Welcome to my monthly interview feature! I’m so excited to be interviewing all the fabulous artists, illustrators and designers I’ve meet over the years (both personally and virtually!) and sharing their artwork and experiences here on Bird Meets Worm. Look for a new interview on the first Tuesday of every month.
This month I’m thrilled to be catching up with the very talented Illustrator, Cale Atkinson. Cale is a fellow artist with Tugeau2 Art Reps and I am a huge fan! Cale is an illustrator/writer/animator currently residing in Kelowna Canada. Believing in tea more than sleep, Cale is constantly working on numerous projects. His work can be found in children’s books, animated shorts, television, and games. You can view more of his artwork here!
|Cale's superstar picture book, To the Sea!|
Q: Your career has been very self-directed from foregoing a traditional art/film education to moving back and forth from in-house studio work to freelancing. Dish with us about your boldest career choices and what following your dreams means to you?
A: I’m not sure what my boldest choices are along the way, but I do think an important aspect of my career thus far has been not shying away from making changes and taking on new challenges. This has meant taking risks, leaving reliable jobs, and a lot of work!
Ever since I was a kid I’ve always been quite driven and determined to create/tell stories in some way for my job/career/life. The things I’ve wanted to accomplish seem to be ever changing and growing (from comic strip artist to comic artist, filmmaker, television show creator, animator, picture book author/illustrator...) No matter how unprepared, unskilled or inexperienced I am, I always go after each new goal with all my might. I suppose many of my choices have been kind of ‘bold’, though you could also probably call them stubborn or naive. :)
I believe following your dreams means you love/want/believe-in something so much that you are willing to push, work and face your fears to make it a reality, no matter how many people tell you no.
|How lovely to visit Venice with a trio of monster friends!|
Q: Comics and cartoons have played a huge role in shaping you into the fabulous Illustrator you are. Give us the scoop on your biggest comic and cartoon influences from both childhood and today.
A: Whewph, it’s always hard naming influences. Growing up my biggest influences would have to be The Simpsons, Gary Larson, Sergio Aragones, Ben Edlund (creator of The Tick), Disney, Don Bluth, George Lucas, Spielberg…
Today there is such a wealth of inspiration at our fingertips on the internet it makes it hard single out influential modern artists, there would be far too many to try and name here. Most of the old illustration/animation greats are still a big source in inspiration to me as well, such as Eyvind Earle, Mary Blair, Martin & Alice Provensen, Charley Harper, Ward Kimball…I’d say we are living in a great time for animation in both feature length and television. I love what Laika is producing and am so inspired by their work. I am also so happy cartoons like adventure time, gravity falls and over the garden wall are being made. Inspiration abound!
|Don'tcha just LOVE this little guy?!|
Q: I simply adore your illustration series of animal professionals in their workspaces!! Tell us every little thing about how these pieces came to be from idea to sketch to finished series.
A: Thanks so much! They are so fun to do! I love working on illustrations that you can fill up with little details that help tell a narrative. One random day doodling or writing, I thought it would be really fun to do a series of animals as professors, where as you see them at their cluttery busy desk, and can tell what they study through the details around them. I brainstormed a bunch of different animals (with the help of some of my friends!) and then picked the first ones I was excited to do. As far as process is pretty much went from a somewhat clean sketch, to being scanned in and all painted in Photoshop :)
|Quiet froggie friend!|
Q: In animation, the process is all about consistency and conformity. In what ways in your personal and contract work do you break out of this to define your artwork as uniquely you?
A: Tough question! I’m super lucky to be in a position now where I get to create the style/look of most the things I work on. I think making time to do your own personal work is SUPER important. It is completely in my personal work where I spent time experimenting, playing with designs and finding what appeals to me most, which in turn is where I’ve developed the look of my art. When working on projects for clients (no matter if for animation or illustration) I think it’s hard to experiment or try new things as you want to make sure the client will like it, so generally, you play it more safe. I would say your personal art is like your testing ground, and if the tests are a success it can lead to and drive your contract/paid work. Pretty much 99.9% of all my best opportunities have come from personal work/projects I decided to do for fun, and this is still the case now. I think artwork that is uniquely you shines through best when there is no specific reason you are doing it, aside from the challenge, fun and love of it.
|Wishing on a star for forest friends!|
Q: With your background in both children's publishing and animation, you are a master of visual storytelling. What advise would you give fellow illustrators about how to 1) set the tone/mood of a story 2) establish the setting of the story and 3) create drama/action/tension.
A: Definitely not a master! More of a fake-it-until-one-day-I-make-it kinda guy :)
1 Know the mood/feeling you want your story or image to have. If I don’t know that feeling in my head before starting, it makes it 1000 times harder for me to get the image out. I think if you want an image or story to have feeling, you need to feel it. After you got that then you can play with layout, colours, design and all the art elements to help try and push that feeling/mood as much as you can.
2 I think the setting of your story has to come from the story itself. A big help if you only have a vague idea is research! Use that beast known as the internet to get ideas of what would be in such settings or if possible, check out similar settings in real life and take pics/notes!
3 Experiment in the early stages with simple small thumbnail drawings. Play with blocking in different layout ideas and trying different colour combinations at a very top level rough to try and find the feel you’re going for. Thumbnails are a perfect process for trying many, many, many ideas and not getting consumed in details or spending too much time on any specific one.
Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.
A: Drinking tea and answering these questions on the couch is a pretty great way to spend this one. Otherwise I would say being somewhere warm, working on an exciting project/story, going for a swim and then checking out a new movie in the theatres :)
Awww, shucks! Thanks so much for catching up with us here at Bird Meets Worm, Cale!!