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Illustrator Max Estes talks to us about his transatlantic creative process

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Introducing: Max Estes

Dividing his time between Oregon and Norway, illustrator Max Estes must have no shortage of influences contributing to his vibrant work. His style is pronounced and individual – characters are contained by their thick black outlines and ping-pong ball-round heads – allowing his images to appeal seamlessly to both adults and children.

In the midst of the release of his new children’s book, Nattmatt (meaning Midnight Snack), we caught up with Max to find out how he tricks himself into working productively at home and the pros of working in two very different, very beautiful environments.

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Max Estes: Illustration

Where do you work?

I’m based in both Oslo, Norway and Portland, Oregon. My wife’s Norwegian and I’m from the States, so we’re spoiled with this geographic duality. Both locales are beautiful and differ wildly from one another. 

How does your working day start?

I wake early and head to my local cafe. Since I primarily work from my home studio, I prefer to “commute” back, approaching my work day after a brief social encounter.   

How do you work and how has that changed?

I tend to work in frenzied, intense blocks. Singularly focused for a few weeks or months at a time, followed by a reset or hibernation period. I crave variety, distraction and influence, so I often find myself traveling. As an illustrator and children’s author, I think my job is to ask questions and maintain a healthy sense of curiosity. Exploring becomes research for work. I’m either out in the world soaking it up, or at my drawing desk emptying out. 

Where would we find you when you’re not at work?

At the Ram’s Head in Portland drinking White Russians, at Nighthawks Diner in Oslo sipping coffee, in Amsterdam enjoying apple pancakes, or riding my bicycle somewhere in-between. 

Would you intern for yourself?

No. I’m far too fussy. 

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