also incredibly easy to get lost in the sea of other artists doing the same thing. Seek out and ask for opportunities — the worst they can do is say no, right?

My advice to budding artists is this:

– Develop a style. If it’s not a single one for all of your work, then create a unique one for each of your projects.

– Seek out the strictest teachers. The ones who give you harsh feedback, nitpick your work, and make you work your tail off for an A, are the ones who will make you improve.

– And, most importantly, put the bulk of your time, thought, and effort into sketching. Whether it’s a logo, drawing, publication, etc. you should always first go through a phase of rough, hand-drawn sketches. Your first idea is rarely your best, and sketching quickly, accurately, and as much as possible (my sketches for a logo might number in triple digits by the time I get the one I want) is the best, most reliable way to find your solution.

Being an artist isn’t easy, but it’s an incredibly rewarding field. Work through the blocks, take the late nights in stride, and you’ll have an opportunity to do what you love!

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
Check out my work at the following places!

Instagram: @coltonstarley

Hire me or take a more in-depth look at my work at my website:

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Eric Warbasse
Diablo Trust
Dallin Willden Photography

Getting in touch: VoyagePhoenix is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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