Richie Pope, Another One of Our Illustration West 55 Judges:

Illustration West 55 Show Chair Steve “Primary” Hughes continues interviewing our judges and today it’s Richie Pope. The ILW 55 competition Call for Entries is at www.illustrationwest.org and the Early Bird Deadline is September 30, 2016. [All works © Richie Pope]

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Steve: I’ll start with the most important question for me, and stop me if you’ve gotten this too much. Your voice for equality has been a big part of the larger conversation on equality, especially as it relates to illustration. As an educator, I’ve seen the influence on my students of your work, and the sharing of your experiences, and greatly appreciate your sincerity with which you discuss the topic. What would you tell the next generation of illustrators and the even, or more importantly, older generation of illustrators, when engaging content with which they don’t have first hand experience?

Richie: For the next generation: approach it with the care and respect you would approach your favorite music, your favorite comic, your favorite film. Accept that because it’s not your first hand experience that you might accidentally play a game of telephone. You might not get it right and that’s okay. Don’t take that as a personal assessment of your character. Your character is how you respond *to* messing up and that’s always infinitely more revealing. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and speak to each other. We are illustrators and we should be communicating about life outside of witty concepts. For the older generation, the same advice applies. My only addition would be to know when you’re in the way. The younger generation is bringing in ways of life, viewpoints, and visual influences that were formerly underappreciated or all-out disrespected in art school circles. Accept them and listen to them. If you’re in the way of them, scoot over. That doesn’t mean you have to disappear. 

Steve: You were part of the Richmond art scene—how influential has that been on your development, and how did you find your own voice in the process?

Richie: Sterling Hundley was the main mentor for me. He was a Richmond man who worked with a Richmond AD for a Richmond magazine and kept winning awards. It was all local and it made me feel like that life was something I could have. I believed it was real. Him and a few others were like my main motivators. Bob Foster. Kerry Talbott. After school I kind of naturally formed a bond with other alumni, current students. We would hang out and sketch, listen to music, watch movies. Every Thursday was just a celebration of likeminded people I fell in love with. All had their different things. I’m not surprised so many of us are killing it. It was only a matter of time. So really, a place of inspiration and different personalities and living life and wanting to make it with your friends. All that helped me be more accepting in my voice, in who I am. My humor. My childhood memories. Merging that with my Western illustration education. Being Black. Studying my own masculinity. All that. Each year goes by and even if people physically move to different places the bond is still there. All those folks in Richmond won’t ever stop inspiring me.

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Steve: Where do you find inspirations for the subject matter and messages in your work, and what’s you’re research process like? 

Richie: All I really have to do is turn on the news. At the same time, I find people treat social issues as a concept vs. a real thing that real people go through, so my internal feelings always seep out in my drawings. I’m working on something now that had no deeper meaning, just a weird little comic. It ended up leaving me with an interpretation about the guilt in leaving your community behind for opportunity and whether it’s the right choice or not. If it’s an illustration for a client, then the research is a little more straight forward. Reading and re-reading. Jotting down ideas or images that pop into my head. I used to think of concepts in a more linear way but I found that too restricting. Articles can be very dry so I let my mind roam and when I reign it in I find that I have more interesting and less conventional visual solutions. 

Steve:  What keeps you excited or entertained outside of the studio? Does that feedback into your work in any particular way?

 Richie: Self-publishing comics is nice because it’s storytelling where I’m only answering to myself. I’m my own editor and there’s a lot of freedom in that. I love playing video games. I’ve been into puzzle and contemplative games. Quiet games. I got a little burnt out on hyper-violence. Reading is dope. Audiobooks, comics, essays. Visual essays that break down film. I run out of movies to watch I watch so many. So to put it short, all these things end up coming back into my work. Compositions and colors from film. The simplification from cartooning. Creative imagery and perspective from video games. Poetic and abstract concepts from book interpretations. It’s all there. All jumbled together and it’s really fun trying to pick through it all to make something. 

Steve: What’s something you’d like to see your work attached to—what’s the dream job, or most unlikely place that you think it would be cool to find someone interacting with your art? 

Richie: I’d love to do murals. Just big imaginative murals for low income neighborhoods. I don’t like the idea of murals being something for high art that poor black people have to travel to see. It’s in these very eras where art and expression should be #1. It saves so many people psychologically. A dream job would be to be an AD, so I could really search for unique voices with my their sensibilities. Like the Kendrick quote, I want to pay it forward and put people on.

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