This is part two of the Phil & Becky talk. The rest of them will be sorted by tag here.
Becky: Besides designing a real Pokémon my other crazy dream would be having a cartoon show. I don’t have a huge amount of experience with that stuff but it would be so cool to have your stories reach a much larger audience and to see your characters come alive. And I still really want to make graphic novels. It would be great if I had all of the time in the world and didn’t have to worry about bills to work full time on comics. We are going to make more comics, but finding the time to fit in a project that will span years is really tough.
And my other dream project that has nothing to do with art would be opening a cat café. I’d want the cat cafe to only be black cats and you could adopt them. Black cats have the the hardest time getting adopted.
I’m going to ask you the same question. If you could do whatever project you wanted what would it be?
Phil: There are a lot of wild dream projects I’d like to do! I want to make a movie. Something with stop-motion animation or with puppets. Or even just live action! When I was a teenager and I was trying to decide what to do with my life, I was split, 50/50, between wanting to be an illustrator or cartoonist and wanting to direct movies. I loved making movies with my friends in high school, running around the neighborhood with a camera, filming stuff in the woods or the old abandoned quarry. I did a lot of that and I took it really seriously. I loved having to solve problems like “how do we film this crazy scene we want to do?” with no real resources or budget at our disposal. But I eventually figured that out of two impossible careers, illustration was probably a little easier to make work since it’s mostly just you, drawing by yourself and not having to rely on hundreds of people all working together to create something, like with movies. But I’m still really interested in making a movie someday. Or even just a TV show that isn’t strictly 100% animated - something like Pee-wee’s Playhouse, where you’ve got cartoons and puppets and someone as awesome as Paul Reubens, all at once. I want some adventurous television executive to take a chance and put something really wacky and different on the air and I want to be the guy that creates that wacky thing. That would be amazing, to be able to create a show like that. But I wouldn’t want to be the Pee-wee of the show, I’d want to be the Wayne White.
I’ve got all kinds of little dream projects I’d like to do though, and some are probably actually things I could make happen if I really pursued them. I want to go on tour with a band for a few weeks and draw the entire time and make a book out of it or publish the drawings in a magazine or something. I want to spend a month living in a cabin in the woods, climbing mountains and eating berries and catching fish and stuff, and drawing the whole time. Not necessarily drawing to document the experience or anything, but just seeing what sort of stuff I come up with while living alone in the woods for a month. I’d really like to create and edit a monthly magazine with big art spreads and comics and short stories and photos of baby animals or naked people or outer space or whatever, just publish all kinds of cool stuff in each issue.
The real dream, and this is getting back to what we talked about earlier with balancing freelance and personal work, would be to have the time and freedom to be able to follow whatever creative whim I have each day. I love making comics with the goal of publishing them and making money and I love the challenge or freelance illustration work, but my favorite thing is just drawing whatever I feel like drawing, without any goals beyond having fun and scratching a creative itch. If I could do that every day and make a living just collecting dumb drawings into books every so often, I’d do that.
My next question for you is: You went to art school, you came out of SCAD's cartooning program if I'm remembering correctly. Was it worth it? Are you glad you did it? Would you recommend art school to young artists who want to be illustrators or cartoonists? Also, is teaching something you could ever see yourself doing in the future?
Becky: Yes, I did graduate from SCAD’s sequential program. I enjoyed my time there and met a lot of incredibly talented artists that helped me to push my work. I think for me I needed to go to art school, it helped to discipline myself and to find my style. Before I had attended art school I was into gothy anime and thought that the only way to tell if someone was a good artist was if they drew really detailed. So I’d do these terribly cross hatched to hell dark moody pictures. And school helped to teach me how to tell stories that had a point and that you didn’t have to make serious work to be taken seriously.
Now recommending art school or SCAD is tricky to me. Some people need it, I know many people who never went and have careers as cartoonist. But I also know people who have gone to art school and never made a living doing art and are in debt. Art schools are not good at teaching you how to get a job or how to get your art seen. I really wish that my school had said that you need to go to conventions and you need to post your work online. That is how I have gotten all of my jobs and how I’ve made a living. And the artists that aren’t making a living seem to not do either of those things.
SCAD in particular I would not recommend. At this point a lot of the professors I had there have have left or moved to other departments. I don’t know any students there, when I went I knew a lot of talented artists, but that can change each year. It’s very very expensive too. If you want to do animation it would be much better to go to CalArts. Just being closer to LA they actually get professors who are still working full time at real animation jobs. And for a comic school that is more affordable the Center for Cartoon Studies is really good. I think the most important things are to draw everyday, A LOT and to find friends and a community that will help your art grow.
We’ve been asked by a few colleges to do talks and most of them never come through. We have done a few talks for Emily Carr in Vancouver. I’d like to do more talks but I’m not sure if I’d want to be a full time teacher, I know some people who just teach one class a semester and I think that could be fun. Maybe at some point in the future when I know more about art then I’d become a teacher.
I’m gonna keep just asking you the same questions you’re asking me. Cause they are really good. But I’ll also throw in there, are you interested in making toys or any products? I know that you made a shower curtain recently.
Phil: I also went to school for art but I didn’t really go to Art School. I went to Daemen College, which is a dinky little liberal arts school in Buffalo, NY that just happens to have an art department that offers a BFA in illustration. Most of the kids at Daemen were physical therapy majors or education majors or something. Even within the very small art department, I was very much an odd duck as an illustration major. Almost all of my classmates were graphic design majors. I wasn’t particularly close with anyone. I very much felt like a lone wolf. I was the only illustration major in the entire class of 2007. I was accepted into a lot of bigger art schools like SVA and Pratt and a couple others, but I decided to go with Daemen because it was cheaper and they offered me a better scholarship than my top choice, which was SVA, who also offered me some scholarship money. At the time I kind of reluctantly went with Daemen, but now I’m really glad I went there instead of SVA because I’m only like $1000 away from paying off my student loans. I’d be in debt for half a century if I’d gone to SVA, even with a scholarship.
My feelings about going to school for art are pretty much identical to yours. I think it was really good for me… It challenged me in a way that I needed to be challenged, I learned a lot, I became a much better artist, I learned how to pull all-nighters and meet deadlines. I’m not entirely certain that I’d be where I am right now without that experience. But at the same time, I know a lot of professional artists who didn’t have that experience who are doing just fine. I think it’s definitely not worth it for a lot of people, to go to art school and be in debt for the rest of your life. It was good for me, but I don’t think it’s the right choice for everyone. And Honestly, more so than most things in life, what you get out of art school really depends on how much you’re willing to put into it. I don’t know if I would recommend Daemen’s art program to other people. I have mixed feelings about it. Similarly, some of the professors I had have moved on and I don’t really know what it’s like there now. Even back when I was there, I don’t think it would have been a good fit for a lot of people. They definitely didn’t teach me how to promote my work or how important the internet is, that stuff I figured out on my own luckily. But I did get a lot out of it still, so I don’t know.
I think I’d definitely like to teach someday. I’ve done a tiny bit already… I taught drawing to little kids for a few months after college, which was challenging but very rewarding, and more recently I’ve given a couple talks to professional designers and artists. A friend of mine teaches high school art and he had me come in and talk to his cartooning class last year about being a professional cartoonist. I loved that. I think I’d really enjoy teaching illustration to college students and getting to really help them figure their stuff out and start their careers. The thought of doing something like that is really exciting to me. There’s a pretty good illustration program at the university here in Syracuse where I live… I keep thinking I should somehow try to wiggle my way into that scene.
Toys! I’ve never really given much thought to making toys. I guess I’d do it, given the chance, because why the heck not. But it’s not something I imagine I’ll ever actively pursue. I don’t pay much attention to what’s going on in the world of toys. I would like to draw stuff for various products though… You mentioned shower curtains… I’ve been kind of weirdly obsessed with the thought of designing shower curtains for a couple years and when I saw that Society 6 had added that as one of the many print on demand options on their site I immediately got in on that. I’d really like to design beer or wine labels. An old friend of mine recently told me she was planning to start her own brewery and I begged her to let me design the beer labels and she agreed and I really hope that actually pans out at some point. I’d really like to see my drawings on bowls and plates and mugs and stuff like that.
Actually I take it back, I would like to make toys. The more I think about it, I want to create something like Monster In My Pocket or those little pink M.U.S.C.L.E. guys. Or Z-Bots. Something where you have like 100 different little plastic guys and kids can collect them all. I’d love to design whole series of little monster guys or fighting guys or something. I guess you could 3D print something like that now? I’d want them to come with illustrated trading cards too, with tons of goofy stats on the back. I’m really into trading cards with goofy stats on the back for each guy. I’m working on a proposal for a project right now that is going to be full of goofy stats.
So we’ve talked a bit about big dream projects and things we’d really like to work on… are there any big projects that have fallen through for you? Any huge career disappointments? I know I’ve had a bunch of projects and opportunities that were pretty exciting but that never quite panned out for one reason or another. I think that’s something that everyone in our line of work has to deal with from time to time.
more soon xoxo