We love hearing how artists found their way to what they do. We’re immense fans of Hudson Rio’s art and wanted to understand his own journey, so we prompted him with a few questions and present them here. Hudson is known for his sleek industrial design, most notably of beautiful cars and even more beautiful shoes.
What are some of the first things you drew?
As long as I can remember, I’ve always loved drawing. My dad is a painter, and I was always fascinated with his ability to draw. When I was young, I would primarily draw Batman and cars — over and over and over… I never took many art classes, maybe one or two in high school, but I was always drawing during school. My notebooks were filled with doodles. Most nights after school, I would add a few pages to my sketchbook. I still have piles of sketchbooks from those years. It’s fun to look back at them now and see how far I’ve come.
From doodling as a kid to industrial design
Eventually I stopped drawing Batman, but the cars have always stayed with me. In high school, I decided I wanted to be a car designer. When I started looking into this more, I found the larger field of Industrial Design. This seemed like a great way to combine my love of drawing with fun problem solving that could make a real impact on peoples’ lives.
I went to the University of Illinois at Chicago, where I got a BFA in Industrial Design. I had a couple of professors who really influenced me and helped me develop my skills. I was fortunate enough to be asked back a few years later to teach one of the drawing classes. This was a great experience for me, as I was able to give back and help develop the skills of people with less experience than myself. It also reinforced some of the fundamentals of drawing like perspective, value, and line quality — things that everyone should continue to practice.
I’m now a professional industrial designer working at Volume Studios in Chicago. We are a small studio, and I get to do a great variety of work. We do toy design projects where we focus a lot on telling a story of how the child is interacting with the toy, along with developing a form that will engage the child and create an emotional connection. We also make a lot of housewares products where we really get to refine the design and make sure we are delivering the best possible solution.
Outside of work, I like to keep practicing my sketching, rendering, and design skills by doing small personal projects. Right now I’m doing a year-long Sketch-a-Day challenge that I started at the beginning of 2016. It has been challenging to keep up with it, but I can already see how much it is helping me improve. Most of the sketches and designs I do for this take me around an hour, so they are an exercise in speed as well as design. Sometimes I’ll have an idea for a design before I start drawing, but typically it just comes out of me as I begin to sketch. I love the process of discovering a solution to problem or finding an interesting aesthetic by putting (digital) pen to (digital) paper. It is a fascinating process of trial and error that happens quickly and organically.
How he uses SketchBook
I first found SketchBook late in high school. I bought myself a $30 tablet (which broke a few months later) and started experimenting with the program. These days, I use a Wacom Cintiq 22HD both at work and at home paired with SketchBook. SketchBook is my program of choice for drawing as it is affordable, has an intuitive interface designed for use with a pen and tablet, and has a great set of brushes that are similar to drawing with analog tools. And they are easily customized to personal preferences.
I mainly use a slightly customized pencil brush, and the default airbrush and eraser. I will usually do a very fast and rough sketch to figure out perspective, composition, and the design. Then I use that as an underlay do a refined sketch on a new layer. Once I’ve got a nicer line drawing finished, I start adding color and value with the airbrush. I block in large areas to start to define color and material breaks. Then on new layers I start to add shadows, highlights, and reflections. I continue to build up the value until it has enough contrast and conveys the design to my satisfaction. My goal is always for the viewer to have an emotional reaction to the design.
I’m not the best at what I do, and probably never will be, but I think that’s a good thing. I think it is important to have other designers and artists to look up to and to learn from. My advice to aspiring artists and designers is to keep discovering new work and to try to identify the things that really grab you in the work you like. Take these things and make them your own. Continue to practice and you will start to figure out your own style and what makes your work unique. Repetition is the most important thing. I believe that anyone can do what I do and what many other artists do, but not everyone has the drive to work at it every day. There will be many times when you are unsatisfied with your work, and you will feel like you are not progressing, but you have to keep practicing to move past this. Only recently am I starting to feel satisfied with my work, and I still see a lot of room for improvement. But the process is so exciting to me that it is easy for me to do it every day.
Hudson Rio is an an industrial designer with a passion for sketching, problem solving, and cool design. He’s engaged in a 365-day drawing challenge, which you can follow along on his sketch blog. Or, follow him on Instagram to see what he’s creating on a day-to-day basis.