AS TOLD TO …

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By Mario Varricchio

Illustrator, storyboard artist, painter, photographer, sound mixer and musician, Xavier Irvine lives in Kingsville with his wife and two boys. In between being an active dad and husband, he draws for money and plays music for fun. Recently I caught up with him to discuss his work and musical projects.


“I did a lot of drawing as a kid. My dad is an artist so I had a role model for someone who did that sort of stuff for a living, and although I don’t think that’s essential, it might have had something to do with the fact that I enjoyed it very much. After high school, I studied Illustration at NMIT and then animation at VCA.

My first job was designing cartoon backgrounds for children’s television. At one of the studios I worked for there was an opportunity to become a storyboard artist and I jumped into a pretty substantial storyboarding job which was almost a year’s worth of work on an animated kid’s television series called ‘Dog Star’.

These days I do a lot of live action work, TV Commercials, TV series and sometimes feature films. Two more recent films that I did were ‘The Belko Experiment’ and a movie called ‘Jungle’ with Daniel Radcliff.

I’ve done a few oil painted, graphic design and photography work for album covers. Those jobs, although they don’t pay very well tend to be a really good opportunity to put all my skills into practice.

Getting paid to draw things for people has definitely changed my relationship to drawing. It changes from being about self-expression to being about a craft that you’re sort of proud
 to engage in and achieve a certain level at. Having said that, you’re not allowed to not feel inspired, everything has to happen when it has to happen. For quite a few years it took the joy out of it to an extent. I’m just starting to realise that although it has changed my relationship to the art it’s also a huge privilege to make a living out of it.

I enjoy life drawing, it’s an opportunity to do something for myself where there’s no clients, requirements or obligations, just pure observational drawing.

In storyboarding, I have a style that I’ve developed where I can draw fairly quickly, obviously because that’s the most important thing a lot of the time. I’m very conscious of drawing things in perspective and making sure that the drawings that I do are as relevant as possible to the depth and positioning of objects in the real world so that when they come to shoot something on set they’re not going to have any weird surprises like ‘that’s not possible’.

Ninety-nine percent of the time my work is top secret and seen by very few eyes, which is kind of a weird thing. It’s sort of the opposite of how most art works. They’re working drawings that someone is going to use for a task. The satisfaction is that some of those drawings do translate quite directly to what’s on screen when they shoot the final thing, sometimes they’ll shoot it exactly how you drew it which is quite satisfying. It suggests that they really appreciated the compositions and stuff that you made and they just went with that. But the drawings themselves don’t get seen by that many people.

If someone wanted to get into storyboarding then there’d be two things you’d need to do. Draw a lot and secondly you’d need to be a filmmaker as well. If you’re not then you’ll never be a good storyboard artist because you won’t really understand what a cinematographer is going to try and do with those drawings. Having a good awareness of how your work fits into the bigger picture of a film production is
really important.

I’m also in two bands at the moment, ‘Birdcage’ which is an instrumental Surf Rock band and ‘Trade’, also an instrumental group which draws loosely upon Kraut Rock and German music from the 1970s.

Birdcage is working on a second album as we speak, we’ve got half of it recorded and I’m starting work on mixes for those first six songs in my home studio. Our bass player owns a recording studio where we record everything.

I also have a synth project called Skyscraper. I started out with software synthesizers on my computer because they’re very cheap and an easy way to learn synthesis, a really reliable and cheap way to get into it. Then over the last 10 years or so I started getting more into that and buying up analogue equipment and making synthesizer music. I don’t really want to score films, I don’t want to do that as a career, but I like music that sounds like it’s a score to a film.

Spreading it out over time is the only way to manage to keep all these things going. Making a conscious effort to keep all the balls rolling but not be frustrated that they’re all rolling quite slowly and I just get to things as I get to them. So I haven’t touched the synthesizers for about three months now but I know that they’re there and if inspiration strikes I can plug a few things in and get stuck into it when there’s time, a few days spare or an evening. All that stuff that doesn’t bring financial return has to be dealt with in that manner.

That’s my key to making it work somewhat, it is slow. I love doing the bands but they happen incrementally, you know things progress slowly but it’s fine and it’s still rewarding.”

Check out Xavier’s work and music via these links:

http://cargocollective.com/xavierirvine https://www.instagram.com/xavierirvine/ https://soundcloud.com/xavier-irvine

 

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