New Artist Brendan Totten > a Rube Goldberg machine

Brendan Totten is a Rube Goldberg machine that converts coffee into drawings, prints and illustrations. Originally cobbled together from spare parts in and around Washington D.C., his mechanisms were refined at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

When not whirring and clattering away on artwork, Brendan can be found in the company of crickets attempting to gain sentience. Brendan recent clients include; AlphaOmega London, Artcrank, DownEast Magazine, REI, Re/Max, Rhode Island Monthly, Seven Days Vermont, Harwich Junior Theater, Volume Nine.

Here’s when we found out more…

When did you start Illustrating?

I’ve been drawing and making art in one form or another since I was very young, but my first venture into anything resembling professional illustration was in college. A friend of mine who was writing for the student newspaper at the time convinced me to join as the paper’s editorial cartoonist. Each week I would make a one panel cartoon that made some commentary or joke about a story in that week’s paper. I wouldn't say they were necessarily great, but I had a lot of fun doing it.

Who has been most supportive of you in your illustration career?

I am extremely lucky, in that my family has always been very supportive of me in my creative pursuits, my mother especially. She is a very talented artist in her own right, and taught art for many years. My partner, Lizzy, is also an incredibly talented artist and has always supported me in my work.

Did you always think art was something that was going to be a major part of your life?

Yes in a broad sense, but I didn’t always think it was going to be something I pursued professionally. It wasn’t until I got about halfway through college and started thinking more seriously about the different career paths I might take that I decided to dedicate myself to it in that way.

What is your favourite subject matter to illustrate?

People, both in the literal sense that I love to draw human figures and faces, but also that my favourite work is illustrating stories that have something to say about the human experience. I especially like the challenge of trying to imply as much narrative as possible in every illustration.

How would you describe your style?

In my work I generally shoot for a sort of stylised realism, with a touch of surreal or whimsical atmosphere thrown in.

What is your favourite collaboration to date?

If I had to pick one, I think I would have to pick my first poster run with Artcrank. They were a bike themed poster company based in Minneapolis, and used to hold one night only pop-up art shows all over the states with local artists designing and printing original bike art posters. I made a lithograph poster for their Boston show in 2014, and ultimately made 3 more editions of posters for them over the next few years.

What interested you about being represented by Illo Agency?

I really like the whole ethos of the agency, and I am happy to work with an agency with guiding principles that works towards social good.

Do you have a favourite author, film director, or designer?

Oh several. Bill Watterson has always been a huge influence. The Coen Brothers have an unrivalled sense for visual storytelling. I have a soft spot for dystopian fiction, so my favourite authors are Cormac McCarthy, Margaret Atwood, Ursula K Le Guin, Emily St. John, and Philip K Dick.

Are you working on any projects you can share with us?

The last few months I spent most of my time on a commercial project I can’t yet talk about. But now in the new year I have a couple of ideas for personal work I am looking to pursue. I have one project that has been percolating for many years now that I think I am finally in a creative place where I can do the idea justice. It’s about breaking out of social isolation, and forming meaningful connections in a world that seems set on keeping our interactions superficial.

Do you listen to podcasts? If so, do you have a favourite?

I don’t listen too many podcasts, but I have a couple of favourites. Since moving to Ireland, I have come to love The Blindboy Podcast, I love the surreal world building of Welcome to Nightvale, and nearly everything the team at This American Life does is absolutely brilliant.

If you’d like more info, please contact: [email protected]

At illo agency, we pride ourselves in representing a collation of global illustrators, distinctly diverse in creativity and uniquely celebrated by like-minded clients across a range of commercial markets.