An Artist’s Love Affair with Cute Patterns

An Artist’s Love Affair with Cute Patterns

Hannah Williams
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I’ve been creative crushing on Austin Salmi since I saw his doodles, patterns, and adorable characters on Instagram almost two years ago. Austin’s work, learned through practice and osmosis in his job surrounded by artists, has a giggly character about it that fits his intention to hide the ugliness of the world for a moment, and make lovely order out of chaos. I got to learn a bit more about him and his process in this installment of Creative Crushes.

In one sentence, who are you?

I am an illustrator who enjoys bringing any amount of joy to people through my creations.

What do you do? How did you learn how to do it?

I create different drawings using pencil and ink. The illustrations range from patterns to caricatures, unique creatures, and other one-off ideas. I grew up sketching and doodling and it has continued. When I moved to LA, I was suddenly surrounded by an amazing cadre of artists and creators who constantly inspire me, as well as push me to keep improving myself. That is how I learned my craft and continue to learn, because I believe you never truly finish learning.

What are your 3 favorite possessions?

Miniature Back to the Future 2 hover board; Magnum P.I. Tiki Mug; a drawing of my fiancé and me, which she drew. Not in that order.

What does a typical work session look like?

I have a running list of ideas and sketches that I pull from if I don't have an art show with a specific topic that I am working towards. Usually, I'll do some Google searches on the topic at hand and pull a bunch of reference photos for perusal during the pencil drawing stage. I sketch out the drawing inside a pre-drawn area, such as 4x6 or 5x7. Art that is easy to frame is always a goal of mine, because I love framed art and it drives me mad when I see things tacked onto a wall or cork board. After finalizing the pencil drawing, I'll usually step away for a moment or two to play a video game or watch a show. I like to do something that differentiates the time between stages. Once I come back to the drawing, I pull out all the different micron pens that I think I will use for the piece. I check the nibs, and then I begin inking. I put on dramas in the background to listen to, or things I've seen a ridiculous number of times. West Wing and Parks and Recreation are two such shows.

I don't like to start inking unless I am going to finish a drawing that night. Sometimes, a piece is too large, and I have to break it up over two nights. If that happens, I make sure the pens I've used on the previous night are away from all my other pens. I do this to achieve a consistency within the lines. Once finished, I scan the piece, put it within a predetermined frame, and pack it up for a craft fair or deliver it if it's for an art show. Rinse and repeat as necessary.

How do you get over creative block?

I used to stop drawing and just stew for a bit until it finally passed, which could take a bit of time. As I've gotten older, and ever so slightly more confident in my abilities, I push through it. I just keep drawing. Yes, sometimes the drawings are awful, but as Lauren (my future wife) always says, "sometimes you just have to pass a rat."

How do you see the world in 2078?

A lazy utopia, filled with autonomous everything. Humanity will have moved past Earth and outward into the stars while robots cater to our every whim and we become fat and happy. I could be confusing my vision of the world in 2078 with the timeline in Wall-E—who doesn't yearn for the saccharine dreams of Pixar in 2017. It is tough to image the future right now because at this moment it feels as though we are hanging by a loose wire, and any minute now someone with a spray tan is going to cut the wire and tell us all how huge his ratings are, as we all fall to our collective doom. I hope we make it to 2078, if only so that I can enjoy my hover chair and 128-ounce Slurpee.

What’s number one on your bucket list?

I should say something epic like bungee jumping off of Thomas Jefferson's nose on Mount Rushmore, but honestly, I'd like to have my own artist's studio. Some place I could retreat to and tune out the world and draw silly pictures. That to me is something I want to do before I fade out of this existence.

Who are you creative crushin’ on lately?

I've had a one-sided love affair with Dustin Harbin for a long time. I own two of his original pieces and his diary comics book. The man can use an ink nib like Aaron Sorkin can turn a phrase.

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Hannah Williams
Hannah supports IDEO’s Health Portfolio to improve the lives of people around the world. Her favorite weekends and evenings are filled with photoshop, gardens, soccer fields and carpentry tools that let her explore space-making, growth and play.
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