Tyler Lehman Interview – 50 States (New Jersey)
Tyler Lehman – “I just want to capture some sort of mood and evoke emotion with each piece I create”
This week Creative Chair gets surreal in New Jersey with Tyler Lehman for the 24th edition of our 50 States series.
Tyler is a digital illustrator with a penchant for surrealism. One of the things we particularly like about his portfolio is that he often shares his process, so be sure to check out more from Tyler Lehman on Behance.
Tell us a little bit more about yourself and what you do
First of all, I love the idea behind this project. There is some crazy talent around the states, so thank you for choosing me as New Jersey’s representative!
My name’s Tyler, and I’m a digital artist/illustrator from North Jersey, born in 1991. To say I’m entirely self-taught would be discrediting everybody who’s helped me and given me feedback throughout the years, but I’m self-taught in the sense that I’ve never had any formal training.
I guess for an illustrator, my path has been somewhat unconventional. Where most people probably would’ve started with pencil and paper, my roots are almost 100% digital. I began playing around with Cinema 4D and Adobe Illustrator somewhere around 2004, just creating abstract forms and shapes, and taking them into photoshop to do some post work.
Eventually, I wanted to represent more tangible ideas in my work, so I spent the following years dabbling in everything from digital collage to photo-manipulation, to vector based work, and finally to digital painting.
The goal has always been to get an idea from my head onto a canvas while making as few compromises as possible. It’s still a work in progress, as I’m sure it always will be. Nowadays I have a much more consistent process, but I don’t feel 100% confined to it. I’ve narrowed my tools down to Photoshop and my Wacom tablet, but I still apply a lot of those skills I’ve picked up throughout my years of experimenting when they’re necessary.
In my personal illustrations, I feel like I’ve held onto my abstract roots at least to some degree on a visual and conceptual level. The subject matter I work with varies drastically from piece to piece, but I often like to include elements that appear mundane and twist them to a point of discomfort or humor.
The stuff I make for myself is usually pretty symbolic. I see these kinds of images as an opportunity to express an idea without having to be super literal or straightforward about it. More than anything, I just want to capture some sort of mood and evoke emotion with each piece I create. Any work of art that’s had a lasting impression on me (whether it’s a film, a song, etc.) has left me with a distinct emotion attached to it, and that’s the type of reaction I hope I can get out of my own artwork some day.
How has your state influenced the work that you do?
Besides the fact that my work is fuelled by pizza and Taylor Ham, egg, and cheese bagels? I actually never thought about it! It’s an interesting question to consider. Lots of states still have their own individual personalities and subcultures, but I think as we’ve gained easier access to open communication with people from all around the world, these cultures kind of all started bleeding into each other. At least speaking from my generation’s standpoint, that is.
I’m sure my upbringing and surroundings have had some kind of subconscious effect on the type of imagery I create, but I also am grateful to have creative friends throughout the United States, and even from other parts of the world, who have been there to lend me some fresh eyes for feedback.
This “omniculture” that has developed as a result of the internet has done at least as much to shape my artistic style as my own state has. Or maybe it just seems that way! There’s also the possibility that growing up in New Jersey has had a massive influence on my art, and it’s something ingrained in me that I’m not as conscious of. It seems unlikely that somebody could look at an artist’s work and pinpoint where they’re from, maybe with the exception of some photographers, but I’d say everybody is a product of their surroundings in one way or another. It has definitely made me more vulgar! ????
Of your own work, what is your favourite project and why?
After obsessing over every detail of a piece during the time I spent working on it, it’s hard to look at anything I’ve made without a heavily critical lens. For me, the most important thing is to recognize what I don’t like about my previous work, and try correcting it in my next project while improving on what I’m already doing well.
It’s a never-ending journey. This makes it extremely difficult for me to pick a single favorite, because they are all so different from each other, with their own set of strengths and weaknesses. If I had to pick out of the ones currently in my portfolio, I would probably say “Spill Site” or “Self Destructive / Cleanse” from my most recent project on Behance. I know I’m capable of more, though, and I’m sure whatever I put up next will steal that title ????
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It’s all about how accurately I managed to depict the vision I had in my head. In some cases, I’ll realize after the fact that the idea I had was shitty to begin with, which is a bit of a buzzkill.
And finally, if you died and got reincarnated as a song, what would that song be?
Probably “Too Many Cooks” or “Never Gonna Give You Up”, so I could come back as a song AND a meme all in one go!
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