Illustrator Richard A. Chance on finding inspiration in art deco

Over the last few years, Richard’s work has become a beautiful union of care-free airbrushing and strong, clean geometric forms.

25 August 2021

Since we last spoke with Brooklyn-based illustrator Richard A. Chance in 2017, his style has changed significantly. Though the original 1980s airbrush aesthetic is still visible in parts of his work, a much more structured and naturalistic finish is now prevalent in his portfolio. He credits this change to a newfound interest in art deco style illustration, which arose in the early twentieth-century, and an appreciation for work by artists such as Major Felten.

“One evening I was drunk at a bar and saw a poster with a drawing of a panther on it and, though I don't remember much of that night, I found photos of it on my phone the next morning. There were about seven of them and they were all blurry and the poster had been cut out in some of them,” he recalls. “I didn’t want to go back to that bar because I had been kicked out for screaming song lyrics, so I looked through the internet to find it and, luckily, I did. The artist was Major Felten. He has a really cool art deco style and I’m really into his work now.”

This discovery had a huge influence on Richard’s work and he soon began to experiment with the simple, clean shapes and geometric forms that are typical of art deco drawings. In his recent pieces, we can see a marriage of his original aesthetic with this new bolder approach, clearly exemplified by the figures that now have both a three-dimensional quality to them and the finer airbrush detailing that is frequently found in his older work. The editorial style that has long been present in his illustrations remains though it has been enhanced using “new skills and a stronger computer”.


Richard A. Chance: Slept (Copyright © Richard A. Chance, 2021)

“I started to take illustration more seriously and watched classes online,” explains Richard. “I also changed my process from finding the references first to now finding them last, after sketching small drawings in my Moleskine and then trying to recreate them on my computer.” His renewed focus on the medium has led to a progression in his practice that is evident in his recent work for clients such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Playboy, and Wired, among others.

His subject matter remains quirky, humorous, and equally surreal. From tongue-in-cheek depictions of cultural figures and political leaders to odd and occasionally unnerving domestic scenes of solitude and introspection. The themes that Richard works with change frequently and often take inspiration from his life in Brooklyn, his social encounters and, believe it or not, sleep. “A bunch of odd things fascinate me,” he says. “Recently, I did a drawing that had a vacuum [in it] because I like sleeping and, though I don’t do it often, I tend to listen to vacuum sounds when I do. When I vacuumed my room as a kid I would start to drift off to sleep. Imagine hearing a vacuum for 30 minutes straight… I sleep now.”


Richard A. Chance: TNR France (Copyright © Richard A. Chance, 2021)


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Richard A. Chance: WS Magazine (Copyright © Richard A. Chance, 2021)


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Richard A. Chance: NYT Well (Copyright © Richard A. Chance, 2021)


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Richard A. Chance: Adult Swim Tuca Bertie (Copyright © Richard A. Chance, 2021)


Richard A. Chance: Album Cover Car (Copyright © Richard A. Chance, 2021)


Richard A. Chance: Secret (Copyright © Richard A. Chance, 2021)


Richard A. Chance: Washington Post (Copyright © Richard A. Chance, 2021)

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Richard A. Chance: Dirt Devils (Copyright © Richard A. Chance, 2021)

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About the Author

Daniel Milroy Maher

Daniel joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in February 2019 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Journalism in 2015. He is also co-founder and editor of SWIM, an annual art and photography publication.

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