Artist Interview – Tug Rice

Tug Rice is a modern illustrator whose work evokes bygone eras of a more glamorous New York. Hi succinct line work and perfectly chosen colors capture everyday moments in their best light. His work has been featured in magazines around the world and were very happy he’s our Artist Interview today!

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1) How do you motivate yourself?  

TR: My favorite thing to do is work. I love obsessing over a project so motivation is rarely in short supply — knock on wood. But there are, of course, days when for whatever reason the thought of working does make me want to cry. On those occasions I think about how lucky I am to do what I love and that usually snaps me back to focus.

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2)  How do you structure your time?

TR: I wish I could say I always devote a certain number of hours a day to a project but I’m just not that disciplined. I work when inspiration strikes, which can sometimes happen in the middle of the night. Trying to balance an illustration career with an acting career has forced me to be more pragmatic, however. If I’m in rehearsal for eight hours, I need to make sure I use my lunch break to work on an illustration that’s due or a private commission. It can be tricky but I’ve leaned to set realistic deadlines and schedule time to relax. That’s always necessary.

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3) What do you listen to when you work?

TR: I’ve stolen a trick from my favorite author, Michel Faber. I remember reading somewhere that, while he wrote The Crimson Petal and the White, his brilliant epic novel set in the Victorian era, he listened to Miles Davis. He thought it was important to be able to evoke the world of the book even under the influence of a completely different entity, like 20th century jazz. That juxtaposition fascinates me. So if I’m working on an illustration that feels very nostalgic, I’ll try to listen to something edgy and contemporary. I think it flavors the work in an exciting way and keeps it from feeling dated. Similarly, I might listen to Mozart while working on a picture of a modern-day street in Brooklyn.

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4) Who are three artists that inspire you?

TR: Bemelmans comes to mind right away. His work is playful and elegant — a combination that isn’t always easy to achieve. I love what he did for The Carlyle. Raoul Dufy is another one whose world I want to live in. And then there are artists, like Christiaan Conradie, whose vocabulary is so different from mine but inspires me nevertheless. I saw his work at VOLTA this year and loved it.

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5) What’s the best piece(s) of advice you have been given?

TR: “Draw what you see, not what you think you see.”

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6) Describe an object or tool related to your work that you love.

TR: My Wacom stylus has become an extension of me. It’s an incredible invention. The other day, my three-year-old nephew, who loves how artwork that is drawn on a pad can simultaneously appear on a screen, asked where my “magical pen” was. I think that’s the best description!

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7) An anonymous patron has donated $100K for you to build your dream studio, what would it look like and where would it be?

TR: Working digitally for the most part, my studio often ends up being a table in Starbucks. That kind of mobility is a luxury in its own way and I don’t know how I would spend $100,000 on a permanent studio — that would be so foreign to me. I’d probably end up spending most of the budget on heated floors and SMEG appliances. As for the location, I think it would have to be somewhere uptown in Manhattan. A window with a great view. And a grand piano. Actually, I could spend that money quite easily…

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Find Tug on Instagram at @tugrice

Or online here!


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