We’ve recently spotted local illustrator and artist Walt Viviers when he posted a pic about “Apocalypse Meow!”. Looks pretty amazing so we just had to get in touch and ask Walt more about his work.
Tell us a bit more about yourself and what do you do?
I have often wondered that myself: who am I? I guess I’m just a sort of normal guy, a nerd really. I love reading; fiction, non-fiction, comic books, shampoo instructions, you name it. I also have a thing for movies and old T.V. shows, especially animations and sci-fi, but my real obsession is art, all things art, and the role of artists as well as what motivates them.
What are you currently working on?
Recently I’ve been focusing heavily on illustration, both traditional and digital. Between my commissioned illustration work and a full-time job as a Creative Director, I’ve managed to squeeze in my latest ongoing project: Apocalypse Meow!
What is your project, “Apocalypse Meow!”, about?
It’s all about this mutated cat named AyEm (short for Apocalypse Meow… A.M. ay-em, AyEm) the Zombie Slaying Cat who wonders the Mutated Earth to find answers to the Cataclysmic Apocalypse: an event where the whole Earth was showered in Radio Active Meteorites, mutating everything and everyone into new forms, sometimes amazing (like AyEm) and sometimes horrific like Zombies or Manimals.
What was the inspiration behind this?
The inspiration for all of this has been the epic wave of entertainment that we’ve been enjoying in this age of technology, shows like The Walking Dead (as well as the comic book), RPG’s like Fallout (and Skyrim), Cartoons like Adventure Time and Animated Shows like Attack on Titan (as well as the Manga). Also, the countless brilliant comic books and graphic novels that I consume regularly (support your local comic book shop). All of these franchises are epic and (I feel) don’t compromise on creativity or vision to reach an audience. In the past, I’ve been too heavily focused on making what I think other people would like (as I’m sure a lot of artists or people in general do) but with this, I feel inspired to make stuff that I specifically like. Stuff I want to read or put up on my walls, a huge project that I can nibble on for many years to come.
Cape Town was host to the first ever Cape Town Comic Con – Fan Con 2016 and it was one of the best events to date that ewe had the privilege of attending.
We met Comic Artist Ian Churchill, creator of MARINEMAN and an artist with extensive experience working for names like Image Comics, DC and MARVEL. We asked if we may have him on our blog and he said yes!
Have a look at the interview below!
Please tell us who you are and where you’re from
My name is Ian Churchill and I live in the UK.
Please tell us about what you do
I have been working in the comic book industry for well over twenty years as a creator, primarily as a penciler but more recently as a writer, inker and colourist too.
Recently I met you at Fan Con in Cape Town and you were one of the speakers at the event. What was your favourite experience at Fan Con?
My favourite part of the con was the experience itself! It was genuinely one of the best cons I have attended in the last fifteen years. So many cons these days focus heavily on pencilers turning up and sketching all day without the time to interact properly with readers – Fan Con got the balance just right in my opinion.
I did a bit of sketching, I signed a LOT of comics which is what I enjoy most – chatting to readers and signing their comics – and did a number of panels which I also enjoyed. I got to meet a whole bunch of creators I’d never met before and all in, hands down, the best venue I’ve ever been at – with the added bonus of the ocean right on the doorstep! Magical!
What has been your favourite project to work on in your career?
My creator owned project – MARINEMAN. An underwater character I created when I was eight that I finally got to publish at Image Comics in 2010. I’m currently working on the the follow up to it when I have spare time. In fact part of the initial story line, ‘A Matter of Life and Depth’ is set in Gansbaai, South Africa, which made this particular show even more relevant to me.
Did you have a chance to explore around Cape Town and see some of the sights and try some of the local cuisine?
I did. My wife and I went cage diving with the great white sharks in Gansbaai with Mike Rutzen’s outfit and enjoyed some lovely seafood while we were there. When we returned to Cape Town we spent a fair amount of time enjoying the sights and sounds of the V&A and took a long walk around the windy city. Truly spectacular!
What was your funniest experience in Cape Town?
Posing with the Deadpool dollies cosplay at the show was an unexpected treat!
During your talks on stage at Fan Con, you had a lot of thoughts that you shared and some of your wisdom. One of my favourite moments was when you told us how you made your break into the industry.
Will you please retell that event here for this blog post?
There was a recession on in the UK and I’d just been laid off from my graphic design job so I whipped up a few storytelling pages of a Captain America story I’d cobbled together and set off to a Comic con in London in the early 1990s.
I was watching visiting editors review portfolios but didn’t know who they were and so got into the line of the person who made the most sense to me in his appraisals of other hopefuls. I had a conversation with someone in front of me about how nobody ever gets hired at shows anymore to which he replied “Jim Lee got hired at a show…” – at which point he was up to show his stuff.
He got reviewed and was sent on his way so then it was my turn to step up. I showed the guy my pages and he went a little quiet and thoughtful and asked if I was getting any work. I said no and he said that he might be able to change that for me and did I have any copies of my pages that he could take back to New York with him! It didn’t occur to me that he might need copies so I told him I didn’t have any but I could get some and that I’d be back!
There was a student union building across the street that had a photocopier so I ran over there to rattle off some copies, all the while trying to find a pay phone (this was way before cell phones!) so I could call my brother and tell him what was happening! I got back to the show and had the presence of mind to write my contact details on the reverse of the copies, handed them over and thought no more of it.
It was later while sitting on the wall outside in the sun with a beer when it dawned on me that I hadn’t even asked who the chap was! As chance would have it he walked by me as I was holding that thought so I tapped him on the shoulder and asked who he was to which he replied, “I’m Bob Harras, I’m the editor of the X-Men.”
I was blown away! I had to perform a fake assignment to prove I could hit a deadline, which I did, and then was handed my first professional gig which was a Beast back-up story for an X-Men Annual written by Scott Lobdell. Totally surreal! I’ve had consistent work ever since.
Note from us at Pixelsmithstudios:
This is why it is important to go to conventions – you meet people and you just might land yourself some work.
Will you be coming back?
We’d definitely like to have you back here for future events but most importantly, coming back for a holiday to relax and experience what we have to offer.
If I’m invited back to the show then yes, I’d be back in a heart beat! As for coming back for a holiday, my wife and I were talking about that before we’d even left South Africa!
What motivates you every day to get up and do the awesome work that you do?
The cynical answer would be the same motivation that gets everyone up every day, to earn money to pay the bills. I think that’s something we can all relate to but the fact that I get to draw superheroes all day to pay those bills still has me pinching myself to make sure it’s all real – even after all this time. So, love of creating comics and superheroes would be my real answer and then coming to shows like Fan Con to have readers tell me that they like, enjoy and appreciate what I do – it doesn’t get much better than that!
Do you have any platforms that we can follow you on?
If you’ve been keeping your eyes on the interwebs and the local rumours buzzing the currents, you’ll have seen this project flooding the web by storm and it is going from strength to strength. The story of Kariba is one of the best things to happening on the internet and we had the awesome chance to get an interview with the team behind this wonderful creation.
If you have not heard or seen anything of Kariba yet – watch this trailer and then you can thank us later.
Please tell us about your team, who are the people behind Kariba?
Blue Forest Collective are currently:
Daniel Clarke (director)
Jac Hamman (animation director)
Daniel Snaddon (co-director)
Charl Collocott (Compositor)
and Sarah Scrimgeour (campaign manager)
We all met while working on various projects at Triggerfish Animation Studios in Cape Town!
Please tell us about the legend that inspired the story of Kariba
Sure! During the construction of the Kariba dam, the (largest civil engineering project of it’s time) the people of the area told the engineers that Nyaminyami, the great spirit of the Zambezi would not allow them to complete the dam, as it was separating him from his wife further downstream!To the surprise of the engineers, a freak flood took out the dam when it was nearing completion!
To the surprise of the engineers, a freak flood took out the dam when it was nearing completion!
When experts were called in, they assured the engineers that this was a once in 1000 year event and that they could start building again with confidence. But the following year, another flood destroyed the wall again!
When did you start working on this project?
Dan Clarke started originating the concept back in early 2013 doing concept art.
We started work on the trailer in October 2014.
Which team member drinks the most coffee?
Metro the cat. He has a serious problem.
Please tell us what you are aiming for with Kariba regarding your transmedia goal of a feature film & graphic novel
[Editor Neal: Why are you choosing this route?]
Our goal is to make a really beautiful 2D animated feature film. Though we’re excited about the graphic novel and want it to stand on its own as a great book, the goal is definitely the movie!
We’re choosing this route in order to maintain creative control, and to make sure we start the movie with a solid story foundation.
You recently launched a Kickstarter campaign – where can we go donate and contribute to the making of Kariba?
Yes! We’re actually sitting at 150% of our goal right now so we are thrilled with the response!
People who’d like to pre-order the book (we still have a couple of super fancy signed limited edition hardcovers left!) can go to:
Do you have any thoughts or words of wisdom that you want to share?
This is for any artists who would like to follow in your footsteps and make a story of their own? OR Do you have any thoughts or advice for upcoming producers looking to get their stories produced?
Do what you love, not only what you think people are going to like/buy! Find good collaborators, and break up your big audacious dreams into small achievable goals, and of course the most important part is to just do them!
Please tell us about yourself – who you are and what you are currently doing.
My name is Lynton Levengood, I’m 30 years old, a husband, concept artist, illustrator and story teller. I am currently Art Director at Sunrise Animation Studios. So my current responsibilities involve producing artwork and overseeing artwork created by an amazingly talented team of artists to ensure it fits with the vision the director has for the productions the studio is working on. It’s an great pleasure and privilege. When I’m not at work I’m busy being a husband to my wife Lizelle and looking after our two cats Flash and Teddy. Also producing artwork for my own intellectual properties “themoderndragon.com“. Which is my blog where I explore the lives of the worlds remaining dragons, and Draconis comic, which is a collaboration between my friend Friedl Jooste (writer) and myself (illustrator).
How did you start out in your career?
I studied at The Animation School and started working at Character Matters Animation as an animator in 2007 and it took 3 years for me to figure out concept art was all I wanted to do. I started on my journey to a concept art career in 2010. That was when I said to myself, I want to do concept art only and get paid for it, but my skills were not there yet. I started off by just creating art in my own time, anything I wanted really: alien worlds, fan art etc. and posting it on sites like Deviant Art and CG society. Then I started personal studies to work on my weak areas, and to be honest I’m still doing that because the more I learn and study other artists, the more I’m aware of my weak areas.
What has been the biggest obstacle for you to overcome in your career as an artist?
I was in the animation industry already and I was doing a bit of everything, modeling, texturing and even concept art but the expectation was that I can’t JUST do that. Which was frustrating because that was where my heart was at. It’s hard to excel at something when you are being prevented from specializing. I feel like I’ve only just made that leap in the last year, but time will tell if I can remain exclusively in concept art. That said, NONE of the time I spent doing the other facets of the 3D pipeline was wasted. It allows me to know what goes into the realization of turning 2D into 3D and hopefully design in a way that is more helpful to the artists that follow after me and realize those concepts. As an Art Director it helps me to give feedback that is less vague as well. So at least in my case the obstacles I faced really ended up helping me.
Copyright Triggerfish Animation Studios
What is your daily routine for staying inspired?
(Editor:Kick dust particles faster than Bruce Lee, massage your temples until thunderstorms form in the Kalahari?)
Ha ha, I haven’t really thought of that much before. I guess I look at other artists doing amazing things in illustration, film and games and I suffer from FOMO so I keep pushing on my own things! Something that has also helped me stay inspired or “happily creating” (might be another way of saying it) is to change mediums, not working exclusively in digital format but also painting in water color and acrylic or just sketching. Sometimes your not bored of creating art but bored of using the same method again and again. That’s something I learned from my friend Lorraine Alverez Pozen and it has worked quite well.
What do you find is the best part of your day job?
Aside from the joy of creating pretty pictures for the productions I work on, I would have to say working with other talented artists. Collaborating with other artists is the best! It stretches me, I learn all the time.
Copyright: Lynton Levengood
Who is your all time favorite artist?
John Howe who art directed and produced much of the concept art for the Lord Of The Rings and Hobbit films would have to take that spot.
What is your favorite food?
Chicken schnitzel! You can’t get it wrong.
You do the Modern Dragon Blog and sell beautiful art pieces of your dragons that remind us so much about cats. Please tell us where you draw your inspiration from for all the images that have us in stitches from laughter?
I draw inspiration from mythology, cryptozoology, history and modern day life. Of course cats and dogs too! Because they are such characters already you can read more about the Modern Dragon here: http://www.themoderndragon.com
You are an established artist and well-known figure here in South Africa – please tell us about how you keep your presence alive and how you ensure people know about your creations?
I don’t think of myself that way. I keep my presence alive by creating art and sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, my blog, Instagram, Artstation, Behance, Deviant Art, CG Society and any other place that will let me exhibit my art. Thankfully I have amazing people who follow my work and share it too! I’m sure there are people who do this aspect better than me but so far that is what I have been doing. I’m looking into expanding into other sites soon, so it never ends.
What is your favorite drink in the mornings? We like coffee – strong coffee.
Nespresso for the win! Best Christmas present ever!
Copyright: Triggerfish Animation Studios
You and Friedl Jooste are the creators of Draconis Comic. Please tell us about how this wonderful art came into existence?
Friedl and I clicked creatively when I started working with him in 2007 at Character Matters. He always gave good and honest input into ideas and valued my input into ideas he was working on. We honestly would end up just laughing all the time at gags and stories we worked on for fun, we still do. Draconis was a story that I wanted to tell visually and had the initial idea of telling a story that had dragons as main characters, sentient and in control of their own politics. I asked Friedl if he would be willing to write on it and collaborate and he was excited to do so. He has control of the writing but we developed the world and characters together. Of course I illustrated it and the end result was the comic.
Is there anything you want to say to upstart artists trying to make their break into the industry?
Steel yourself for a long journey and even then realize in life there are no guarantees. But I believe with commitment, you can find a way through to doing more of what you want and less of what frustrates you. Be patient and don’t quit your day job, just take control of your brand. No one is going to give you this creative life you want to live. You have to just do it, be the guy or girl with a sketchbook everywhere you go, work at your art every day, make art and show it to people. Sooner or later someone will like it. Be humble and learn from others. try a new medium as well. Most important of all is be nice to work with. Make peoples days better for having worked with you.
Do you play any console or PC Games and if so, which games are your favorite?
Really! How dare you ask! Of course I only work all the time and don’t waste hundreds of hours playing Skyrim… wife clears throat behind me. Ok so maybe Skyrim is my guilty pleasure.
Do you have any words of wisdom for students currently building a skill set to make their break into the industry? (these students may or may not be studying online instead of at an institute)
Look at what your industry requires most and ask if your portfolio reflects that, or ask an industry professional to critique your portfolio if you struggle with that. For instance, the greatest need out there in games and app games etc is prop design so if you produce consistent good art and use that as a portfolio you could pick up work faster than focusing on characters or environments which have a much higher level of competition. The good news is that doing so will allow you to double up on the purpose of your work by combining material and light studies with creating portfolio content.Don’t shun powerful tools that can help you. If you struggle with perspective take on learning something like Epic’s carapace art tool or use Google sketchup and build your models from that to get perspective right in an image. If photobashing helps you achieve a better result then experiment with it and own it. Just use images that are free or you own.In concept don’t shun powerful tools that can help you. If you struggle with perspective take on learning something like Epic’s carapace art tool or use Google
In concept, don’t shun powerful tools that can help you. If you struggle with perspective take on learning something like Epic’s carapace art tool or use Google sketchup and build your models from that to get perspective right in an image. If photobashing helps you achieve a better result then experiment with it and own it. Just use images that are free or you own. In concept art all that matters is the final result and getting it done faster and better than the next guy. So get out of the mindset of this or that is “cheating”. Do what you need to do to get the best result in your images, all those things are tools and the effectiveness with which you use them will be limited by your knowledge of the fundamentals.
Jason is a VFX Artist working for RIOT…best job ever right? Yeah, we were geeking when he agreed to the interview and we jumped right in with our questions. Not only is Jason working for RIOT but he has also worked on many other prodigious projects and continuously strives to learn as much as he can in his field. Have a look at his amazing effects reel below and his advice at the end of the interview for aspiring animators that are just starting out.
When did you start your career and where?
I started back in 2007 when I was a TA for my animation professor, Ryan Woodward, scanning images, and lending a hand with a few of his projects (mostly very non-artistic stuff). That led to my first small studio job later that year.
Effects Animation – Reel 2014
What made you decide that you want to be in this field?
I guess I never wanted anything else. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to make cartoons and games.
What do you enjoy most about your career?
I love that every day is a new challenge, and there’s always something more I’ve never tried.
What do you enjoy most about working with the people in your career?
I feel at home in the entertainment industry. It’s a pretty small industry, or at least it feels small, because so many people have come from so many different studios. We’re all a bit crazy, and I like that. You’ve got to keep it fresh and spontaneous in entertainment, or your work gets stale pretty quick.
What was your favorite project thus far?
Heartseeker Varus – His vfx are so sparkly!
Do you drink a lot of coffee? If so, how many cups a day?
No coffee for me. Just a green drink every morning. Mashed up bean sprouts and other fibrous veggies. Yum!
What are the biggest factors in your career that motivate you to keep on doing what you do?
I always want more. I want more skills, more experience, and more fun doing what I love. I guess it’s simply a part of my personality, and I just do my best to give myself what I want, rather than stifle the burning drive that keep bubbling up.
Tell us more about the amazing short animation your directed, “Alight”.
Alight was an idea that evolved over a couple of years. I was inspired by the Firebird Suite in Fantasia 2000, and Michelle Gagne’s Prelude to Eden. Both of these animated shorts used visual effects to tell a story. I loved that idea, and wanted to really put the effects front-and-center, as characters.
In short, Alight has everything I personally enjoy in entertainment: flashy effects, adorable characters, and though-provoking themes.
A few of us students at Brigham Young University got this thing done in about 2 semester’s worth of work, spread out over 3 years.
How do you kickstart your creativity, do you have a ritual?
lol. I wish there was something I could dependably do to kickstart myself every day. Unfortunately, the creativity comes and goes. I suppose my ‘ritual’ would be staring at the screen, sweating blood until something happens.
What would you say is the biggest success you have had in your career thus far?
My biggest career success came the moment I realized I was doing what I loved every day. That came with my first studio job. My biggest personal success: being happily married to my wife after 8 years. ( Editor: You go guy! )
What is the funniest moment you have had in your career?
One day I accidentally checked-out all the files in League of Legends, when what I meant to do was update to the latest revision of all the files. That meant I was preventing anyone else from submitting their work to the server. Oops. It took a few hours to undo the mistake, but eventually, I unblocked the entire production team.
How did you start at Riot Games?
Linked-in sends out regular job openings. I saw a position at Riot, applied, and they got back to me. 4 months later, me and my wife made the move from Utah to California.
League of Legends VFX Reel – Year 1
What other projects have you worked on that has had a big impact on your career?
Animal Jam was a fantastic project to work on. It’s an online game for kids. That’s where I developed a lot of my style and work process for 2D effects.
What is the highlight of your day in the workplace?
The highlight is when I get to sit back and watch an effect I made play over and over again, and I know it looks how I want it to… except for that one last little tweak…. then another….
What is the environment like at Riot Games for you?
It’s a fantastic work environment. The structure is horizontal, meaning we don’t have “higher ups” telling us how to do what we do. We’re given a lot of freedom as a team and as individuals, which means a lot of responsibility. If you mess something up, you can’t blame anyone but yourself. But on the other hand, how much you succeed is entirely up to you, and nobody else.
Dreamgiver was also another spectacular short you worked on, tell us more about it?
Tyler was a very visionary director to work with. He knew exactly what he wanted in every shot. It was cool seeing him work, and then watching the whole thing come together.
Are there any colleagues you want to give a shout out to?
So many people, so little space! All the guys I worked with on Animal Jam were really cool dudes. One of them, Peter Anderson, is doing some indie game projects under his indie company, Califer Games. Peter is full of life. I really enjoyed sitting next to him. He kept work fun and exciting every day. At Riot, everyone is a rock star. I get to sit by Brian Thompson and Adam Kupratis, two exceptional vfx artists. Those two guys, along with the rest of the vfx team, have really helped me level up since starting at Riot. They’re fantastic mentors.
What was the best day you’ve had at work?
Best day ever? That’s a toughie. It’s always super satisfying seeing something I worked on go out to players, and reading their comments on the forums. I really get a kick out of other people enjoying something I created.
Are there any fond memories you have from your first day and where?
I remember on the first Friday at Riot Games, the team made me feel really welcome. We all went out to a sunny picnic table in the courtyard (having just come from snowy Utah in the winter) and we just chatted about how our week was. It was so casual and relaxed, I just felt like I was instantly a part of the team. It was great.
Do you plan on expanding your skill set any further?
Absolutely. I’m always hatching plans and ideas of what I want to try out next (sometimes to my own detriment). I get pretty distracted pretty easy. Honestly, focusing on the task at hand is more my issue than anything.
If you could say anything that you want to aspiring animators that are just starting out and pursuing a career in animation, what would you say to them?
This isn’t an industry of practicality. If you want the safe route, don’t go into entertainment. If you’re going for a job in TV, film, or games, go all in. Dedicate yourself to developing your skills. Don’t hold back, putting half your time into a “safety net” career option. That isn’t to say don’t diversify within the industry (being technical AND artistic is actually really smart).
The industry doesn’t reward people who do the bare minimum. You’ve gotta be passionate, and you’ve got to put overtime into your portfolio if you want a shot. Even at art school, if you do just the required assignments, your competition will excel above and beyond you, because they went above and beyond. Sure, it’s competitive, but that shouldn’t be a problem for someone who is really excited and passionate about doing the work. It’s so rewarding. It’s so worth it. Just keep going and never stop. Then you won’t have any regrets.
If you would like to contact Jason you can use the following information:
Jeffrey Brown has his fingers in all the pies and he’s extremely talented to boot. One of his books which really caught our attention was his series called “Darth Vader and Son” which tackles the everyday conversations and happenings between father and son, but Darth Vader style.
-Vader’s Little Princess by Jeffrey Brown
What surprised us even more was his new series “Vader’s Little Princess” which looks just as promising and entertaining as the previous series. We can’t wait to get our hands on both books! Without further ado, we give you our honorable mention interview with the legendary and talented Jeffrey Brown.