Twenty year-old wunderkind Chuck Anderson only briefly stumbles when asked for his job title. He explains, "If I say I don't like to have one, I sound like I'm trying to be cool," settling for artist-slash-illustrator over designer. The midwestern mix of sincerity and self-awareness is typical from this Chicago suburbs-based upstart, the first male in four generations of Anderson lineage who's not a clergyman. Instead, during his brief tenure as a freelancer, Anderson has moved out of his parent's house, amassed a client roster that includes everyone from Absolut Vodka to ESPN, and just last Spring launched The Brilliance, an online collection of interviews and interests that exudes the same youthful energy as Anderson's work.
How did you get here? I've been creative all my life, drawing and painting, and then I finally found the computer. I was in seventh or eighth grade when I got my hands on photoshop and I used it like pencils and paints.
The last legitimate education that I had was high school. I was exhausting the classes in high school, so I was taking independent study classes. It was my first experience doing projects and running with my own thing. I graduated in 2003 and got a job with a screen printing shop. In December or January I quit with no job ahead of me, but I had work on my site. The way things actually kicked off for me, Design is Kinky linked me when No Pattern was only a site with my photographs and a couple of drawings.
The first paying job I ever had was a website for Aurelio's Pizza in Chicago in late 2003. A friend from my church was a manager there. I figured 500 bucks sounds cool for the entire website. They had budgeted up to $5,000. I undercharged. The first serious one that actually got my work out on a national level was for xlr8r. I noticed an abundance of art in their magazine, found the art director's email, she gave me a project, and I got to see my work in a magazine. I guess I kind of take it for granted a little bit now, but the first time you see it, it's kind of an unmatched feeling. It's kind of funny when I think back to it now, compared to what I do today; it's not much different. I hope I'm using a more developed, progressive style. The scale of clients is bigger.What are you doing now? One of the biggest problems for me is to try to use a hands-on approach, a little more of an analog thing, more organic and natural. You get so tired of computers. I need to involve more photography, drawing and painting.
I'm just wrapping up doing this big feature with Teen People Magazine. It's a very interesting project, a new challenge. I did some shoes and shirts with Reebok. I'm hopefully going to be able to unveil that at Semi-Permanent. They had this line that was already out there, but wasnât really doing well, so they wanted to bring on an artist. Iâm like, oh my god, my own shoe line? That's insane. With Reebok? That's huge!
What are your current obsessions? I just got a new iPod Shuffle which I love. I was lucky enough to get the new Kanye West about a month in advance. I love what he's doing, not only for music but with hip hop in general. I'm tired of seeing girls dancing around nonstop... it's not just about his music. He's a huge inspiration to me that as an artist you can put yourself into new levels.
I donât read too much, but actually I did read a book this summer called "Blue Like Jazz" by a guy named Donald Miller. The subtitle is "Nonreligious thoughts on Christian Spirituality." I think God plays a huge role in my life. It's a big inspiration in and of itself.
It's at the top of the list to have friends and family around me. They're the biggest inspiration and amazingly encouraging.
I like going to bookstores, looking at magazines. I play a lot of Scrabble. I'm not the guy whoâs out at parties all the time. I like poker with my friends, movies with my girlfriend. That's pretty much it.
What's next? I'm planning on being married in like three years, after my girlfriend's out of college. We've been together almost three years. It's another thing in my life to be grateful for.
As long as my work stays kind of fresh to me, fresh to other people, I'm pretty satisfied in my current position. My accountant couldnât be happier. It's the simplest small business anybody could run.
Thinking big, it's something people might criticize, but I see people like Nigo and he was Pharrell's guest at the MTV awards. One day I'd like to be doing work side by side with somebody like Kanye West or Jay-Z. I don't know. It's one of those childhood fantasies.
What role has your age played in your career? For a month, me and another designer, >Electric Heat, a really close friend of mine, worked on this Microsoft campaign in San Francisco for McCann-Erickson. They had this massive advertising budget. On the last day we were there, basically in a 20 minute meeting they told us we were off. They gave it to >Stardust because it was two big for just two people. So maybe if I was older, more experienced, I could have known what to say to stand up to a corporate giant. It was rather devastating, but we still got paid a little.
Other than that age has been an extremely positive thing. I've used it to my advantage. I think if I was doing what I'm doing right now but was 27-28 people would still like it, but I think it'd be different. It's a pretty inspiring thing for people to hear, that you can do something at any age.
Any advice? When I get up there [at Semi-Permanent] I'm sure I'll be one of the only people who sounds like a motivational speaker. I'm not here to tell you, "This how you make the glows that I did in that one project." I canât stress enough that you have to meet the right people. Associations are everything. I've spent days, weeks trying to get in touch with people and show them work. I'd be working at Burger King right now if it wasn't for that. I can't say how important it is to put work out there, meet people, introduce yourself, and donât be shy. You have to get up and say, "Here's what I do," and be proud of it. You can never do enough. Unless you're George Lucas, someone who's completely on top of their game, you can never do too much self-promotion. It's almost as important as your work.
I'm not going to get up there and tell everybody that their beliefs are wrong. I'll share my story. I mean, the people speaking; I can't even put a finger on their talent, like Joshua Davis, the Orphanage, Charlie White. These guys are like gods in their field. It's incredible to be lumped in this event. It's wild. But it's for a reason, I believe, because I really prayed. I asked God to put things in my path and He delivered. There's no way I would be able to be in this position without some kind of faith and belief that this would work out.
I encourage anybody to really think about going into this field before you do it. I love where Iâm at, but I've been very blessed, but there's always issue of drive. You have to be prepared to stay up for 24 hours straight and tell your friends you can't hang out some weekends. You have to be extra dedicated. It's not going to be fun if you donât like yourself and you donât like hanging out with your cat.