Where did you grow up and when did you decide to become an artist?
I grew up outside of Toronto, Ontario, and I feel like I wanted to be an artist for as long as I can remember. Both of my parents went to school for art, and neither were using it, so they begged me to go into a field where there was a commercial market. That's how I decided I wanted to go into animation.
Did you go to an art school or are you self taught? How did you develop your skills?
I did go to art school, but I don't think that's for everyone. I was a fairly mediocre artist throughout school, and I think my skills developed most at my first job. After I started animating, I started learning what things like 'tangents' and 'silhouette' really meant, and I transferred it to my personal work.
Have you always been supported in your artistic path or has it been challenging to let your family and friends understand your choice?
My family is extremely supportive of me, I've been very lucky that way. My mom and dad both went to school for art, glass blowing and carpentry respectively, and my grandmothers are a painter and a seamstress. Despite wanting me to be able to make a living on my art, my family never had any objection to me pursuing it as a career. My friends are also very supportive, but the vast majority of them are also artists.
What was the strongest influence you had when you were growing up ( artists, movies, cartoons, comics etc.. ) ?
The things that influenced me most were Saturday morning cartoons, anime, and disney movies. I watched a lot of animated content growing up, and read a lot of manga, and was curious about whose job it was to make these things from a fairly young age.
Did you have a favourite subject to draw when you were a child and do you still have one today? If you do, what makes it so special?
When I was drawing as a child, I think I just drew everything under the sun. I had tons of how-to-draw books, and I copied images from my posters and Pokemon cards on the regular. Now, I draw a lot of pin up art. I find women fun to draw, with the natural straights and curves and the soft roundness of the shapes. Otherwise, I just have a passion for pin up artwork. I think it's so fun, and empowering, and it's led me to places like the burlesque community, which is even more about having fun and being in control of your own body.
From the initial client idea to the final work: what goes through your mind when you are designing and what is the method you use when starting a project? Could you describe it?
It's hard for me to describe because I just.... start. The most important thing to me is to get the ball rolling. I start with loose ideas and try to nail a few rough-but-legible ideas for the client that are different, but in the same universe. If it's a personal project, I'll do two, maybe three passes on designs before settling in and starting or moving forward, because I'm never going to be completely satisfied with my own work, and I'd rather have something I like to show for it, than something I love that no one ever sees.
What is your process in colouring your art and what type of tools and media do you use?
I only colour digitally. I tend to mask in the area under my lines that I want to colour - one mask per character - and go from there using flat fills. I've been experimenting with textured brushes recently, but I've still been using the same colouring method. Otherwise, I tend to pick rough colours and fill them in and use colour sliders or pre-built palettes to get my colours where I want them to be.
What part of the creation process is the most fun and easy and what part is the hardest?
I think the most fun and easy part of the process is doing the sketch - but the hardest part is coming up with an idea. I found on my last collection of art, to get past the hard "idea" portion, it was useful for me to make a tiny document that would have every idea on it. A full 44 page spread from beginning to end with really tiny thumbnails. I kept it low res so I couldn't zoom in and mess with them to much. Having the skeletons down really helped when I went in to do the sketches, because then just the fun part was left.
What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work/collaborate with?
A typical day for me involves going to work in the morning - I'm currently a full-time storyboard revisionist - so I'm there from roughly 10am-6pm. Afterwards, I come home, check emails, eat dinner and try to relax for a moment before getting into that night's work. My evening and weekend work is either streaming my creative process (or games! It's almost like having a night off) which I do three times a week, working on a freelance project, or working on my next personal project. There's also convention prep in there during con season, and planning projects with Genevieve FT, my business partner and friend. I usually try to get to sleep before midnight so I'm not too tired when I start again in the morning.
What are some of the things you have learned from other artists who you have worked with or whose work you have seen?
I think the most important thing I've learned is that 'luck' and 'talent' never really play into the equation. There might have been a few things that have happened to artists that appear to be pure luck, but it all comes from caring and developing your craft, and putting countless hours into doing what you love. All of the artists I meet are such amazing, hard working people, and I feel really fortunate to have such a large network of amazingly skilled friends.
Is there something that you have designed that you are most proud of?
A couple years back, I designed for a pilot called 'Nemesis'. I took it from design to animation, and it was the most rewarding experience I've had from any of my studio jobs. I think it was also some of the best 'design' work I've done. Otherwise, more recently, I did a Game Grumps animated. I'm not sure if it's my best design work, but it was definitely the most fun I've had producing something to date.
What projects have you worked on in the past and what are you working on at the moment (if you can tell us)?
Like I said before, I'm never really without a project. Currently, I've been working on a 'top secret' animation for a Kickstarter I'm doing with Genevieve FT through our company Cutie Corps. We're making vinyl figurines, and it's been both really fun and way more difficult than we thought it would be! Otherwise, I've been doing more work with the Game Grumps, working with some local YouTube channels, and starting to plan my next pin up collection.
What is your longterm career goal and what would your dream project be?
My long term career goal would probably be to move towards streaming professionally and freelancing. I've found that the most rewarding projects I've worked on are things I've done for or found myself, so if I could make a living doing that, I'd be really happy. I'm not sure if it will ever happen, but a girl can dream!
Working for a company or freelancing: what suits you best? And why?
A mix has definitely suited me best so far, but like I said, the goal for me is to move towards more freelance. I love doing conventions and streaming and connecting with the people who like my art - so I think freelancing fits best with that lifestyle. That said, I have no plans to leave my current studio job, which has been amazing to me, so maybe working for a company's not all that bad.
What advice would you give to an artist who is dealing with an art-block? How do you boost your imagination and keep yourself creative?
My advice for any block is: just start. Just draw something. It doesn't matter if it's good, it doesn't matter if you rip it up and throw it out, just draw something, and when it's done, draw something else. I found a good way to keep ideas flowing and not feel like you have to be married to them is to work on a small sticky note pad. Sticky notes are disposable, but easy to keep if you want to keep the drawing for something later.
Concept art, animation, illustration, comics, there are lots of choices. When you’re young, sometimes you know only one thing: you love to draw. What should a young artist take into consideration to make the right decision when choosing an artistic path?
The first thing any artist needs to keep in mind is that you're going to need to have a tough skin. It's really hard to do, but I'm not just talking about trolls on the internet. You can just block them (do it, you'll feel better, and they're not hiring you anyway), but in your job, your work will be changed. It will be critiqued. And it is not personal. A lot of artists have trouble detaching themselves from their art, and you have to do it. It's okay if you pour your heart and soul into something and it gets revised. And you know what? Maybe what you did was better but it doesn't matter if it was better if that's not what the client wants, and that's the harsh truth.
Many art teachers and schools suggest to their students that a commercial artist should always work in one consistent style if they wish to have a healthy career. In your own experience, do you believe this to be true?
I don't think this is true at all. That said, I have an extremely consistent style, so take that with a grain of salt I guess. My most successful friends all have very versatile styles. I think the more important thing is you need to be just as good at drawing in any of those styles. Never put anything that's not your best work in a portfolio, so if you draw in ten styles, but you draw in one head and shoulders above the others... you draw in one style. I'd also say it would be useful, when starting a project, to ask which style a client would like to see if you're marketing yourself with that diversity.
If you had to recommend only one art book (a comic book, graphic novel, children book, ''how to'' book) to a fellow artist, what would it be and why?
I think I'd always recommend a webcomic. By virtue of what a webcomic is, and how it's made, you can watch an artist improve. I think it's really important to realise that everyone starts somewhere, and that's what I mean about just starting a project. There are people who don't want to start a project because they don't think that they're a good enough artist. The truth is, if you're a pretty good artist, you can become a great one by investing yourself in a long-term project, and I think long running webcomics show that really well. To really hammer this point home: go check out the first strip of Penny Arcade if you never have. And watch as Holkin's style develops. I mean hell, I hadn't looked at PA in a few years and it looks even better now than I remember!
What’s your point of view about the industry today: what are the expectation for someone who wants to make a living with an artistic career?
I don't think it's an unreasonable goal. I'm hoping that more 'studios' like Studio Yodda will crop up, that are more a network of freelancers on the internet than a bunch of people in a studio. The tools to get in are a rather high bar of entry, but there are quite a few studio jobs, or coffee shop jobs, that can help you save up the money you need to get the tools you need to freelance from home, or make a living making a comic on the internet through Patreon and ad revenue. I think as long as you're willing to work, and work really hard, you can make a living as an artist.
Who are the artists who inspire you the most today and what are some of your favourite designs out there?
When I was in college, my biggest inspiration, and probably the person who really got me into pin up art was Bill Presing. I love his sense of simple shape and design. Now, Genevieve, who I've talked about a lot, is a huge inspiration to me, and I'm so glad we've gotten to do so much work together and become such great friends. Off the top of my head, other artists I'm inspired by currently... Craig Knowles, Miss Paty, Elsa Chang... There's a ton now - I have a pretty comprehensive list on my website ( nicterhorst.com/FAQ ) but I follow hundreds of artists for a slew of different reasons.
We have a soft spot for hand drawn animation, what is your opinion about the future of this art form?
I don't know if this is too hopeful, but I don't think hand drawn animation will ever completely die. It's definitely not as viable for mainstream content, but it's such a unique beast, and has such character, that I don't think artists will let it die. I hope. We'll probably start to lose the old paper-and-pencil style of hand drawn animation, but the tools are there to do really nice digitally hand drawn animation.
Social networks, crowd funding websites, print on demand online service, you name it. New media on the internet are connecting the artists directly with their fans like never before. In your opinion, how is this affecting the industry and what are the pros and cons?
I love the social media age - but it does come with its caveats. First, people think they know you when they meet you. And they do, or at least, they know a version of me. It's not that I'm not 'myself' on social media, but I am picking and choosing what I share with the world, as we all are. If you want to build a social media presence, I'd avoid things like "vaguebooking" and encourage having a private outlet if you need to blow off some steam. Otherwise, I mean it can get a little invasive, but as long as you're drawing your lines and people are respecting them, social media is a great way to get in touch with new friends, fans, and other artists.
Finally, Where can we see your art online and get in touch with you? How can we buy your creations and support your work?
You can see my art on Tumblr at ( nicterhorst.com ), Twitter ( @nicterhorst ), Instagram, Twitch, Facebook, you name it. I'd also love it if people checked out Cutie Corps ( cutiecorps.com ) - the company/movement that Gen and I have started that promotes diversity of all sorts in pin up art! We take submissions from artists of all skill levels and backgrounds and share them as "new recruits", and we're also hoping to put together some projects with other artists after we resolve our first kickstarter!
My Kickstarter is also live over at ( nicterhorst.com/kickstarter ), so please check it out! The prototypes of the figures look amazing so far, and I'm so excited to finally be sharing it.
Thank you Nic :)