Intro & Interview by Shanon Weltman
You can see a lot of the cartoon influences of a 90s kid by looking at the illustrations of Nate Bear. The fast movement and digital cleanness of his drawings look like they’re already animated, while some of them are. The Brooklyn based Illustrator also runs a small label with his Illustrator wife, Laura Galbraith, called “Eye Heart Us” that features awesome products covered in their art, with everything from tote bags to shot glasses. Nate has found the perfect balance between fun disproportional anatomy, humor, and limited color palettes. Read our interview to see how Nate creates all his colorful cartoon wizardry.
SHANON WELTMAN: How often do you draw? Because I see you post things online almost daily.
NATE BEAR: Pretty much just what you see, I guess twice a day at least.
SW: Are you mostly drawing digitally nowadays or are you still drawing with like a pen and pencil?
NB: If I’m by my computer digitally, and then I draw in my sketchbook when I’m on the train or anywhere else. I draw on the computer if I’m at my desk. I’ve been doing a lot of my thumbnails and brush stuff on the computer lately. I got one of those tablets where you can draw directly on the screen. It’s changed the whole game, my workflow. Before I used to scan sketchbook sketches then after, scan that or take a quick pic with my phone just to get it digital. Now I’ve been doing all my client work directly on the computer. The drawing just feels as natural as drawing with a pen and pencil. I tend to use them to get my ideas out without anything impeding my flow.
SW: What are your biggest inspirations as far as your artistic style and your subject matter goes?
NB: Hmm. Subject Matter. Culture at large, just being in the moment, my subject matter is pretty much all over the place. It’s kind of whatever inspires me at the moment, or project or whatever. I can’t really say there’s anything really recurring in my artwork, except for drawing these dogs. Because… we have a dog. I draw bears because I was working on a logo for a long time and now it’s developed into all these different bear characters that come out. I whip [them] out when I can’t think of anything else to draw. Other then that I just draw everything. As far as influences, the reeaally obvious one is the Ren & Stimpy cartoon and Warner Bros cartoons from the 40s and 30s, stuff like that. Actually, I still really love that. Cartoons of like Popeye… the Fleischer cartoons… All that good old stuff, where it feels like the economy of the line that represent characters. I like that.
SW: Yeah you can really see that in your work.
NB: Also a lot of 20th century art stuff, like Warhol and Rauschenberg and stuff that probably doesn’t show in my work, but sometimes I just try to go against the grain, or think outside the box or things like that. I tend to think like a Dadaist at times. [Laughs]
SW: So you said you’re using a lot of styluses and direct digital work, can you rate of the styluses you’ve used, best to worst?
NB: Okay, well the best is the one I’ve got now. My number one right now is the Lenovo 19in Tablet Monitor, optimized for Mac, since I have a Mac. It works great, it definitely seems to have much finer lines than I can get with a Wacom. The tip feels springier, it feels like I actually get all levels: 2000 to 4000 levels of pressure. I actually feel like I’m getting all of those. I’ve had old Wacom’s since like 1997, even though they say they have like a million levels of pressure, I’ve never noticed a difference in the quality of the line. I’ve used Intuos 4 and 2, they work pretty good, but besides all the other bells and whistles they’re not much better than a cheap Bamboo, even with all the different drawing area and sizes, that doesn’t change much for me. Right now, drawing on the screen changes the whole thing for me. I’ve also played with some stuff on iPad, they’ve got this thing called the JaJa Stylus and there was a Kickstarter for it a year or so ago. That was my first attempt at getting a cheap way of drawing quickly on the screen, I was like ‘oh, maybe I can skip on the iPad and exploring Photoshop and do it that way’, but it’s even worse than anything else. There’s no levels of pressure and you can barely get it to, like, do two bold or still lines, but it’s nice to almost have a little something to work with. I’ve used it on my Android phone and iPad, it definitely works better on the iPad. That was what it was designed for. I can’t think of anything else I’ve used lately.
SW: Which one is the absolute worst?
NB: Anything so far that’s been designed for iPad. Nothing’s super terrible, but nothing’s been really great until the Lenovo I got recently.
SW: Kind of a similar question, what are your favorite drawing apps? Programs other than Photoshop and Illustrator.
NB: I’ll start with computer apps. I’ve been loving Manga Studio lately, the new version, version 5. It’s really excellent. I guess with the right brushes you can get a sort of natural media feel in Photoshop. There’s just something about the way they’ve built in the line curves and pressure sensitivity in Manga Studio, when I have a pencil tool, it really does feel like pencil on paper. When I have the brush tool, it feels like painting with a brush pen of some sort. There’s less lag and more depth of line. And when you’re actually drawing comics it has all these other goodies for doing page layouts built into the program so you don’t have to think about it as much. That’s my recommendation, Manga Studio.
SW: Cool, we use that.
NB: Yeah, and on the iPad I like Sketchbook Pro, it has layer management and the tools are simple to learn. I tried Procreate, but it’s got a lot of options and I don’t know, I always tend to get lost in the navigation of that one. A kind of neat app I’ve actually gotten for Android is called Markers. It’s a really dead simple drawing app, and it has a really lame color palette. Like color tv colors, like ultra green and magenta you don’t want to use. The cool thing about it is you can actually use pressure sensitivity against your fingertip. Somehow it senses how much of your finger is touching the screen, you can actually find a balance of pressure sensitivity there but… drawing with my fingers is awkward. It’s made to be a doodle app, but it has the potential to be more. I don’t know why more drawing apps don’t use that same technology, just use your finger pressure. I’ve also been using this one on Android called Infinite Painter. It’s built to look the same as Sketchbook Pro, except it happens to work like a pressure sensitive stylus. I tend to use that from time to time. The cool thing about that is that it’s basically like Illustrator canvas where you can just draw off to the side as much as you want and keep going and going. Except now actually, I think they changed so the default isn’t a little infinite canvas. Sometimes I’ll draw something and I end up drawing it way too big and then feel like ‘I wish the paper was bigger’, so that one’s kind of cool.
Paper is fun to use. There’s an app called Paper. It’s fun, they’ve got cool built in stuff. I don’t really like the fact that you have to pay $10 dollars to buy extra brushes and colors. I don’t know why you’d want those colors. It works interestingly, has cool watercolor brushes, It’s also kind of got a weird interface. That’s definitely more made for sketching and getting ideas out then doing anything serious with it. For a lot of these things there’s always like one little thing that keeps it from being the perfect app for real working.
NB: One day I’ll just make one perfect app. Maybe I could… get a Kickstarter.
SW: [Laughs] Yeah go for it, you’d make a lot of money probably.
NB: Probably. Eventually.
SW: Then you’d have a program you’d really want to use too.
NB: Exactly! I’m gonna get on that. [Laughs]
SW: Good! Well I’m glad you’ve been inspired. [Laughs] How do you choose which of your illustrations you use on an ‘Eye Heart Us’ product versus your own personal portfolio?
NB: That’s more just like… gauging the market. [Laughs] Just gauging what people would want to get as a gift. Most of the items in our store are kind of on the gift side. I’m not sure I go by something that sells, but we shift it. I’ve got one comic based on my dog Taco and some people are like ‘oh yeah, I have a friend with one of those dogs so I’ll buy this shirt for him.’ Then we’ll analyze the markets too, holiday markets and things like that. We think a lot on gift based, we just try to think about what people get as gifts. Someone’s like ‘hey, that’s a female dog, I’ll get it.’ Somebody likes fruit, they’ll get this He-Man picture of fruit. Things like that. Sometimes you just think of something that might be clever or just use it for my own [portfolio].
SW: Okay. I’ve got two more questions. What’s it like being married to another illustrator and running a brand together?
NB: It’s been so long I can’t remember how it is not to do that. [Laughs] I don’t know, for us it feels very natural. For us, one of the things that drew us to each other was that we had illustration in common. And then doing the store together, it was just my wife’s idea behind it to combine forces in the easiest way possible. It’s more out of convenience than anything else, we live together. Jobs that hire anyone else we just ask each other, do each other favors. Both work on our web store to upload things. It’s more about not wanting to hire other people. [Laughs] And also the fact that our stuff actually looks good next to each other. The use of her palette. I guess to us it was just really obvious who’s done which art but sometimes people.. we’ll answer questions from people that are ‘who did this?’ or ‘who made this?’ I’m like ‘can’t you tell [that I’m the one who does all the cartoons]’. I guess It’s hard to see the outsider perspective sometimes. I don’t know, I feel like I’m going off on a tangent. [Laughs]
SW: You have a good answer, so essentially you two were drawn to each other because of that, so it just kind of fell in place it seems like.
NB: Yeah. It just seems easier to put it under one banner and to work on each others stuff.
SW: Okay, last question, this might be the hardest question. Who is your favorite Simpsons character and why?
NB: For me the obvious one would be Lisa, just cause… I feel like I’m nerdy and vegetarian. I always feel like I’m always thinking about politics, things like that. And using my cartoons to express that. I guess having that passion for the big view sometimes feels weird when you’re, like, at the office and other people are talking about gossip. I can’t think of anything as useless as being the person that’s like ‘I wanna talk about issues!’ and no one really cares. So, I feel like that should be my choice…
SW: I mean, I relate to Lisa the most too but she’s not necessarily my favorite.
NB: Yeah that’s what I’m saying, I can relate to her, but I’m trying to get past that… who is my favorite? Probably Mr. Burns. He’s got that old-timey language and it’s fun watching evil people getting their ass kicked all the time.