Although it’s sometimes difficult to ascertain an artist’s place of origin from his or her particular aesthetic, illustrator Tad Carpenter’s Midwestern roots seem readily apparent when looking at his work. From typographic posters to depictions of mythical beings, Carpenter’s art is filled with a warmth, playfulness, and simplicity that points lovingly backwards to a boyhood in America’s “New West.” A nostalgic, rosy-tinted romp, it’s imagery that evokes a time of slingshots and ray guns—something that might taste like bubblegum and smell like motor oil. It’s fitting that Carpenter credits the Midwest for shaping him into the artist that he is today; it seems that this love of home goes hand-in-hand with the love of past that fuels much of his artistic creation.
Quite the prolific illustrator and designer, Carpenter’s work has appeared in countless prints, magazines, and national campaigns for big names like Target and Macy’s. He has also illustrated a number of children’s books including Trick-or-Treat and his most recent, Sad Santa. Tad currently lives in Kansas City where he runs Tad Carpenter Creative and teaches design at the University of Kansas. Check out more photos of Tad Carpenter’s seriously rad sketchbooks and his own words about sketching after the jump! —Max
Above image: A sampling of Tad Carpenter’s work. Check out more here.
Why do you use a sketch book?
I use a sketchbook for several reasons and always have several sketchbooks going at once. I like to keep them fairly organized. I have one book that I like to use for writing only for example. Editorial stuff, client related ideas and story/book concepts. I try to keep that book mostly writing and thumbnail doodles. I then have sketchbooks that are line art and doodles, logo or mark exploration and others that are purely exploratory. What I love about sketchbooks is without saying anything at all they give us permission to explore. We can explore without any repercussions or restrictions which is a rare feeling. We can try a new mediums, try a new style, try anything at all. No one has to see it and it can be buried within the pages of the book or if you like what you are doing you can move forward and bring it to life.
What are your go-to sketch book supplies? Are there any brands or media that you’re particularly drawn to?
I have probably 15 Canson 5.5×8.5 65lb sketchbooks. I use them to write in, doodle in and then store them as a group. They are my idea books. When I am stumped or need an idea I love to do dig through old sketchbooks and read ideas and expand on them. I draw with fine Gelly Roll pens. I know kinda crazy but they push the ink out really nicely.
Aside from preliminary sketches for larger projects, are there any things that you like to sketch just for fun? What are some things that you most frequently fill your sketch books with?
To be honest almost all sketchbook drawing I do are for fun and exploration. Most of my client work I draw on loose leaf paper. When I draw in my sketchbook I love to explore typography and letterforms, and different mediums. I have been trying more collage and layering based techniques just to try something totally new and different. There really is something freeing about making and creating something away from my computer. Doing this within a sketchbook is very liberating and exciting sometimes. It is fun to make for makings sake.