Loïc Locatelli Kournwsky is a comic book artist who works in Lyon, France.
Intro & Interview by Shanon Weltman
She’s not sure what genre of artist to currently consider herself, but regardless, anything Dina Kelberman artistically creates is worthy of your time. She seems to always be involved in collaborative projects, including being a part of the art/comedy group Wham City, as well as her own independent creative pursuits. You can see her comics in Baltimore’s weekly City Paper, or online. Her astute observations make her a master at wit, and harvesting organized collections of internet images. Even the New Museum agrees. Dina took some time to talk to me about her recent projects, take some time to read about them.
SW: So first, what kind of artist do you consider yourself these days?
DK: I don’t know, I don’t really think about it. I’m definitely veering pretty heavily into a pure digital realm. I was focusing on comics for awhile and have kind of gotten less interested in that and just don’t do that as much anymore. I mean… I still have a weekly comic. But I don’t really draw outside of that. I’m addicted to the computer, so I’m pretty digital these days.
SW: The weekly comic, do you post it online or do you do it for yourself?
DK: It’s for the City Paper.
SW: Oh cool! I did see you posted some of those.
DK: I’ve been doing it for awhile. I won the comic contest, like, years ago and they kept me around. It’s actually been like 5 years or something, which is crazy. I don’t long how much longer that’s going to last because every week I’m like ‘Fuck, I gotta do another comic!’ [Laughs]
SW: [Laughs] Cool!
SW: What were you saying about Adult Swim [earlier]?
DK: We did a thing with them about a year ago. Basically it’s my boyfriend, Alan Resnick, and our friend Ben O’Brien that are kind of the dudes heading up the stuff. They were doing comedy and going on tours and they started talking to a producer over at Adult Swim. We made a pitch for a show, we also pitched kind of a show version of an act Alan had been doing on tour and they picked that up. So, last year we made this one-off fake infomercial that aired at like 4 in the morning for a week. That was cool. Then we pitched another sort of 4am prank thing and we’ve somehow spent another entire year. It takes us 1 year to make a 10 minute thing, that’s our current schedule. We’re about to start to shoot our next 10 minute thing. On Sunday we start the actual shooting process finally, for a week, and it’s going to be crazy. [Laughs]
SW: Why does it take a year? That’s…
DK: …Because we don’t know what we’re doing. [Laughs] There’s so much back and forth with the network and so many people involved, that it’s like we’re still learning how to push things through and get everything organized. Moving with such a vast web of people that need to talk to each other and get back to each other. Hopefully that will speed up a lot [Laughs].
SW: Is it more like the ‘Red Tape’ kind of stuff versus the actual creative process?
DK: Yeah, the creative stuff, we’re pretty good at banging out. It’s just the administrative getting everything together, getting the network to okay things and then getting back and finding actors, it’s really crazy. I think when we have a bit more experience we’ll be able to make it happen a million times faster.
SW: Yeah, probably. Are you still involved with Wham City? Is there anything cool happening with them or any of the creatives you’re around now you’d like to share?
DK: Yeah, I mean, we don’t really do stuff as a group. This Adult Swim thing is pretty Wham City oriented, but it’s so far such a small thing that not as many people get to be as involved as we like. Hopefully that will expand and we get to include more people. Everyone is really doing their own thing a lot these days. Everyone was like ‘Oh fuck, I’m 30. I gotta have a life!’, it’s a lot less group stuff but we’re all hanging out.
SW: Alan is an artist also?
DK: Yeah, he does a lot of digital stuff. He’s really into 3D special effects, both the real and the behind the scenes aspect of it. The first thing we did for Adult Swim was this thing starring him, where a fake version of him created a digital avatar, a 3D model of his own head that he talks to and is trying to sell to people. But it doesn’t work.
DK: But he’s also actually building a 3D model of his head, so it’s this weird sort of blurred line with that. Then he does comedy with Ben, there’s a lot of comedy stuff coming up lately that people have been doing.
SW: That’s awesome. I don’t have cable, how can I watch this infomercial?
DK: You can see it online, if you go to AdultSwim.com. The easiest way to find it is probably the Adult Swim YouTube page. The other thing, the new thing we’re doing will be there eventually, too. It’s going to air in December, it should also be online. The 15th is our air date allegedly.
SW: Isn’t that pretty close to your birthday?
DK: Pretty close. You knew my birthday?
SW: I do. [Laughs]
SW: It looks like, from looking at your website with Alan, you’re working on a bunch of projects? Which is really exciting. I’m just wondering, what inspired the ‘I’m Google’ and the ‘Our Findings’ database series? [Laughs] They’re really weird and I love them.
DK: Oh cool! Well ‘Our Findings’ is like how Alan and I kind of became really good friends and then fell in love over the internet. One of our commonalities was that we were both obsessively watching ‘The Simpsons’ at all times. We started emailing with another friend of ours, Jordan Card, I don’t know if you knew her. She’s in Baltimore too. She was constantly watching ‘The Simpsons’, we were just all emailing each other funny screencaps. Alan and I both got really obsessed with the very abstract ones. We started focusing on that really heavily until we just decided to start collecting them all on this Tumblr. Which we’re still sort of doing, but now we’ve completely lost track of what we’ve already put up there. So, now every time we watch ‘The Simpsons’ we’re like, ‘Do we have that one? I don’t know. Did I get it?’ It’s become a really weird way to watch TV.
DK: [Laughs] But it’s very fun. ‘I’m Google’ is just the habit of wanting to collect stuff. Like, I have all of these folders of pictures I would find on the internet. I started making these silly Facebook albums of just batches of things and had sort of heard of Tumblr but didn’t know how it worked. I was like, ‘This seems like a good repository for throwing this stuff somewhere. I can transition them into this next thing’. That became the focus and I became obsessed with trying to do that as well as I could. I’ve just been doing that forever now. I still have like a million folders collected of all different stuff. I want to somehow get to these fifty pictures of pieces of squash but I can’t figure out how to get there. So. [Laughs]
SW: Mmhm [Laughs] Have you worked on any part of that series and then discovered, like, the one perfect photo that you forgot about or found later?
DK: Oh God, that’s like my worst nightmare. [Laughs] It hasn’t happened too bad yet actually, surprisingly. I can’t remember. I remember one time I somehow ended up looking up a similar thing or I somehow was like ‘There’s the perfect squiggle of wires and I can’t go back and put it in.’ Sad, [Laughs] but that’s okay, I can move on.
SW: It sounds like you’re working on a lot. What is the most exciting thing happening in your life right now?
DK: I don’t know? I’ve been doing this thing where I bought this Ice Cream truck kind of thing, a step-van like a UPS truck, and I have been converting it into a tiny house to live in/ art thing, which is super-fun. I had this dude that my friend recommended come down from Minneapolis. He cut the roof off and built a pointed roof, so it looks kind of like a Monopoly piece. It’s red. It has windows, I have a lofted bed in there, I’ve got wood floors and I’ve been slowly working on that. I’m basically, actually going to start living in it.
SW: That’s fucking cool!
DK: [Laughs] Yeah, it’s really fun! I’m so addicted to the computer I’ve been like ‘I like to build shit out of wood’, even though I’m not necessarily great at it. But it’s really fun! I’m building all these shelves and figuring out how to cram all my stuff into this little space. What I need and what I don’t need. That’s been the most exciting thing, it’s kind of life encompassing.
SW: Where is it sitting right now?
DK: Alan and Ben and I were all living at the Copycat, slowly building this. It was in the Copycat parking lot until basically yesterday. My friend bought a house a few blocks away from there and I’m going to start living in her backyard. Alan’s living in the house. I have a house I can go take a shit in if I really need to or like take a shower. [Laughs] If it’s getting too crazy in the van. But I’ll basically be out back. [Laughs]
DK: Yeah, we’ll see how it goes. It’s like we’re on the block right above North Ave, so I keep being like, ‘Is this insane?’ But it’s a pretty chill block, so I’m not sure how totally crazy this plan is going to end up being.
SW: Yeah… I don’t know, good luck.
DK: [Laughs] North Ave has chilled out a lot. At least over here.
SW: Two more questions. You’re kind of all over the place in a really good way. You said you’re not really sure what kind of artist you are. Who are your artistic influences? Throughout your lifetime, who has really inspired you.
DK: Jessica Stockholder is my favorite artist of all time, for sure. Just because I love her use of color and space, formal stuff. I heard her talk a few times, she’s just very matter of fact. She’s just like ‘I love how these blue plastic buckets look and that’s it, that’s why I’m using them.’ I really get frustrated when people have these highfalutin answer reasons for things, I’m just like ‘C’mon you’re doing it because you like it.’ I don’t know much about Contemporary Art these days because I’m, like, in this weird bubble. [Also] James Turrell, Sol LeWitt, and Ed Ruscha.
SW: The last question. I might know the answer to this. If you could only wear one color for the rest of your life, what would it be?
DK: Wait, do you know that I only wear two colors right now? [Laughs]
SW: [Laughs] Yes, but I don’t think all the readers do.
DK: You’re making me pick between red and blue.
SW: Yes. You have to choose, which one? [Laughs]
DK: I guess I’d have to go with red. Blue is what I consider my favorite color, but I appear to like wearing red more for some reason. I’ll go with red. Let me know when I have to start doing it. [Laughs]
SW: No one is going to force you, but if you want to go ahead and do that, [Laughs] it’d be awesome.
DK: Yeah, once two becomes too much to handle. [Laughs]
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.
Intro by Shanon Weltman / Interview by Ray Jones
You’re in luck on this Friday the 13th, because today’s Artist Interview is with the astutely hilarious narrative illustrator and comic book artist, Jordan Jeffries. His work can be seen in Baltimore’s b City Paper, Philadelphia Weekly and a few collected short annuals. We’ve known Jordan since my undergrad years at MICA (03-07) and his skills at capturing social dynamics, simplification of and attention to detail, and color palates are top notch. Appropriately, like Jordan’s open love of snacks, his comics are so addictive you can’t just read one. Follow his Tumblr snackaddict, or get lost for hours at his online archive of comic gems let’sjustbefriends and get to know Toilet face, and all of Jordan’s other fascinating characters. We’re really excited to see what Jordan has been working on for CLAW CLAW’s 10/12/2013 gallery show at The Living Gallery.
RAY JONES: What do you specialize in?
JORDAN JEFFRIES: Comics and a little bit of illustration. Mostly comics. The illustration I feel most comfortable doing is a lot of times just a one panel comic. Sort of like things with some sort of story in them. The piece for the show that I’m working on is going to be kind of like that.
RJ: Favorite materials?
JJ: Pen and ink and digital coloring. Mostly thin line pen these days, I used to use brush pens more but I’m slowly favoring just a nice clean thin line sort of look.
RJ: How has your environment influenced your work as a freelancer?
JJ: I’ve been hopping all around the east coast. I was in Baltimore for school and then Philly after that and now New York. I’ve been sort of been hopping up in population in cities. Being in New York especially has really pushed me to take in a lot more cultural stuff. Movies, museums, anything like that. There’s so much of it here. I really appreciate being somewhere where I can go see all kinds of weird small independent movies that I couldn’t catch even in Baltimore or Philly. At least it’s harder there. Certainly in my hometown, Butler, PA. The broadening cultural landscape has been the biggest thing for me. Just being able to take in as much as possible. My actual life experience will affect my comics in terms of writing. The biggest change is the wide amount of things you can encounter in New York City.
RJ: Like the randomness?
JJ: Yeah, it’s overwhelming the amount of things you can take in here. There’s always something inspirational you can do after work or on the weekend. Something to inspire you.
RJ: Even just taking a walk can be amazing.
JJ: Yeah, you can see some weirdo, or just the experience of it. I wrote a comic that I never finished about the specific experience of just going out at night and smoking a cigarette. Walking around the neighborhood, on a weird lonely New York night, like Saturday night when you have no plans and just walk around and …feel your feelings. (haha)
RJ: What do you listen to while you work?
JJ: It depends on what step of the process I’m on, if I’m doing actual idea creation, like writing comics or formulating an illustration or idea for an illustration, it has to be music. Generally wordless music. A lot of post rock, or maybe even classical or something like that. Ambient or electronic stuff. When I’m thumbnailing a comic after I’ve written it I can start to listen to more music with words. When I’m inking, once most of the major creative decisions are made, at that point I can listen to anything. A lot of times I’ll end up watching TV, a lot of movies with commentary tracks, things like that. Especially when inking a long comic, music doesn’t cut it, because it takes forever. Thats how I’ve taken to coloring comics. I watched, say, all of Mad Men and Friday Night Lights, slowly coloring comics with the TV show playing right next to Photoshop in a little window.
RJ: Advice for anyone just starting out? What do you wish they told you that you didn’t know?
JJ: Advice in general…. the guiding thing I think about a lot is not stopping. Keep moving and keep consuming, keep working and don’t let yourself flag. Just continue working. It’s easy to be in a rut, sometimes uninspired. At those moments I find just pulling out a sketchbook and a pen and forcing yourself to do something, even if it’s just watching tv and forcing yourself to draw what you see, somehow you just start generating ideas. That’s the keep moving thing. The consuming thing: It’s important to take in as much as you can. For me, not being in school any more, not having people around to look at their work… That was a huge thing in school, looking at people’s work and getting really jazzed about it. Really inspired by all the cool stuff. That was a huge inspiration and gave me ideas and things to work on. You don’t have that anymore when you’re working on your own. Whether it’s reading lots, reading other comics, looking at peoples blogs, tumblrs, just checking out other people’s work. Other things that are less related like seeing movies, watching tv, I think it all helps. Certainly, seeing all sorts of storytelling helped me for comics. From reading books, reading other comics and reading “real books”… books without pictures. I’ll find inspiration in the strangest places.
RJ: Nightmare moment?
JJ: I know I’ve had moments where I’ve really freaked out because I can’t find a solution for a piece. It usually involves a last minute scrambling and resetting. It’s funny how that’s when you’ll create some of your best work. Out of fear and being forced to try something new.
RJ: How do you typically generate ideas?
JJ: It depends. For illustration, it’s a lot of sitting there with an open page and just drawing. Lynda Barry talks about just putting a pen on a piece of paper and moving it around is literally all the start you need. Your brain will catch up with your hand eventually. Usually for an illustration it’s just that. For comics, ideas for stories will just kind come to me as they come. Sometimes it’s a moment, sometimes it’s something from real life I want to capture in a comic and it just balloons from there.
Right now I’m working on this collection of short stories that originally started because I wrote one short story, thinking about 14 year old kids having sex in the park at night. Just this sort of sad suburban teenage tableaux, which when I finished I suddenly wanted to make more stories like it. It snowballed from there. I get other ideas for things– sometimes it’s a line in a song, or a feeling from a song or movie that inspires you to want to go off and make something of your own.
RJ: How about the Baltimore Overheard? How long have you been doing those? How many have you done so far?
JJ: I’ve been doing those for a couple years now, those are all from Benn Ray from Atomic Books in Baltimore. He puts it together for Baltimore’s “b” city paper. He collects the overheard things and has a stable of artists that draw for him. I had done stuff with them over the years so he approached me to contribute. I’ve been doing those off and on for a couple of years. Basically he sends what was overheard and whatever description the person who heard it has to give. Then I have free license from there to interpret it however I want. Figure out how to tell the joke, you know?
He sends me a lot of ones with hipsters in them. I guess I’m the go to hipster draw-er. Which is nice! I love referencing lookbook.nu and pulling looks from there.
RJ: Name a few people living or dead you’d like to have dinner with.
JJ: I think Lynda Barry would be one, after mentioning her earlier. She is someone whose work I am super in love with and inspired by, but also seems like she’d be someone interesting to talk to. I’ve heard some talks she’s given, and she’s pretty much like the coolest lady ever. I’d be fascinated and find it extremely inspiring. She’s crazy talented.
It’s hard, there’s a lot of people who I really admire, but wonder if it’d actually be good to talk to them or not. Or you know, a lot of what you love about them is just there, in the work. I tend to be drawn to people who clearly put themselves into the work, like Charles Schulz, or Loudon Wainwright III, who is one of my favorite singer/songwriters. It’s extremely autobiographical a lot of the time. Work with a sense of something personal in it. If I meet them… it’ll be like that Chris Farley sketch: “Remember when you wrote that song? When you were sad? Were you extremely sad then?” You feel like you already know them, but it would still be great talk to them anyway.
RJ: Yeah, y’know it’s kind of weird… it’s like you’ve partaken in part of their soul. There are so many intimate moments you can talk about and share– but you’re not that close.
JJ: Exactly, it’s very creepy, you know everything about them or at least a lot about them.
RJ: Enough to make them uncomfortable, where they went to school, whatever…
JJ: Having a conversation with them after years or decades of one sided conversation, would be pretty interesting. But yeah, Lynda Barry, for sure.
Intro & Interview by Shanon Weltman
I’m excited to start off our Artist Interview Series with an inspirational Boston-based Illustrator, Ellen T. Crenshaw. Ellen and her husband, Matt Boehm, who’s an Animator at Irrational Games (creators of BioShock), co-founded Tumblr super-blog FANARTICA with an impressive current 200,000+ followers. I have known Ellen since we were 8-years-old, but I’m a huge fan of hers regardless. Each of her illustrations look like they could just spring to life. She’s a watercolor master, a rare gem in this digital age. Her anatomical drawings skills and way of capturing mannerisms are impeccable, even when the figure has jellybones. She’s one of the 25 amazing artists you can check out at CLAW CLAW’s Launch Party at The Living Gallery on October 12.
SHANON WELTMAN: What are your favorite materials?
ELLEN T. CRENSHAW: Brush and ink, number one. Watercolor paints, and I work digitally too. So, Photoshop, I’ll say Photoshop.
SW: How have your environments influenced your work throughout your life?
ETC: Omg that’s a hard one! Um… I’m not sure if this counts, but an upbringing on tv, movies, cartoons, and newspaper strips certainly influenced the direction of my work—story-based compositions with a cartoony style. It wasn’t until I came to Boston that I noticed a shift in my interests. Colonial architecture. New England trees. City skylines. And winter clothes!
ETC: I listen to movies. I usually use a movie that I’ve seen a million times so that I know what’s happening. I listen to music too, but I dunno, I get bored with music. A movie activates my brain enough to keep me interested somewhat. It provides enough of a distraction, but not enough to make it so I can’t work.
SW: Do you want to give a shout out to that website you use [to listen to movies], or do you put on actual movies?
ETC: I do both. Listentoamovie.com is where it just has the audio and I’ll do that sometimes. Other times I’ll be working on my laptop or in my sketchbook or on paper, or what have you, and I’ll have a movie playing, like a DVD, but I’ll turn the screen away from me at a weird angle so I can’t get too distracted.
SW: Do you have any advice for anyone just starting out? Literally fresh out of school.
ETC: Sure, I would say if you haven’t already, have an online presence, start a blog. Find reasons to work, find reasons to give yourself a deadline. If there’s a contest or an event coming up that you want to have a piece done by or something like that, continue to give yourself deadlines. Be nice to everyone and keep in touch with your peers. It got really lonely after school because you’re so used to having constant support and stimulation by people all around all the time. Then after college people go home or move away for whatever reason, and it’s not even gradual, it instantly goes away and it can be very isolating. So, keeping in touch with people and maintaining a network of support is super important. It keeps your work from getting stale, you can be influenced by other people. Oh, and be nice to people because it’s a really small world. The Art world is smaller than you might think, and that’s how you get jobs. Be genuine, but be nice to people.
ETC: Fashion is a big inspiration for me right now because of texture, color combinations and patterns. I draw characters so much, how they’re clothed shows who they are. I feel like there’s a lot to be said in fashion and there’s a lot of fun [in fashion] as it relates to illustration.
As far as artists are concerned, Dupuy & Berberian, Bill Watterson, and Peter de Seve serve as my standard go-tos whenever I’m feeling lost, have a problem to solve or need particular inspiration. I’m otherwise inspired by a lot of my peers, people whose work rotates in and out of my radar depending on what I’m currently working on—right now it’s Craig Thompson, Jen Wang, Emily Carroll, Graham Annable, Ryan Andrews, Kali Ciesemier, Carolyn C. Nowak (still a student!), and Sam Bosma’s latest piece is rocking my socks. Then, of course, there’s Claw Claw Studio!
SW: Nightmare moment with a positive solution [within your career]?
ETC: I had this one client, we didn’t work well together. It turned out to be a nightmare because I didn’t want to offend anyone, but I had to get out of it. Then there was an issue with getting paid once I left. It was a really good lesson in the end, it was kind of a low stakes opportunity to be able to stand up for myself, and be able to seek money that I’m owed. To learn how to bow out of something respectfully. It was a really important experience to have to learn how to handle that type of situation. So, I think it was a positive thing in the end. Like how important it is to have a contract to refer to once something like that happens. To have interpersonal skills, to be able to talk to somebody and be firm without being rude.
ETC: I know a handful of my peers sketch on paper first then bring those drawings into Photoshop and proceed digitally. I sort of do it backwards, sketching digitally, then printing those sketches and lightboxing them to ink on paper. It’s been especially helpful to me since I bought Frenden’s brush set, as the penciling tools are excellent. First, I sketch a rough thumbnail with the blue pencil tool. Next, I tighten it up with the red pencil tool. Once I’m happy, I change the line to black and print it. I tape the printouts on the back of Arches 140lb hot press watercolor paper, pop on the lightbox, and ink. What’s great about this method is if I screw up the final, I can start again without losing the sketch—which means I can be much looser and spontaneous with my inking.
SW: How do you generate ideas?
ETC: Oof, I struggle with that actually, but usually my best ideas come to me in the shower. If I need to work on something, like an illustration for an article or something more direct and concrete, I’ll just read the article and then kind of ruminate over it for a while. Go outside and walk around and just let it toss around in my head, and usually given some time my brain will put something together. If it’s something kind of abstract, like making my own work or trying to find inspiration to do anything, to do something self driven, I’ll take a shower or go for a walk. Basically, something where I have no distractions. No TV or computer or anything like that, I have to be quiet with myself and just let my mind wander over things—that’s usually where ideas come from for me. And of course certain stimuli like being outside and actually experiencing things. If I’m working from home several days in a row I find inspiration to be really difficult after a while, because I have no stimulus. Going out with friends, going to a museum or the movies, just being out and experiencing something. Reading.
SW: Name a few people living or dead you’d like to have dinner with.
ETC: Mark Twain would be number one, he’d probably be the coolest person to hang out with for a day or have coffee with. He just seems cranky and sarcastic and hilarious. If Katharine Hepburn wanted to walk in, that’d be cool.