11 May 2024

Illustrator Joseph Carrington on Confronting What Challenges You and the Benefits of Representation

Auckland-based illustrator Joseph Carrington creates instantly recognisable work thanks to his sleek, deceptively simple style. We caught up with him to learn how this results from a lot of graft and how representation has helped progress his career.

Having originally trained as a graphic designer, Joseph Carrington pivoted to illustration seven years ago. He's been freelance ever since, and in that time, he's landed work for a host of big-name clients, including the likes of Google, The Telegraph, and more recently The New York Times.


Part of what makes Joseph's work so appealing to clients is his clear line work and crisp design choices. "Developing my style and approach over the years, I like to think I blend charm and whimsy into any topic I tackle," he tells Creative Boom. "I like to help brands and publications communicate with their audience visually."


Another ingredient which has infused itself into Joseph's work is his location. Being based in New Zealand gives him a fresh perspective that sets his illustrations apart from his peers. "There's a vibrant and creative community over here, of which I've managed to work with some heroes of mine," he explains.


"Also, being Maori and hailing from two indigenous tribes known for their artistic heritage, this creativity has always been a part of me."

More contemporary New Zealand artists also influence Joseph's work, with the country's famous cartoonist Murray Ball being his ultimate inspiration. "I'm an avid Footrot Flats collector and fan (if you haven't heard of it, you're welcome)," he reveals. "It was his work that flicked my brain to the possibility that I could use my talent to create a career where I get to draw every day."


Joseph's committed work ethic has evolved into a style defined by simple, expressive lines. However, he says that it is not as straightforward as it appears. "Contrary to popular belief, and if anyone snooped through my sketchbooks, most of my sketches are overly detailed," he says.


"My creative process focuses heavily on the sketch stage before refining it to the final, simplified, stylised vector artwork. At the beginning of my freelance life, I took part in a 100-day illustration challenge, where my style exploration started landing and finding an audience. I ended up keeping the daily illustration going for a year, developing further and landing clients regularly."


As well as landing clients, Joseph's determination led him to being represented by Closer&Closer. Having been aware of them for a while and loving the talent they showcased, he knew he wanted to work with them after hearing about how engaged they are with the artists they represent. So, when the opportunity arose, he didn't hesitate to reach out and shoot his shot.

It was a decision that paid off, and now he gets to enjoy all the benefits of being a represented illustrator. "It's a lot better for me to have someone handle the crossing of the I's and T's, with more experience in negotiating with client project management," he says. "Also, it's nice to be part of a system where I'm being placed in a better position to a wider range of clients and companies."


With the backing of Closer&Closer, Joseph has managed to achieve personal career goals. But he's also stayed true to his roots. "I'm proud of a lot of my work, from recent work for my dream client, The New York Times, to creating the branding for the cafe my sister used to own and operate," he says. "Lately, I'm most proud of jobs where I've had the opportunity to animate my illustrations."


Outside of animation, Joseph likes to illustrate things he thinks he's bad at. Confused? "It's a contradiction, but I like drawing hands because I'm horrible at drawing them, so I try and include them as much as possible to remedy this shortcoming," he clarifies. "But I also love drawing, drawing anything that doesn't have arms or legs with arms and legs, either that or animals skateboarding!"

A new year means even more new opportunities for Joseph, with Closer&Closer bringing him, well, closer and closer, to more dream gigs. "I just started working on a project with the American Red Cross for their ESG platform, which is a topic I love personally and love drawing for," he concludes.


"Apart from that, there are a lot of projects in the works that speak to my love of creating hero illustrations filled with detail and fun."