One of those artists that currently inspires me on a daily basis is Monster Free Design graphic designer and local artist, Allison Graw. She is not only a friend of mine but is the genius behind the colorful cartoon of myself that I use as my icon on all my personal social media. I told Allison I had always dreamed of having a cartoon version of myself and she quickly and way too easily made that dream become a reality for me. With the simple ability to sketch and trace combined with a great eye for detail she produced a cartoon version of me- bangs, scarf and all.
She has made flyers for MOCAD, throws art parties at her house throughout the year and drew the coolest Slimer on my cast when I broke my leg. Check out my interview with her to learn a little more about the talented, beautiful and amazing woman that is Allison Graw.
HipInDetroit- What made you decide that you wanted to get into graphic design?
Allison- I always knew I would be involved with art in some way; drawing seemed to define me from a young age. I ended up headed to an art school for college (CCS in Detroit), listed as undeclared because I wasn't sure. I'd never even used a computer for art at that point. In the class where they take you around and show you real-world examples of each career in the arts, I realized I loved the idea of using art to communicate a message. I became infatuated with design and typography fairly quickly after that.
HipInDetroit- When did you start drawing?
Allison- I've always been drawing. I have a vivid memory of drawing crayon portraits of Shamu to send to my aunt in Portland. Even as a child, it seemed like my only option was to end up going to art school and I feel so fortunate that it actually happened.
HipInDetroit- What kind of projects are you attracted to?
Allison- Since my day job involves more commercial branding and package design, I love any project that I can let my weirdo out. Any time I get to use my hand to draw type or illustrate, or I am given free reign to come up with an idea. I'm also into books and long blocks of text.
HipInDetroit- Tell me a little bit about the pen drawn piece that was featured at "We Are Here" last year. What inspired you to do that. How long did it take? How many pens did you go through?
Allison- At the time I was thinking a lot about apathy, and to me it was more a question than a statement. I was hoping to show with my method and the amount of time put into it, that I indeed give a shit. It took a ridiculous amount of time. I'm not sure, a whole summer? I went through around 60 pens I think.
HipInDetroit- How do you make something like the icon you drew for me look so realistic?
Allison- That's a pretty old trick- you're just tracing a photo in illustrator, but picking and choosing what to leave in or out. I picked things that stand out about you- red lips! white hair, cheetah. And emphasized it.
HipInDetroit- Tell us a little about the flyers you have done for MOCAD?
Allison- The first one I did for them was this little heart shaped flyer for a valentines day benefit party called "Love Sick" - I drew a mouth puking out a bunch of candy and hearts and stuff. I think they liked that I'm a weirdo and asked me to do some more. My favorite was the benefit at Eastern Market called "Home Slice"- I created the logo from vernacular type found throughout the market, and the dancing pickles really brought it all together. For their 5 year anniversary, I hand lettered the type, and the best part was showing up and they had it reproduced on a cake! I'm still really impressed by whoever the cake decorator was for that one. Basically doing work for a museum is the holy grail of print design. All you're selling is support for art- its a win win. And you can usually get away with a lot as long as you communicate well.HipInDetroit- I have seen you do album covers like the one you did for Ryan Allen And His Extra Arms. Do you plan to do more of that in the future? What do you like and hate about that kind of designing?
Allison- There is only love, no hate for music packaging design. Music has always been a huge part of my life and shaped who I am as a person from the moment I put on my parents huge headphones and sat down next to their stereo. Part of that experience is holding the packaging in your hands and pouring over it. I'd love to do more music related design in the future. There is nothing like a 12" record package- make it a gatefold, get outta here. its so big, there's so much opportunity. Much better than an icon for an MP3 player.
HipInDetroit- How does it feel to be a woman in a predominantly male field? Do you feel like it affects you?
Allison- It affects me in subtle ways at my day job. I am a senior designer, but I am the one who has to answer the phone, etc. Through my freelance design or dealing with younger people, I don't feel like I am treated any differently. Not by artists or creative people. I think it's more of a corporate culture thing or an older person's way of thinking.
HipInDetroit- You are married to someone who does animation and design, do you find it beneficial to be with another creative person? Do you guys ever help each other with projects?
Allison- Absolutely. A day doesn't go by where we aren't getting each others opinions on whatever we're working on- its very much a collaborative effort and we are able to be completely honest when we critique each other. I love it! It also helps that he's super talented. And cute.
HipInDetroit- Any plans for your art in the future?
Allison- I have a giant piece of paper hanging on my wall that I need to attack with a pen ASAP. I am trying to get motivated to plan the next "We Are Here" show. Other than that just doing as much as I can.
Allison not only oozes personality but she makes me hopeful for the future. She is always moving forward with her art and her life. She continues to inspire me as she creates. I look forward to whatever will come of that blank piece of paper hanging on that wall at home. I know it will be spectacular!