Conrad Javier Talks About Bleacher Report, Creating Digital Work, & Being A Freelancer

Introduce yourself

My name is Conrad Javier and I’m a freelance illustrator and concept artist from Forest Park, IL

When did you first start getting involved with art?

I first started getting involved with art at an early age, drawing ninja turtles and power rangers since I was in kindergarten to drawing spot illustrations for the high school paper. I eventually would attend art school in Chicago and have been working as a creative ever since. I have always had a great support group in the forms of my friends and family. I was always in a healthy competition with my brothers that continually pushed me to develop my skills. 


Talk us through the process of creating that Chance grammy design. Also, what was that feeling like when you saw him post that?

I was completely unprepared for the response from the Chance grammy design. At that point of my life, I had just recently made the decision to leave my job and pursue a career as a freelance artist. It was a long thought-out and difficult decision for me. There is a storm of uncertainty and fear that comes in shifting career paths, but deep down I knew that I had to do it or else I’d regret not taking the risk for the rest of my life. A week or so after I left Threadless, Bleacher Report approached me with a project that could be “right up my alley”. Little did I know that the Chance illustration would kick-start my freelance career. I remember that project vividly. I spent 2 days gathering references, watching every Chance video on Youtube and compiled a sketch of what I wanted. I then took the sketch to Photoshop and continued to complete the project while listening to Chance’s album on repeat. A couple friends and I went to celebrate the project over dinner. As I watched Chance win grammy after grammy, I quickly checked the post, curious to see how it was being received. I was an utter mess. I’ve never received such a response to my artwork and rushed home to start working on a process video to post on my social media accounts. After he reposted the image, I lost it. I see that project as a sign that I made the right decision and a lot of the fear and doubt that I felt in the past months leading up to my decision was completely erased. It was a fantastic way to start the new year.


How did you create your relationship with Bleacher Report and start designing for them?

I’ve always had my eye on the types of companies that I’d love to work with and Bleacher Report was right at the top of that list. I love that they use a lot of new and undiscovered artists for their projects and their content lends itself to more illustrative freedom. After I left Threadless, I decided to create 2 new pieces of sports-related art each day for a week and tagged them in every single post. I made it clear through my content that I wanted to work with them. It was the first time that I focused my content towards a potential client and luckily it worked!
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You were previously working for Threadless but decided to embark on your freelance journey. How has freelancing life been treating you?

Freelance life is quite an experience. I’m a bit of a slow learner. At first, you feel like you want to go 24/7 at a 1000% and you never want to sleep or eat, but that leads to becoming a non-functioning human being. At times you want to be a little more relaxed and want to take your time, but then you could lose track of days and spend an entire day on Youtube and Netflix. That being said, I love freelance life. I’m very fortunate to have clients who enjoy my work and who I enjoy collaborating with. With more time, you get to focus on a lot of things that you would put off until the weekends. It requires a lot of discipline and planning but I am extremely happy with how it’s going so far!


Although you went to college to study traditional painting, it seems like the majority of your work you create now is digital. How has that journey and transition been from painting to digital?

Traditional and digital painting go hand in hand. I believe that traditional painting/drawing skills are completely necessary to be a digital artist. I think of the digital programs as more of a tool to get the desired look. Digital programs make working with clients much more efficient in my experience as I am able to make both micro and macro changes much quicker than if I was painting with oils or watercolors. It wasn’t an easy transition from traditional to digital as you have to learn and experiment with a workflow that suits your style and process. This takes a long time (as it should). I meet a lot of people who are afraid to experiment with digital programs, but I would have never discovered my current workflow if I didn’t try out all of the programs at my disposal. I hope to see the negative stigma associated with the digital mediums slowly disappear over time as it is just a tool. I really love painting digitally and appreciate how much potential it has as an experimental medium. It doesn’t have to be one without the other. That being said, at times I really miss the tactile feel of traditional mediums and I’ve started to go to life drawing and oil painting classes in my spare time. 


Let’s dive into the meanings behind some two of your pieces. First, Erratic 

“Erratic” is the first piece in a series that I’ve been sketching out for quite some time now. I’ve always been drawn towards the surreal and taboo. This piece is meant to show the many faces of youth and the effect of social media and technology on the psyche. It’s really quite disturbing to see the social media addiction in young adults and I wanted this piece to start a commentary.
With all of the current disturbing trends that kids are partaking for likes and followers, I simply wanted to show how off-putting and disturbing that obsession looks from the outside.
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And last, Pilgrimage 

“Pilgrimage” is a very personal piece for me. As a first-generation immigrant in this country, I’ve had an extremely interesting experience of learning how to assimilate into society while keeping very strong traditional ties to my heritage and strong Asian values. There’s an interesting tug and pull that occurs and I’m constantly trying to find a balance between the two completely different worlds. I created this piece shortly after a month stint in the Philippines where I was able to experience the world through the eyes of my parents. I wanted to spend an abnormal amount of time on a piece, focusing on each character and giving them all a different look and feel. This piece symbolizes my struggle with discovering the roots of my family and the need to survive in a new and unknown world.
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