The following interview, conducted by Washington Square Web Editor Linnea Hartsuyker, took place over phone and email between September 16 and September 19, 2013. Kyle Fewell’s artwork appears on the cover and illustrating various poems of the Summer/Fall 2013 issue of The Washington Square Review.
ONSQ: The cover of this issue features the illustration “Forest Cat”, an image that seems to tell a story. Can you tell us about the genesis of this piece?
KF: This piece was done as a personal experiment. Washington Square had asked for a cover and said I could use a pre-existing piece. I’d originally created this piece as an exercise in drawing leaves.
ONSQ: There is a lot of whimsy in your art and an interesting interplay between your titles and the subjects of your illustrations. For writers, titling pieces is often a challenge. Can you tell about what goes into choosing subjects for your pieces, and how you title them?
KF: Titling pieces is a challenge for me too. Though these pieces are illustrations of the poems, I used the poems as a jumping off points, as inspiration. The titles are taken from the poems directly. I didn’t want to give the poems or the illustrations false meanings. Usually my titles are very literal, like “Forest Cat”.
ONSQ: You also have a successful career illustrating magazine articles. Tell us about what it’s like to work with art direction, to an editor’s specifications? How does this more circumscribed work inform your personal projects?
KF: Usually I am contacted about a magazine article, and do some sketches based on the idea I’m given. I discuss these with the art director and they change and morph based on the art direction. For an article on fracking, for instance, in the Village Voice, a lot of the art direction I got was about drawing out certain details. He noticed little things I could change that made the piece a lot better. It’s interesting and helpful to get that direct feedback immediately. Working with an art director can change the way I think about creating a piece. Before I started to do freelance work, my pieces were both simpler in execution and possibly more confusing in what they communicated.
ONSQ: Tell us about some of your current and upcoming projects.
KF: I’m currently working as the illustrator at a start-up called Learn with Homer. It’s an iPad app for teaching kids to read, a mix of an interactive children’s book, with songs and folktales, characters and stories, as well as a more teaching and game-oriented portion. It also includes a science section where children can learn about the world through animals. And since all of this is illustrated and animated, there is a lot of work for an illustrator. And of course, I always have my personal projects and freelance illustration work as well.
Kyle Fewell is a Brooklyn, NY based illustrator, originally from Houston, TX. He graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art with a BFA in Illustration. He likes cats, video games and death metal. More of his work can be found at kyle-fewell.com.