Where did you grow up and when did you decide to become an artist?
I grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin. I decided that I wanted to be an artist at a pretty young age, most likely 3 or 4 years old. Like all drawing enthusiasts, I was constantly sketching and doodling during my classes when I wasn't supposed to. I also loved building stuff out of modelling clay. I think I originally wanted to create creature effects for movies, but then gravitated more towards cartooning and illustration.
Did you go to an art school or are you self taught? How did you develop your skills?
I did take traditional art lessons on Saturday afternoons in a private program off and on growing up, but on the cartooning side of things I learned that on my own and from studying all the great cartoonists. I went to college at The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater where I studied graphic design. There I learned how to use a computer and Adobe software, that of course that greatly affected my method of illustration. Before that, my only experience with computers was keyboarding class in high school.
Have you always been supported in your artistic path or has it been challenging to let your family and friends understand your choice?
I've been VERY fortunate to have a family that supported me from day one. My parents always had faith in me, took interest in what I was doing and encouraged me to develop my skills. I credit my grandmother for always looking for art contests, creating creative opportunities, and inspiring me to make things. I had a lot of great art teachers growing up too... Barb Healy, John Gordon, Wendy Catalano, and Pat Hicks.
What was the strongest influence you had when you were growing up ( artists, movies, cartoons, comics etc.. ) ?
Pretty much all of those listed above. I was a HUGE Jim Henson fan growing up and took in everything the Henson company was involved with. Star Wars was a huge influence and I was always drawing from the various concept artists that worked on the original trilogy. I read lots of comics ranging from Archie, the Disney stuff, Batman, and horror comics. Children's books were big in my life as well. My mom read to me and my brother all the time so I was always taking in all the details of the illustration.
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?
I loved drawing animal characters, monsters, and for some odd reason stage coach wrecks...huh? Today it's pretty much the same thing, except for the stage coaches, except I do love drawing historical stuff, maybe that took place of the stage coach wrecks.
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?
Everything starts with gathering reference materials online. Before the internet I used to spend time in libraries and make use of the photocopier and reference binders. Today I have digital folders full of clothing images, vehicles, architecture styles, weaponry, people, animals, ect ect. I also look to "Art of" books as well as the artwork from illustrators and designers I look up to to see how they handled certain tasks. Sometimes I over think things, I stress out about it.... but then look at how another artists simplified a tree or building without painstakingly drawing every leaf or shingle. Then I feel like I have a better method or direction to follow. I start with the thumbnails sketches, which lead to tighter pencil drawings on copy paper. I usually scan those drawings and print them out to a larger size and trace on to bristol over a light table. I then ink the pencils with a brush and india ink and then scan the inks at a high resolution. I then color digitally.
What is your process in colouring your art and what type of tools and media do you use?
I use Photoshop for all my coloring. I also use Adobe Illustrator at times as well. I have a very basic way of coloring, pretty prehistoric compared to what other artists do but it works well for me. I still use a mouse too, yeah... I'm technologically behind. :) I hand draw all my line work using India ink and a brush on paper. I love drawing off the computer, but coloring digitally is so much faster! I used to use watercolors for my finished color illustrations but got away from that due to the process being too slow and I wasn't getting the color I wanted. Plus it was VERY hard to make edits. I slowly evolved my inking and coloring style once I went half-digital.
What part of the creation process is the most fun and easy and what part is the hardest?
The loose, initial thumbnail/planning/sketching stage is the most fun for me. I also love doing the final line work and inks on a drawing. I try to allow for my line work to carry the piece. The hardest for me is the coloring. I have a hard time making color decisions as well as making everything balance out with the shadows, lighting, and color harmony, but I greatly enjoy the process. I also find drawing in perspective a bit tricky. Some things that look good in a thumbnail sketch look goofy once you tighten them up on the page.
What are some of the things you have learned from other artists who you have worked with or whose work you have seen?
I learn so much from other artists. I feel very fortunate to make the contacts I have made online over the years. I've been in contact with SO MANY incredible people from all over the globe. Some of them are well-known people in the industry and some of them are students that are just starting out. Other illustrators, graphic designers as well as writers are always so giving with their time and very supportive. One of the things I've learned from my fellow illustrators is to not "over finish" pieces and know when to walk away from something. However I tend to still struggle with this. Many times I spend way too much time tweaking random elements instead of moving along to the next thing. In many cases I'm learning that sometimes less is more.
Is there something that you have designed that you are most proud of?
One of the things that stands out in my mind is a logo design of all things. Years back, I designed a character mascot logo for a popular semi-pro hockey team in my area. I had always wanted to design a team logo (even though I'm not much of a sports guy). The hockey team was undergoing a major rebranding and it was a lot of fun being part of that project, and I see the logo on clothing, billboards ect ect. I'm very proud of the work I did.
What projects have you worked on in the past and what are you working on at the moment (if you can tell us)?
I recently drew characters for a Cryptozoic Entertainment game in my cartoony style called "Mad Science Foundation". It has a bunch of kooky mad scientist/ evil genius characters. The conceptual phase of the project was my favorite part, lots of different versions of the characters were produced, all of them with varying personalities. I had a blast working on this project. A few years back I drew a comic book series (6 issues) written by Ben McCool called "Lookouts". It was a fantasy all-ages series based on a property created by the folks at Penny Arcade. It was drawn in a style similar to the Penny Arcade comics which was fun to do. Another project that stands out to me is a card game called "I Hate Zombies". It involved some goofy career stereotypes as well as their zombie versions. I love drawing scary characters that even younger kids won't be too traumatized by. I've illustrated children's books too. "Frostbite" with children's author Julia Dweck is my most recent finished kid's book. Her and I recently finished another book that is in the process of coming out.
What is your longterm career goal and what would your dream project be?
My ultimate goal would be to create a graphic novel, children's book, or comics series based on my own characters. They seldom leave my sketchbook, or at least the very scribbly stage. One of these days I want to flesh them out into an actual finished story.
Working for a company or freelancing: what suits you best? And why?
I have the best of both worlds. I work remotely from my home in the midwest for Cryptozoic Entertainment (located in California). They are a ton of fun to work for and I get to try a variety of new things. If I take on any freelance work, they are the kind of projects that would not compete with CZE's projects. I love Cryptozoic's work because they have a great variety of fun, interesting, original products. The fanboy in me loves being part of the projects that involve DC, Cartoon Network, and Ghostbusters properties. I'm very fortunate.
What advise would you give to an artist who is dealing with an art-block? How do you boost your imagination and keep yourself creative?
I tend to go through my "Artists" files and get inspired by other illustrator's works. When i'm able to, I also go for walks in the woods with my dog (I know everyone does that). Going to the library or a book store also helps, there is so much info to look through for inspiration. Listening to podcasts inspires me also, mostly the ones that involve people in the visual arts. Hearing artists talk about their work makes me want to draw and improve my skills.
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?
Go with what you are most interested in and enjoy the most. Try not to pick a path that will feel like "work" because it seems "safer". It will definitely affect the work you do if you aren't enjoying it. For years I had been struggling with picking a focus and felt like I was bouncing all over the place. There are so many things that I love doing and it is hard to pick a favorite.
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 still struggle with that. I tend to work in the same style on all my freelance work because that is what I enjoy most and I feel it best represents me and what others might know or hire me for. It really depends on which career direction you take. However I'm always wanting to try a variety of things. I worked as a graphic designer for many years and was able to illustrate in several different styles and be a jack of all trades. One of the nice things about my job with CZE is that I get to work in a variety of styles for the different properties they work with.
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?
That is a tough question because there are so many. I'd have to say..."the Art of Open Season". I just loved the exaggerated and stylized treatments of environments and characters but it still feels like a realistic movie. Any book drawn by Mike Mignola, what that guy can achieve with such simple shapes and shadows is phenomenal.
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?
Be persistent, open-minded, and hard-working! You need to be constantly honing your skills, learning and networking along the way. Try to be a unique as you can and find something that makes your work stand out.
Who are the artists who inspire you the most today and what are some of your favourite designs out there?
Oh man...so many!!!! If I named them all I'd have an infinite list. I'd have to say... Jean Baptiste Monge, Alex Horley, Dr. Suess, Mike Mignola, Craig Thompson, ...and the classic cartoonists like Carl Barks, Jack Davis, Al Taliaferro, Walt Kelly, Floyd Gottfredson. As far as character designs so, Cory Loftis just blows me away, his work is so mesmerizingly good!
We have a soft spot for hand drawn animation, what is your opinion about the future of this art form?
I of course grew up on hand-drawn animation which I love. I was a big Looney Tunes and Hanna-Barberra fan from day one. Chuck Jones was always my favorite director. I don't have much of a opinion on it since I've never worked in the field, but I hope it always stays around.
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 think its great! Its easier to control your own destiny with all these new venues to produce creator-owned work, you just have to be willing to do the tremendous amount of work and take on the responsibility that comes with it. I've heard the crazy stories from friends of mine that took on Kickstarter campaigns, it is a ton of work, you just have to stay on top of things...or you will disappoint people. As far as blogs and your work getting out to larger audiences. I love that! My world changed when i joined Deviant Art in 2007, a huge door was opened to the outside world that I was never part of. The worst thing I see is that your work is much more easily stolen by people. I've had it happen to me and a lot of my friends.
Finally, Where can we see your art online and get in touch with you? How can we buy your creations and support your work?
This is my website ( robbvision.com ), my Tumblr blog ( robbmommaerts.tumblr.com ) and my DeviantArt ( robbvision.deviantart.com ). I fairly recently illustrated a book called "Frostbite" with author Julia Dweck, i also have another book with her in the works. You can find Frostbite on Amazon & Barnes & Noble.com HERE
Thank you Robb :)