Peterson Joseph


He’s a very talented illustrator with great passion for what he does. Peterson Joseph, also known as ‘Leaky Penny’, was born and raised in Montreal, Canada and went to study Illustration and Design at Dawson College there. He now lives in Toronto, where makes fantastic energetic illustrations, inspired by music such as jazz and hip hop and artists like Rembrandt, Da Vinci and Banksy. Have a look at his portfolio, here.

As a freelancer, what’s your typical day like?
Busy. Fortunately, I don’t have kids, so that’s a lot of stress off of my shoulders. I usually start my day by reading my emails and going over a To-Do list of things I need to get done or potential clients I need to call back. Then, when I think I can do without my email box for a few hours, I get to work on any projects I have outstanding or looking for new ones. The process of looking for potential clients is an arduous one and it’s a fine balance between working on current projects and lining up another one when you’re done.

Towards the end of the day I make a run to the print shop to pick up any jobs i may need to get and make it back home for exercise, dinner, and finish up any work that I can before bed time.

What is it you enjoy so much about illustrating and design?
The variety. The freedom to let loose and do something I love. To me, it’s more than just about the paycheck. It’s about the chance to express myself through my creative talents. You don’t always get that luxury when you work for a company, but when you freelance you get the chance to pick and choose contracts as you please, provided you are that spoiled! This, to me, helps in my creativity. It doesn’t keep you stuck in a rut designing the same things over and over. I get to create things, out of my own brain, my own imagination. Don’t get me wrong, there are companies out there, especially in advertising that will tap into your creativity and unlock amazing potential in your brain, but also a few jobs (especially in a corporate setting) where design is just monotonous. My way to combat this is to work full time and freelance on the side. The best of both worlds!

How did you find your own style?
This was a long and painful process. Over the years I’ve worked hard towards finding a style and although I finally have, after so many years, I find it so very important to not get stuck in that style. I was looking to being unique, I was definitely looking to standing out, but like an action star who only plays in action movies, I was typecast. I love doing album covers, I love doing posters, but I’d love to do corporate branding, I’d love to do annual reports. I no longer want to be typecast.

A lot of people speak of finding your style, finding your niche, and although that can certainly make finding certain projects a lot easier, it puts you in a creative rut. More and more I find myself not wanting to be tied down to a certain style, certain niche or certain clientele. I want to do it all! I want potential clients to know if they need something done in an old art style, I can do it. They want something urban and colourful, I want them to know that I will do my absolute best.

Is the digital revolution changing your job?
Yes! And for the best! It makes things like networking, getting approvals and communications a breeze! Even in terms of work flow, we are pretty spoiled nowadays. Compare that to just about ten years ago…things we take for granted like websites, online quotes, email. Even when it comes to the work itself, when once we used pen and paper and X-acto blade today everything is done seamlessly on a computer. No mess!

Self promotion is another way technology has changed things for us. While word of mouth and having a website are great assets to promoting oneself, unfortunately they aren’t enough. You need to be proactive and search for work when times are lean.

So, when I’m not working, I’m looking for work. Thankfully the internet makes that infinitely easier than it was when I first started my career. Back in the day, it was all about phone calls, the phone book and heading over with a print portfolio to be seen.

What’s the key for collaborating in a team?
Open mindedness. You need to be receptive to other peoples’ ideas. Listening is key. Not just hearing someone, but listening. It isn’t about pride or getting your idea approved, it’s about the best possible solution for your client. Like in anything a sense of humour and willingness to compromise is essential in keeping the relationship and brainstorming alive.

And last, what’s the best advice you can give to students around the world, who are either pursuing a career in advertising or design?
Be crazy. Be different. No idea is a bad idea. Sometimes something completely unrelated can trigger an idea that’s perfect for the project. Be prepared to work hard. The life of a designer is not a 9 to 5 life, it’s a constant thing. Always be aware of your surroundings, pay attention to the smallest details in the world around you, watch the news, learn an instrument, listen to music you’d never listen to. It’s about experimentation. Don’t be afraid. Most importantly, have fun!