"For the past several years, we’ve spent most of our time digging deep into what makes characters tick while trying to tell a few stories along the way. We’ve had influential childhoods filled with cartoons, robots, aliens, and creatures of all shapes and sizes. Yet, at the end of the day, we’ve found collaboration to be the most critical ingredient. Together this has allowed us to expand our sensibilities while challenging each other to become better designers. Through CreatureBox.com, our visitors are invited along for the ride as we dive into the deep end."
Alias Design Community: Diving a little into your background, what sort of environment did you grow up in? What were some of your past working experiences that molded you into becoming the artists you are now?
Dave: I was born and raised in a small town just outside Providence, Rhode Island. Growing up, my family ran a local hardware store where they spent the late 80’s bracing against the growth of the Home Depots of the world. My father has spent a lifetime in remodeling and contract work and while I was never too good with a hammer, my parents always supported my love for design. Each week they would let me pour over the Sunday comics and would graciously hang my copies of Garfield on the refrigerator. In 1989, my parents bought me my first comic from a CVS pharmacy. From then on out, my path was set. Before I knew it, my friends and I would sneak off to the bus stop for impromptu adventures into the city’s best comic shops. Sorry mom. Over the next several years, I found myself drawing most of the time in hopes of becoming a comic artist in New York. As the industry changed, new opportunities grew in the lands of concept development. Soon after college I landed a position with Singletrac Studio in Salt Lake City. I was fortunate to work with a great group of people who patiently shared with me their knowledge of game development. Over the last several years, Insomniac Games has served as the home for my career. Every day I feel extremely fortunate to collaborate with such a wonderfully talented group of artists.
Greg: I’m from a small town just south of Boston. It’s a great place to grow up, really beautiful and there always seemed to be something I could do to get into trouble. My parents were always as supportive as they knew how to be. The idea of a kid growing up to be an artist isn’t something most parents get excited about for their kids, but my parents always seemed to know that when it came down to it, that’s all I wanted to do. One day in 5th grade my mother showed me how to divide a human face up, it was something she learned in a college art class. I was beyond moved, I have been infatuated with those kinds of techniques ever since. Life got real for a while, I worked on a lobster boat for 6 years and had countless other blue-collar jobs before I realized I needed to get out of Dodge. I came out to Southern California and majored in drawing and sculpture. As you can imagine it’s a pretty tough field to make a decent living at, but I was always interested in the commercial art world. I worked as a sculptor on a stop-motion project with Doug TenNapel—I was in heaven—but it was over before I knew it. I was lucky to land a concepting gig at the Collective in Irvine, CA. I was lucky because I had no formal computer training in any sort of 3D software, but they gave me a shot. The lead modeler thought the sculpture in my portfolio was good, and believed he could teach me the software easier than he could teach someone else to sculpt. It was a tough gig, I had to wear a lot of hats, but in the end I learned a lot. A couple years later, I was excited to see a posting at Insomniac games for an artist with my skill set and I went for it. I interviewed with some guy named Dave Guertin. We hit it off, and the rest is, well, the future?
Alias Design Community: You've just been given the go ahead for a new project, how do go about tackling it? What sort of artistic process takes you from the brainstorming stage to the polished pieces?
Dave: In starting a new project, the critical question I try to get to the heart of is “What am I trying to say?” Sometimes it can be easy to fall into abstract shapes yet having one common voice can serve as the driver for the design as a whole. With the major theme established, I jump into tiny thumbnail silhouettes to work on global shape relationships and personality traits. With a couple scribbles “saying the right things”, I’ll enlarge them to serve as the core foundation for the final designs. From there, I work on the finer details while respecting the broad shapes of the thumbnails. Eventually the process leads to final linework and color with the hopes of achieving something remotely memorable. I’ve found my head works better by compartmentalizing each stage allowing me to focus completely on each step along the way. There are many amazing artists out there who can nail pose, personality, and design in one swoop. Most of the time, I’m banging my head against the Cintiq.
Greg: I think it’s safe to say that the best part of any design is proving it to people who you know will call you out when you’re not on the right track. When I start designing, I’ll scribble down some horrible little sketches that get those first few obvious ideas out of the way. Then I start asking myself questions about what the functional aspects of the design are, the things that have to be incorporated in order for the final piece to work. In games, this can be a pretty important consideration in a design. Once I rough out some of the functional parts, I can start exploring how crazy a form can be and still retain its requirements. Sometimes this leads me to the design directly, but usually I get completely frustrated and start talking myself out of being an artist! But after a few go’rounds with loose sketches and as much feedback from Dave and anyone else I can find, I can usually hone in a design that works. From there, it’s really about bringing those roughs to a presentation level so that anyone involved with the production of the character understands the construction and the personality.
Alias Design Community: What can you tell me about some of the tools, softwares, techniques and practices that go about in the creation of your work?
Dave & Greg: A few years back, we took a big and uncertain leap to an all digital workflow. Beginning with the Cintiq 18SX and soon after the 21UX, we quickly realized that pencils and paper could be put aside for our production work. The critical component in the whole workflow however rested in finding sketching software that felt as natural as possible. Fortunately, SketchBook Pro fit the bill with a unique drawing engine providing the opportunity for clean strokes even amidst larger resolutions. As a result, SketchBook has become the backbone for our thumbnails, final pencils, and inkwork. For painting we often migrate our images over to Photoshop where we can put an assortment of digital brushes and layer modes to use. Even with file sizes passing the 2 gig mark, Photoshop pulls through and remains one of the most stable apps on the planet.
In regards to the nitty gritty of technique, our process varies from piece to piece depending on the final look we’re after. With 2D characters that are geared towards a graphic flat look; we tend to keep the color work pretty simple with just enough rendering to turn the form. But for more resolved pieces, we delve into the world of core shadows, reflected light, rim light and an assortment of visual bells and whistles. It’s kind of like digital BeDazzle. With most of our technique however we tend to stick with an established set of layers and groups to provide a quick and easy structure to paint with. This allows us to focus on palettes rather than pixels—but yeah, every once in awhile, we miss our #2 pencils and copier paper.
Alias Design Community: Do you ever find yourself coming across inspiration in the most unexpected places? Can you point out any specific instances?
Greg: I can honestly say that inspiration comes from everywhere. Inspiration is how open you let your mind be to solving the problem at hand. I think that the answer is always right in front of you, but it may not be what you thought it would be. If you can let go of that initial obvious idea, then some really great stuff is bound to surface. That’s all a bit esoteric sounding, isn’t it?
I once had to design a race of characters for a game that mined the resources of a planet until it was barren, and obviously nobody could stand to be around them. I wanted it to be fun, even though it was a sort of serious undertone for a character trait. On the way to work one day, this huge trailer passes me with an enormous yellow bulldozer on it. The treads were bulky and worn, the engine was covered in soot, and the driver’s seat was crude at best with lever controls and nothing but a railing keeping the operator from falling out to certain demise. That was it; these creatures needed huge tattered machines to mine with, which got me to thinking about all the tunnels they would certainly build. I found myself imagining if a hamster could construct his own tube system and how being as single minded as they are, they’d never stop until they had over run the world with tubes. Not to mention hamster balls are hilarious, so why not an enemy in a hamster ball designed like a piece of construction equipment? And of course, nobody liked these creatures very much, but that seemed a bit hard to believe when they were sounding kinda cute. So I remembered my aunt who loved cats, but was too allergic to be around them. What a hilarious conundrum that was. So of course we made everyone in the game allergic to these creatures and we named them the “Kerchus”. The idea came from a lot of different places but it was all waiting for the right chance to get mixed up together.
Dave: Inspiration is one of those really fickle things. Should you think hard about an idea? Change your diet? Watch some American Idol? Wait for lightning to strike? Get more or less sleep? Ultimately there doesn’t really seem to be a formula—but man, I wish there was. Minus the American Idol part.
I completely agree with Greg that inspiration can come from anywhere. From the moment we’re born we’re taught to recognize and interpret shapes and colors. Rock onward Sesame Street! As a result, these details live in every corner of our lives which eventually dig their way into our work. During the creation of the Ratchet and Clank franchise, the team explored shapes from a variety of places. The most memorable forms however began with 1950’s home appliances. Blenders became skyscrapers, vacuum cleaners melded into robots. The entire process reminded me of how much personality can be found in well designed everyday objects.
Alias Design Community: For the aspiring illustrators, character designers and artists, do you have any advice? Speaking from your own experiences, what sort of situations can they expect from the industry?
Greg: My advice will always be to meet as many other artists as you can who have similar and even dissimilar interests. Meet them and learn from them, and teach them! There has always been this air of competition in the art world to be better than everyone else. It’s a bit misleading, we’re all in this together, and there are not that many of us, so sticking together and helping each other out makes everyone better and elevates the entire field. Working with Dave has been great. We make fun of each other like crazy, bash each others work and in the end, we always come out with a better piece than we could have created on our own.
Inevitably the industry will be difficult to get into, but an artist who really wants to be there and works great with other artists will have no problem. As a kid, I always dreamed of making action figures for a living. I was applying for an internship early in college, and the owner of the company decided to help chop me back down to my correct size. He told me that the guy who sculpted my GIJoe’s was still out there working, and that that guy was my competition. I was struck, but it was one of those moments I carry with me every day. I look forward to meeting and working with every artist I meet, there is so much talent out there; it’s really great to think you never have to stop learning.
Dave: During a sequential art conference many years ago Mark Schultz said to me “There’s always room in any industry for someone who’s great.” This comment has really stuck with me over time especially when speaking with aspiring designers of all ages. I was extremely worried about starting a career coming out of college—the art world can certainly be an intimidating place with thousands of talented professionals making their mark. Finding your place within the flow of it all can certainly be daunting. The great news however is every artist has an opportunity to craft their own voice and present their visual interpretation of the world. Regardless of age, background, and experience, designers can continue to bring something new to the table. The key is to find what excites you about art and stick with it. This can serve as your focus.
Often times I’ve met younger artists seeking to cover all the bases. In an effort to broaden their opportunities they become a jack of all trades yet a master of none. While I understand and agree with the need to have a strong knowledge of multiple disciplines, I feel artists should still focus as intently as possible on their passion. While a concept artist who can also model and animate is an appealing candidate on the surface, if the work in each discipline is mediocre, the possibility to land a position in the industry is unlikely. However, if the candidate completely rocks a concept portfolio alone, there will be a job out there. Finding the company may take timing and patience, but ultimately the position is there somewhere.
At the end of the day, surviving in any industry can be challenging. Technology changes, time demands increase, and stylistic taste shifts over time. However dedication to the craft—coupled with practice, practice, practice—will pull any artist through. While support from friends and family can be helpful, always remain your own harshest critic and seek the feedback of others whenever possible. Remember, the artists of the world are all in this together and everybody struggles and succeeds at the drawing table at one time or another.
Alias Design Community: What's your life away from the drawing table? What artists do you look up to? Comic books that you read? Games that you loved?
Greg: When I was in college, my wife (girlfriend at the time) brought me some graphic novels home from France that were just about the most life changing objects I had ever held. I had no idea that things like that even existed. Most of the books were by Claire Wendling. She’s tremendous. It turned me into a European graphic novel junkie. I seek them out like a stalker. I can’t read most of them, but I make my way through eventually. But the art is awe inspiring on so many levels; they are so rooted in tradition and yet have this inherent innovation with the storytelling and art techniques. Unbelievable.
My now wife is a painter. Lucky for me, this means at least a couple times a month we’re out at art openings and museum shows seeing current and historical art works. It’s a great grounding experience. I don’t always like everything, but when you come across something that moves you that you didn’t expect, it feels like finding treasure.
I’m always looking for that unexpected vision that turns my screws. I love to be around as many un-related art-forms as possible, I can always find something that transcends into my projects.
Dave: I must confess that over the last year there hasn’t been all that much life away from the art table. My wife takes a moment to remind me of this often. Ha! The good news however is she, a graphic designer herself, has served as my ultimate support system. I think without her, I’d probably crumple into dust. When we finally make it away from our studios, we love to watch movies, look through great books, and play with our cats. Every once in awhile we even brave the Los Angeles highways to take in the sights and sounds of this crazy city.
In regards to artists I look up to…man…that would be a long list. One of the most amazing aspects of the internet is the explosion of art blogs and personal galleries sprinkled throughout cyberspace. It’s almost like walking around the largest museum on the planet but the hallways keep growing and twisting. If I had to pick one all time influence however, the crown would go to Bill Watterson. Without a doubt, Calvin and Hobbes was a life changer for me. Growing up I’ve always cared so much for that kid and his tiger and I still read through the strips often. On top of it all, Watterson’s nobility as an artist to resist the blind commercialization of his characters has always been inspiring. He maintained a laser focus while pushing the boundaries of the medium.
Runners up however would include Rockwell, Mike Mignola, Adam Hughes, Enrique Fernandez, Travis Charest, Ben Balistreri, Greg, Nicolas Marlet, all the Pixar guys, and many, many others. That’s really what I love so much about this field—there’s room for so much artistic expression with an amazing variety of style.
Alias Design Community: So the million dollar question, CreatureBox was who's brilliant brainchild? Where do you aim to go from here?
Greg: Well, as the story goes, we were outside having lunch one day. Usually one of is yappin’ about some character design challenge we were trying to work through or how we just wanted to get on with some idea that has been pestering us. That day I happened to be going on about how I felt it was time to start putting my work before the masses on a blog or something to get some outsider opinions. I was looking for that brutally honest reaction so I could see what people not worried about my personal feelings thought. Dave had this look on his face. I didn’t expect it, but he proposed not only putting it before the masses, but challenging each other with alternating posts! It was perfect, we had the challenge we enjoyed every day while still getting the input from the people stopping by the site.
Dave: Probably the most exciting aspect of CreatureBox for me is how organic the entire journey has been. What began as a couple images on a blog has grown to a small hub with thousands of visitors. In addition, we’ve been given the opportunity to meet all sorts of artists from around the world. It still amazes me how the internet allows creators to interact with each so quickly and easily. In regards to the future, while we have a couple plans here and there, Greg and I have always approached the work spontaneously and without boundaries. The most critical aspect of the site is the freedom of expression and ripping the brakes off the go-cart.
In the short term, we have plans to self publish and experiment with printing in general. The goal would be to have each project feed into the next while exploring different ideas and styles along the way. Our first stab will hit at this year’s Comic-Con in San Diego. We’ll have a booth in the illustrator’s section and will have a sketchbook on hand for sale. In addition, each book includes a DVD containing over 40 minutes of time lapse character design. The whole experience will be a new one for us and we look forward to seeing what people think. If you’re at the show, stop on by! We’d love to say hi.
A few years ago, on a particularly hot spring day, Dave Guertin and Greg Baldwin pondered the possibility of joining forces. Sharing a fascination with monsters, spacemen, and everything in between, CreatureBox crawled to life. Over the last three years, the venture has provided a manic peek at the collaborative development of characters for video games, comics, television and film. At CreatureBox.com, Dave and Greg continue to debut their weekly trials and tribulations while in search of innovative design. The site continues to be a hub for critiques, discussions and the occasional mindless rant on the various aspects of character design.
Tell us about working in the games industry. As a concept artist, how does this role fit into the process at Insomniac Games?Greg
We generally refer to our process as a pipeline. It’s a good way of describing the flow of content from start to end. Our role is really very close to the inception of any idea. We work closely with a lot of different people to help put a “face” to an idea. Most often, we’re problem solving just as much as we are making something look nice.
Our job is to find a way to take something very disjointed or fractured and glue it all together into a package that seems unique, integrated and consistent with the ideas we’re trying to convey in the game experience. It’s a bit overwhelming at times; a lot of the pressure is on the concept artists to pull off what can feel impossible.
If we’re successful, it can mean great things for the game. We’re kind of like salesman selling an idea. A good design can really spark a lot of excitement and new ideas from the rest of the team. Once that happens, the design gets a lot of attention from a lot of really talented people in other departments and the then whole team is likely to create something really unique and innovative. And of course, if this doesn’t happen, you can be sure I’ll be seeing that design come across my desk again! Getting the team excited about an idea is my favorite part of our process.
In most cases during development, Concept Artists develop visuals for an assortment of game components including characters, environments, props, cinematics, and marketing materials. Many times, group brainstorming sessions serve as the seed for the imagery as the overall direction for the game is defined. Most concepts come in the form of Level Packets which mirror that of feature animation production. Each packet provides a visual roadmap where each discreet area of the game has been fleshed out with roughs, drawings, and paintings. From here, Environment and Characters artists work their magic and interpret the images in 3D complete with high resolution models and textures. The entire process is extremely collaborative which makes for a pretty dynamic workday.
The games industry can be a very wild, exciting, and unpredictable place. Each day presents new challenges both creatively and technically as the team works to meld millions of pieces together into one cohesive interactive package. In many respects these challenges keep each day interesting and provide countless opportunities for growth--and while some days I'd like to hide under my desk and wait for the storm to pass, it's been fantastic to work with such a talented group of people.
CreatureBox.com is a really exciting and fun site. Can you tell us more about it... How did CreatureBox come to be and what are your goals for it?Dave
I remember CreatureBox starting with a fairly simple: "Hey what do you think about doing a blog together?" At the time, I don't think either of us had any clue what that meant but we decided to jump in with both feet. We knew from the beginning our sensibilities were in very similar places (how can you go wrong with monsters and spacemen?) which provided a great stage to push each other into new techniques and styles. At the heart however, CreatureBox has always been about collaboration--two guys joining forces to fight some pretty tough and exhausting creative battles. Much of this would be impossible without the trust and honesty we've cobbled together over the last 7 years. Our mildly odd couple relationship continues to be one part support and one part kick in the pants.
The site has really taken on a life of its own over the last couple years which have been fun to watch. Ultimately we feel responsible for posting new designs on a regular basis which has been one of the greatest motivators a designer could ask for. As far as the future, we've been fortunate to have a growing fanbase who continually support the site and grab our yearly sketchbooks. We have some plans for larger publications and look to get those wrapped up as soon as we can.
CreatureBox has developed into a place where we can try out things we have never done before. I think initially we were just trying to impress people to get traffic. But we quickly lost interest in that and just tried to let it be our own playground. It’s a lot more honest and the work really started to shift at that point. We’ve worked really hard to keep CreatureBox a place where we can share new ideas and really be ourselves. It’s pushed us in directions I don’t think we would have experienced without it.
Getting online and really putting ourselves out there has lead to meeting some of the world’s greatest character designers, the chance to work on amazing projects and still continue to grow as artists. Where it will go is a bit up to fate. I think on a weekly basis, we have some new dream or aspiration for what it could become. We can’t put an actual growth model on it or anything like that, but everyday it’s more than it was the day before. Most days we feel like we’re watching CreatureBox as much as everyone else. It really has taken on its own identity.
When producing artwork, can you give us a walkthrough of your process and how tools come into play?
GregWe wish we could say there was some magical new process that the digital world has offered. Believe us, we looked for it. The truth is, we start and end very much the way drawing and painting has been taught for centuries.
Dave and I are always looking for that new technique that will excite us and allow us to get to the end product we’re imagining. Each piece we start seems to beg for something new, or at least some new little twist. Often we’ll see something successful in another piece that we’ve been struggling with ourselves and we set to work on absorbing as much as we can so we can bring a better sense of resolve to our work.
We usually start off any design with a good bit of banter back and forth about what is important and what we need to be concentrating on to make the design something that we have never done before. We try to gather reference if need be; usually we try to find things that have nothing to do with our initial ideas. We look for things that are not obvious. Those initial ideas that easily solve the problem are usually things that have already been done before. We strive to always create designs that solve problems in new ways. That’s really the hardest part of getting started. It’s always funny to admit how much time we spend just yapping about an idea before we even start. Dave and I are very much opposites, so we tend to argue a lot over designs, this keeps us coming to the table with our best ideas or risk getting smacked down. It’s all for the greater good! Then we start sketching.
Over the years, during the ins and outs of production, we've pounded away at simplifying our workflow as much as possible. There are certainly numerous benefits to working digital--especially in environments where revisions are frequent. But at the end of the day, as many have said before, computers should serve as tools not crutches. The importance of core art principles including rhythm, balance, and clarity are universal and remain at the center of our process.
For digital, our tools of choice include Cintiq 21ux tablets, Autodesk Sketchbook 2010 for drawing, and Photoshop for painting. This combination has served us extremely well which merges Sketchbook's amazingly natural and silky smooth brush engine with Photoshop's painting muscle. With Wacom pen in hand, virtually every image begins with small thumbnail silhouettes. Starting tiny requires a clear read of shape and personality and allows for a rapid exploration of ideas. In virtually every respect, the silhouette serves as the foundation and must bear the weight of all the remaining details and color. No amount of noodling will correct a broken structure. With the foundation poured, we're ready to move onto the supporting details which include anatomy, clothing, and props. By simply scaling our chosen silhouette in Sketchbook much of this work can be applied to a new layer allowing for a considerable amount of exploration without compromising the core rough shape.
With the rough drawing established, final linework is completed on a new layer and includes additional refinements to the line weight and detail while pushing the clarity of the design. In many respects this is where Sketchbook's brush engine shows a tremendous amount of fidelity. We have yet to find an illustration program with the same degree of drawing fluidity, speed, and responsiveness.
Next up, the drawing is saved from Sketchbook as a .PSD and painted in Photoshop. Although digital, our painting process tends to follow teachings centuries old. Each piece begins with palette exploration in the form of flat colors. This helps create an identity for the piece while refining a global focus. With color established, we put to use some general color theory principles including compliments, warm / cool contrast, and discords to render the image. Depending on the piece, shading may live on their own layers to allow for further adjustments but ultimately we try to keep the process as organic as possible. Happy accidents can be a very welcome friend!
What are the key factors that have made an all digital process possible for you?Dave
My move to a fully digital workflow was a gradual journey as the hardware (specifically Wacom) evolved. In college, I began with a Wacom ArtZ II, which then jumped to the first two versions of the Intuous line. Compared to a mouse, the tablets were a revolutionary change for digital painting. Coupled with the pressure sensitivity, I thought I was set for life. The more I worked however, I realized I couldn't hit the drawings I was after due to the hand / eye disconnect. As a result I stuck with my art table for drawing and reserved the tablet and computer for painting.
With the first major price drop of the Wacom 18sx I was able to convince Insomniac to pick one up for me to test. While it wasn't perfect, I could see a lot of potential yet I was still hitting a significant roadblock. Every drawing application I tried lacked the responsiveness and fluidity of drawing on paper. Finally, I stumbled across Sketchbook 1.0 and was blown away by the feel of the pen--snappy with finesse. Originally marketed for Tablet PCs, the software was a bit under the radar but I found the pairing of Sketchbook and the 18sx to be the closest yet to a traditional workflow. After some soul searching, I finally lowered the pitch of my studio art table and worked on the computer full time. Since then, the 21ux has been a blessing and Sketchbook is back in full force with a ton of new features.
I think it’s important to point out that going all digital was not a goal. It was actually a little heart breaking to be honest. But the demands of a rigorous work environment really forced us to continue to look for ways to make our lives and the lives of those who depended on our work more efficient. That said, as the hardware and software evolved, we quickly embraced the new possibilities that working digitally offered. In the end, I think the ability to try new things like color palettes, design choices and finishes uninhibited has really allowed us to grow much faster than we would have if we had stuck to traditional mediums.
Changes to designs are inevitable. In my traditional days, making that change sometimes meant starting over, or at the very least, destroying the artistic integrity of a piece to satisfy the end product. But by moving all digital, we have developed processes that allow revisions easily without sacrificing the work we have already put into the design. Being able to quickly generate multiple ideas with color variants is fantastic. I’m always amazed when I think I’ve settled on the best design, I’ll do a few variants and I almost always like one of the other choices better. I cringe to think what I would be missing in my designs if I was held back by the medium.
Cost is always a real issue with all digital. It’s always an issue when new technology comes out. Time and time again, we have found that the initial investment upfront ends up saving time and money down the line.
Your personal work often has fantastic, whimsical subject matters. Personally, what drives your art?Dave
Like most kids born in the 70's I was raised on a healthy diet of 80's cartoons, comic books and video games. For all the strangeness back then (I'm talking to you DEVO), it was an awesome time to grow up. I often think back to how I felt digging through new comics from the shop or how excited I was by the colored Sunday newspaper strips. To this day, I think Calvin and Hobbes truly exist.
When I'm at the table, I tend to wrap myself in those old thoughts and feelings while merging bits and pieces of "today". I look to find traits to exaggerate while taking a slightly warped peak at the world. I always love to talk with viewers outside our "target audience" to see what elements stand out. My grandmother for example says that "I like to put hats on everything." To me this can be some of the most valuable feedback out there--and hey, who doesn't like hats?
At the end of the day, it would be an amazing privilege to provide some entertainment for kids in the same way I had growing up. In an age dominated by cell phones and American Idol, the funny papers could still have a lot to offer (even if they're being read on a fancy holographic tablet).
I grew up sort of sheltered from the mainstream barrage of cartoons and toys. I saw them; I envied every kid who had the Generation 1: Optimus Prime or the G.I.Joe Battleship. My parents weren’t too invested in spending their money on what the hot toy was that I was pouring over that week. But what they did offer was access to just about any material or tool I could ever want. My father happily shared the entirety of his workshop that he inherited from his own father. I used to imagine it was my secret lair where I could unleash whatever monstrosity I could conjure up.
The most important thing, that most likely accidently happened to me, was that no one ever told me that some things just were not possible. So, now I’m 33 years old and my mind still concocts droves of robotic armies heading down wind to an awaiting band of intergalactic ninja’s, and dream of planetary defense leagues intercepting a fleet of rogue alien space pirates. You know, the normal stuff.
I think my childhood ambitions will always heavily influence my choices. I always come back to the things I wanted to do as a naïve kid running around with a handmade blaster and a cardboard box helmet; hunting monsters, travelling through space, and building a new best friend out of old lawnmower parts. That world is limitless, and it’s great to go there and really explore it. Being “All-Grown-Up” actually adds a nice twist. It’s nice to bring some serious tones and sensibilities to our childhood dreams. It can really add a lot of layers to the work.
What do you love about drawing?Greg
Drawing allows me to create things that don’t exist. It lets me put a kind of tangibility to an otherwise abstract idea. If I can create a really successful design, it can transcend into the realm of reality. I still think of the Coyote as a real creature out there just trying to score that impossible meal. I think we all have something in our lives that we believe is real that we can touch, and drawing is my way of adding my own voice to that phenomenon. It’s what pushes me to want to continually grow as an artist and as a person. It’s a great responsibility.
With drawing, I've always enjoyed the journey. Each day presents new opportunities to rifle around in your imagination while exploring unique ways to communicate. The freedom to explore any subject from spacemen to monsters to maniacal robots has a way of bringing me back to the table. The path can certainly be challenging (and at times frustrating) but the rewards have been worth every hour of practice. It's a tough living to beat and I couldn't see myself doing anything else.
So what’s next for CreatureBox?Greg
Dave and I are always working on something. It’s hard to remember a time when we weren’t knee deep in some ambitious project we conned ourselves into. First and foremost, we'd like to continue creating our yearly sketchbooks, the most recent of which (Thoughts, Scribbles + Madness: Volume 2 and Palindrone Robot Supply) are available at CreatureBox.com. The books are a great way to give back to all the fans and friends we've met through the site. Our passion for comics is also looming on the horizon, and we both hope to do something to satisfy that itch. Yet the constant goal for us is focusing on new character design which we plan to post weekly for the foreseeable future. CreatureBox began as a visual playground and we hope to see that continue into the years ahead.
Some IMAGESfrom CREATUREBOX: