3DValley Featured 2D Artist for February – Bob MacNeil. Bob is a professional artist for 17 years. He got his first job while still in college and currently he works as a Sr. Designer for a toy company. In between he did a lot of things and if he has time he also takes on freelance jobs and they can be anything from illustration, concept art, graphic design or even animation. Please read the interview below to get Bob and his work a bit better and make sure to visit his website to see more of his work.
Bob: I’m a traditionally trained illustrator who works fulltime in the graphic design field while freelancing in illustration, animation and video games. I have a drawing my mine saved which is about 30 years old now, so this love has been with me all my life. Day to day I go to work with the rest of the cubical zombies, where I currently work as a senior designer for an international toy company.
Christa: Which software packages and/or traditional materials do you use for your artwork?
Bob: I use all of the standard programs that are out there, but for my illustration/ painting work I use Photoshop exclusively. Of course, if time allows I lay out what I’m doing in pencil or pen. (whatever is by me when I’m drawing) and I typically draw on letter sized paper so it’s easy to scan.
Christa: Where did you go to school and how did they prepare you for your career?
Bob: The Newark School of Fine and Industrial Art, in Newark NJ. I graduated from there having no idea what to do with myself 🙂 I graduated with an illustration degree, and never touched a computer (for graphics) in my life. I worked as an illustrator taking whatever jobs came my way. I did some film work and some industrial design work. Basically I took anything that would help me pay the bills. That’s when I rekindled a friendship with someone I knew many years before who owned a graphic design studio and he introduced me to the computer. At that point I learned “on the job” how to be a graphic designer. As far as schooling goes, I did learn a lot about painting and material use, but it was through Dennis Dittrich that I learned all about illustration. Dennis was a perspective teacher I had who kind of (because I wouldn’t leave him alone) took me under his wing and taught me the practical side of the business. He also taught me to approach my work in a thinking manner. He was the antithesis of what an art school is perceived to be. He was realistic and that was what I needed at the time. I was never a dreamer in the sense that I knew what I wanted to do was work (not some fantasy) and even though it was a true love of mine, I had to bust my back to get good at it.
Christa: Have you always wanted to be an artist? And what do you think you would be doing now if you didn’t become an artist?
Bob: Yes! My family is full of artists so it’s always been an influence in my life. From my earliest memory it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I grew up on comics and sci-fi movies, so my imagination was always being honed. It was a natural progression for me to become something in the creative world. If I didn’t become an artist, I probably would have been a fireman. I took the test and passed and was set to go to academy training, but I ultimately decided against it and here I am.
Christa: Can you tell us a bit of the way you work on your art?
Bob: My processes aren’t overly original. I try my best to incorporate my traditional knowledge into what I do digitally, so that’s really my only signature trademark Even though I know there are others who do the same, so again I can’t really offer any secret in what I do. I just try my best to not make my work look like it was done a computer. I actually wrote up a detailed walk through of my process (which is posted on my site) It can be seen here.
Christa: Do you have a favorite piece of your own artwork and why?
Bob: Probably “Flight Art”, although I pretty much like all of the things I do. This one was created during and completed after the time my Mom; JoAnn fought her battle with cancer. I would go with her to the chemo treatments she had and I usually brought stuff to read to pass the time, while she slept. One book in particular that I read was Flight (the comic’s anthology) and the stories were interesting in a way that I could share them with her after I read them. They weren’t about overly muscular superheroes that always saved the day at the last minute; they had more of a relatable quality to them. It was also a way to keep her mind off of what she was going through at the time. Her body was being ravaged but her mind wasn’t. So through this comic book we were able to talk and share some nice moments that may not have been readily available considering the situation. She passed and I created the image. First it was to be a homage to the retro 50’s era (the time she grew up in) but then it took on this aerial theme to it, so I posted it on the Flight forums. I was then asked by the creator of the book if I would like to include it in one the book’s upcoming releases. So you can now see it in print in Flight 3. Hopefully my Mom would be proud!
Christa: How many years are you working in the industry?
Bob: I began working while still in college, so around 17 years. I got my first real full time job in 1993, so if you want to be picky then it’s 15 years.
Christa: You work for many large companies like Microsoft, EA, Toys R Us, Cartoon Network, and Nickelodeon. What was your first break in the business?
Bob: It’s hard to say because I have worked in a number of areas. So my first break I guess would be working on designs for Planet Hollywood (which I’ll never show because of how bad they were) so it’s hard to pinpoint one specific thing. I guess the project I enjoyed the most has been to work on The Venture Brothers.
Christa: Which areas of creating art do you enjoy the most?
Bob: The process. I like to let my mind wander and it’s interesting to just be loose. Any artist out there will probably agree with me, because once you work on a budgeted production, freedom and creativity sometimes moves to the back of the line.
Christa: As an illustrator/ concept artist and graphic designer you have worked in many different areas, which did you prefer and would like to work more often?
Bob: Again a hard question to answer. I love that I can work in all these areas and really enjoy the creative flexibility this chameleon like approach provides. I guess my preferences lie more toward illustration as that is my first and foremost reason for pursuing anything artistically. And that to me is an extension to the other areas. I try to instill some sort of illustrative quality into all that I do.
Christa: A tip that is given to most young artist is to develop an own unique style in which they can be recognized. Your portfolio however shows your diversity in styles. How do you promote/ sell your own work?
Bob: I was told that style will come on its own. So I just did whatever I felt like doing when I did it. Sure it’s hurt me in some ways, but it has also enabled me to work on a bunch of different projects that I may have had the opportunity to if I did only one thing. I say do what you love to do and the rest will fall into place; however, I will also add that I’m currently working on a signature style… LOL For promotion I do the typical, but in reality most of my work comes through recommendations from others I’ve worked with. So be nice to people you work with, you never know who will call you to give you work one day.
BioShock – Damaged level
Christa: I believe you are currently working freelance. What do you feel are the advantages and disadvantages of working from home?
Bob: No, I am working fulltime and have been my entire career. For a couple of years after the 9/11 tragedy here in the NYC area, I worked freelance. Only because fulltime work was harder to come by. But in the grand scheme of it all I have always worked as a fulltime artist. My opinions on working from home are this. It’s great to not have a commute, but it sucks that your work is always 2 feet away. I tried my best to keep my working hours on a schedule, but I also found myself trying to better something that was already finished so in the end it tended to cost me more than I made. Something I would definitely have control over if freelancing became my only source of money.
Christa: You accomplished a lot already in your career. Where do you see your art go next? Do you still have a dream assignment?
Bob: I have always wanted to illustrate children’s books, so hopefully that’s my next progression. My dream is to work at a place like Pixar.
Christa: You worked on many various projects. Do you have a favorite projects you have worked on and if so why?
Bob: There are a few but nothing really stands out as being my most favorite. I have one thing I’m working on now (which I cannot show) that is a lot of fun, so I guess when it’s released you’ll have to ask me this question again and I’ll be able to answer you.
Christa: You work using both kinds of mediums (traditional & digital) to create your art work with. What advantage does one has over the other for you?
Bob: Digital is far quicker for me. It allows me to do much more work than before when I began with computers, however it doesn’t have that tactile quality traditional has. I guess the advantage would have to be the speed and editability digital has that makes if preferable to me. I work in both to try and keep a mediated ground of the two. I’d rather not become a slave of one of the other.
Christa: In which ways did your online portfolio and blog helped you to promote your own art?
Bob: It’s a cheap and easy way to show people what I do. It’s a useful tool that everyone in the world has access to. I’ve been contacted by people from so many different walks of life because of my site, so it’s produced its own promotion in that sense. My biggest attraction to my site has been from the tutorial I mentioned earlier. So I don’t know how it’s really helped, I do know I’m huge in Brazil… 🙂
Christa: Are you currently working on something that you can share with us?
Bob: Not really. Aside from my day to day stuff, the other things I have going on are top secret. I am thinking about running for the US presidency so that’s something…
Christa: Besides 3Dvalley.com, which other graphic sites do you visit regularly?
Christa: Is their something you can’t work without?
Bob: My brain although I misplace it often, and I do take my tablet to bed with me.
Christa: What do you do when you are not working or creating something?
Bob: Spending as much time as I can with my family (my wife and our new baby girl).