Kristen Campbell 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?
I grew up in Northridge, CA, and have been drawing ever since I could grip a crayon. My folks were always super supportive of my creativity and there was always printer paper and markers/pencils/crayons around the house. My favorite subject to draw was always (and probably will always be) horses. I was a horse crazy kid, and I now I’m a horse crazy adult. When I was 16 I got a horse of my own, which further fueled my creative flame. I had never taken any formal classes, and I never really had the desire to, as I’d never really considered art as a career. Most of my teenage years were spent at the barn either riding or drawing. Kept me out of trouble!
I graduated high school and didn’t know what to do with myself, so I enrolled in a local community college in a watercolor class and a few life drawing classes. The watercolor class really had an impact on my life, and for the first time I had the desire to continue making art with serious intent as a career. Before my classes had ended, I’d heard about a “portfolio day” event in Laguna where all the big time art and design schools sent representatives to review portfolios, so I packed whatever I had and headed down. I will forever remember that day, not because of all the reviews, but because my car had gotten broken into the night before and somehow quite a few pieces of glass ended up in my portfolio… yeah… well at least that made me memorable? Shortly after that, I put all my eggs in one basket and submitted to CalArts. I was accepted, and thus began my journey of taking formal classes and learning about animation.
I took all the required classes at school from story to animation, from design to color theory. Film time was hectic, but it was character building. Going through the chaos only made the final product that much more rewarding, and I wouldn’t have traded those long, sleepless nights for anything. It would be naive to say that I didn’t owe some of my progress to the amazing friends I made in college. The folks I went to classes with every day throughout the past 4 years have taught me so much, and I’m grateful for all the experiences… and shenanigans! My time spent at CalArts helped to mold me into the artist I am today, and I thank my lucky stars every day to have been given the opportunity to attend.
How do you go about designing, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?
Honestly, Rik Maki’s words run through my head every time I design. It’s blessing and a curse, haha. He’s always said it’s ALL about appealing characters. It doesn’t matter if the character is a hideous, blood sucking swamp monster who habitually picks his nose… it still has to be appealing. People have to like the character aesthetically in order to sympathize and relate to the character. It’s great to have a story behind the character and how he/she/it came to be. As a designer it’s important to know the character’s wants, desires, and why they function the way they do. Developing personalities has always been important to me, and I think every designer needs to take time to get to know their character before they settle on a final design. Often times, the character changes and evolves as the artist changes and evolves… I think that’s one of the coolest parts about designing.
When I start, I think about appealing shapes and how the bone structure would appear under those shapes. Although I stylize my work, I like to make sure everything would still be able to function correctly under all the “fluff”. Overall, I spend time considering the gesture of the subject and if the pose and positioning of limbs is appealing. Stepping back for a few minutes is helpful, and sometimes allows one to see flaws or areas of the drawing that just aren’t looking right. After I find appealing framework, I add in all the extra stuff and little details. I always strive for something that has nice flow so the eyes can move around the image freely and then come to rest on little details like freckles, spots etc. It’s so rewarding to create something that is both appealing and has personality, and that’s what makes design so intriguing for me.
What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work with?
Most days, I do some warm-ups in Photoshop or in my sketchbook. I’m very lucky that I have freedom during the day and I’m able to switch off between drawing or coloring to storyboarding or CG modeling. Some days I’ll stick to one medium exclusively, other days I like to switch around and it definitely helps to keep the creative juices flowing.
What are some of the things that you have worked on?
I’ve done a handful of student films, and I have some internships under my belt including Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. I was also very fortunate to participate in the recent “Art Blocks for Ghana” charity event.
Is there a design you have done that you are most happy with?
I guess I’m most happy with my creature mashups.. in particular the Polarkeet. He’s a polar bear crossed with a parakeet, and he’s always held a special place in my heart.
What projects are you working on now? (if you can tell us)
Recently, I’ve been sculpting digitally in ZBrush. I love this medium and it is so rewarding to be able to sculpt your own design in 3D space and see your pencil lines actually take on form. It’s so wonderful to be able to bridge the gap between traditional and CG. My latest project involves sorting through some of my favorite designs and translating them into 3D.
Other than that, I just finished up the yearly “Shark Week Sketch Jam” event I hold during Discovery Channel’s Shark Week. The object of the jam is to draw a different species of shark for every day of Shark Week. 7 days, 7 sharks and each year I switch it up so no shark gets left out. I started the event in hopes to raise awareness about sharks and it has since snowballed into something really amazing and it’s getting bigger every year.
Who are some of your favorite artists out there?
Peter de Séve, Claire Wendling, T.S. Sullivant, Harald Siepermann, Corey Loftis, Tom Oreb, Milt Kahl, Michel Gagné, Heinrich Kley, Chris Sanders, Shane Prigmore, Fred Moore, Eyvind Earle, Bill Presing, Daniel López Muñoz, Nico Marlet, Nathan Fowkes, Ronnie Del Carmen, Scott Morse, Joe Moshier, Chen Yi Chang, Shiyoon Kim.. seriously I could type names all day and still not have listed everyone who inspires me.
Could you talk about your process in coloring your art, as well as the types of tools or media that you use?
Lately, I’ve been using the Cintiq to ink and color.. it’s efficient and I have a billion brushes to sift through and color with. But, the coloring method I enjoy the most would probably be my Copics. Frankly, one of the most enjoyable things about Copics is spending time in the art store testing them and picking and choosing colors, haha. I like to pick lighter colors so I can layer a bunch and get the desired effect.
What part of designing is most fun and easy, and what is most difficult?
The most difficult thing for me is trying to remember the “rules” of design as I’m drawing and knowing when and when not to break those rules. I’m always trying to be conscious of straights vs. curves, tangents, and appealing shapes. The trick is always trying to find new appealing shapes. The fun part is finding those new appealing shapes and progressing as an artist.
What are some of the things that you do to keep yourself creative?
I really enjoy the opportunity to have arts & crafts projects every now and then. I love sculpting with clay and getting messy. One of my favorite things to keep myself creative is going to the zoo, the LA zoo has some really great subjects… both human and animal alike!
What are some of your favorite designs which you have seen?
I’ve been on a Heinrich Kley kick for a while. His designs make my jaw drop every time I see them. I have two of his books, and although I’ve flipped through them countless times, I’m always finding new things to admire.
What is your most favorite subject to draw? And why?
Horses, hands down. I know, I’m predictable, but no matter how many times I draw them, they’re always a challenge.
I love drawing creatures and animals, too. I really enjoy getting inspiration from nature and creating my own designs from it.
What inspired you to become an Artist?
When I first started drawing, it was more of an emotional outlet than anything. So I guess emotion was my inspiration? Everyone goes through the whole “awkward high school teenager” phase, and drawing was a really positive method of getting through that, for me at least. At the time I started actively pursuing art, I had a really great support team (and I still have a great support team!) who were always interested in what I was doing and pushed me to keep progressing. One of my best friends at the barn where I rode lived right down the street from my parents’ house, so we were constantly drawing together. My folks were always super supportive (and still are! Thank you awesome parents!) and they’ve always had my back and believed that my happiness was always the most important thing. I also had a really great art teacher in high school that was always challenging me to become a better artist, and she was a big inspiration for me at the time, too.
What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?
Oh man, I’ve seen countless guest lectures at CalArts that just leave my jaw hanging when I leave the room. I’ve had some really amazing opportunities to meet people and talk with them one-on-one that I never thought I would have. I don’t remember specific conversations, just little tips and tricks along the way from different people. I think one of the most important tips I ever got was from my fiancé. When I first met him I was still searching around trying to find my “line”. One day while I was drawing he said “Just drop your line”, meaning to just lay down one solid, fluid line instead of scratching around and trying to find the form. It seems like an insignificant statement, but it changed the way I drew and I think about that every time I draw.
What wisdom could you give us, about being an Artist? Do you have any tips you could give?
Draw what makes you happy. Art is a fun, beautiful, inspirational thing and you should always be enjoying the process. Surround yourself with positive people and talented folks you admire, and ask lots of questions! Never get discouraged if you see an artist who you perceive as being better than you, you shouldn’t ever compare yourself to others because you’ll end up miserable… and being miserable is not what drawing is about.
If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?
My email is – firstname.lastname@example.org
My webpage is- http://cannedcampbellsoup.blogspot.com/
Shark Week Sketch Jam Blog- http://sharkweeksketchjam.blogspot.com/
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?
I don’t currently have anything for sale, but I’m in the process of putting together a sketchbook, so keep your eyes peeled!