Heroes, Jedis & Bombshells with Phil Noto May 15 2022

Phil Noto is a US artist and illustrator with an expansive suite of comic and design experience, boasting a range of heavy hitters with the likes of Marvel, Walt Disney Animation and DC Comics. Formally trained at Ringling School of Art and Design, Noto's work, which carries a sense of conviction in his application and his assured mark-making, is a result of his extensive time in the industry.

With an interest in Mid-century graphic design, his practice references printed ephemera such as retro paperback covers, 1960s soundtrack art and advertising publications. These interests are emphasized with his palette, composition and subject matter, true to the bygone era while adding a contemporary spin!

Interview by Gab Lewis. Photos supplied by Phil Noto. 

A warm welcome back to Outré Gallery, Phil! We're so pleased to have you joining us once again, this time with your own exhibition. What can we expect to see?

A collection of pin-ups with a 70s/80s feel.

From your time being formally trained as an illustrator and your extensive experience in the industry, what advice do you have for any upcoming creatives who hope to follow in your footsteps?

There’s so much art on the internet these days, it can be hard to get your stuff to stand out. The more work you put out and the greater the quality of it, it will get noticed. There’s more competition these days but there’s also more editors and art directors looking for new artists for projects.

Your practice seems to be divided into your illustrative work, comic work and what you refer to as your gallery art. How does your approach or creative process differ between the two?

My comic and illustration work is almost all digital. There can be a lot of art direction and approvals with those jobs. My fine art/gallery stuff is all traditional mediums and I can just have fun with with it and choose whatever I want to paint.

With an expansive, impressive roster of previous illustration experience, do you have a favourite project from over the years?

As a long time Star Wars fan, I was in heaven working on concept art for the new High Republic launch from Lucasfilm publishing. I also had the pleasure of doing a poster for the HBO show Veep for SXSW. That was a lot of fun.

There is a presence of text featured in several of your paintings. Can you tell us the significance of this and perhaps where this interest stems from?

I’ve always been interested in graphic design and love the aesthetic of retro paperback covers and advertising art. The text is just kind of my personal spin on that.

Talk us through your creative process. In preparing for this upcoming show how did you build the series that we will have the pleasure of viewing?

I keep a folder on my computer of random photos and sketches that I’ll go through, and start mixing and matching and narrowing down into final ideas.

What does a day in the creative life of Phil Noto look like? We want to hear what makes for your perfect day on the tools!

I usually get up around 9am, have some breakfast, catch up on the news, answer emails, do the daily Worldle and then get to work by 10am. While I’m working, I usually have the TV on, but I’ll listen to podcasts and music sometimes. I’ll have a quick lunch, then my wife and I will take the dog out for a walk. I’ll work to about about 6pm, have dinner, hang out with my kids and then sometimes go back to work around between 9pm and 10pm depending on deadlines. I try to get to sleep by 1am.

Given that you have worked commercially with looming deadlines, do you have a remedy for creative block? What are some influences that you can always rely on to ignite your creative flame?

I have a large collection of art books that I’ll go through for inspiration and sometimes I’ll take a long walk and brainstorm ideas.

You have such a multifaceted practice and are highly skilled! I wonder if you have a preference in medium, scale, palette etc where do you feel most comfortable? In contrast, what aspects challenge you most?

I’ve become very comfortable working on my 24" Cintiq with Photoshop and Clip Studio Paint. In terms of traditional media, I prefer acrylic paint and either Bristol board or Gessobord. Size-wise, anything from 11x 14 inches to 24 x 36 inches. I like watercolor but find it the most challenging.

As someone who is deeply embedded in the world of comics, illustration and digital art, what do you see for the future of this industry in a fast paced and ever changing technological landscape?

I think there’s going to be more animation and 3D modeling integrated with commercial art. VR animation is pretty wild but limited in viewership right now. There’s always going to be a need for 2D art. Digital media is getting closer and closer to feeling like traditional media which is great.

I have to ask! Give us an insight to what the ultimate creating podcast/music/TV show is for you?

It’s usually not anything specific to creativity per se, but whatever keeps me entertained while I’m working. I love 70s movies, thrillers, sci-fi, comedies. I’ve been watching Outer Range, Severance, Foundation and Upper Middle Bogan lateIy. I can go through a whole streaming series in one day.

Talk us through your bookshelf: who are some standout artists for you that prompt inspiration?

My go-tos are a book of 60s soundtrack album covers, Robert McGinnis, Bob Peak, Syd Mead, and Drew Struzan.

Thank you so much for your time, Phil. We can't wait to see your works!