Jeremy Child is sort of a wunderkind when it comes to creating digital brushes that simulate hand-drawn effects. Be it tattoo art, pen and ink drawings, screen print, airbrush or most any other effect you are looking to add to your masterpiece, Jeremy probably has something for you and it’s probably going to blow you away. I can remember numerous occasions where I was genuinely stunned to see his latest and greatest creation released as The Artifex Forge, and I finally decided to track him down to find out more about his story, inspiration and his predictably strong work ethic. Despite a number of home improvement projects and the demands of making awesome design tools, he managed to send me some pretty excellent and thoughtful responses. I want to thank Jeremy for his time and I hope you all enjoy the interview.
Did you always want to be a designer? How to did you find your way to selling through online marketplaces?
I originally trained as an illustrator, mainly creating highly textured acrylic art and detailed pen and ink drawings. After a few years of freelancing I craved some stability so took a design role at a greetings card company and then quickly moved onto a novelty children’s book publisher. Here I started developing my design skills as well as creating a lot of paper engineering and concept work; I love developing new and unusual ideas as well as working with my hands so, while my desk was a tip, it was great fun! I also continued doing illustration commissions on the side.
I discovered stock graphics marketplaces through a friend who shared a shop link on social media. I was instantly excited and intrigued – This seemed like a great way for me to create more illustration but without the pressure of deadlines and with the freedom I’d always craved. I started out making the odd illustration and a few add-ons during lunch-breaks. However, I quickly found a hunger to make more but struggled to find the time.
In 2014 my wife started a three year research project investigating Fairtrade wine, which involved a lot of foreign travel. This gave me the perfect reason to leave my job – working for myself making design resources full-time made me a lot more portable! These travels took us to South Africa, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Finland, Sweden and the US; being able to sell through online marketplaces enabled me to continue working and earning while we travelled, which was fantastic.
Visiting your shop on Creative Market, I see an abundance of brushes for creating sketchy line illustrations and tattoo stippling effects. Have you had experience or are you currently working as a tattoo artist?
I’ve never worked as a tattoo artist but I have been commissioned to create tattoo style artwork. The idea of creating art that becomes a permanent part of a person is quite a responsibility so I’d prefer to stick to editable digital art! I do love the intricacy of stippled tattoo art; I find building up an illustration using tiny dots to create tone and texture a really satisfying and enjoyable process but I know many people find it a little arduous. This was one of my main motivations to create digital drawing tools to speed up the process for those who find it a chore.
Are you someone who needs to continually out-do yourself or are you content with much of your work?
I’m very rarely happy with my work and am always pushing myself to improve. However, I’ve learned to recognize when my work has reached an acceptable standard rather than something that I feel is ‘perfect’ – a state which is impossible and I’ll never achieve! I enjoy looking back through older work and seeing how much I’ve improved over time. That said, it can really make me cringe sometimes!
Your Creative Market shop “inventory” is quite extensive, yet each of your products stands on its own and it seems like you put a considerable amount of thought and effort into them. Any reflections on how you’ve achieved such a feat? Do you have a consistent process for creating a product that you always go back to?
Because I create a range of different design tools I’ve developed a chameleon-like skill for switching styles. If I only worked in one style then I think I would have run out of ideas some time ago! So, I guess it’s a necessity to keep pushing myself to create in different ways. Some of these styles play to my strengths and are quick and relatively easy to produce while others can be a real challenge. My natural drawing style is quite controlled and concise so I often have to work a lot harder on loose, fluid art as this doesn’t come easily to me.
The creation of a brush set generally takes two weeks to a month. The first stage is to try and understand the art style or medium – what’s the background, how do people create it and where is it used. Then I decide on an image that I’d like to create and produce the brushes that I think will do the job. I often make several sets before I’m happy and it’s only when I feel I have a broad range of authentic looking brush strokes that I start to make the product screen-shots. Making these promotional images is a good test of the brush’s versatility and the most fun part of the process; I often make tweaks and add more brushes at this stage too.
Do you work from a home office and, if so, what does your set up look like (drawing tables, high-end scanner, etc.)?
I toyed with the idea of renting a workspace as I liked the idea of working around other creatives (and leaving the house once in a while) but decided it was more practical to work at home. I have an office at the very top of my house, which I’m currently completely renovating. I’m able to fit in both a messy desk for doing the physical artwork, which sits under a large, bright window, plus a computer desk. I also have a lot of plants, design and illustration books and interesting things to give it that personal touch and spark some inspiration.
Working from home means my ‘commute’ only involves climbing a flight of stairs I make myself ‘walk to work’ every morning. This involves walking in s loop halfway to my wife’s workplace and back. This is a good way to get some exercise and help me shift into work mode.
What do you find to be the greatest struggle(s) for designers selling online?
Isolation can be a big problem for designers who sell online because most of them work alone. Luckily for me my wife works from home a few days a week and I have a cat who is very keen on diverting my attention away from the screen and towards her. This isn’t always conducive to getting work done though! It also doesn’t help that I’m part way through renovating my house because I often take extra time off work for this and there’s no boss to keep me in check.
One key issue for me is that because I’m so personally invested in the work I do, I take failure more personally than I would if I was working for someone else. The upside to this is that any failures drive me to try harder and develop.
When settling on a concept, which is more important to you: immediately recognizable or outside the box?
For personal satisfaction I would say it’s more important for me to create something original rather than to follow a trend. That said, I do keep my ear to the ground for new and interesting design trends as this is a good way to generate product ideas that have a high likelihood of being popular. Some of both my best and worst sellers have come from following my more unusual ideas but it’s often hard to predict how well these will fare. I’ve been sitting on some quite unusual brush ideas, and am waiting to pluck up the courage to let them see the light of day. In reality, for me a balance between fashionable and original is the best way to work.
Do you love, hate or feel indifferent toward promoting your own work? How do you reach your audience?
While I think marketing is a very important part of selling digital products it’s not something that I spend as much time on as perhaps I should. I certainly don’t feel it’s something that I’m naturally good at. If given the choice between promoting or creating, I will choose creating every time and maybe this is one of the downsides of being my own boss – there’s no-one to crack the whip and make me do more promo!
I reach my audience by running a regular newsletter and through my website, Instagram and Twitter. I give away free products on the website to entice people to sign up to my mailing list. I also regularly post ‘how to’ videos that lead people to my shop. These are things I’ve not pushed too far as I only have so much time.
I also have a section on my website where I post artwork that my customers have created using my design tools. I love seeing how people use them in different and imaginative ways.
Do you listen to music when you work and if so, what are you listening to?
I listen to music most of the time when I work, although I have to turn it off when writing instructions or descriptions. Music without lyrics works best for me as I find it less distracting and so I mostly listen to film soundtracks. These also provide good momentum when I need to work quickly.