Are You Into Illustration? Check Out Sean Williams

Introduce yourself

What’s good everyone! I’m Sean Williams, I’m an animator, illustrator and creative director from Evanston, IL, and I’m the Artistic Director of Peace Crew (@peacecrew_cc) a Chicago-based creative collective of artists looking to spread positivity through art.

How was life growing up?

I really enjoyed it, I was definitely a weird kid, though. Looking back, I really could’ve grown up to be garbage. 

I was born and raised in Evanston, a suburb on the North Shore, but I feel like my experiences there, and in general, are pretty unique. My parents were strict, so I was never really the ‘going-out’ type; instead, I spent the majority of my time in and around my house when I was young. I’m the oldest in my family and didn’t have any siblings that lived with me until I was 10, so I was always alright with being by myself, playing alone and doing my own thing, which helped to make sure that my imagination was really well developed. On the one hand, I was that weird ass black kid that loved drawing and anime, but I also grew up playing football in Chicago (I played for 11 years total), so I’d made plenty of friends, and didn’t have any issues meeting or interacting with new people. I was super disciplined, and ridiculously annoying and undisciplined at the same time growing up, it was interesting for sure

When did you begin to witness you had creative talents?

My grandmother is an amazingly talented artist and she really helped to foster my creativity growing up. I know that without that, I wouldn’t be a fraction of the artist that I am today. If at all. I’ve been a creative for literally as long I can remember, basically, from the moment that I could hold a pencil. Whether it was drawing, sculpting, or taking apart my toys and (attempting) to put them back together, I don’t think there’s been a time in my life where my hands weren’t at work.

(Childhood Drawings)

How did you get into illustration?

Since I’d been drawing forever, it was kind of the natural progression of things. By the time I was in High School, I’d hoped that I was going to become a comic artist, but I really had no idea what I wanted to do, I just knew that I wanted to draw. Then it was my senior year and I was taking AP Studio Art at Evanston Township High School. When I got into the class, I’d had this notion that I was the best artist in the school — by the second week I realized that I was very, very wrong. Over the course of that school year I learned that if I was ever going to be successful, I couldn’t just draw without a purpose and get any job I wanted, so I started focusing more on studying animation, being more disciplined and creating the right types of art

Talk about your 365 project you’re currently working on.

I have really bad ADHD; like I can’t focus on anything, ever. Even when it comes to art, I have a hard time sticking to one project or illustration, and I’ll end up with a lot of unfinished, unposted work. I also always have a bunch, like a shit ton of little ridiculous ideas bouncing around my head and the Notes on my iPhone, and I always tell my significant other/best friend/muse Chloee (@chloeeleos) about how I want to do a drawing challenge and stick to it. Which never happens. A little over a month ago though, I’d gotten my Cintiq (drawing tablet) back in the mail from being repaired. The one I sent in was completely fried and the company ended up sending me a brand new one. Having a brand new tablet and realizing that all of the drawings that’d been on my old one were either saved, lost or deleted, I realized that I had the opportunity to start fresh and it finally felt like the right time to commit to the challenge

You stated that 2017 you’re going to bring the animation industry to the music industry. Who are some artists so far that have allowed you to use your animation style on their artwork?

Yeah! I’m extremely passionate about music, and I think there’s something really special about the way that visual art can interact with and change your perception of the music you’re listening to. Whenever I see bad album covers or creative direction for artists, I get PISSED. I think music (rap specifically) is the perfect medium for visual artists to try something vibrant and new, and I think it’s finally time for us to completely leave behind the shitty textured images of guns and lean. I’ve really been lucky to work with as many artists as I have so far, and I’m grateful that there are people who understand what I’m trying to do. Some of the Chicago artists I’m doing creative direction for are my fellow Peace Crew members Eshè & Obs3rve, (@esheallday) & (obs3rve). They both have projects releasing this year, and we’re planning a lot of really cool stuff: patches, hats, stickers, and some other special things; we’ve really got a lot for the coming months. Thanks to the internet, and more specifically Twitter and other social media, I’ve had the ability to come into contact with artists from around the country, which is how I ended up linking with artists like Jay2 from Chicago’s Zero Fatigue and Innanet James, an upcoming artist from the DMV area, who I’m now doing creative direction for. I’m honestly just really excited for any and everybody who’s willing to take a chance and let me create weird, ridiculous designs and animations. Fortunately for me, a lot of people have been responding well to my art lately, so I’ve been making a lot more connections. As for artists I want to work with, I’d really love to create something dope with Smino, Ravyn Lenae, Earl Sweatshirt, KAYTRANADA, Mick Jenkins — the list is endless.

Talk a bit behind the process of each piece you create and your inspiration

I’ve got nothing. Honestly, I’ll either have an idea beforehand and try my best to recreate what I’d imagined, or (more likely) there’s just nothing, and I draw a circle and go from there — That’s kind of the strategy that I’ve been using for my Stupid-ass-drawing-a-day Challenge as well; they’re either based off of some terrible pun that Chloee came up with, or some thought that made me laugh at an inappropriate time, or something like that.

Anime, Videogames, Music, Theatre, other visual artists, everything. I’m constantly absorbing everything. Growing up, though, I was the kid drawing DragonBall Z every single day.

You run a blog called Artists-everyday

One of the things that I believe in the most is when people use their platform and influence to teach and provide others with the resources that they need to thrive; especially in an artistic capacity. September of 2015, right after I’d come back from working at Cartoon Network, I realized how little information there was out there for people that wanted to work in animation, how hard it was to get your work seen online, and most importantly, how little of an animation community there was OUTSIDE of the actual animation industry. I decided that I would do everything I could do to help people who were in the same position that I was/am in, and I created a blog dedicated to sharing other’s art. (http://artists-everyday.tumblr.com/). The blog is run through Tumblr and operated by myself and three other moderators (illustrators I’ve come in contact with online that believed in what I was doing and wanted to help). Without them, I honestly don’t think that I’d be able to keep the blog as smooth and active as I have! Once I graduate in May, I’ll be able to focus a lot more time back on the site, since there are a lot of updates and improvements I want to make. It was definitely a labor of love, especially at first; but once I got the ball rolling, people were really into the idea of having their art shared without having to deal with the strict curation guidelines. I really just believe in artists having as big of an audience as possible

You were able to intern at Cartoon Network. How was that experience for you?

Imagine the best job you’ve ever thought of, and then triple it for shits and giggles. That’s what working at Cartoon Network was like for me. It’s actually really hard to express what it was like for me in words, but I did do a very, VERY, long write up about my experience about a year ago, which talks about how I actually got the internship and how I grew from there. (Read). When I was there, I was living in Los Angeles and working in Burbank on the show Clarence, which is probably one of the most charming and genuine cartoons I’ve seen in a long time. The crew that I worked with was super dope too, I met a lot of really talented artists, every single one better than me, and it was both really humbling and really eye-opening to be able to be around, or be mentored by (shoutout to Mark Galez) these artists that literally spend their lives inspiring millions. I even got to meet Tom Kenny, the voice of SpongeBob, my entire childhood was affirmed and I was like 19, it was crazy.

What are three 3 key components to illustration/design?

I couldn’t actually give someone sound advice on the fundamentals of design, but I do think that there are three very important factors that I consider whenever I make a drawing. First: Finish. The absolute most important thing is to finish whatever it is that you’re working on. Of course, that’s super obvious, but it’s also something that I usually take for granted. I need to really work on finishing the things that I start. Two: Stay Loose, and Three: Don’t try to change what you do to fit someone else’s needs. Don’t do the art that you think people are looking for, don’t try to change your style to fit trends, just make the art that you want to make and things really start to come together.

When it’s all said and done how would you like to be remembered?

When everything is said and done, I want to create characters and tell stories that affect others. I’ve always been heavily affected by the animated things that I grew up with, whether it was Yu Yu Hakusho or Hey Arnold!, it didn’t matter. I was amazed by the life that could be captured and the artistry that it took to bring these narratives to life. And that’s what I strive to do, I’m working to be someone who can pay their bills by telling stories that people love. Whether that story is told through the medium of an animated music video, a comic, stickers, cover art, creative direction or whatever, I’m just going with the flow right now.

One day, though, I want to create an animated series that inspires others the same way my favorite shows inspired me


 Written By: Nico Rud

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