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Accent On: Illustrator Joe Tallman

As part of our online (for now!) Accent® Opaque Portfolio Exchange, we’re hosting conversations with each of the participating exchange artists. Next up: Joe Tallman. 

Joe Tallman is a Rockford, Illinois-based illustrator whose work is influenced by pulp-era science fiction and comic books, as well as elements of graffiti, typography and graphic design. Joe combines traditional methods of drawing and inking with digital coloring and often employs silk screening for the final output of a piece. “I am fascinated with the technological revolution we are in the middle of today as a society,” Joe says. “Every day, technology advances exponentially, giving the average person little time to call into question if these advances are a benefit or detriment to humanity. My personal work is a reflection of this fascination and is an attempt to raise these questions.”

The print that Joe created for this portfolio exchange does exactly that. It features a tiny human and a small dog climbing a large hand that has seemingly grown from the otherworldly underbrush. Which planet are they on? Is that the same moon and stars we see from earth? Whose hand is it that holds these two hikers? 

We recently caught up with Joe to hear more about this project and his creative process. 

Joe Tallman

The central theme of the Accent Opaque Portfolio Exchange is “sustainability.” How did you approach this theme?

I approached the theme for this project the same way I do most commissions, which is to find a way to serve the topic while also putting my own artistic style and voice into it. My goal is to make work that can stand alone, out of context, and still be visually in line with my personal work. I also made sure to push my initial ideas a bit further than I normally would because I knew there were several other incredible artists tackling the same topic. Were I to go with the first thing that came to mind, it likely would have been low-hanging fruit, or “safe,” aka probably kind of boring. 

For this concept, I thought of the danger we are facing regarding the environment and the world that future generations are inheriting. In my illustration, I tried to balance the more sinister implications with hope. 

HOW Joe Tallman

This project was already underway when our world was changed by a global pandemic. Has living through this affected your artistic process?

I feel like the pandemic has had ups and downs for me, but overall I would say it’s been good artistically. I love having more time at home to focus on projects and slow down a bit and reassess my work and my approach to it. I am lucky in that I work as a freelancer and a lot of my work was being done at home already, so adjusting to that aspect wasn’t a big deal. I did lose a significant amount of work due to COVID, but thankfully I have been able to stay afloat with the work that is coming in. The free time I had also allowed me to work on some of my own projects and even have some merch items made to sell online. That process has been incredibly rewarding artistically and really rejuvenated me. It’s made me realize how important it is to always make time for your own work. Otherwise, you can get stale and start making things solely to satisfy the client and lose touch with the enjoyment of making art.

Do you view the work you created for the Portfolio Exchange differently today than you did when you created it? If so, how?

I think the foreboding theme of my piece maybe feels a bit more relevant now. The pandemic has intensified the uncertainty of what’s to come, for sure. I wonder if the hopeful aspects would be less noticeable to others looking at it now, as opposed to if they had pre-quarantine.

Joe Tallamn Ice Hogs and Spaceman

Where are you turning for inspiration during this time?

I look to several artists for inspiration, but that’s no different than before. I think the main difference is having time to look within and reassess my goals and what I want to be doing, versus what is just bringing in income. I have definitely been able to appreciate the smaller things and be more present and grateful for all the great things I do have, and that has been inspiring. Riding my bike, hanging out with my partner and three cats, watching movies and reading have all been things that have kept me going during this.

Now more than ever, there’s a focus on supporting the ​local businesses that make our communities great. What’s one from your own community that you think everyone should know about? 

There are a lot of locally owned businesses here in Rockford that are doing cool things, so I’m going to name a few. Culture Shock Clothing and Records, for sure. They are great people, and having a cool local record shop in a city like Rockford is such a privilege. The Rockford Art Museum is an incredible asset to the city and brings in renowned artists from all over to show work. Mary’s Place is the local dive bar (and the only legitimate music venue in town right now) so they definitely need a shout out. Division and Co. is making a name for themselves outside of the region for their custom-sewn pennants and awesome shop stocked full of vintage goods, clothing and miscellaneous items.

The Accent community is made up of artists, designers and printers. If you could send this group one message right now, what would it be? 

Just keep on moving forward in your craft and try to remember to enjoy what you do.


Thanks to Joe Tallman for taking the time to chat. See more of his work at or check out his online store.