bottle rocket

interview: ian dingman

This week I am happy to present an interview with illustrator Ian Dingman. If you don't recognize his name you should recognize his most recent work, the cover for Bottle Rocket Criterion Collection. Ian has been showing his work for a few years now, mostly along the east coast, while producing commercial work for clients such as The New York Times, The Guardian and Real Simple Magazine. So take a minute or two and familiarize yourself with the impressive Ian Dingman.

Ian Dingman Illustrations

1. What is your art and design background and what made you become a illustrator?

I graduated in 2001 from Illinois State University with a BA in Art. For a couple of years I worked at a publishing company doing graphic design and illustration. At night I would paint. I slowly built up a style as well as a portfolio. I switched from oil painting to watercolor and ink simply because I liked cranking out large numbers of pieces. This is what ultimately lead me to becoming a full time illustrator.

2. When did you first become interested in art?

I don't remember a time when I wasn't interested in art. I've just always enjoyed creating something on paper. Also, I'm not really the sketching type. When I sit down and draw or paint, I typically come up with a final piece. I wish I could fill a sketchbook like a lot of other artists can, but I've tried and simply can't. So, even when pieces go horribly wrong, you can find me at my drawing table, desperately trying to find a way to fix the problem.

Ian Dingman Illustrations

3. Who has the biggest influence on your style of illustration?

Painters David Hockney and Luc Tuymans, and also photographer Uta Barth. I've always felt a connection to Hockney's work whether it presents itself in my pieces or not. His compositions have always interested me as well as his color palette. Tuymans and Barth are influential in a more subliminal way. The atmospheres they create are genuinely moving, and I try to capture that in my work.

4. What tools do you normally use for a project from start to finish?

I work primarily with watercolor and ink on hot pressed watercolor paper. Occasionally I'll add acrylic, gouache or graphite. That’s where it ends when I’m working on my personal projects, but for the illustration jobs I’m hired for I’ll often do a little digital touching up. I started as a purist and refused to do any digital re-working, but over the years I've learned what I'm going to have to add or remove digitally since watercolor can be a tricky medium to work with. I lost the pretentiousness, too. Generally I work 95% by hand and 5% by computer.

Ian Dingman Illustrations

5. How does being an artist influence your life? Would you say you have a different perspective on things around you?

It's an evolution. I don't always see the big picture, but will be interested in specific things for a length of time, and then I'll move on to something else. Years ago I lived in a historic landmark type of neighborhood here in Chicago. At the time I was mostly interested in people and expressions. By the time I got around to being interested in architecture I was no longer living in that area, so I missed out on a lot of things that could have been a great inspiration to me. When I lived in New York I was still interested in architecture, so there was plenty of stimuli there, and hopefully I made up a little for what I lost in Chicago. I don't think I necessarily have a different perspective on things, but more of a different way of studying details.

6. How do you spend your spare time?

I read quite a bit. Most of my work, in some way or another, incorporates something I imagined while reading — an idea, an expression or maybe even a composition. Most of these ideas are usually vague, but they help build structures for future pieces. I watch a lot of films, too, and also enjoy an occasional rock concert.

Ian Dingman Illustrations

7. What are 5 of your favorite websites and why? - I like to see what friends are listening to. - Hand picked creative link site. - A new print every week by great artists. - Because I like to know things. - A UK run review site.

8. How did you get the job of illustrating the new cover for Bottle Rocket?

I was actually on a little weekend getaway, an escape from work and the city, but the first night I decided to check my e-mail. (I try so hard not to while on vacation, but I can’t help myself.) I had a message from Criterion outlining the “Bottle Rocket” project and asking if I was interested. So, yeah, I was excited. I had seen the movie a long time ago and have always been a fan of Wes' movies as well as Eric's artwork. He unfortunately was unavailable for the project.

Bottle Rocket Criterion Collection Cover

9. Any last words?

Check your e-mail while you're on vacation. You check your voice-mail don't you?

One last thanks to Ian for a great interview and the wonderful illustrations. For even more work and to see a complete bio visit Ian [at]