PE Typography - Interview with Simanion

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Project Educate Typography –
Interview with

Today I present an interview with Sydney based artist Simanion.

Lively and intense would be 2 of many words to describe his art and illustrations. A tendency to surrealism surrounds his works, as well as a big love for detail and the tiny twisted things.

You can also find him on facebook, twitter and tumblr

Please introduce yourself!

Hello! Umm… I’m a male human. My name is Simon, I’m 24 and I’m some combination of artist/illustrator/designer/typographer. I’m based in Sydney, Australia.

How did you get into art and design?

I’ve been drawing ever since I was a kid, and loved doing art at school and home. People must’ve told me I was good, so I made it my thing. I continued doing art in high school, but it was still just a school subject and hobby to me. It was only after high school and when I started to study graphic design that found the confidence to see myself as an artist and realized how big a part of my identity it was for all those years.

Where do you find inspirations for new works?

It can come from anywhere – music, movies, the weather, other artists, cartwheeling amongst cats – usually seeing anything of sufficient beauty makes me want to create. I’m finding myself more and more inspired by architecture actually. All those things might put me in an inspired and creative mood, but it never lasts long enough to fuel me to the completion of a project.

With specific ideas, generally I just sit down and something comes: fleeting images and thoughts that I try and elaborate on or package into something that will work visually, and it transforms itself as I work on it. The inspiration for those things is mostly subconscious, maybe from dreams or mental adventures. If I see a really cool work from another artist, I think: “damn, now I can never do that”. But I’ll remember the idea and let it simmer in my mind for weeks or months until I’ve forgotten what the artwork was actually like, and just recall the essence of whatever it was I liked about it. That will then creep out in a project down the line.

How important is the sketching process to you? (If you have links to sketches that would be cool, but its not a requirement)

Some of my illustrations involve no sketching and just happen on the paper. For other more complex ideas, especially my typography work, sketching is extremely important. The ability to review what you’ve drawn in a sketch and make constant changes results in a more creative artwork for me. I can judge myself more critically and can see if a particular line or letter can be illustrated better or with more personality. Then when you come to applying the permanent marks, you have a much more rounded understanding of what you want to accentuate and what you want to avoid.

With my illustrated type work I might draw one word over and over again in fifty different styles, and I won’t know the exact one I’m looking for until it’s sketched. At the same time, sketching filters out the bad ideas that seemed great in my head.

What advice would you give someone who wants to get into design, typography or art?

My advice would be to find a style that they really enjoy or want to excel in - do it for enjoyment. Then if they want to take it more seriously, within those parameters they should dedicate themselves to forging a unique style of their own and build for themselves a creative identity and philosophy that they can later apply to anything they want. Discover what your strengths and weaknesses are as an artist/designer and play up your strengths. Hone your craft, get your own style and then go crazy and experiment with everything. It also helps to study art, and know the history so you understand where your work is positioned in a broader context. Also, take note of the technical rules and understand when to break them or not.

How important is Typography for you / your work?

Typography is a relatively recent love. I got more into type towards the end of my degree, as a way to combine my personal illustration work with my design studies. Afterwards, I ended up focusing on illustrative typography for my Masters. That really helped solidify a theoretical basis for my type work, which I thankfully still find to be a real joy to create. So it became quite important! It’s probably my favourite aspect of graphic design. I like the playfulness and room for experimentation. It’s also a great challenge sometimes to really try and capture the essence of a particular word, either through symbols or abstraction or aesthetic correlations with how it flows verbally.

Do you think it helps young artists to join online communities?

Definitely. When I was young and making art, I didn’t really consider myself an artist and felt quite isolated from any art scene. DeviantArt actually got me back into art in a really big way, and was a catalyst for me changing from a degree in history/psychology to creative arts. It also gave me extra incentive to produce art more regularly, so my page didn’t become stale. An online community can give you feedback on your work and offer you advice when you want it, as well as open you up to a whole world of different styles and artists you won’t learn about in school. But at the same time, DeviantArt isn’t the art world – in some ways it’s a bit closed off, and the system of popularity that exists here doesn’t mean much in the real world.

Your gallery shows both Traditional and Digital Art… Do you prefer one of them or does the decision of which to use depend on what you want to create?

I’d have to say as a whole I prefer the traditional process, because it’s just way more satisfying for me. I like the tactility, textures, the incorporation of mistakes, and there is an immediate pay off as soon as you make any kind of mark, that for me is missing from digital. I also like having a physical “original”, that’s quite special these days when everything else is virtualized. These days, digital art is the norm and traditional is the more niche approach. Having said that, I still enjoy making digital pieces. Unless it’s a photomanipulation or digital collage, my digital works always start out as physical drawings anyway, especially with typography. The aesthetics of some beautiful vector type is worth the tedious and occasionally infuriating pen tool process.

There are lots of details in your illustrations… are you very patient or do you enjoy doing small and tiny bits?

I don’t really know…I must enjoy it on some level! It’s probably a result of an obsessive trait, especially in regards to my work. So while I like detailed work personally, and enjoy doing it, it sometimes feels like an internal necessity. Also I like to create snapshots of little worlds, like tiny dioramas, and details add to the character and authenticity of things. But I also try and mix it up and do more (comparatively) minimalist works to keep me sane.

What influenced you and your art the most?

The first major inspirations were John Howe and Alan Lee, who did the concept art for The Lord of the Rings films. They really blew me away, and shaped a lot of my earlier stuff. I love the paintings from the Pop Surrealism movement (Mark Ryden, Marion Peck, Amy Sol, Yoko D’holbachie), as I can relate to the importance they place on aesthetics and beauty in combination with abstraction, the subconscious and dreamy free association. The illustrative typography work of Alex Trochut has been a massive inspiration, as have the whimsical illustrations of Shaun Tan. Taking another angle, where I actually work – at my desk in my room with very limited space – has probably shaped my art a lot. It keeps it quite small and forces me to impress on a small scale through detail and careful composition.

Is there any medium or style you haven't tried so far, but would love to play with at some point?

I’ve dabbled in sculpture, but I want to do a lot more. Modelling putty, assemblage, carvings, as well as installations. I love 3D typography too, and other creative ways of bringing type into the real world. Large-scale murals scare me but could be fun - I have a wall-sized work on the horizon. I’ve yet to get my head around oil painting, but that’s an expensive and messy pursuit that would suit a proper studio as opposed to the desk in my bedroom. Part of me just wants to cover a huge canvas with expressive painting in under an hour.

What's your 3 favourite pieces from your own work?

Hmmm…these are three that I like at the moment, and each represent a different aspect of my style: “The Windmillion Time Bubble”, “Neapolia” & “Sleepless:Untamed”

You can also find him here:


Thank you for reading!

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