Friday, August 12, 2011



Brett Bean Interview

Tell me a little bit about yourself, about your life? Where did you go to school, and what classes did you study? What helped prepare you to become the artist that you are today?

Born 10 years after my brother I was the “accident.” Grew up in and around Seattle Washington where I only had enough money to go to a local 3D animation school and not a major art school in California like I desperately wanted to at the time. I made the most of the experience and got work as a 3D environment artist. After working at Sony for years I asked if I could break up my time between visual development and 3D work. They said no, they didn’t want to lose me as a 3D asset. I always wanted to be a character designer so I told them I had to quit. They actually thought I was bluffing and offered me a lot of money to stay, way more than I’d ever seen. It was the scariest/best decision ever that, after only 2 months of marriage, my wife and I packed up and moved to California so I could take art classes at Gnomon school of visual FX. With no real money I had to work at a GameStop selling my own games I had just made to people and intern at the school. I started the entire process over again and this time I did it ON PURPOSE. But out of all things to prepare me for my career and subsequent choices, that moment was the most influential. Hard work and diligence will pay off for me. Follow the passion and the dream.

How do you go about designing, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?

Design wise I try to have stages. Given the character I start just exploring shapes and silhouettes out of my own head and experience. I use all the random brain droppings from film, TV, puppets, music, fashion, and anything else stored inside until I feel satisfied that I’m starting to fix the problem. I then go to the phase of using reference. (If I have no prior knowledge of the character or archetype I’ll do the reference stage first.) This is usually backwards from what I was taught but I like to explore my own headspace first if I can. After those two stages I may look at a few of my favorite artists and their shapes very quickly for about 2 minutes and then put it away and never look at it again for the project. I do this because I find other ideas and inspirations when I look at it, but when I put it aside quickly the brain can’t memorize enough of that information to “copy”. It’s just hints of ideas that my brain fills in the holes and makes something unique and fresh.

As for what goes on in my head, here’s a typical dialogue:
Man, who is this guy really? How would they handle themselves, what’s the personality? This shape feels like how he is. I need more coffee. I bet he’d stand like this….. or carry the weight like this? Ugh, I need a new pencil sharpener. Remember to draw verbs not nouns, thank you Walt Stanchfield. Better break up that dead space with something. Ha, that’s silly. Oh I better draw that idea out real quick. OK, back to this one. Hmm, I like that nose. He’s not hunched enough. Man I love this……

What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work with?

My typical day goes like this: Coffee, Email catch up, drawing warm ups or speed painting, then starting in on the freelance I have for the day. My lunch break consists of me walking down to my local coffee shop and observing/drawing people as they walk by or sit. This is my favorite moment as its all free form, no rules, no agendas, just pure fun. This time also affords me the luxury of re-thinking some of the design ideas or problems I am currently engaged in with clients. Then, back to the home office to finish up the day’s work and putting out any fires clients may have. Volleyball and stress relief soon follows. This is the life I have as of now as a freelancer. I’ve been working in studios over the last 5 years and am looking for the right fit. So my typical day will change vastly after I find the right job at a studio. As for the people I work with it will range from Art Directors, writers, producers, and directors. It’s all different people given the property and the way their pipeline is set up.

What are some of the things that you have worked on?

Countless pitches all in development that I can’t speak of but some of the finished projects are DnD Gamma Worlds, Syphon Filter, Socom US Navy Seals, Marvel Super Hero Squad Online, Pocket Legends, Blackstar, Various card games like Poo, Nuts, and Farmageddon. Brand studio Press just published my last art book as well.

Is there a design you have done that you are most happy with?

I have a hard time with that. I am truly happy and blessed with my overall trajectory and career. One design has never and will never define me or make me reach that pinnacle moment so I can’t really choose one. I am very happy to work with such awesome people and get to learn from them all the time. I’ll probably be at my happiest when I take that last breath and look over my whole career I think.

What projects are you working on now? (if you can tell us)

A lot of stuff in development. I am making a few Iphone projects and just finished an MMO project. I am working on a couple original IP’s. One is in a graphic novel form starring Fil and Mantis as well as It’s a storyline I am slowly divulging to the audience through the main character. You can pick up pieces of the world through her blog posts. I am putting it together for a pitch and have lots of story decisions already mapped out. This one is my experiment as the story is in pieces and out of context on purpose. Other than that, I’m working on the next sketchbook and some art prints.

Who are some of your favorite artists out there?

Moebius, Frank Frezetta, Claire Wendling, Jim Henson, Juanjo Guarnido, NC Wyeth, Dice Tsutsumi, Michel Gagne, Heinrich Kley, Glen Keane, Thomas Von Klummant, Nico Marlet, Florian Satzinger. I can go on and on but this will get too long.

Could you talk about your process in coloring your art, as well as the types of tools or media that you use?

I am what I like to call an improv artist. I rarely do the same thing twice in the same way. I have about 3 paintbrushes in Photoshop that I frequently use but my start to finish process is always different. Some days it will be quick sketches in Photoshop then straight to color. Sometimes it will be clean line art on multiply and painting underneath and some days it will be Photoshop, printed out at 10% opacity, real ink, then back to Photoshop. I think I end up doing this because I teach character Design and I want to give all my students a broad range so they can figure out what type of artist they want to become. I sketch silhouettes in Sketchbook Pro sometimes but all of my observation studies are brown paper, Kuretake brush pens and prismacolors. I just bought Painter so that’s my next program to get into.

What part of designing is most fun and easy, and what is most difficult?

The part of the design which is easiest and by far most fun is the idea creation stage, all the little ideas and things that add flavor to a regular design. At that stage you are just trying to find the railways and it’s such a joy to just create and find how far to push something until it’s “not right”. Most design work is meant to be thrown out, you’re just finding the right path and it takes a bit. Everything after that stage is great too but it’s not as ambitious or playful as those first couple of stages of development. As for the difficult part, it’s not on the art side of things but by and large, politics at work is by far the most difficult for me. I dislike that sort of behavior and art for me is creating an atmosphere of camaraderie and fun. Ugh, just talking about it gets me down.

What are some of the things that you do to keep yourself creative?

Teaching is by far the most rewarding and inspiring. Students are so hungry and eager and so many great ideas get generated through them.
I tend to think concept art is a very incestuous industry so I try to get inspired by outside influences. Fashion, photography, sculptures, and film keep me creative.
I go to costumed figure drawing at the drawing club every week and a sketch group I meet with on Fridays. A couple buddies and I meet every other week to just talk about the industry and doodle. Being around other like-minded artists is imperative for me as a freelancer.
I also try to listen to lots of different music and go to museums as well. A zoo visit never hurts. Oh and I have a serious weakness for used bookstores. I have far too many books and not enough space.

What are some of your favorite designs which you have seen?

Hmm, so many, I’ll try to name a few from each subgenre to make this easier on myself. I loved the designs of Coraline and all the creature comforts from Aardman. I loved the cast of Ratatouille and the dad and dragons from How to Train your Dragon. I love Muppets and the entire cast of the Dark Crystal especially Ogra. Lilo and stitch both melted my heart and the entire style of the secret of Kells was superb. Ursula the sea witch is my favorite villain and it’s a tie between Nausicca and Mulan as my favorite heroin. Let’s see, that’s Claymation, CG, traditional animation. For video games I love the symbiotic relationship of the Big Daddies/ little sisters in Bioshock and the designs of Psychonauts. For film, the mech suit from District 9 blew me away as well as the cast of Firefly. Each character, their clothes and personality just gelled perfectly for me. There are more but I won’t bore you any further on the subject.

What is your most favorite subject to draw? And why?

Cute monsters, hairy old men and things that make me giggle. Why? There are no preconceived notions on monsters. Wrinkles are awesome. Hair is fun to draw. And everyone should laugh a lot each day.

What inspired you to become an Artist?

I actually wanted to be a drummer as a kid. I asked my mother and she said, “that’s too loud, try this pencil.” And an artist was born. She fed all of that in me. We’d go to church and she’d watch me spend the entire time drawing on the programs or little scraps of paper. In middle school I won an art contest and my design ended up on the back of the Puget Sound On Wheels truck that took the Seattle Aquarium to low income schools. They couldn’t take the field trip so the aquarium took the field trip to them. Still a really cool idea but once I saw that image on the truck and kids had my art as stickers I was hooked. I was and also still am a huge comic book geek so I drew a ton wanting to be one of them. I took a different path once I saw images from the making of Star Wars and Alien.

What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?

I’ve learned so many things from others.
- I learned humility and attitude from Marcelo Vignali.
- Calmness and being a good instructor from Bob Kato.
- Digital painting techniques from Gnomon.
– Passion from Sean Galloway.
- The spiral method from Dave Zaboski
- how to speak from Ian Mccaig
- using random art supplies by Tim Burton
Other random things I’ve learned over the years.
- How to screw up and realize it’s part of the process
- Forgive and forget
- It’s not how many times you get knocked down, only how many times you stand back up.
- Story story story!
- Don’t dismiss non-artists. They have some of the best ideas!
- Respect the elders and wisdom will find its way to me
- Great attitudes makes the greatest difference
- Own fear
- Don’t erase, just move on to the next one
- Experiment
- Always keep drawing
- Try using just pens and no pencils
- Hold the pencil in different ways for different ideas

What wisdom could you give us, about being an Artist? Do you have any tips you could give?

“Be happy with how far you’ve come but not satisfied with where you’re at.”

If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?


Finally, do you have any of your art work for sale (sketchbook, prints, or anything) for people that like your work can know where and when to buy it?

My wife is a jewelry designer and makes jewelry with my art here:

Brett Bean Gallery