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What was your relationship with art when you were a kid? How did you end up on the path of an illustrator?
I've always had a pretty close relationship with art. My mom is a painter and great visual artist, and my dad is a musician and actor and they've always encouraged my creative pursuits. I've been drawing and making things for as long as I can remember. In high school I had the amazing realization that I might be able to draw and make things for a living, and that led me to go to study graphic design and illustration in college.
Your illustration style is super unique. It’s a bit psychedelic and beautifully textured and your characters can be kind of tribal. How would you describe your style and how did you develop that approach?
It's surprisingly difficult for me to succinctly describe my work. My education as a graphic designer and illustrator certainly influences my approach. A lot of my work has the reductive and streamlined feel that comes from my graphic design background.
As a kid I loved drawing along with Ed Emberley books, he really taught me how to take a group of very basic shapes and turn them into a character or scene.
I'm also really influenced by ancient and tribal art. Its fascinating to me that humans have always made beautiful and expressive things, regardless of their technological abilities. As someone who uses a computer to make my images, connecting with those roots helps me ground my work to a certain extent.
Lastly, I'd say I'm very inspired by nature and being outside. I love camping, hiking and trail running, and the amazing natural beauty that exists all around us is an endless source of inspiration. Studying organic forms is also super useful in creating characters and landscapes, which are some of my favorite subjects.
Can you give us some insight into how you go about designing a character? Perhaps using the example of one of your previous Monster Project contributions?
I typically begin with a few rough sketches to get my basic ideas out before starting to use my computer. I'll also gather some reference imagery if it's helpful for that particular piece. Then I usually jump into 3d software and model the shapes and add lighting and textures. The last step involves a bit of post processing, and I take the rendered image from the 3d software into photoshop to adjust colors and tweak values. Some pieces, like this year's monster project, involved some digital painting and adding details in two dimensions.
Tell us a bit about your amazing gifs! What inspired those and how have they developed?
Animated gifs are a somewhat newer addition to my tool kit. The 3d software I use makes it fairly simple to turn the models I make into sequences of frames. It's been super fun to learn about basic animation principles and sharing the resulting short format videos.
What’s it like working in 3D? Have you always been more drawn to 3D vs 2D art?
I haven't always worked in 3d. I studied fairly typical 2d illustration and graphic techniques for my education, and that's what the first half of my career was focused on. I have always loved computers and as 3d software became more affordable and user friendly, it became a valuable addition to my 2d workflow. Eventually I became more familiar with the 3d tools and learned to harness some of the power of these very complicated applications. Cinema 4d, my 3d app of choice, is my go-to now, and there are a lot of advantages that 3d has over 2d. Things like animation and rotating views are made much easier in 3d, and it allows you to make 3d prints and export assets for augmented and virtual reality projects.
What is your favorite classic monster and why?
There are lots of greats, like Frankenstein's Monster and Dracula, but I have to say The Creature from the Black Lagoon is my favorite. Hes creepy and fish like, but also very awkward and strange looking. Tons of fun!
If you weren’t an artist at all, what would you be?
What a great question! I'm so lucky to have found a career that I love, and I don't spend a ton of time thinking about other career paths. I do love the outdoors, so maybe a Park Ranger? I'm also fascinated by ancient artifacts and human history, so being an Anthropologist would have been fun too.
If you could tell the kid version of yourself something, what would you say? (Doesn’t have to be art related)
It's OK to try and fail at new things. You've got your whole life to develop new skills, and the more things you try the more opportunity you will have to figure out what you love and what you're good at. 99% of the time, failing at new things has very little long term consequences, and it's one of the best ways to learn and grow.
Follow up to the last question...would you be worried about creating a rift in the space-time continuum by interacting with your former self?
YES! I suppose I'd have to dress in a disguise and leave a note so as not to reveal my true identity!
Why do you participate in The Monster Project?
When I saw the inaugural year of the monster project in 2014, I was blown away. There was such an amazingly talented group of illustrators participating, and I loved the idea of collaborating with a specific kid on a specific piece. The idea that I could share my passion and encourage classes of kids to pursue theirs' made me really happy, and I wanted to get involved. I'm honored that Katie and the crew included me in 2015, and I hope to continue working with them for a long time! :D
What question would you like us to ask the next Monster Project artist we interview?
What keeps you motivated and inspired to keep putting out your best work?