|Photo by Jen and Chris Creed|
I want to introduce you to a great artist and friend, Andy Musser. His whimsical style easily translates into illustration. Andy has done animation work for Yahoo, Microsoft and Xbox Live through Run Studios. He has even written his own children's book. In his free time plays the ukulele and has recorded an EP with his sister, Amy, who is a children's librarian and a friend of this blog.
This holiday season, I asked Andy if he had time between creating and showing his own work to do a little custom work for me and, boy, did he ever come through! I was lucky and very proud to present a really great piece of work to my fella for Valentine's Day of characters based on our nicknames for each other.
|One of Andy's artist cards sits to the left of my gift|
When did you decide that illustration was how to wanted to make your way in the world?
When I was growing up I drew a lot and was always building something crafty. I drew a lot of comics, made puppet shows, and wore sweat pants all the time; so not much has changed. My parents were very supportive of all my endeavors and made sure I always had a supply of paper, cardboard, toilet paper rolls...whatever I needed. In my teens, I started to get into computer animation and decided that is what I wanted to study in college. But once I was in school, I realized what interested me the most about animated films was the story and the pre-production art. When I boiled it down, I essentially wanted to make picture books. My school had an illustration program that allowed me to emphasize in Children's Book Illustration, so I really lucked out.
Tell us about your process, please.
My process varies from project to project, but I always start the same way. Since illustration is all about communicating an idea, I spend a lot of time thinking about what I'm trying to communicate and how to simplify it. Then I sketch as much as I can while imagining the most interesting way to show the idea. Research is essential and I try to view/experience as much as time will allow so that I can really understand my subject matter. Once I get a good idea of where I'm going with the project, I usually do several thumbnail sketches. From those thumbnails, I'll pick one and do a final sketch. In-between, I'll do a lot of little sketches to figure out how to draw elements and characters. When I'm painting, I always do small color sketches to quickly brainstorm good combinations. If I've done all this preliminary work right, then the final illustration gets completed relatively quickly. Since I've already made all the hard decisions, it's more a matter of putting the paint down and putting in the details.
What is your favorite part of a project?
Because I'm a very lazy person, I'd have to say the very beginning and the very end. At the beginning, it's fun because there aren't any constraints yet and I get to daydream and draw all sorts of crazy ideas. The very end is fun because all the hard work has been done and I can just focus on making the final illustration.
What do you like to snack on when you work?
Oh man, I love to snack when I work! Right now, I'm really into tea and brownies, it's the best combo!
What is your proudest achievement so far?
The other day some kids asked me to draw a cyclops pig-boy! I'm pretty proud of that.
How do you break through creative blocks?
Usually by taking breaks and doing something completely different. That can be the hardest thing to do, especially on a deadline, but I've learned that you can't break a creative block by beating your head against it. Also, having a hobby, job, or regular activity that gives me inspiration and new ideas is really important.
What are you working now?
As a personal project, I'm working a wordless picture book. It's about a boy waiting for a seed to grow and the magical characters that visit his garden at night. I'm really excited about it and I'm looking for the best way to share it with people.
I've also started volunteering at the 826 Greenwood Space Travel SupplyCo., a really cool non-profit writing and tutoring center for kids 6-18. I've been helping with this program where a classroom of kids get to write a short children's book together. I'm part of a big crew of volunteers, some days I work as the illustrator and I draw whatever kooky ideas the kids come up with. That is where I drew the cyclops pig-boy. The kids were asked to come up with characters and one boy just threw that down. It was awesome! I also help them write their endings and draw illustrations. It's so great to get to talk with kids about time traveling dinosaurs and cyclops pig-boys. They come up with the best ideas.
If you live in the Seattle area, go see his current show at Monster Art and Clothing, like him on Facebook, join him on Google, and follow him on his blog!