An Interview with artist and illustrator John Malloy about his art and design projects. My thanks to John for sharing his work and story.

1. Please could you tell us a litle bit about yourself, your background training and experience, where you are based, what you do now etc?

I grew up in a rural area in Northern Pennsylvania to a very blue collar family, and I’ve been drawing since I was about 6 years old. Mostly cartoons as a kid, then detailed drawings of my favorite musicians/rock stars in high school. I went to a community college out there where I luckily happened upon some amazing teachers. One was a trompe l’oeil oil painter and another an art director for TV Guide back in the 1960’s. They skills they taught me have been indispensable and gave me a great foundation to start from. Since then I’m primarily self-taught by working, working, working. I eventually moved to and lived in Baltimore, MD for quite some time and now live in the countryside near Buffalo NY / Toronto ON.

2. Please could you tell us a bit about your personal art and design work, Why do you do it, what do you feel you get out of it?

My personal work began as a personal frustration to create something stylistically new that hadn’t necessarily been done in illustration/fine art before, and to challenge myself with visual concepts. Eventually this personal work got me jobs commercially, and I still do a combination of both. The personal work gives me more freedom to experiment without a deadline or an editor.

Anima illustration

3. Please could you tell us a bit about your self initiated project to create a graphic novel?

Yes. I actually had one published back in 2001, titled “Amnesia“. Looking back on it I’m actually not that fond of it since it was my first effort. I’ve always been a fan of the medium and enticed by how unexplored it is as a genre. My new story, “Queasy“, in a sense, grew out of some things I would like to see done with the medium of sequential art.

It’s a semi-autobigraphical story, wherein I am part monkey. It’s intended as a 3-volume piece that would eventually be collected as one book, and I’m hoping to start having it published sometime next year.


4. Please can you tell us the process you go through to create your illustrations/ fine art ie. Brainstorm, sketching, what techniques and software (have you got any preliminary sketches i could show so people can see the process?)

Each and all is different depending upon the project. For music-related work [i.e. album covers] I tend to get visuals in my head from listening

to the songs and write them down, pulling the ones I think would be most interesting and fleshing those out as sketches at first.

Below left Cover Illustration for William Ingrid and their album, “For The Birds”. Below right Album Cover IIlustration/Typography for These United States‘ album, “Everything Touches Everything”

music cover illustration

Sometimes for apparel design I’ll just do random image searches on the web for inspiration: For specific stuff, like the Peace Tea label designs, I tend to search for stuff based on the theme of each intended label:

illustration peace tea

Sometimes with my personal work I start from a major theme I have in mind… for instance pieces like, “Rash” and “Weight Loss“: were based on using the common side effects of medications as a metaphor for the mass media’s effects on the human spirit.


I show my process on a regular basis on my facebook page and blog

5. Does your personal work influence your commercial client based work?

Yes very much so. Both in visual style and concept. Many times the personal works are a way of trying out techniques before committing them to something commercial.

6. What artists, designers or illustrators do you most admire or take influence from?

Early on when I started this as a career a little over 3 years ago, I really didn’t think about this consciously at all. But now it’s clearer to me that my biggest influences technique-wise are kind of a weird mix of Alfons Mucha, Alberto Vargas, and modern silk-screening. Conceptually I’d say I’m influenced by everything from fashion design to music, film, and post-modern art.

7. What are your future ambitions as a designer/illustrator/ artist

In the not-so-distant future I’m looking forward to continuing with/finishing “Queasy” and doing fully painted pieces for a gallery. I tend not to think too far off about things though, to stay open.

8. What advice would you give to newbie artists and designers?

Don’t take yourself too seriously or ever think your all that. One of my favorite quotes is by the philosopher Bertrand Russell: “One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.” Also, with commercial work, it’s always about a relationship with the client. In the end you are working for them, which is creatively challenging in other ways.

See more of Johns work at

All images copyright © John Malloy