Monday, February 20, 2012

Sir Andrew Kolb Knight Illustrator Extraordinaire Interview

Sir Andrew Kolb is a man of valor and decency among knights for he has thrashed and beaten to death many an annoying minstrel. Just partake of his work on his site kolb is neat to behold his illustrations of comical joy and satire, you dogs! He took time out of beheading many a minstrel on Minstrel Beheading Day for an interview.

Dear Sir Andrew,

Jonathan: Why art thou so prolific on the Internet? I travel away to far off blogs and sites and see new work of yours being peddled and praised all over the web. Are you working full time somewhere or making it as a full time illustrator? How hard is it?

Andrew Kolb: Ha, I'm honored but I'm hardly prolific at the Internet. After I watch something like this I realize I have a long way to go before I've even scratched the surface of internetting. Well my structure is a pretty cool one (for me at least). I'm teaching illustration part time and that is 2 days a week (plus lesson planning, marking, and sifting through emails about what is being served for lunch that week). The rest of the time I'm a freelance illustrator. I consider myself crazy lucky because they fit really well for me. The teaching offers a bit of structure, consistency, and social interaction to balance the freelancer's life. After a couple of days of working alone in an art cave, it's great to interact with such spirited creatives. As for the difficulty, I suppose it's what you make it. There are times when I'm working many weeks worth of hours all in a couple of days, but then it offsets times when it's quiet and I can catch up on admin stuff. It can be a crazy amount of work (from the view of what you need to accomplish AND in managing your flow) but at the end of the day there are very few jobs involving bears, witches, vikings, and glowing dogs. It comes with the territory.

 What nerdy things are you into? Going through you work you see a love of video games, music, movies and old-school illustrations.

Nerdy things, eh? Well I suppose the list is based on what the general populace dictates as "nerdy". I would maybe classify myself as a geek if I had to, but for the sake of simplicity, the shortlist of my current "nerdy" interests are basically what you listed, with the addition of Doctor Who. I like toys (old tin toys, contemporary vinyls, anything fun) as well as collecting old children's books, so maybe those are nerdy too? Is this even answering anything? Goodness. Oh! I'd also like to get into Dungeons and Dragons. I sat in on a session once and maybe it was just the group, but it had never been presented to me as "collaborative storytelling" before and that's something I could definitely get behind.

Your art to me resembles a lot 1950's marketing and toys and the work of Mary Blair (It's a Small World/Disney). Were these influences or what were your influences for your style?

Well thanks! I'm working on a series right now that merges It's a Small World with Street Fighter, so that's probably the closest I'll get to appropriating Blair's work, but in general she is a huge influence. Aside from her there are heaps of great illustrators (both past and present) that I thoroughly enjoy. The Provensens were also a great duo and their contemporary are the epically cool Becky and Frank of Tiny Kitten Teeth fame!

What makes you want to do a piece? Do you have multiple ideas or work slowly on one until it's perfect?

Oh that's a good question! Frig what do I do? Well I usually get on board with a piece based on its subject matter. Whether it's a themed show or an article's topic, it's easiest for me to commit when there's plenty of potential (though it's so subjective that I can't even really say that's the definitive reasoning). As for ideas, I'll usually work up a pile of super rough ideas. It's the stuff that immediately comes to mind and very rarely ends up being the finished work. There's usually a lull between this concept stage and getting the idea that clicks. Based on deadlines this lull can be anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of weeks. But once I've got that idea I run with it because when it "clicks" I mean that I can see the basic composition, colour, and so on.

How do you do your work? I mean what programs you use and tools or do you simply draw it out?

My process is a little more consistent than the conceptual side of things. I always work up roughs, as well as the refined images, with pencil on paper first. I have a tablet that I use once I've nailed the basic structure of the image, but I never work up my ideas straight on the computer, it just doesn't work for me. After I scan in my line drawings I work on the imagery in Photoshop using my handy dandy tablet. It took me a while to get used to drawing in one place and looking at another, but it's getting more natural with each assignment. So I redraw all of my work on separate layers (I like to keep it all veeeeeeeeery organised) and then work with brushes, textures I've scanned, or even line work that I ink then scan into the finished image. I suppose then it's not the same every time, but drawing by hand, scanning, drawing on the tablet, then adding personal touches is my go to method.

What is your process while creating, artist Kevin Tong has X-Files playing in the background, hmm,  he might have moved on to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine or do you say listen to music? I'm listening to the Sword and Sorcery LP while writing this. I also ask do you stoically look to the stars at night or trap yourself somewhere to get stuff done?

So process separate from the actual drawing bits? Hmmm. Well I can't have TV on because I'd get too distracted. It's usually music or complete silence. Sometimes I find I can't concentrate even with music on, so I'll just work with only thoughts and focus to drive me. Other times, like with themed gigs (there are a couple of Zelda prints I'm referring to) where I put on the game's soundtrack and let it just fuel the creativity. With that game particularly, I find that listening to the album reminds me of memories and it pushes my concepts further. I had a similarly "themed" playlist for when I work on the 33.3 Art Show album covers. First it was Beach Boys (for the Pet Sounds interpretation) then it was Sleigh Bells for their Treats cover. So yeah it's usually music or quiet. Although I say that and I admit that I've gotten into podcasts as of late. There's something about listening to others talk about work, science, art, entertainment, and so on that really helps me get through the creative slumps.

 How'd you get involved with IAM8BIT? The Giant Swap Cards which rocked Super IAM8BIT must have been a heavy undertaking and I might be wrong, but weren't they finished just shortly before the show?

Man the IAM8BIT show was a dream come true! I'd followed their previous shows and always loved the work. So I was walking to my car and remember checking my phone (which, in a school parking lot, is not safe) and seeing I got an email from Jon Gibson (the big wig behind it all) asking me to contribute! It no joke stopped me where I was (which again, was not safe given my location). Anyways, I worked on those cards very early on and then continued to refine right up until the show. Based on the new location they worked up it took a bit of time to figure out the best way to install it, so in a way it was finished well ahead of time and in a way you're right, they just wrapped up printing a day or two before the launch. But man I'm glad you liked it!

What's your favorite video game of all time and what are you currently playing?

Of all time, yeah? Well I was a kid who rarely played through single player more than once or twice before swapping with friends, and I say that because it helps defend my statement that I really do remember the feeling while playing Ocarina of Time for the first time. My first go through was this sensation that I really was a part of something epic, something vast. Then a couple of months later I remember wanting to fight Gohma again so I started another game. I planned on beating the first boss, but then getting hooked a second time. From a kid who was always swapping and sharing games, this was the first time I played through the game twice (and countless times more) as if it was my first try. I've had discussions about A Link to the Past versus Ocarina of Time, but to me it's a very personal choice and one without a "right" answer. OoT just did for me what I wanted and needed even though I didn't know it. Phew. Sorry about that. There are other games that I hold dear to my heart. Super Metroid was a game that I missed the first time around, but upon my first experience was one that hit all the beats of what it tried to do. I felt alone, I felt excitement at truly discovering new areas (no hand holding required) and felt the scope of some of those boss battles. It's a very close second, but so good that it still deserves to be mentioned.
As for what I'm playing right now, I just bought a Wii (I kinda skipped this generation of consoles until now) and am powering through a bunch of the titles. I finished the latest Zelda and am now back to the Metroid Prime trilogy. I suppose this sounds like I only like those two properties, but I promise I'm diverse.

Is there any upcoming shows or projects your excited about?

Oh yeah! Some haven't been announced yet but one I'm super stoked about is the Triforce Tribute extravaganza! The super cool Jolby and Always with Honor are behind it and from the previews that are pouring in, it's going to be epic!

What do you want from your life right now?

Hmmm. Rather existential? On one hand I'm the sort to be happy with what I have and try to make the most of what I've got to work with. On the other I like to think I'm always trying to push myself. I guess I'd like to be a bit stronger? I'm not looking to be the Hulk, but maybe a bit more of a Spider-Man? I'm part of a dodgeball league and my dodging is fine but I can't throw like half the guys on my team. Sorry, was it supposed to be art/business related? Cause I'm going to stick with slightly more upper body strength. Oh and I want an adult version of those shoes with wheels in them that kids were super big on a few years back.

Los Angeles, favorite place?

Man I'll admit that I was only in town for a few days for the show and that's my exposure to LA. I couldn't even name it, but every morning I stopped at a bakery by the place I was staying at and bought an inappropriate amount of cookies, desserts, and pastries to snack on while I was visiting people and seeing sites and so on. It was the best way to start my day.

Okay so it was bugging me and I Google mapped the heck out of that. It was called Gourmet LA Bakery on South Broadway near 6th. I wish I could tell you other bakeries to compare it to, but that's all I got and I had no complaints about these sprinkle cookies that were round. Dang they were good.