Getting to know our Judges: Julian Mallia / Julinu
Here’s our second interview with another one of our judges; the brilliant artist/drummer/illustrator Julian Mallia aka Julinu. Just a heads up, this interview contains loads of great tips for aspiring illustrators.
1 — What is the Proudest Moment in your Career?
I try to move on quickly from achievements for fear of deluding myself that I’ve made it. However, I am grateful for some of my career milestones and the way they steered my voyage so far.
My solo exhibition ‘Julinu’s Radioactive Ravioli’ helped me come closer to articulating my artistic manifesto — so that’s definitely a chapter I am very proud of. It’s a more fine-art oriented project but I feel that the three areas I am most actively involved in (fine art painting / illustration / drumming) all feed into each other in inextricably linked ways.
For instance, I can link my current visual approach to “Maia’s Morning Malaise” (originally the poster art for a short-film I was working on during my Masters Degree course in Brighton, UK). This was later awarded at the World Illustrations Awards 2016 and featured in Alan Male’s “The Power and Influence of Illustration” — also noteworthy milestones. Admittedly, formal
acknowledgements like awards have an arbitrary element — sometimes it’s down to luck or being at the right place at the right time. But they also feel like a strong suggestion that perhaps I’m on the right trajectory onto developing visual work that is worth creating.
2 — What’s a particularly Favourite Project you’ve worked on?
My favourite aspect about illustration is the faculty to translate complex, abstract notions into a tangible, aesthetically-pleasing visual outcome. It’s not surprising then that most of my work is idea-driven and presented in a moody, figurative visual aesthetic. My favourite commissions tend to be projects like book covers, album covers and editorial work.
The album artwork for UK-based Midgenuun stands out for me because it required a concept-driven approach — but also because I was guest drummer on one of the more technically-challenging tracks — allowing me to fuse two of my greatest passions.
The artwork needed to communicate abstract themes such as duality, intricacy, chaos, conundrums and inner turmoil. The process of translating all that into a single image was a challenging process that involved exploratory sketches, some lateral thinking and exploitation of culturally-established notions (e.g. the snake vs swan contrast). The artwork was later shortlisted at the AOI World Illustration Awards 2021 — so that was an additional bonus. More info on how this work was done can be viewed here
More recently, a heartfelt, self-initiated artwork tackling Putin’s war in Ukraine turned out to be one of the highlights of this year. I think many can relate to the sentiment and maybe it radiates hope for some kind of poetic justice. Stefan Sagmeister, who shared this image on his instagram page, seems to agree.
3 — Who is your current Favourite Illustrator and what do you like about their work?
I’m usually drawn to particular traits from a range of illustrators — rather than having one favourite illustrator. So for instance at the moment I’m into the witty humour of Tom Gauld or Anton Gudim, the concepts of Pawel Kuczynski or Davide Bonazzi, the visual style of Malika Favre or Charlie Davis, the moodiness of Owen Gent, the quirkiness of Shaun Tan, etc.
I find that keeping a broad range of influences is more beneficial than focusing on one artist / style / approach / discipline. This way I feel I can tap into different influences and increase / decrease the respective “levels” depending on the project I am working on.
4 — What is your secret to making good work?
1) Do work that aligns with your personal interests. (Or at least limit those commissions that just pay the bills).
2) Make sure you have your fundamentals in order e.g. drawing technique, composition, colour theory, idea generation skills, etc.
3) Start with a good creative brief. Work with the client to rephrase it if necessary.
4) Broaden your influences beyond the art world.
5) Work with clients who you get along with.
6) Limit your point of contact to one or two people. Too many opinions in the room / email thread / conference call are a sure recipe for disaster.
7) Do self-initiated work. This increases the likelihood of you being commissioned for the kind of work you want to do more of.
8) “Kill your darlings” and don’t get too attached to ideas that are not working.
9) Be receptive and take all feedback into consideration — but be fiercely loyal to your vision if you strongly believe in it.
10) Don’t ignore trends. But resist the urge to join the bandwagon of drawing bored apes just to get some social media validation. Just do your thing.
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We’d like to thank Julian Mallia for the elaborated answers and for his list of tips. A reminder that Julian (along with Katie Chappell and Mark Scicluna) will be judging entries for this years Malta Illustration Annual. Submissions close June 25th.
Are you a Maltese illustrator or a non-Maltese illustrator who is based in Malta? We are documenting the best Maltese illustration year after year! Submit your work here.