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December 8, 2011

Q&A with 2012 Season Illustrator Brian Rea

Los Angeles based artist Brian Rea is the former art director for the Op-Ed page of the New York Times. He has produced drawings and designs for books, murals, posters, music videos, and magazines around the world. His work has appeared in Playboy, The New York Times, Outside Magazine, Men’s Journal and Time among others and his design clients include Herman Miller, Kate Spade, Honda, Billabong and MTV. Rea has also exhibited work in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo and Barcelona. He currently teaches at Art Center.

How do you approach a project like this? How does it differ from your own personal work?

Though I was familiar with a few of the 2012 performances, I read through and researched each one again. Most projects of mine start with writing and list making – I circle different passages or jot down words that came to mind, other times I draw simple thumbnails that might capture a moment in the play. From these notes I begin to develop an idea of what the play is really about – or rather what I think the play is about. I try to make unusual connections between words in my lists – the hope is to find the tone of the performance as well as the simple human qualities of a piece that make it unique. From there I can begin to sketch towards creating that idea into an image. Whether art directing, illustrating or working on an installation, the process of arriving at an idea is the same.

How would you describe your aesthetic?

Difficult to answer but I do know what I like though and what I think inspires me and my work – here it is in list form: travel, nature, friends/family, simple moments, happiness, surf, love and great great stories.

Is there a difference for you between an “illustrator” and an “artist”?

Probably for others and for the application of the work, but I think the distinction between the two becomes more blurred each day.

This is the second time you’ve created illustrations for a Soulpepper season, the last round was in 2004. What’s changed for you as an artist since then? Does this series feel completely different?

I live in L.A. now (moved from NYC). Larger studio, better light, unique projects with different challenges – new space always shakes things up and I think that change to the work and my life was necessary and super helpful. There are similarities to the earlier series of posters conceptually, but I think these feel less restrained and maybe more playful and experimental. Hopefully people enjoy them.

2012 Season Illustrations: