A series of interviews with creative people we've come across on the web. Some are friends, some are strangers, but all are interesting.

Brian Rea, Illustrator/Designer

brian rea

Play is a series of interviews with creative people we've come across on the web. Some are friends, some are strangers, but all are interesting.

To view more of Brian's work, visit his web site:

Play Brian Rea Work3Play Brian Rea Work4Play Brian Rea Work5Play Brian Rea Work6Play Brian Rea Work7Play Brian Rea Work8Play Brian Rea Work9Play Brian Rea Work1Play Brian Rea Work2

Play Sign Up
Sign up to be notified of future Play Interviews. You won't be contacted for any other reason. Promise.

I was drawn into the web portfolio of Brooklyn illustrator/designer Brian Rea by the slick & slinky use of Flash to display his images. I then became smitten with his decidedly un-slick, hip yet quaint, dryly humorous, sketch-in-the-margin style of drawing.

His deceptively simple, less-is-more approach to editorial illustration turned me into an instant fan. Sophisticated folksiness, quiet wit, nostalgia, and a nod to comic book art these are a few of my favourite things! Evidence of creative fun and frolic abounds in his kitschy collage snow boards, cut-and-paste style book jackets, voyeuristic snapshots, and lovingly distilled everyday objects.

I connected with Brian, whose vast client list includes Raygun, Fast Company, the National Post, Time and Playboy, via the glorious internet...

MIA: Where are you from and how did you get where you are?

BRIAN: I grew up in Chelmsford, Massachusetts (near Lowell) and I studied at The Maryland Institute, College of Art. When I graduated, I moved to a part of Baltimore called Hampden (where Jon Waters film "Pecker" was shot). The area had a big effect on my work. I began to draw from life a lot; simple line drawings of the neighborhood and people. I tried to avoid thinking about what I was making and instead focused on accuracy mostly. The development of visual stories and such. About 5 years ago I headed up to New York with a book full of those pictures.

MIA: Do you consider yourself creatively prolific?

BRIAN: Ah... no. Prolific to me is the guy churning out the work like a machine - we all know people like that and it's kind of sad to see it happen over time. That's never been my strength. The prolific thing. I'd rather produce less and appreciate more.

MIA: How do you get in the mood?

BRIAN: Lower the lights, maybe some drinks if it's really late.

MIA: What is your favourite way to procrastinate?

BRIAN: I'm not telling.

MIA: Describe your work space.

BRIAN: Unfinished - huge desk, lap top, surf board, lots of piles of books and paper and the obligatory rocking chair. I just moved into it really, so it's a mess - but it gets tremendous light. That's all I need.

MIA: Do you carry a notebook? Do you draw in public?

BRIAN: Quite a bit. I try to rotate 3 or 4 of them so I don't get too attached to just one. I make a lot of notes in them, mostly quotes and ideas - sometimes interesting moments and sometimes, if no one's looking I'll make a picture.

MIA: What is in your cd player these days?

BRIAN: As long as it's on, it's good. Today we're rocking. Ron Raffel, Def Leppard, Luke Vibert, 50 Cent.

MIA: What kind of illustration gig would you refuse on moral grounds?

BRIAN: On principle, I try to avoid the project where the art director says, "Ok... we have an idea in mind, we want you to collage an American flag over a dollar bill and we want the guy to be really tiny and holding a giant magnifying glass or something, but we want you to do it in your style." I've had those and they're the worst. Nowadays I turn those projects down.

On morals, I used to be really hard lined about stuff, like no cigarettes, naked ladies, people drinking and such. But that didn't last too long- For one, real people have vices, and pleasures and drawing them this way only makes them appear more human, maybe even more accesible. And two, naked ladies drinking and smoking cigarettes always make good drawings.

MIA: Who are your favourite artists in New York (and area)? Your favourite galleries?

BRIAN: I really enjoy the photographs of Jason Fulford (Williamsburg Brooklyn) and the graphic work of Paul Sahre (New York City) who recently finished a book titled "Hello World" a visual journey of Ham Radio. I also enjoy what Peter Buchanan-Smith and his partner at Monday Morning are producing in their literary/art project The Ganzfeld (New York City). I tend to gravitate toward applied work with hints of what I think are quiet moments and personal touches. Really though, any art that demonstrates compulsive obsessive tendencies bordering on madness can make me stop and look. I recently saw a series of drawings called "Flow Chart for the 'Perfect Ride'" by Jennifer Pastor (at the MOMA Queens) which were possibly the most beautiful drawings I'd ever seen. It was a sequence of line drawings of a cowboy riding a bull.

MIA: What it the coolest thing you have seen recently while wandering the streets?

BRIAN: One moment certainly stands out since I've been here in NYC - I was way up on Broadway passing by an enormous food market - the kind with all the produce spilling out along the sidewalk and I noticed a tiny old lady standing in front of a green plywood display of celery, iceberg lettuce, baby spinach, green peppers, green cucumbers, green bananas, green beans and green avocados. She was dressed in a bright green wool pea coat, bright green rubber boots and a bright green knit cap with little green wool beads sticking out like a pineapple - couldn't have been more than 4 feet tall. She stood quietly hand picking and inspecting individual snap snow peas, a whole bag full and placing them into a little green grocery basket. The only other color besides green in the whole scene was her white hair sticking out from her cap. I almost passed out.

MIA: Do you collect anything?

BRIAN: Books, belt buckles and recently I've started collecting interesting obituaries. Whoever writes them for the NY Times is a damn genius.

MIA: What new projects or exhibits are in your future?

BRIAN: The Danger High Voltage video is now in rotation - I made some pictures for that. And I've been wrestling with a project ( that will hopefully be launched summer 03, but no shows currently - maybe later this year.

MIA: What new directions, if any, would you like to go in with art/design?

BRIAN: Good question... not sure. I like where things are headed on their own - it's all wide open really. Maybe do something I'm fascinated by, but unfamiliar with. Something bigger with more responsibility for art direction and the collaborative effort like film credits, or a subway map or maybe even design some products- snowboards and such. I've always wanted to design a billboard that would change on a regular basis- maybe rotate a group of artists. If you know of anything... call me. View more of Brian's work on Altpick or on his own great website

Interview By: Mia Hansen

Bookmark and Share