Saturday, September 20, 2008
Tell me a little bit about yourself, about your life? What helped prepare you to become the artist that you are today?
Well, I grew up in a tiny little town just outside of Toronto Ontario Canada, called Glen Williams. It was a very different way of life than what I’m used to now. It was quiet and peaceful. Back then it seemed like downtown Toronto was so far away. We still managed to get into trouble though! My dad’s side of the family is from England, so I grew up with that dry sarcastic humor.
Most of my family liked my art of course, but would tell me not to bother with it, as it wasn’t a real career choice. That advice went in one ear and out the other. You would always find my nose in some sort of comic book, or watching and drawing cartoons. I remember going to my grandma and grandpa’s house when I was little, and all I would do was draw characters and then cut them out and play with them. I also remember my mom and dad would always drive my friends and I to the comic store… all the time!
I really started getting serious about this art thing around the time that guys like Todd Mcfarlane, Jim Lee, Eric Larson, and so forth, were getting huge… doing books like Spider man and X-men. Then something strange happened in my little world. All these comic artists that I was adoring suddenly left Marvel, left all those characters that I loved and followed and started their own company called Image comics. Well, that was a huge turning point for me. I saw those guys doing what they loved to do, and I wanted to do the same. Art at that point became something more than a thing I liked to do… it became what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
After High School, I went to Sheridan College and graduated from the Classical Animation program. It was in those 4 years that I really changed as an artist. I started to look at styles, at techniques and at life. Don’t get me wrong, I was still young and foolish, but I realized that it wasn’t so much what the teachers were teaching me, but what my peers were doing. I started to see the influence that artists had on one another, and the people around them.
At graduation time the folks at Ensemble Studios (Microsoft games) were digging my work, but sadly there was a long drawn out process of getting a visa which never worked out. From there I went out to Halifax to work at a little flash animation studio. After that shut down, I moved back to Toronto and got a job doing animation and motion graphics at a place called BigStudios Inc. (I didn’t even know what “motion graphics” were back then.) I left for 2 years to go overseas to serve as a missionary for my church. It was while I was serving that my eyes were really opened to people and life in general. The way I looked at things changed drastically. After those amazing 2 years, I came back to Toronto where the sweet sweet people at Big took me back in.
How do you go about drawing, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?
Depends what mood I’m in really and why and what I’m drawing. Most of the time, when I’m drawing for a purpose there are those common answers that all artists should always be mindful of. Character mood, personality, and story. What do you want to portray in this drawing and what is the emotion I want to show.
To be honest though, I think a lot of artists tend to leave out an important point when explaining this to people. Of course story and character are the most important thing, and if you create something that is whimsical and fun with the essence of reality, people will like it. But one of the key elements that often goes overlooked is the thought, “What would I want to see?” “What do I think is cool?” Too often nowadays people get caught in the trap of “what’s cool and what’s in”. It really shouldn’t matter what everyone else is doing. It’s always important to stay true to yourself and your personal creativity. I don’t think that gets shared enough with people trying to learn art. Maybe because it feels a little selfish, I don’t know. But if we admit it or not, the thought is always there.
Art to me is like a two-headed dog. On one hand you’ve got the idea of pleasing the eye and heart of the viewer. “Is what I’m designing going to change the world in anyway? Are people going to love it?” And on the other hand we have the thought of “What do I want to draw?” This is a very subtle emotion in artists, and is usually what causes them to dislike their work almost as soon as they produce it. Either the fear that people aren’t going to be drawn to it, or they personally don’t like it because of this innate inner drive to always want to be better. That and they see other artists doing great work that they feel is better and that people love. It’s a tricky balancing act, this creation process. And all the while I have to keep reminding myself, I can’t please everyone.
That’s how we get so many different artists with different styles working on different things. Everyone is different and unique. If we weren’t, it would get pretty boring very fast. That’s why we have such a range from Disney to Aardman to Anime, John K to Mike Mignola to Miyazaki. Culture, likes, dislikes, society. The key to it all I believe is finding something worthwhile. Don’t just create something to be different or to “fight against the system”. Do something that you’ll feel good about and something that will make a positive impact on people around you. Simply, find something that you love to do. That’s what should go through our minds from start to end. We are unique individuals and if we are true to the thing we love it will be evident in the work we produce.
It’s a fine line that artists ride. Do I care if people like my art? Of course I do. But do I always? No. I know that if I create something I love and something I would like to see, someone else is bound to like it too. The secret is to always have fun while doing it. I don’t remember who said this, but I strongly believe that “A positive mental attitude is the first of all divine attributes”.
What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work with?
My day consists of waking up early with the family, working on any personal projects that I have going, then I hop in the shower and take the train to work. Big Studios is a great place to work. Not a lot of people know the name, but I bet you anything you’ve seen at least one thing that’s come out of there. It’s predominantly a motion graphics studio, so a lot of the people who work there are trained in something like graphic design or 3d animation. There’s only a couple that have animation training, myself included. But that’s what makes it fun. I really enjoy being the guy that draws. Everyone there is so close, like family. I’ve learned so much from every one of them. It’s at Big that I really learned After Effects and have been taught 3D Max, for example. So not only is it a job, but I’m constantly learning and growing. That’s definitely the kind of place you want to work; somewhere that pushes your skills and cultivates personal growth.
What are some of the things that you have worked on?
Working at Big has been a super opportunity to work with some interesting clients. (And I say that in the nicest possible way!) I’ve done a lot of work for Much Music, which is usually the most fun and free, creatively speaking. I do everything from storyboards to the final product. Shows like, Hockey Night in Canada, MLB network, Rogers TV, ESPN, ABC, NBC and CBC sports, (things like the opening for the Super Bowl or NBA Finals). Oh, and lots of home reno and cooking shows… but those are too numerous to name! We even did the animation that plays on the Jumbotron at the Rogers Center (previously the SkyDome) for the Toronto Argonauts. That was real fun. When we went to the Dome to check our animation the tech guys in the booth told us that sometimes they hook up their PS3 or Xbox to the Jumbotron! How cool is that!
Personally, I just recently finished animating two amazing music videos for my friend, and uber talented musician Meaghan Smith, who just got signed with Warner Bros. Records. That was a real treat.
But the most important of all is what I have in the works right now.
What are you working on now? (If you can tell us)
I haven’t told too many people about it yet, as I was still in the process of deciding what avenue to take.
… But I guess I’ll let you in on it since you asked so nicely!
I’m self-publishing a comic book entitled, AGENT ORANGE. It will be more like a graphic novel though, at about 50 pages per issue or chapter. I plan on putting one out every 5-6 months. Each chapter will include sketches and a special guest artist pin up gallery by prominent, unknown and up and coming artists in the animation and illustration industry. And to top it all off, (the first issue at least) will include a VERY special guest artist… but probably not in the way you’d normally expect in a comic. I can’t say more than that though… You’ll just have to wait to hear!!!
The designs that I’ve included in this interview are the first time I’ve really shown it to anyone!
I’m pretty excited about it to say the least!
Who are some of your favorite artists out there?
Some of my favourite artists aren't actually people a lot older or more experienced than myself...but my good friends, co-workers and people around my age who I see doing these great things, which in turn inspire me. People like Eric Canete, Jason Kim, Steve Lambe, Bobby Chiu, Kei Acedera, Jake Parker, Robin Mitchell, Bobby Pontillas, Pascal Campion, Thomas Perkins, Scott Campbell... just to name a few. There’s really too many to name ‘em all.
Of course I do look up to Mike Mignola a lot too. He's the man.
My favourite ‘everything’ right now though is “Avatar the Last Air Bender”... designs, animation, story… that show rocks. I really love Thomas' designs for Ben 10 as well, and of course Nicolas Marlet's designs for Kung-fu Panda... So good. I'm also a huge fan of Hayao Miyazaki... but who isn’t?!?
Could you talk about your process in coloring your art, as well as the types of tools or media that you use?
Generally, I use ink for everything I do traditionally... from sketches to finished art. I hardly use a pencil these days. My regular tools are Prismacolor markers for colouring, and Faber-Castell Brush and Fine tip artist pens for sketching and inking. Those can get kind of costly though, so I often cheap out and use a good ol' black Papermate ballpoint pen… which surprisingly can give a great line.
When it comes to finishing my work, Photoshop is usually the weapon of choice. Although, after working in the animation and motion graphics industry for some time, Flash and After Effects have also become main tools. I dabble in 3DS Max as well.
What part of designing is most fun and easy, and what is most hard?
Ha ha ha. That’s a loaded question!
All of it is fun and easy and hard! It depends a lot on a person’s attitude. I find I can have days where I feel like I couldn’t draw if my life depended on it, while other days it seems like I don’t even have to think about it.
But if I had to choose something… Fun and easy things to me are those moments when you get together with friends and you’re simply sketching for fun. Those moments usually produce the most hilarious and often strange results.
Most hard?… I think anything you’re not used to doing can be hard. If you don’t ever do layouts for example, it can be hard for you to come up with something beautiful and original. But we shouldn’t ever confuse hard with impossible. My talented friend Nick Sung, who works at Pixar, recently commented on something that I thought was important. He said, "the question isn't can you, because yes you can. The question is whether you're working hard enough and smart enough and getting the support you need."
What are some of the things that you do to keep yourself creative?
Spend time with my family, get outside, or check out other artist’s work. Learning something new is also a good way to stay creative.
What are some of your favorite pieces of art work that you have seen?
Pretty much anything that Mike Mignola does.
What is your most favorite subject to draw? And why?
Robots. I've always loved robots ever since I was little. Even when I'm not drawing them I'm at least thinking about drawing one. I'm not super technical about drawing them though. Like some of those guys, who draw those mech robots, all perfectly fitting together and well thought out... now that must take a lot of patience to do one of those drawings… not to mention animating something like that!
What inspired you to become an Artist?
I basically drew ever since I was a little kid. It’s all I ever wanted to do. All my math and science books were covered in doodles. And when 99% of my family said "Don't do art, it’s not a real job", it went in one ear and out the other. (The 1% who encouraged me was mum of course.) My main drive that kept me doing it was comics though. Man, I was a comic junkie as a kid. Wait.... Was?
What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?
Recently I was asked by the super talented Bobby Chiu and Kei Acedera to contribute to Imaginism’s latest sketchbook, Water World. Long story short, I ended up going through 3 drawings before the final accepted one. You might think it strange that he asked me to rethink my approach more than once, but this is where I learned that Bobby had become a real “teacher” of art, and not just an artist.
When he asked me to change the first piece, it did catch me off guard, but then I realized, 'well ya, it doesn't really fit the theme, and if this was my book would I ask the same thing?' Of course I would. So I was cool with changing it. The second time he called was another shock to me. (At this point I had already been thinking about my style and who I really was as an artist.) When we got off the phone, my wife looked at me and said, “They didn't like this one either did they?”
And then it hit me.
Two things actually hit me at once. The first was how much of a teacher Bobby had actually become. I was amazed at what was actually going on. I said to my wife, 'its not that they didn't like the art, but that it didn't shout 'RAWLS'. Yes I drew it, and put my talent into it, but I didn't put ME into it. That’s when the second thing hit me. That’s what I had been missing. ME. Life. I had just been drawing to draw. My good friend Jason Kim explained an experience he had with meeting Bill Whitaker, and described him as someone who was “a faithful servant of his art”.
That’s who I want to be.
What are some of your favorite websites that you go to?
Other than my friends who I think are great artists... I'm usually checking out Motionographer.com. It's a great site for the latest and coolest animations on TV, web, movies, etc. I also frequent CG Hub and the Gobelins school website to check out the latest amazing animation films. For spiritual uplifting I visit my church’s website, www.lds.org. Oh... and that Character Design blog is ok too!
What wisdom could you give us, about being an Artist? Do you have any tips you could give?
Be positive and confident in yourself and the talents that you’ve been given. Use your talents to the best of your ability. Remember that all good things take effort. And if you ever feel like you or your work isn’t perfect… don’t sweat it. You’re probably right. But that’s ok. Because it’s those little imperfections in an individual that makes us unique. The trick is taking those imperfections and working on making them better. Learning how to control them. In the end, hopefully people will begin to say ‘that’s your style!’
Finally, if you have a goal or a dream… do something about it.
“ A lot of people never use their initiative because no one told them to. “ - Banksy.
If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?
Blog – www.rawlsy.blogspot.com
Website – www.rawls.ca
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
AGENT ORANGE Blog – www.agentorangecomics.blogspot.com
I’m also in the process of getting a website for AGENT ORANGE up ASAP.
Finally, do you have any of your artwork for sale (sketchbooks, prints, or anything) for people that like your work can know where and when to buy it?
The first chapter of AGENT ORANGE is scheduled for an early 2009 release. I’ll be trying to distribute it in comic and bookstores. Online of course will be available. And I will be heading out to the comic cons as well… so keep an eye out for me and come by to say what’s up and get your copy of Agent Orange!
Posted by Randall Sly at 10:25 AM