Artist Spotlight: Zach West

Graphic design is in more than you realize. It takes a designer to build those eye-catching ads, the customized phone cases, and awesome T-shirts. This month, we’re spotlighting an up-and-coming designer and very cool guy, Zach West. Be sure to check out his stuff at zwgfxdesigns!

Lindsey Stirling
Lindsey Stirling; Photo and designed by Zach West:

Media types: Graphic Design, Drawing, Video Editing, Gaming, Social Media

RevPub: What made you want to become a designer, and are there any artists who influence you?

I started designing shortly after I graduated from high school. I discovered gfx forums, which are message boards dedicated to learning to design. When I joined, the community was focused on designing tags/signatures that appear below the user’s post. Some of the designs that people in the community were designing really inspired me to become a designer. They were industry professionals, but if I showed you some of their work, it would blow you away. THE artist who influenced me was a man on the forums named Cleveland Paige aka +mw.pmi. His work was amazing, and I made it my goal to be that good one day.

RevPub: What are your favorite things to design? Is there anything you want to do but haven’t yet?

My favorite things to design are signatures/tags and photo manipulation pieces. The feeling of accomplishment I get when I’ve finished one of those two are greater than the feeling I get from anything else. Plus, they’re just fun to do. As far as doing something I haven’t yet, I really want to get into illustrating something. Drawing and then using a tablet to ink and color the drawing in Illustrator is something I really want to get into.

RevPub: What are the must-have tools you need to draw or design?

For drawing, pencil and paper lol. That’s all I need. For digital designing, besides the computer and software, the pen tool is a must. The pathfinder bar in Illustrator. All the tools have their uses, but those two I use almost always in my designs.

RevPub: If you could design or draw anything for someone, who would it be?

It’s hard to pick one person lol. Probably Lindsey Stirling because she’s so awesome! 🙂

RevPub: You just graduated from college. Any tips for students entering the field?

Design as much high-quality work as possible for your portfolio and design work that you would be required in the design industry. Also, try to get experience anywhere you can!

Off the Page: Illustrations as Gifts

Off the Page

As an illustrator I’m in the unique position of occasionally being able to give friends some very personal gifts for birthdays and holidays.

While “I made it with my own two widdle hands” might seem a bit juvenile, there really isn’t a better gift I can give than a drawing and all of my closest friends have something I’ve drawn for their walls or offices.

My RevPub co-chair has countless pictures decorating her space, my buddy Mike used to have several originals of characters he’d carry in his massive wallet!

I’m not a portrait artist as such. I did some portraits for money in high school and college but I hate the work. It really stifles my creativity and while my artwork does usually lean on the realistic side, doing an exact copy of something, even of a person, kind of takes the fun imagination out of everything.

Instead I do “insinuations” or “approximations” of people I draw for. Not true portraits, just illustrated versions capturing some essence of their character.

I did this piece a few years ago for my friend Misty’s birthday. Not only did I get to have loads of fun torturing her by not letting her know what I was doing for her, I got to get very creative with the drawing. She loves library work and some of the pictures I saw of her working in the field were of her doing a puppet show for kids. She’s wearing some rain boots (she never gets to wear when it’s raining…) and has a nice stack of books behind her.


This is the most recent one I’ve done for my friend Jessica. Her passion is teaching yoga and she is a superlative Hot Yoga instructor. I started doing little pics (starting with my Turbo Snail) and thought this would be a nice birthday present for her. After some minor Facebook stalking so I could approximate her face (my memory is good but not so good I can draw details from it…I’m not Hannibal Lector…) I came up with this.


I’ve never had someone dislike or respond with anything other than excitement upon receiving one of these as a present. Not everyone can draw, or paint, or write, but everyone has something they can do to let their friends know they’re thinking about them. Be creative for your next presents; modern gifts don’t have to begin and end with the gift card!

Off the Page #2: The Weird World of Oz

Off the Page

There have been a number of projects with which I’ve been involved that haven’t really panned out.  Reasons for this vary, from simple lack of enthusiasm to too many similarities to other projects.  Most of the time I can take these ideas and wrap them into the creative concepts that will pan out, but this is one that kind of dead-ended.

The premise came from my friends and frequent creative collaborative partner, Brandon Combs who is now pretty busy with Glitz and Grime.  During one of our many editing/review sessions he brought up how twisted the Wizard of Oz story really is and how much fun a darker, psychotic version would be.  We planned to use his unconventional story-telling and my artwork to create a graphic novel using the base story and producing it.  Unfortunately right after we began developing the concept “Weird Oz” hit everywhere.  McFarlane Toys began to produce it’s own line, various comics, books, and TV shows started to riff on it, and we both decided we would like like we were the soft, backing iron on the blade instead of the cutting edge.  So we dropped it.  Fortunately I still have the artwork and with the new “Oz: The Great and Powerful” film coming out I thought it was a good time to share:

My Dorothy. I gave her “farm girl” weapons and Ruby Sneakers just to mix things up. I wanted her kind of hot-girl tough.
Tin man
This is my Tin Man. In this concept the Tin Man is made up of various armor parts that he finds and collects from enemies. His REAL body can be seen underneath sections of the armor and looks like iron bands. He would replace his “armor” sections during the story. Which sounds great but would create lots of problems if I had to draw this series for an extended run…  Oh and I. Hate. Chainmail.
Scare Crow
I called him “Scar Crow.” It was in the midst of this drawing that we decided to nix the project. He was going to look like a torture victim, with that beam permanently tied to his body.

Maybe someday I can finish concepts on these just for fun, but I hope they still show that the idea was a little cutting edge when we came up with it!

Off the Page #1: Origins and Inspirations

Off the Page

Despite all my recent Adobe Illustrator work I’m still a pencil artist at heart.  It’s where I’m the most comfortable and most effective.  I’ve always seen drawing like carving.  The blank page is a stone, pencil lines cut away the excess until the finished result springs forth.  The more work I do recently the more apt that comparison is.  There’s still nothing quite like creating a character or a design in your head and watch it come to life on the page.  Though it may not be as efficient and may cause lots of graphite-stained hands and eraser dust messes on the table it’s still the most expressive way to create I know.

I have lots of designs, from projects that never got off the ground, to one-offs that were never intended to go beyond a single image.  I thought I’d share some of these to show that, while computers can do a lot, they still can’t create the same organic artwork that can be made by hand.

I thought I’d start with something familiar:

Revenant Publications Logo
The original RevPub Logo

This is the original Revenant Publications logo I designed by hand.  I knew this venture would need a brand of some kind and I had the concept early on, the fist punching through the earth, rising from the grave to reclaim creativity!  These are the lofty goals of RevPub and made for a simple logo graphic.

I eventually took this drawing through vectoring software and created a messy vector that was virtually useless.  I designed it again in Photoshop to create this:

Revenant Logo in Photoshop
Photoshop isn’t designed to do logos as well as Illustrator. The final version can be seen in our header!

Even for objects best done in software, where clean lines can be created easily, polygons can be made sharp, and objects lined up perfectly, I still start from paper to create something new.  It’s been an interesting progression to take designs from the page, through one software, then through another.


The last drawing is a bonus.  Back in 2009 I was in the midst of a creativity drought and the other half of RevPub was determined to prove that it was something I could easily overcome.  So she told me to draw anything and suggested her boot.  So that’s what I drew.  It took a little while to completely break down the creative block that stood in the way of actual production, but this began the process.  And it represents the first of many recent collaborations, the most important of which is this blog!

Raven's Boot
That’s Raven’s boot alright! She even signed it for me!