In the Studio with Brian Lutz

By Peggy Roalf   Wednesday April 27, 2022

Peggy Roalf: Which came first, the pen, the brush or the tablet?

Brian Lutz: I’ve always been drawing. Drawing, drawing, and then drawing more! I didn’t get into painting or digital tools until I went to college. So, I’d say the pen, certainly.

PR: Where do you live and how does that place contribute to your creative work?

BL: I live in Connecticut not far from New York City. My partner, Elizabeth and I moved here from Pennsylvania about four years ago. I love living here because I have easy access to the city so I can go and be inspired, but I also can return and have the peace and quiet I need to work.

PR: Assignments to draw celebrities must involve a process of seeking photographic reference materials. Do you have any special tips about finding and using photos to share? 

BL: For the most part, if I am working with a high-profile client, they will provide me with reference photography to draw from. If I am not provided reference images for a job, I will consume as much of the subject’s career as possible so I can really pick up in the little things that make that person stand out. Sometimes it can be as subtle as the way they lift one eyebrow or as noticeable as a giant scar across their face, but whatever it is, finding that one thing and getting it right is the key. I usually will draw from multiple video clips when I am not provided with a specific image.

PR: What kind of breaks do you take to clear your head when working to a deadline?

BL: I sometimes go for a walk along the Long Island Sound, FaceTime with my niece Olivia, or just cruise around on my skateboard. More than anything, I take breaks with more drawing. I go draw something goofy that I will never show, participate in collaborations with other illustrators, or contribute to zines. Then I get back to work.

PR: Please describe your workspace and how it contributes to the illustrator’s basic condition of working alone.BL: I work from home, and I have the set-up I’ve always wanted: a room where I work that is dedicated to every interest and every supply I need. This became my sanctuary even more during the early days of the pandemic. I changed my set-up from just one drafting table to a drafting table and a standing desk where I began to film process videos. These videos helped me connect with thousands of people through social media during an otherwise very isolating time.

PR: Do you have any particular sketching practice to warm up or test out ideas? Sketchbook? Loose sheets? Digital or analog? How does this contribute to your work process?

BL: I draw every day. I mainly use sketchbooks to scribble ideas before I forget them. However, my main sketching process involves traditionally made mixed media illustrations on loose sheets. I usually film the process of making the work and share them on Instagram (@brianrlutz) a few times a week. I consider any personal work I do that isn’t for a publication to be my practice work or sketching, but I still try to make a piece that feels “finished” every time. 

PR: Do you see a lot of museum and gallery shows? 

BL: Fortunately, I live a short train ride away from NYC so whenever I see an opening or illustration event happening that I’m interested in I hop on the train. You will probably catch me trying to buy every zine I can at MoCCA Fest or wandering around a random art show I heard about on Instagram.

What’s the best takeaway from seeing art shows rather than looking at online media, books, magazines?

It’s hard to say I like online media over analog media. I am absolutely obsessed with print, but I love to see artwork (especially traditional work) up close so I can try to guess how it was made and see if it’s something I would like to try. For me, I wouldn’t say one is better than the other, just two different experiences.

Viewing artwork on a screen is less than ideal, but I think it has amazing promotional potential and opens us up to work we may never have come across without the internet. I welcome this as well.



PR: How do you know when the art is finished—or when to stop working on it?
BL: The longest part of my illustration process is the graphite drawing. I have many Blackwing pencils that have been sharpened to the point of no return! Once I get the graphite rendering to a place that feels like it will just get worse if I continue, then I move on to the fast energetic painting and drawing with sumi ink and acrylic gouache. If I’m working for a client, I usually have an idea of how long I can work on each section of a piece as well. I often draw my published work in sections and assemble them together in photoshop. In that case, a deadline tells me when it’s time to stop.

PR: What are some of your creative inspirations—artists, music, literature, culture in general—that you draw from in your work?

BL: It is very hard for me to pinpoint specific inspirations because I love so many artists, musicians, authors, film makers, I grew up in the 90’s and early 00’s loving film, television, alternative rock, punk rock, hip hop, books, magazines, skateboard culture, zines, underground comix, anything that seemed accessible and open to anyone. I still love to see underdog succeed. I guess in a way, even though I’m working with likenesses of big-name celebrities, I want my work to make them seem approachable.


PR: What would be your dream job—the one thing you have always hoped for in an assignment?
BL: Recently I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some of my absolute dream clients like Entertainment Weekly, New York Magazine/Vulture, Texas Monthly, Los Angeles Times, to name a few. I would love to continue to work with these clients and build new relationships with other publications and brands I love. If I had to choose one thing, I have always hoped for in an assignment it would be another assignment. To do this for a living is an absolute dream come true

Brian Lutz is an illustrator living and working in Connecticut. He is an award-winning artist and has been recognized by American Illustration, Communication Arts, 3x3 Magazine, Creative Quarterly, and Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles. Some of his clients include Entertainment Weekly, Los Angeles Times, Texas Monthly, New York Magazine/Vulture, UConn Magazine, 1504, and Upper Deck. Lutz obtained his MFA from the University of Hartford in 2020 where he has now joined the faculty as an adjunct professor teaching illustration. He enjoys experimenting with a unique combination of traditional and digital media. When not working on assignments, Lutz takes on personal projects and weekly drawing challenges to keep his skills sharp. Art-making is an ever-exciting journey for him filled with self-discovery and growth.