Interview with Illustrator, Cahill Wessel

How did you get started doing what you do?
My parents always encouraged me to draw while I was growing up, and for some reason I became hooked. When I was a kid I would entertain myself by drawing dinosaurs, sharks, people snowboarding, action figures, sports cars, and other things kids are stoked on. I didn’t start taking art extremely seriously until the later years of high school.
I slowly discovered that I wanted to create work that exists in between reality and the surreal, while also exploring trends within popular culture. This broad theme allows for an infinite number of interpretations, so I’ve been actively pushing myself to produce images that are thought provoking, confusing, and beautiful while occupying the same creative space.

What does your typical day look like?
I have a fairly erratic schedule, so my work routine is fairly inconsistent. However, my most productive days begin bright and early. I’ll head out to the coast and surf for a few hours. If I’m lucky, the waves are good and I will have shared at least one wave with a pod of dolphins. Then I fight the traffic back to Oakland. I’ll walk into town and grab my third cup of coffee, and then I lock myself in my extremely small bedroom and draw until the early morning. Activities in large open settings are essential to my work routine, as it can be incredibly hard to sit for long periods of time in my small cave.

Mona Lisa
roses and donuts hq

How long does it typically take for you to finish a piece?
It can vary greatly depending on the size and amount of detail. My most popular pieces are the densely packed colored pencil drawings, and those can take anywhere from 50-100 hours. I love working with colored pencil, as the medium grants you the control of a hard tip, yet allows the user to achieve a finished quality similar to paint. However, blending the countless layers to attain this texture and consistency is super time consuming. I also love working with pen and ink, and will trade off between making the pencil drawings and weird hallucinogenic, post-apocalyptic illustrations. These usually take between 5-10 hours, and offer me a quick break from the monotony of the pencil work. It’s fulfilling to finish something quickly so these help me feel productive when I’m whittling away at 100 hours of blending wax.

How do you keep motivated?
I try to keep a deep collection of sketches and idea lists, so I’m always pretty excited to finish a piece, because I’m eager to start the next project. I try to push myself to make work that gets increasingly more beautiful with time.
I also take on some commissions, and these projects can be fun and interesting because one has to manifest a client’s vision in a manner that aligns with your style.

no boys just pizza
best day of the best friends

What do you hope to accomplish with your work?
My main goal is to create work that is pleasing to the eye. I want to make drawings that add to our cultural dialogue, yet remain fun and witty. I want to offer people windows into alternate realities in which stoke reigns supreme. When people view my work, I’d love for them to feel uplifted and uncomfortably jittery, eager to make their life less shitty.

How have others reacted to your work?
One time this guy hated my work so much his eyes started bleeding and he projectile vomited all over the piece. His lawyer claims my perfect use of color caused his retinas to implode. I’m currently being sued for damages. That being said, I’m flattered to say I’ve had an overall positive response. Its always a pleasure knowing some people enjoy looking at my body of work.

What, if anything, would you tell your younger self?
I would give myself a list of stocks to invest in.

beach party monster
hawaiian print baseball player

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Never trust a freshwater dolphin.

Any words of wisdom to aspiring artists who want to pursue a similar career?
Pursing a career in the creative field can be super frustrating, and its something I’m still actively trying to figure out. Luckily I’m at a point at which I don’t need to work full time to stay afloat, but I’m more than ready to make the jump into full self-employment. I’ve found its crucial to find your true voice and style as an artist. Its hard to find a consistent rhythm, but I’ve noticed the best work is created in a space in which your true persona, your world-views, and your desires overlap. In the case of building a profitable career, talking with other artists has led me to understand that there is no set way to gain clients or exposure, although it is important to know the niche your art may fall into, and to focus your energy pursuing these avenues. Its essential to always be creating work, while actively promoting it.

greek sculpture
egyptian tsunami curse

Have any future aspirations that you’d like to share?
There are so many things that I’d like to accomplish, and at times it can be hard to focus on one goal at a time. I’m dying to start doing murals, but I’ve been too busy to really look for a wall. Ideally, I’d love to travel around and leave visual trinkets in places I’ve visited. Murals really help shape the landscape of cities and towns, and I’d love to contribute to that. I’ve been slowly writing a bunch of disturbing, psychedelic, and raunchy poems that reflect upon our new found inability to write full sentences. I want to eventually put out an illustrated book of said poems. I’d also like to make more terrible music and possibly start play shows, but have no idea how to make that happen.

What art supplies do you use?
Prismacolor colored pencils, micron pens, wacom tablets, Ikea drafting table, bristol paper, bic mechanical pencils, coffee, cigarettes, gin, blood, tall cans, skateboards.

Follow Cahill Wessel on Instagram


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