Designer of the Week: Daniel Fishel

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Regional design awards


Location: Queens, NY


Instagram: @o_fishel

Design School Attended: BFA – University of the Arts (Philadelphia); MFA – School of Visual Arts (NYC)

How would you describe your work?

I make conceptual illustrations that are more about emotional intelligence and empathy than just a clever visual solution.

Where from do you pull inspiration?

I draw inspiration from my own personal experiences as well as things I’ve soaked up like pop culture, art, design and other people’s stories.

You were selected by Print in 2015 as a New Visual Artist. What does that feel like?

When I got word that I was one of Print’s New Visual Artists, I was ecstatic. It’s an award that’s given to some of the coolest, smartest illustrators and designers that I’ve been following for a few years now. Knowing that I am in the same club as Tran Nguyen, Mikey Burton and Jessica Walsh is pretty flattering.

In the NVA, you mentioned that your biggest influence is Raymond Pettibon. What about his work stands out to you?

Petitbon’s work is cinematic, reflective and aggressively opaque yet quiet. His work reveals unpleasant truths about war, racism, religion and greed that set a tone in America in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. The tone, simplicity and power of Raymond Pettibon’s work echoes in the work I create and could only hope to make in my own vision.

I’m also heavily influenced by Leanne Shapton, Brian Cronin, Margaret Kilgallen, Clare Rojas, Jason Holley and the Clayton Brothers.

Are there other designers or artists that you look to as role models?

Scott Bakal is an illustrator who’s been working for over 20 years and is someone I look up to. His work bends between work that can hang in the gallery, but also as a magazine page, theatre poster or in whatever application. Throughout his illustration practice, Scott has pushed to always evolve, experiment and never settle on making anything less than extraordinary. What I love about Scott’s work the most is that he’s always been able to push his personal opinion and viewpoint in the work he creates. Over the years, I am glad that I have been able to seek him out not just as a mentor, but also as a friend.


What has been the biggest challenge for you as a designer?

Letting go of doubt and having confidence that everything works when you put in the time and effort. Freelancing ain’t easy.

As an independent illustrator and designer, how were you able to turn your passion into a career? What does that story look like?

Aside from going to art school, I’ve always had a ‘do it yourself’ attitude. When I was in college, I didn’t want to wait for my degree for approval that I was an illustrator/designer and could go off to get work. I bought a zine from the Wooden Shoe in South Philly called DIY Silkscreening and taught myself how set up a studio in my apartment. Later when I was a student at U Arts, I would sneak into the print making lab and screen print late at night making show posters for a friends production company. I made the posters for the small company for free. In exchange, I got a corner of a band’s merch table to sell my screen printed posters. From there I connected with the bands and would do shirts, posters and records for a ton of them. The two most notable being The Wonder Years and Into It. Over It. That DIY ethic of just making things and connecting with people who would or could work with me has been a theme of my illustration practice way before art school.

Have you had any specific experiences that pushed you to where you are today? Ones that others could look at and say, “I’m going to do that too!”

My mom kind of pressured me when I was in high school. My latest band broke up, and I was starting up a new one with other friends when my mom asked me what I was going to be doing for the next 5 to 10 years. I had an idea that I would be really into going to college for Psychology because I was really interested in how we thought and interacted with one another. However, I didn’t really see myself just starting to have a real job by the time I was in my 30s and decided that it probably wasn’t a thing I was into. So I looked into my other interest which was art. Originally I wanted to be a painting major, but during my freshman year at U Arts I saw more opportunities and a path for success being an illustrator.

What pushed me into the way I work was being taught by Zina Saunders and being exposed to and listening to a lecture by Yuko Shimizu in 2008. At the time I was screen printing and I was trying to do rendered out paintings in acrylic. Zina taught me how to use the computer, have fun making work and let go of what I thought an illustration looked like and started making what I wanted. Seeing Yuko’s work and hearing her talk made me feel like I had the permis
sion to work professionally in line work and flat colors. If I didn’t have those two experiences I would probably still be overcooking my work.

Daniel_Fishel_nautilus_modern love

In your opinion, are there benefits to working as an independent artist rather than for a firm?

I like having the option to do whatever I want during the day. I do have a list of things I need to accomplish every week but for the most part my day to day is super flexible. I have a few friends who work 10 to 6 at a few websites and start ups, and it sounds like they really enjoy it. As much as having a weekly pay check, 401K, bonuses and catered meals sound appealing, there is nothing like seeing a movie in an empty theater at 11 am on a Monday for $8.

Do you have any advice for artists and designers who are trying to start an independent business? For example, what could make them more hirable or how to get their name out there and recognized?

Make good work that you enjoy making and understand how to tell a story visually. Don’t worry about if your style is marketable, but be aware of what’s out there too. If what you’re making is honest and you enjoy it, the potential clients will want to hire you. No one likes promoting themselves but it’s a part of the business. Be proud of what you do and tell all. Share good stuff on Twitter and Instagram often and email potential clients the stuff you’re up too now and then. Ultimately, have fun, make friends with those in your community and share their work too, not just yours. Walk together, Rock together.


What was the best piece of advice that you’ve ever received?

Take one day off a week where you aren’t making work. It’s easy for me to work on something at anytime. But if you’re not experiencing something new or absorbing what’s around you, your work will suffer.

Is there anything you can’t live without? Why?

Pizza. Even when it’s bad it’s good and no one hates it.

Your biggest goal(s) for 2016?

Find more time to make zines.

Anything you’d like to add?

Cats Rule Everything Around Me.

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