Pier Gustafson — Drawing Fast, Thinking Slow
Simplify your life. Do less, better.



Artist and illustrator Pier Gustafson on living a simple life with what makes him smile, the messy creative process behind projects, clients, and deadlines, and being an artist in the twenty-first century.

Pier is an artist who presently designs maps, monograms, logos, invitations and other illustrations usually for print. His passion is drawing. Though he explores various media from simple pencil to the iPad he tends to favor vintage fountain pens, which he collects and repairs and sells to other artists and calligraphers. (A pen made 100 years ago still works and works better than anything made today.) He is a “maximalist” in that he surrounds himself with objects which can “spark joy” when arranged and juxtaposed in creative ways. His man-cave is complete with jury-rigged “stalagmites” made of shelves balancing atop filing cabinets filled with stuff which may be used in his art.

He does like to smile by making others smile. The art he creates for himself has a simple goal: to make you think and to smile.

He is single, has a sharp-fanged cat named Orca, plays the ukulele and rides a bright red, fat-tired bike to do his shopping.

He’s about to turn 63 years old, but still has yet to grow up.


Connect with Pier on YouTube, Instagram, Flickr, or his Website.


Favorite quotes

  • "For me, more is more, aesthetically."
  • "Spending thirty minutes on a sketch is sometimes twenty minutes too long."
  • "If you're done doing what you like to do, find a job that you can do nine to five or even less, get a part time job waiting tables, and then spend the rest of your free time doing what you want to do."
  • "I think in a way I do have that simplicity, even if it involves lots of stuff. […] I have all of this stuff for the purpose of making me smile."
  • "Starting from scratch is sometimes the best thing you could do. You just throw the thing away and start completely over."
  • "What I save on commuting, I lose in productivity. Living and working in the same place is something that a lot of people think would be a great idea […] but I don't think it's all that great for me."
  • "Remember to turn things off, completely turn things off. Not just when you're at a movie theater, or dinner, just turn things off and go outside and ride your bike or go to the grocery store or read a book, a real book."

Episode links


People mentioned


Episode notes

  • Intro. [0:33]
  • Pier Gustafson. [2:05]
  • Fountain pens. [3:12]
  • Artist. [4:07]
  • Studio/home separation. [5:45]
  • Pier's studio. [6:53]
  • Routines. [9:23]
  • Complexities. [10:57]
  • Habits. [12:24]
  • Meditative moments. [13:35]
  • Music and documentaries. [14:53]
  • Disconnection. [15:53]
  • Living with more - How do you go about arranging all of your stuff? [16:29]
  • Born in the wrong century. [18:42]
  • New tech for art and design. [19:51]
  • Your best ideas. [21:10]
  • Deadlines, clients, and creativity. [24:33]
  • Deliberate practice - "Starting from scratch is sometimes the best thing you can do. " [25:39]
  • Work in progress. [26:26]
  • Calling it done - When do you know that something is done? [27:35]
  • Favorite project - A crooked map of Massachusetts and South Africa. [29:48]
  • Letterpress printing. [32:24]
  • Success - "If I'm pretty certain that what I provided the client was the best I can do. […] For me, for my own art, success is having fun." [33:07]
  • Urban sketchers - We show the world, one drawing at a time! [34:52]
  • Scope. [37:02]
  • Lightning round. [39:45]
  • Morning message to yourself. [39:51]
  • Someone successful. [40:50]
  • Your message to the world. [41:22]
  • Message to your 20-year-old self. [41:44]
  • Boredom. [43:16]
  • Money. [44:00]
  • Unique objects. [45:13]
  • Art. [46:57]
  • Craft. [47:45]
  • Making your live easier. [48:48]
  • Books. [49:29]
  • Digital tools. [51:08]
  • Sketch Club. [52:15]
  • Pro tip for the iPad and Apple Pencil (which involves mylar). [53:04]
  • Healthy tech. [54:47]
  • Online communities. [55:36]
  • Slowing down. [56:13]
  • Busyness. [56:48]
  • Distractions. [57:00]
  • Vexillology. [58:12]
  • Artist's advice. [58:45]
  • Your future. [59:48]
  • Money. [1:00:24]
  • A challenge. [1:01:25]
  • Looks like a drawing. [1:03:13]
  • Connect with Pier. [1:04:45]
  • When we actually met. [1:05:08]
  • This podcast. [1:06:03]
  • Messy. [1:07:17]
  • Thanks. [1:08:59]
  • Ukelele song - Pier plays My Battery Is About To Day on his ukelele. [1:09:58]

Thanks for listening!


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Theme song Sleep by Steve Combs, under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 US.

June 26, 2019

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