Illustrated Man: Joren Cull

ADC Member brings his quirky style to illustration and animation

The ADC Community is full of talented creatives, with thousands of designers, illustrators, photographers, writers, art directors and other professional creatives who are proud, card-carrying ADC Members. We at ADC love to showcase our Members and their work, and find out a little more about what makes their creative minds tick. 

Such is the case with Toronto-based illustrator Joren Cull. We sat down with Joren to learn a little more about his craft.


Most people with a creative career have that passion rooted in childhood. When did you start to show an affinity for drawing?

jorenpicAs a super shy kid, I think drawing was my go-to mode in communicating my personality to other people. I remember having to go to daycare after school, and I would always just sit at the craft table and draw pictures the entire time. I hated when we would have to go outside and do other things. I remember how much fun I’d have sitting and making funny pictures, and then showing them off to my friends to see their reactions. I guess I felt acceptance from their responses and got more into it.

The burritos they served at daycare were also very interesting, I can still taste them in my mouth when I think back..

What were some of your early inspirations back then that further guided you down your artistic path?

Ive always drawn a lot of inspiration from pop culture, and comedy. When I was young I was really into The Simpsons, Weird Al, and South Park. My entire life centered around those three things more or less. Especially The Simpsons. I had this Simpsons episode guide thing, and I would spend hours tracing the drawings from inside of it while watching TV upstairs. For a solid few years I would just draw Simpsons, and South Park characters over and over, making up my own stories with them and stuff.

Of course liking to draw, or even being good at it, is one thing,  but the realization that you can make an actual living out of it is something else. When did that lightbulb go off in your head?

I don’t think there was a “light bulb moment” per se. I guess sometime mid way through OCAD U’s illustration program when I started meeting some teachers who were actually making a career off of their artwork, instead of only teaching. It helped me see similar value in my own work, and realize my goals of running my own business.

Eventually everyone receives their first break. What was that break for you, and what did you learn from it?

I’m not sure I had one specific big break, it was really a culmination of a lot of things that’s gotten me to this point so far. The more work you put out, the more likely people are to know you exist, and want to work with you. Success as a freelancer is largely based on the snowball effect I think.

I found persistence to be a very valuable trait to have picked up along the way. Young illustrators have to put just as much (if not even more) work into marketing themselves as into their actual artwork, especially when just starting out. It took me a while to come to terms with this because I just want to make fun art all the time, but my business has grown a lot since then and it was definitely worth it.

“I found persistence to be a very valuable trait to have picked up along the way. Young illustrators have to put just as much (if not even more) work into marketing themselves as into their actual artwork…”

What are your favorite applications for your illustration work?

I really enjoy the editorial illustration work I get to do. It’s fun reading articles and coming up with amusing drawings to compliment them.I’ve managed to get my work into publications including The New York Times, The Walrus, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Globe and Mail, National Geographic Kids, Vice, The Guardian, Readers Digest, and many others so far, and it’s been a huge pleasure to work so closely with the art directors and creative minds behind those publications.

I equally love applying my illustration, and animation skills into the advertising world. I’ve always been fascinated by the art of advertising, I’d love to see my work across a huge campaign someday. I feel that would be an essential step in becoming a lasting part of culture.

Walk us through a few of your favorite projects: which ones have meant the most to you personally?

One of my most recent projects would probably be that. Amazingly, I was asked to create a pilot for Mondo Media/Teletoon Canada this past year. I wrote, directed, storyboarded, illustrated, animated, and did all of the voices, and music, for a six minute long pilot set within the universe of my drawings. It was a dream come true to be able to create such a personal project, while being handed an audience, and money for it too.

Though it is unclear at this point if the show will get picked up, I’m pretty proud myself for getting it done, and if nothing else, it’s a good calling card for my abilities to produce entirely original creative content for future possible clients.

Another cool thing I did, was last year I created this jigsaw puzzle I illustrated, designed, funded, & produced, called “Joren Cull’s Jigsaw Mystery Puzzle!”. It’s a 284-piece jigsaw puzzle that you have to put together without knowing what the image you are making is. Once you’re done you get to see the picture, and it’s a great surprise (kid friendly). I love talking to people who’ve done it. It makes me happy to hear what they thought.

Besides being an illustrator and animator, you are also a musician. Why do you tend to favor illustration over these other mediums?

I find illustration to be the fastest way to communicate my ideas usually. I like to work fast, and since I can typically get an assignment done pretty quickly, the instant gratification is hugely attractive to me. It also takes a lot less time for an outsider to read a drawing, than to listen to a song or watch a video, so it seems like the most logical way to get my name out there right now.

“It also takes a lot less time for an outsider to read a drawing, than to listen to a song or watch a video…”

That said, I love working in all mediums so usually whichever medium suits the idea best is the one I go with. I do get hired for animation work occasionally and I love doing those just as much. It’s fun to mix things up. Mostly, people seem most interested in my illustration work right now so it makes sense to focus on that.

In which direction do you hope your business to move on the future?

For now, I’m focusing on continuing my editorial and advertising work. I’d like to get deeper into animation, and I hope to work towards starting a mini production company at some point where all my talents could be put to good use on larger scale projects.

Do you have anything else you’d wish to add before we let you go?

Well, I guess if I’m being as transparent as possible, since this will be going out to tons of art directors and people.. Have a look at my website, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, ect. I’m always open and excited to chat about collaborations. My email is hope to hear from you.


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