careers / creative juice / personalities

Illustrious illustration

Illustration is one of those jobs that seems really glamorous. And it is. Illustrations are sexy. Good illustrators can set the tone for a company, website, brand, project, etc.

Allovus is fortunate to count illustrator Robert Massa in our ranks. You may recognize his illustrations from the artwork hanging on the walls of our Gig Harbor office, the whimsical images on our greeting cards, invitations, holiday wine bottles, and on our annual calendar.

But what does it take to be an illustrator? The answer might not be as sexy as the finished product. It’s lots and lots of researching for concepts, styles, and ideas–and hours and hours of practice and working at creating the right look.

We asked Robert about the recent Allovus calendar and the process that went into creating the images for each month.

Allovus: Once you receive an assignment, how do you start? What’s your process?

Robert: First, I take into consideration what has been done before–if there’s legacy to the project. Then, I start to research. I’ve always saved images in newspapers, magazines, or online images that I like. I’ll review those images first for inspiration. I look at them for their composition, colors, and style. I can get lost in looking, and I finally have to say “stop.”

Allovus: For our calendar, how did you go about creating the image for January?

Robert: I knew that for January, I wanted a sunrise to go with the quote. I wanted the calendar images to be simple and easy to read. I went back to one of my favorite illustrators, Guy Billout. I’ve always loved his work. With his art in mind and the other resources I’d gathered, I got started playing with concepts.

Allovus: Once you determined the look, what did you do next?

Robert: I started to sketch on my iPad. I use an app called Inkpad. It’s a vector program you can sketch with. It’s easy to import into Illustrator, where I do my final work. So, for the month of February, I wanted to convey moving forward to go with the quote.

I came up with a concept and ran it by the art director, Steve Godfrey. He questioned the concept and didn’t think everyone would get it. He’s never steered me wrong, and has great insight, so I tried again.

Then I came up with this. It’s inspired by The Beatles’ Abbey Road album. But it wasn’t quite there for either me or Steve. For some of the months, the concepts were quick and easy. But for others, I had to keep working at it until I got it right. I prefer the quick and easy concepts.

One day, I was walking on Broadway, and there are those dance steps on the pavement. I thought I’d try that. It ended up being not so much an illustration, but more graphic design. It’s important that all the illustrations look good together as a whole, and I didn’t think this one fit in.

Finally, I went back to my iPad to sketch, and I came up with this.

From there, I brought the sketch into Illustrator and started playing with it. I really like its energy.

Allovus: Are you working on any new projects?

Robert: Yes! I’ve been spending a lot of time learning the 3D program, Maya. It’s become my passion. I’ve been dipping my toes in for about 4 or 5 years. This is my latest illustration titled “Always Keep Water Near Your Bed.” I’m using this as a learning experience. I’ve done basic modeling and lighting, and now I’m starting to add in textures.

Much of what Robert has learned about Maya is from watching videos on Lynda.comPluralsight, and YouTube. They’re great resources for just about anything, but you have to sort through the volume of videos to make sure you’re getting good instruction.

Follow Robert on Instagram to see his ongoing progress on the illustration shown above! 


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