Our next Science Fiction Trading Card Spotlight features Brad Hamann, who is displayed on card number 357, from the Walter Day Science Fiction Collection. Brad is an award-winning illustrator, designer, and educator. His science/fantasy art has been featured in Analog, Galaxy and the Twilight Zone Magazine. His work has been seen in many publications and books and has received multiple awards from the Art Director’s Club and the Society for News Design. He has been the recipient of the Ozzie Award and a CASE Circle of Excellence. Brad has taught graphic design and illustration at the college level for the last 12 years.
How early in your life did you know you would be an illustrator?
I knew I wanted to be an artist by the time I was in high school, but I switched from fine art to Illustration by the time I went to college – at Parsons School of Design.
How has illustration today changed from when you were younger? What do you like or dislike about the changes?
When I started, all my work was done by hand. Today, much of it is digital. I began working digitally in 1993 and enjoy it. Software has advanced to the point where dedicated illustrators can work in an infinite variety of styles. I love that.
If you did not become an illustrator and designer, what would you be doing?
I was going to be a math major in college before I switched to art at the last moment. I might have become a biologist or an oceanographer, I like to think.
What is your favorite type of book and why?
I still enjoy science fiction – Philip K. Dick, Silverberg, Herbert but I try to keep current. Just read The Three Body Problem and found it great hard sci-fi. I also enjoy John LeCarre and James Joyce.
What are your favorite hobbies today?
I love watching classic films on the Criterion Channel and I still run a bit … I’ve been a runner since 1979 and used to do the NYC Marathon every year. I love reading and I do pull out my Nintendo 64 every once in a while, for some relaxation. I also enjoy working on self-initiated illustration projects.
How has your involvement in the science fiction profession been important to you?
It has. I am still very much a fan boy, and my bucket list includes lunch with Robert Silverberg. I have a fondness and respect for the writers. At a critical time, the mid/late sixties, I discovered Marvel comics and loved the sci-fi elements in the Fantastic Four work of Lee, Kirby and Sinnott.
What does it take to be a successful professional illustrator today?
Focus and the ability to time-manage and prioritize. You have to love the field and enjoy the work, and always be willing to sharpen the edge as technology changes.
What do you think about electronic books that you can download versus the actual physical hard copy?
I’ve read a couple of books on iPad, but I really love my audible account and listening to good audio books. It depends on both the quality of the writing and the skill of the narrator. I still defer to the good old paper-based book though and have a large collection of books.
What authors do you admire today and who did you look up to as a child?
I tend to read classic authors, like Orwell, Dickens, Joyce as well as sci-fi authors like Arthur C. Clarke. I enjoy biographies and have read those on Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett, Marina Abramovic, and Bruce Lee. I admit, I read widely. Growing up I read collections such as the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Dangerous Visions, and the works of Joe Haldeman (The Forever War). I was a member of the Science Fiction Book Club in high school.
What are your favorite books past and present?
I will read and reread most works by John LeCarre. Tolkein’s LOTR of course is in a league of its own. Rendezvous With Rama by Clarke, Dying Inside by Silverberg, Deathbird Stories by Ellison, The Forever War by Haldeman are among books I am happy to revisit on a regular basis.
Who is your favorite celebrity and what makes that person special?
I don’t really follow celebs … I’m a lifelong New York Mets fan so I would put down Jacob DeGrom as a pretty classy guy. Keith Hernandez, as a player and broadcaster is someone I always have admired.
Did you ever think when you were younger you would be on a trading card?
Have you ever received any media coverage for your appearance on the trading card? If so, where?
Not yet, since it has just appeared.
When did you first meet Walter Day and where was it at?
I haven’t met Walter in person, but I’ve known of him for years, especially through various documentaries on videogaming and his pivotal role in its growth.
If you could describe Walter Day in one word, what would that word be and why?
Did you play video games growing up and what were some of your favorites?
Yes, I grew up in the pinball age and then really enjoyed arcade games when I hit college. I pumped a lot of quarters into Sea Wolf, Pac-Man and Galaxian. My first home console was a Super Nintendo. I played Doom, Quake and later, on the Super Nintendo, I played Quake II. I now have a Steam account and really enjoyed Alien Isolation. I’m definitely a first shooter fan. I did enjoy Myst and Riven, more for the art than the gameplay.
If you can design your own video game, what would it be about and who would be the main character?
I am big on mystery and first contact themes. I also like the ghost stories of M.R. James, so I might design a horror game with M.R. as the main character.
Do you believe some science fiction movies are too violent and lead to violence in America today?
Well, I think many science fiction movies are just bad, and has a genre actually have less human-on-human violence than most other genres. I suspect there is a connection, but not so much in science fiction. I think other genres promote the glamour of gun use too much. I don’t mind violence, but gratuitous violence and torture turns me off in any form of media.
If you could own only one book that was not designed you, what would it be and why?
I would enjoy owning a first edition of Montague Rhodes James’s Ghost Stories of an Antiquary. Simple, a seminal text and good for reading on a dark stormy night with a glass of port and a woodfire burning. The most beautiful book I’ve ever owned was a limited edition of Skeleton Crew by Stephen King with illustrations by J.K. Potter published by Scream Press. I sold my copy about 20 years ago but would love to replace it. Gorgeous photo/collage illustrations and big generous interious text design.
Are you still involved with illustration today, and what role do you play?
I still work as an illustrator, but I’ve taught graphic design and illustration at the college level for the last 12 years. I enjoy sharing my passion with students and helping them see the possibilities.
What do you see yourself doing in the next 10 years?
Enjoying my family, much as I do now. My wife Jane (married 20 years) is the very best and I have two wonderful grown daughters, a fab son-in-law and a super little grandson with another on the way. I would like to keep learning new things – including motion graphics – and expand my skillset. Probably teaching part time and also doing more professional writing. And still getting out for the occasional five-mile jog to keep in shape.