Richie Pope was born in Newport News, VA, and grew up drawing anything he could, always with paper in hand. He moved to Richmond and majored in Communication Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he received a BFA in 2009. His work has been seen at the 2009 Society of Illustrators Student Scholarship Competition, CMYK magazine and a handful of other magazines and websites. We checked in with him and asked him how important the constant drawing in his sketchbook is for the more commercial work he does: ‘To me, it’s extremely important to constantly draw in my sketchbook. I see it the same way a bodybuilder would see the gym. You have to constantly work at it to get better. The more you draw, especially from life, the more will stick and you’ll start to draw things more naturally. At first, my sketchbook work didn’t really connect with my commercial work because I had just started really sketching seriously. Now, I find that the gap is getting smaller and smaller’.
Do you feel that you have developed a style or personal voice through constant sketchbooking or that you have gone back to sketchbooking in order to break away from your typical style?
‘I do feel that I have a personal voice that is finally starting to develop. I owe it to the past two to three years of constant sketching. I think the more you just sketch, without any reservations or caution, the more your personal voice will start to come out. A sketchbook is personal, so it makes sense that it would help to develop a personal voice’.
Tell us a little bit about your commercial process. How you go through your sketches, do you shoot references or draw from your head. And how your sketchbook work contributes to the more finished projects, if it does?
‘First, if I have a theme or a subject, I jot down keywords and start to look for things that connect conceptually. A lot of times I’ll research, whether it be history, music, movies or literature, to find a reference to use. Once I get the concept down, I start on small pencil thumbnails, focusing mainly on value and working out the composition. Once I get a final sketch approved, I take the reference photos I need and then I get to work on the final. As I’m working on a final piece, I rely on the photo reference less and less. This is probably the point where the “personal voice” steps in to really make the artwork its own’.
Now tell us something about your sketchbook process, the kind of tools you use, the subjects you draw, and how long it takes you to finish an elaborate sketch page.
I mainly use ballpoint pen, gel pen, or any type of pen. I also like to use a brush pen and white acrylic ink from time to time. I like to draw people from life because I find them the most interesting subjects to draw. You can read so much from someone by capturing them in image. I also like to draw cars, for the sleek design and curves, and buildings for their complex geometric shapes. For an elaborate sketch page, it would probably take me around thirty minutes. That’s not including revisiting a page if I feel like I want to add even more to it’.