At the drawing table with Peter DeHart and Burton Durand

Illustrators Peter DeHart, left, and Burton Durand were each featured this year in a compilation of the nation's best designs.

Burton Durand’s artistic talents again took top honors in Communications Arts Magazine’s annual illustration competition after nabbing an award in 2017 for his Parish Ink T-shirt “Release the Cracklin.” This year he was recognized for a flyer promoting a single released in 2018 by Brass Bed member and The Current’s janitor, Christiaan Mader.

Now in its sixth decade of the competition, the national magazine also recognized local artist Peter DeHart this year, honoring his illustration work for Southern Screen Film Festival. Durand’s and DeHart’s illustrations were picked from 3,941 submitted entries. The two artists’ works will be on display in the May/June 2019 issue of the professional journal alongside some 135 winning projects.

A freelance illustrator, Durand currently works with Bayou Brands and spent nearly a decade at BBR Creative, serving as the agency’s creative director. DeHart is an illustrator, filmmaker and musician who opened his own design/art/film firm, Makemade, with his wife, Allison. (Makemade provides illustration and graphic design support for The Current.)

DeHart entered at Durand’s suggestion. “I encouraged Pete to enter,” Durand says. “I’ve always been a big fan of his stuff. I knew if I had a chance to win, then he would have a better chance.”

Durand and DeHart talked about the award and whether this recognition makes them “Cajun Famous” in separate interviews with The Current. Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Peter DeHart's winning entry, a poster for the 2018 Southern Screen Film Festival.

The Current: What does this award mean to you?

Peter DeHart: I’m grateful that I even won the award. When I saw the shortlist, I was honored. You start going down the list, and it’s like, “Oh, that person’s on the shortlist?” For me, to be competing on the same level, it’s awesome. I do wear a lot of hats. I’ve always enjoyed illustrating. It’s nice to be recognized for it. A lot of people might not even see me as an illustrator.

Burton Durand: For me, Communication Arts has been the industry standard for design, illustration, photography. ... Throughout my career, I’ve seen these magazines come out with this great work. National, international, giant agencies to TV spots to everyday things — all that amazing work gets in there. Everyday designers like Pete and me look at this and get inspired. It’s cool to be included with this work that inspires us.

What is your preferred medium?

PH: At the moment, digital, freehand drawing on the computer.

BD: I do all my thinking in pen and ink. I always have my little sketchbook on me. The most important part of any of this is a good idea. If I can put a good idea down on paper, it could make something special.

What are some of the pros or cons that come with illustrating?

PH: Most of the time, illustrations have two pros. They can be fun. They can exaggerate things photos can’t. In the wake of infographics, they can be highly informative and powerful. I wish every client wanted some level of illustration in their work. When you pair the illustration with the right typography, photography and logos, it becomes the full package.

BD: The biggest obstacle would be time. There’s just so much to do, and not enough time to do it all in. If you don’t have enough time to put toward an idea, the whole rest of the execution process could feel rushed. As boring as it sounds, a big part of the job is time management.

Does it surprise you what people start to get attracted to illustration-wise? Does that influence what you create? Do you tune it out?

PH: I don’t follow the trends as much as others do. You can’t help but see them here and there. Art and illustration, you want to incorporate your own styles and ideas. You’ll see something someone does, and you might alter what you’re doing because you’ve seen that. You’re constantly evolving as an artist or illustrator. The only thing that changes is your perspective, your viewpoint.

BD: There are a couple different mindsets for this. Fine artists can either create for themselves or specifically for an audience. Moving more toward advertising/design/commissioned illustration work, that’s more focused on what the client wants. We’ll focus on finding what makes them happy and what goes along with their brand. In that world, you’re taking all that into account and creating something cool. Or, you could go the other way and just pitch something that works well with the brand. They could yay or nay it. It’s either what you want or what they want. Ideally, the best solution will rise to the top.

Burton Durand's winning entry, a flyer for a single released by The Current editor Christiaan Mader.

Do people actually buy original art in Lafayette?

PH: My wife and I have this discussion all the time. We’ve wanted to do a survey with ArtWalk to see how many people actually purchase and support art. I think a lot of times the word support means, “I go and enjoy it.” When you don’t give any financial support, or the person doing it doesn’t get any financial gain, it makes it really hard to continue to do it, and it makes it hard for people to continue to enjoy it. Allison and I try to buy as much as our budget will allow. There’s art you can buy on any budget.

BD: That’s a good question. It’s tough for me to answer because I’m not on the fine arts scene. I’m more of the spot illustration, get commission to do a design, comic artist guy. I do have friends who do have fine art. The scene is small. There’s not a lot of money in the younger demographics to throw around at art. But I know there is a scene here. People do like art. I’m not sure it’s easy to make a fine art living.

Does winning this award finally make you Cajun Famous?

PH: It would be an honor to be considered Cajun Famous, but I don’t think this is going to be the thing that makes me Cajun Famous.

BD: I would assume [the win for “Release the Cracklin”] would make me more Cajun Famous, but if not, yes this may finally get me there.

Are you going to celebrate this victory by eating brunch at Blue Dog Café?

PH: If Burt will agree, I think we should go there and celebrate. We actually celebrated last Wednesday at Pete’s on Johnston Street during Drink & Draw (Burt’s weekly get-together that he has been hosting since 2005).

What trend in illustration/art/design are you over?

BD: I think a funny and expected answer from Louisiana artists would be some rant about how you can’t use crawfish or a fleur de lis anymore. But really, nothing is off-limits. The challenge is to make whatever idea into something fresh and cool, even a fleur de lis.

Essential background music while you’re drawing?

PH: When I’m drawing, I want more energy. If I’m listening to anything, it’s like Madonna, ’80s Whitney Houston. I want pop with a lead female singer. Recently, I’ve been listening to a lot of Christine and the Queens, Robyn.

BD: I usually have music going or maybe a funny podcast, or a wrestling podcast. If it’s a really stressful time, I put on a nice, relaxing ASMR video in the background.

What’s your next big project?

PH: Allison and I do different years. The year before last was a film year. This year, we have some more toy-based, product-based stuff coming out through Makemade. So, who knows? I may be able to do some illustration for that.

BD: I’m doing a lot of production work for my friend Rob Guillory (comic-book artist on Chew, currently Farmhand). He asked me yesterday if I’d be interested in doing a comic strip for the back page. I’m working on new restaurant logo for Downtown Lafayette, cool new spot coming out on Jefferson Street. There’s a lot of stuff going on right now. I’ll have some Louisiana-ish design, a crawfish boil kind of design coming through Dirty Coast soon. I think that’ll be pretty fun. Hopefully, it’ll be pretty big. Maybe some comic stuff. That could be cool. I’m getting back to that. I haven’t touched web comics in a couple years. That’s a fun little side venture.

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