profile / alumni / illustration
October 23, 2019

Do What Scares You: Meet Illustrator Noël Ill

ArtCenter: Tell us about what inspired your current creative project?
Noël ILL (BFA 05 Illustration):
When I was asked if I’d like to illustrate a children’s book about Halloween, my initial thought was, Yes! Some of my fondest childhood memories were attending my elementary school’s Halloween carnival and entering the pumpkin-carving contest. I also loved going to the local library and picking out the books with the special orange sticker, which meant it was Halloween-themed. This feeling of fun and thrill is what inspired the illustrations for If You’re Scary And You Know It!

AC: What have been some of the most memorable twists and turns in your professional/creative journey after graduating ArtCenter?
NI: All the professional jobs I’ve had after graduation have been a twist. I worked as a production artist on the HBO animated series The Life & Times Of Tim, even though I’d never thought about working in animation before the day I was hired. I never suspected Papyrus Greetings would ask to license one of my illustrations, but they did. Creating animated stickers for Facebook was a surprise, too. I just kept waking up to new opportunities in my inbox. Of course, it was because I was working hard and putting myself out there, but these were all jobs that I didn’t see coming. I’d never contemplated how many different places my art could go. I also started a whole new career after doing some voiceover work on The Life & Times Of Tim, so that was a big twist.

Noel Ill

Be patient when doors close and trust that one will open. Have confidence in yourself and know that it is your destiny to succeed!

If Youre Scary And You Know It!

AC: What’s been the most unexpected or valuable takeaway from your ArtCenter education?
NI: For me, it was learning how to create art digitally. When I first began attending ArtCenter, I’d never drawn digitally before, except in an Adobe Illustrator course. As an elective, I took a class about branding art in entertainment and taught myself to use a Wacom tablet. My classmates also gave me tips because some of them were on the entertainment track and had been drawing everything digitally. Picking up this skill truly helped me enter into the workforce.

AC: How do you define success?
NI: Every time I see my work out in public I tell myself, “I made it! I’m a real artist.” I guess I have to see it to believe it, but it still feels surreal to see my art published in a book, or on a greeting card, or when I worked in animation on TV.

AC: Do you have any superstitions?
NI: I don’t announce projects I’m working on until they are almost ready to come out. But that’s just a habit I picked up working in the entertainment industry because so many projects can fall through.

AC: What design cliché are you most tempted to use?
NI: I always want to draw something right up to the edge of the page and create a tangent. I’m always so tempted to do that.

AC: What’s the one tool you can’t do without?
NI: My Stylus pen, of course!

If Youre Scary And You Know It!

AC: What’s the first site you look at when you open your computer in the morning?
NI: Twitter on my phone. I don’t know why; it’s not the best way to start off the day. Twitter is a bizarre mesh of comedic and tragic messages.

AC: Where do you go when you’re taking a break?
NI: My garden! If the weather is bad, I go into the kitchen.

AC: What do you do to detox from media and screens?
NI: I definitely go outside. I prefer a place with a view so my eyes can see distance and somewhere with fresh air.

AC: Where do you get inspiration?
NI: Everything inspires me. People, places, movies, books, random objects, nature, history, mythology, science. Sometimes I get ideas in my dreams and I wake up and write them down.

AC: If you could trade jobs for a day with anyone, who would it be?
NI: I would trade jobs with a farmer because I like animals, being outdoors and tending to the earth.

AC: What books are on your bedside table?<
NI: The Secret History of the Reptilians by Scott Alan Roberts is sitting on my bed right now. When I was little, it was Halloween books; as an adult, I’ve graduated to the alternative science books. It’s the same thrill of mysticism.

Facebook stickers designed by Noel Ill

AC: Who are the most interesting artists and designers working today?
NI: I think it’s videographers. Camera technology keeps improving at a faster rate; some cameras are now shooting in 4K. Videographers are capturing stories with this incredible imagery. I also think YouTubers with vlogs are quite fascinating as well. I’ve worked with video before for personal projects, and there are so many complications that can arise. I know videographers who deal with these technical difficulties, but don’t let that stop them from continuing to create.

AC: Who are some unheralded designers you like?
NI: Meme makers! There are so many funny people out in the world creating great content with memes and many go uncredited. Maybe they like to stay anonymous, but I’m a fan of their work.

AC: Describe the moment in your childhood where you first identified as an artist or designer?
NI: I’d have to go back to my kindergarten days when I would paint portraits of the classroom pet rat and her babies. I was very little, but I knew that painting time was my favorite part of the day.

AC: How were you exposed to great art and design as a child? Who were your favorites?
NI: I was lucky enough to grow up in the 80s when there was an “anything goes”-type of approach to art and entertainment. Sci-fi and fantasy were big, and not just for adults. I was exposed to extremely creative, story-driven toys like She-Ra, and Jem and the Holograms. These strong female characters really appealed to me as a kid. The toys had animated series that followed. Video games were becoming more popular, and had the same cartoon and movie spin-offs. Imaginative creations like She-Ra, Jem and Mario Bros. were original stories in their time. With all the remakes being produced today, I feel like pop culture has lost some originality, which is so important to quality art and design.

AC: If you had superpowers, what would they be?
NI: To be able to transport to anywhere, anytime and also have the ability to be invisible. It kind of sounds like being a ghost, but I don’t want to be a ghost.

AC: What is your most irrational fear?
NI: I want to say it’s being afraid of spiders. They’re so much smaller than me, but they’re so scary-looking and some are poisonous so I just can’t shake that fear.

If Youre Scary And You Know It!

AC: What is your most rational fear?
NI: Fear of the unknown. I’m always on a quest to gain knowledge about what I don’t know, so I won’t be afraid of it.

AC: What possession do you most aspire to possess?
NI: No fear, but that seems impossible.

AC: What is your current obsession?
NI: YouTube. I watch it almost every day. I like to watch old music videos from the 70s and 80s and YouTuber’s daily vlogs. I’ve even started to pick up YouTube lingo like, “I’m shook.”

AC: What is your prized possession?
NI: Metaphorically speaking it would be my patience, but materialistically it would be my custom, 2012, Pony Club, white Ford Mustang. It’s my dream car and I bought it with the money I made working as a production artist on The Life & Times Of Tim. I feel very proud that I was able to buy a car thanks to my art career, and it reminds me to keep working hard.

Alumni Q&A

Submit the Alumni Q&A questionnaire to share your story. We want to hear about your accomplishments, what you're working on and your advice for future ArtCenter students.

AC: What is your happy place?
NI: Pinterest. I love going there to relax and look at pictures of things that make me happy, like cups of steaming cocoa and Christmas tree lights.

AC: How would your closest friend describe you?
NI: It would definitely be, “Aw, cute.”

AC: How would you define your personal brand or graphic identity?
NI: Colorful, happy and cute! Haha ^_^

AC: What is the best advice for an ArtCenter student who’s interested in following your career path?
NI: The number one thing is to not be lazy. Do extra credit when you can and go the extra mile. You’ll learn more and it will benefit you in the future. Have a good attitude. Stay open to unexpected opportunities. Be patient when doors close and trust that one will open. Have confidence in yourself and know that it is your destiny to succeed!