Work / Illustration

Brandon Celi’s mesmerisingly gross illustrations for Vice

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Brandon Celi

Near on a year ago, we turned our gaze to illustrator Brandon Celi who was then pushing his creative boundaries in new directions resulting in a series of smile-enducing misshapen sculptures.

In the 12 months since, Brandon has been working with the team over at Vice on a set of commissions which hold all the intoxicating appeal of watching a Twitter storm unravel tweet by vicious tweet. Set by Vice with the task of illustrating first person tales on the topic of everything from drunken encounters to the vomit-inducing personal habits of loved ones, we asked Brandon to tell us more about how the work came about, and what his favourite stories have been to date.

How did your work with Vice begin?

Nick Gazin (art editor) and Brian McManus (special projects editor) got in touch with me in March. Initially they were looking for a series of illustrations for weekly articles about different jobs, and how to treat people in those jobs. Once those wrapped up I began doing illustrations for a weekly article by Anna Goldfarb that is a compiled list of six word summaries submitted by random people of experiences surrounding a specific theme (i.e. Worst Dates Summed Up in Six Words, Most Inappropriate Relationship in Six Words, Dumbest Thing You’ve Spent Money On in Six Words etc.)

What is the usual process through which they brief you?

It’s pretty straightforward, which I love. They send me the list of all of these Six Word summaries, I choose the ones that are most appealing or that generate the best visuals, we go back and forth for a bit until we all agree on what the best two are, and then I do up some sketches.

Can you talk us through some of the stories you’ve been commissioned to illustrate?

The interesting thing about this kind of commission is that it’s really multiple stories collected as opposed to each article just being one story. I suppose “listicle” is probably more accurate. The format can seem kind of throwaway, but because these are experiences collected from real people, there are always a bunch on the list that end up being hilariously relatable. One article I illustrated titled “We Asked People to Describe the Drunkest They Ever Got in Six Words” got quite a bit of traction online, even trending on Twitter briefly with a slew of people (including Seth Rogen!) retweeting the article while sharing their own six word summary of their own drunkest experience. It’s pretty funny to me to see something like that catch on and generate a response.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve been asked to illustrate?

Probably “gets off on popping my pimples” for an article where people describe their partner’s worst/ most annoying habits in six words. I think that there are a lot of people out there who enjoy watching videos of this sort of thing on YouTube so I was definitely trying to tap into that community.

How long does the average painting take? What’s your process?

Each painting can take anywhere from a half to full day to complete based on how detailed it is. I’ll take the rough sketch of the image and print it out at about 6” x 12” (I work pretty small), transfer it to a board with graphite, and then just paint it until its done.

What have you got in the pipeline for the next month or so?

I’m currently in the process of settling into a new studio that I moved into with a couple of friends. I’ve got a couple of ideas on the go for larger paintings for a group show called Hang Nail here in Toronto at the end of next week, as well as working on ideas for some new sculptural ceramic works. I’m also still working on these Vice commissions and currently open to taking on new projects as well!

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