10 Questions With Bryan Baugh
10 Questions With Bryan Baugh
Interview Conducted by Eric Millen
1.... what medium and tools do you use to create your art?
To answer that question, I must first explain that there are two different kinds of art that I create. For my day-job I work as a storyboard artist in Television Animation. That’s how I make my living, that’s my bread-and-butter. But then, in my free time, I do a lot of comic book art and illustration - just to keep art fun, so it never gets to a point where art feels too much like work! Haha. That said - when I’m working on comics projects or illustrations, I draw the old fashioned way - with an ink brush and a bottle of India ink on 2-Ply Bristol Board paper. When I am doing my day job, working on animation storyboards, I get all futuristic, with state of the art technology. Haha. In other words, I do storyboards digitally, on a Cinitiq, with Photoshop.
2.... during an average week how many hours a day / week do you work on creating art (day job and free time)?
Well, let’s see. My day job in animation is a typical, 40-hour a week, full-time job. Meaning that I am sitting at my desk drawing cartoons for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Although sometimes, when we are getting down to the final stage of completing an episode, it can get a little crazy and I have to put in over-time. Working late, or working over the weekend. That doesn’t happen very often, but sometimes it does.
The workload in animation fluctuates a lot. You have your easy, slow phases, and then you have your insane, non-stop busy phases. Basically each episode is on a 6-week schedule. We have 6 weeks to complete the storyboard for a single episode. So it usually ends up being about 4 weeks of normal working hours, and the last 2 weeks are an insane rush to get it all finished on time. Then the cycle starts over.
In the animation business deadlines are very strict and missing them is considered unacceptable. So when you get into a crunch, you just have to put in long hours, be a trooper, and make it happen.
When I have free weekends I work on comic book projects, some of which are my own creations, some of which are freelance jobs I am illustrating for other publishers. Or I will use weekends to do illustration projects. It probably sounds crazy to work on the weekends if you don’t have to. But I really love doing comics and illustration. That isn’t work to me, it’s like play-time. That kind of artwork is relaxing. But I do that stuff at my leisure. Since it is secondary to my day-job, I don’t have set hours for it. I draw comics and illustration for fun, when and if I feel like it. So it’s impossible to say how many hours I put into it. But I treat it like a hobby. Just another form of escapist entertainment like reading books, watching movies, or playing video games. I am pretty fast at doing comics and illustrations. If that were my full time job I could easily complete one full comic page or one full illustration per day. But I’m not in that situation right now, so I do that work much more slowly.
3.... are you working your dream job?
Well maybe not exactly – but then, when I try to imagine my “dream job”… I have to be realistic and say, I don’t think my “dream job” even exists. Or perhaps it does exist but it is extremely rare and very unlikely. My ultimate “dream job” would be, a situation like Mike Mignola or Frank Miller has, where you can literally spend every single day writing and drawing your own books and stories, about your own characters, your own creations, your own ideas – and have a loyal fan following large enough that when those books are published, the sales allow you to make a comfortable living doing only that. I suppose that would be my dream job, if my whole career was writing and drawing my own comics projects about my own characters. But, you know, there’s maybe one in a million guys who have that situation. I know how rare that is, so it doesn’t depress me that I’m not one of those one-in-a-million guys. If you’re going to be depressed about that, you might as well be depressed that you aren’t a movie star, or that you didn’t win the lottery or something. Haha.
That said, the situation I am in, might not be my exact idea of a “dream job”, but it is pretty darn close, and I am very content.
My regular day job is to draw pictures of cool stuff every day. Right now I’m working on a very cool, very popular TV show – “Transformers: Prime”. One of my proudest moments working on this series was in an episode called “Operation Breakdown”. There’s a scene I storyboarded where one of the giant robots is strapped down in a tunnel and a mad scientist character takes a giant drill and starts drilling into this robot’s eye. My director specifically gave me that scene to design because of my interest in horror and he wanted it to be very scary. He was really generous in letting me design that scene however I wanted, so I threw in all these creepy ideas like having the mad scientist completely silhouetted with only his eye goggles glowing in the dark. It looked scary on paper, but you never know how this stuff will be changed after it goes through all the different stages of post-production. But I recently saw the finished episode, and the final CGI animation for this scene was extremely faithful to my storyboards. They literally animated it almost exactly how I drew it. It was such a rush to see that. But that’s an example of a wonderful creative experience that never would have happened if I were actually doing my “dream job”, sitting at home alone, making a living only by writing and drawing my comic books.
So to answer your question, am I living my “dream job”? Well, maybe not exactly – but thank God for that. If I were actually living my “dream job” I would be missing out on a lot of other cool stuff that has only happened because of my day job. It’s very ironic when you think about it. Anyway, I can’t complain.
4.... do you feel its important for others to pursue their dream jobs?
Absolutely! But the point I was trying to make earlier, is that you should pursue your dream job while being totally realistic about it.
5.... is there a secret to adding life and feeling to your art?
The only secret I know is to believe in whatever subject you are drawing as if it is a real thing. You have to get yourself into that mindset. This is not a drawing. This is a real character doing something real, in a real situation. I guess it’s sort of like what actors do to give a good performance. When you are drawing that monster, or that superhero, or that giant robot, or whatever, you have to pretend you are that character. Get inside his head and feel his situation as you draw him. If you can really immerse yourself in the character, the correct personality, action, pose, and facial expression will naturally come out.
6.... are there things that help increase your creativity?
Yes. Before I start drawing I like to spend a couple hours doing something that will inspire my imagination. Watching certain movies will do it. Another thing that really helps is looking at the artwork of other artists who are better than me, because that makes me feel challenged and shows me new tricks, and it motivates me to try harder. This is my method of working I suppose… I goof around and let a few hours waste away and to anybody else it probably looks like I am procrastinating and being very irresponsible. But actually all that goofing off is a way of recharging my creative batteries, revving up the old imagination-engine. And just when it looks like I’ve wasted half the day I will sit down and start drawing lightning fast, and crank out 8 hours worth of work in 4 hours. Spending half my day being anti-productive somehow enables me to be doubly-productive at the end of the day. When I am actually sitting at the drawing desk, working - I like to listen to music that is appropriate for whatever I am drawing. Mood-appropriate music seems to complete the fantasy and really takes my imagination to another place where I really believe in the scene I am drawing.
7.... what helps you maintain focus and motiviation while producing artwork?
If I’m working on my animation storyboard day-job, the motivation is a combination of things: Not wanting to let down my team by missing my deadline. A desire to impress my director by composing a good drawing or a good scene. And of course, the sacred weekly paycheck is also a big motivator! Haha.
When it comes to my personal comics projects or illustrations the only motivation is to have fun, making cool stuff. Draw some cool monsters. Entertain myself. And of course I’m always hoping that when I post a new illustration or self-publish a new book that other people will enjoy it, too.
To stay focused on the work, I listen to music or audiobooks while I draw. I need some kind of information coming in for my brain to chew on so it won’t bother me while I’m working. See I need to keep my brain distracted while I draw so I won’t over-think it. I find that drawing is like riding a bicycle. It’s all muscle-memory. The only time you lose your balance and fall off is when you start thinking about HOW you are keeping your balance.
8.... was there a certain moment that you knew you wanted to be an artist?
That’s sort of an impossible question to answer because I don’t remember a time when I didn’t draw. My parents and grandparents have told me that I started drawing when I was two or three years old. But I have no memory of “starting to draw” or deciding one day that I “wanted to be an artist”. Drawing was just something that I always did. And then later on in life, as a kid in school, it was just a given. Like, what do you want to be when you grow up? Well, an artist of course. What else was I going to do? I wasn’t good at anything else!
9.... as an artist what would you like to be remembered for?
I don’t know. How bout this: I’d like to be remembered for making scary, weird art and entertainment that creeped out as many people as possible.
10.... is there anything else you would like to add or say to other artists?
I can’t give any advice except to tell you what has worked for me. Based on my experience, I would say: make a point of pursuing an art career on two different fronts. Find a day job where you can use your artistic talents, that also offers important, practical things like a weekly paycheck and health insurance and dental insurance, so you can live a normal, comfortable life, stay healthy, afford to buy a house, and take your spouse out to a nice dinner once in a while. And on the side, in your spare time, pursue the artistic goal that really is your “dream come true”, no matter how weird, crazy, impractical, or unprofitable it may seem. If you strive for both of these things, you stand a better chance of reaching a point where you can be responsible and creatively satisfied at the same time. There’s a great old quote from Gustave Flaubert, who once said, “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” That pretty much describes how I approach my whole creative career.