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Meet the Rinzens: Adrian Clifford, Part Two

Juxtapoz // Friday, 04 Sep 2009


Kirsten Incorvaia: Which graphic novel have you most recently put down?


Adrian Clifford: Last finished - that would be Yuichi Yokoyama's New Engineering, which is less of a graphic novel and more of a head-spinning anthro-geometric grimoire that is at once oddly familiar and totally alien. I loved it. Presently I’m partway through Naoki Urasawa's Pluto, which so far is all kinds of magnificent. It's a retelling of the Astro Boy “Greatest Robot on Earth” storyline (my favourite episodes of the animated show). Despite being primarily about robots it's more touching and humanistic than anything I’ve read recently.


After that, I’m looking forward to Mazuchelli's Aterios Polyp, which is getting good notices.


What does Helvetica mean to you?


Well, you could write a book about it (and people have). To me it's the godhead of modern design, and it casts an imposing shadow over other lesser fonts. This also means that occasionally it needs to be rebelled against, but that's not to take anything away from its majesty.


I may be mistaken, but are you obsessed with owls?


I like them muchly, but if I arm-wrestled Rilla for that title all I would end up with is a sore arm. To be honest I’m more obsessed with cats, though never much draw them - now that I think about it that's probably kind of weird.

Do you ever get antsy from working on the computer for long hours, day in day out?


Boy, do I ever. It's getting harder to maintain that sort of vigilance in front of the screen day-in day-out. My square eyes have square dreams.


What does 'permanent vacation' mean to you?


In the piece you're referencing it has an obvious role as sort-of-funny, sort-of-not wordplay, given that the artwork is clearly about death (and toil), but is also seemingly optimistic. The oxymoronic nature of the phrase works as a kind of Zen k?an, in that it sidesteps rationality to (possibly) give you a momentary, unexpected grasp of the irrational.


Mostly though it was a pun.


What is Rock of Eye?


A glistening, shiny, exciting and newly-new nexus for the corralling of various illustrative notables and their professional wagons in a mutually beneficial circle of commissionability…


More simply described as an agency, I suppose, but that doesn't capture the grandeur of experience and general swellness involved. It's also a website:

How/when did you know you were talented enough to make a living as an artist?


The short answer is when the 'art sold' balances the 'rent owed.'


Is it hard being an artist?


Hard is probably not the right word…maddening sounds more appropriate, both in the immediate frustrating sense of the word, but also in the liberated, answering-only-to-your-own- (imaginary)-gods meaning. The simple beauty of art is that all anyone needs is a pencil and a piece of paper and they can move the world; the hard part is doing so.


Why do you prefer to use only one or two colors in your illustrations?


I guess I have a tendency for minimalism; I love colour, but perhaps feel a bit more at home with shape and line. It's not a dogma - I’m all for colour in the right places.


Practically, printing only one or two colours was a limitation necessitated by low budgets when I began work as a designer, but that doesn't seem to be so much the case these days, more an aesthetic preference.

Beverage of choice?


Morning: coffee, afternoon: a very specific brand of ginger beer, evening: wine.


What magazines do you read?


Very few these days - like a lot of people, obtaining information via the Internet has spoiled me for religiously reading magazines. I find myself flipping through and then putting them back on the newsstand when only a handful of pages catch my interest. The beauty of blogs is the insanely deep niche-ness of interest that is catered for!


I should state that I do love physically printed objects. The move away from printing for purely informational purposes should hopefully just put further onus on printed books and magazines, to realize their potential as art-objects.


Top 3 movies?


Geez - impossible to boil it down to three from the whole history of cinema. Maybe I can just get away with listing the three films that have resonated with me the most post-2000? Those would be Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, The Fountain, and Spirited Away.

Best Ozzie animal?


I like the platypus. He's a modern day chimera, improbably constructed of disparate, glued-together parts (which is not a bad metaphor for the country he calls home). Is he a duck, or is he a bear? He's playful (yet shy), cute (yet weird), lives in water (yet breathes air), and is strangely sensitive to electrical fields.


What visual references are you most influenced by?


The list of influences would be painfully long; a quick look at any of my work will probably implicate the likely suspects – pop-art, poster art, modernist design, illustration of the 40s-70s, comics…


I don't think anyone truly chooses their influences – I think they choose you, seep into your brain, mix around with the other stimulus and seep out through the fingertips. We're probably blind to a lot of what makes us 'us', really.


And which visual material is most inspiring?


Inspiration-wise it's often not things that obviously relate to the aesthetic of my work that light a fire in the gut – movies, music, good food, people, nature – all of that gets channeled into the visuals or provides the energy to work to make something newer and better than you've done before.


How would you describe your personality in 5 words?


Sort of like a platypus!



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