Work inspiration with Josh Cleland

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Josh Cleland

Fun childrens book illustration in Portland, Oregon

My name is Josh Cleland, and I am an illustrator residing in the Portland, Oregon metro area, USA. I’ve worked with clients all over the globe creating whimsical illustrations for websites, children’s books, marketing campaigns, album covers, iPhone apps, and more. I even have a dedicated gallery spot on my parent’s fridge. Not many people can say that.

How did you get started in illustration? 

Although my passion is illustration, I studied graphic design in college at Oregon State University, and after graduation worked mostly as a designer. In January of 2009 I set up my own one-man design studio offering graphic design and illustration. Since then my illustration work has gradually increased, and now I market myself solely as an illustrator (though I still do design work for current long-time clients).

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on several fun projects for clients in Europe and here in the states including a fun cartoon map for a client in Houston.

My process is pretty straightforward and usually consists of digital/analogue sketching, and refining in Photoshop and/or Illustrator. I love the creative process because each project requires a different approach. The common thread, however, seems to be lots of sketching and brainstorming. I really like playing with texture and shape.

What tools and materials do you use for your work?

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of conceptual sketches and refinements in Photoshop on my Surface Pro 3. This allows me to try out many ideas quickly and efficiently. Once I have a refined sketch ready I bring it into Adobe Illustrator on my iMac.

Even though most of my workload is digital, I really try to keep an analogue element such as initial sketching, or experimenting with ink brush textures. It keeps things fresh and the creative process invigorating.

What is your ideal work environment?

My workspace is surrounded by art, and I’m constantly changing things out to make it fresh. I suppose my ideal work environment is my home studio with little or no distractions. 

Where are your favorite places for art?

Pinterest, Dribbble, and Behance are my go-tos for the web, however nothing beats going to a bookstore or library and seeing all of the gorgeous art in books and products. Portland has a famous bookstore called Powells which is a great place for book browsing (I don’t go there enough).

I’ve also found the local grocery store to be a surprisingly creative place. Packaging illustration is so inspiring, and it’s so abundant! It also reminds me that there’s plenty of opportunities to grow my business.

Who are the illustrators, artists you admire most?

There are so many illustrators that I admire. Here are a few that I’m currently infatuated with:

I’m sure I’m leaving out a few.