July 19, 2010

So Fun You'll Just Want to Hug It!

An interview with Julius ‘Bulius’ Santiago

Part 1 of 2 (link to Part 2, including extensive ‘Bear Gallery’)
Click any image to enlargenate

I was recently asked if I didn’t enjoy living a bit vicariously through all the terrific people I’ve gotten to meet and know for the blog over the past years and months. Well, after looking up that multi-syllabic word and making sure it had nothing to do with vicars – which I would not have qualified for by any stretch (good or bad) of the imagination – I had to answer with a resounding ‘yes’. I do so enjoy the talent and the passion and the sheer ‘I’ve-got-the-guts-to-do-this’ spirit of the people I have met and keep on having the chance to get to know better.

Another part that I truly enjoy as well is the overwhelming sense of fun that I feel so many of the makers and artists I meet are having just through the joy of practicing their craft. Whether it be the welding of giant steel and iron statues in reverent praise of Mother Gaia or delicately weaving together different crystals to create a symphony of light patterns or even the ‘mere’ graphic arts that allow the widest spectrum of expression that imaginable – all of it just seems to be tons and tons of unabashedly fantastic fun.

It has been as well then this sense of fun that I have been lucky enough to share with this week’s guest, Julius Santiago alias Julius Bulius. Everything about this talented young artist’s portfolio strikes me as just being so much fun. A lot of this comes from his gifts and talents of playfully creating air-guitar wielding samurai robots or from the often big-headed world of nature, past or present. In addition, I have felt a true sense of excitement of knowing that he has worked on some of the world’s most popular video games of the past years, representing in terrific lay-out and fashion the beauty of what I call at least the one true game of football (hey, the rest of you agree to get rid of the Vuvuzelas plus do something about what you call ‘refereeing’ and we’ll talk again).

In addition, Julius has embarked over the past months on a journey of creating one new image a day in series. We have seen approaches like this before, including very recently with the tee-shirt designs of our favorite Flying Mouse aficionado (his
web-site remains one of my favorite places to visit and vote every week)! But in Julius’s case, he has taken this one step further – or perhaps better said taken this one step in a more difficult direction – and decided to ‘limit’ his designs, namely to a ‘one teddy bear a day target.

Now granted anyone such as myself with a pre-teen daughter at home has no doubt rolled their eyes by this point and said ‘oh believe me, you can find plenty of teddy bear designs all around… and trust me, our little one has!’ But 365 different types of teddy bears? And with every one of those nearly 400 bears being based on a motif that you’ve probably never seen before, let alone had to design yourself? Seriously?

Well, I don’t know about you but I know I can’t even count that high most days let alone try and think of a new and unique character 7 days a week. Trust me, I’ve tried: some 6 or so weeks ago I tried to push myself towards the modest target of one ‘sketch’ per day (no doubt a laughable target for most of you out there) – and I left out any theme restrictions. And in line with my half-millennial confessional technique, I will admit that I’ve managed to develop 3 in all, that is, beyond what I’d qualify as the ‘drunken doodle’ stage (think Jason Pollack in monochrome).

And so it is with great pleasure and indeed vicarious admiration that I introduce you to Julius ‘Bulius’ Santiago:

Hi Julius, welcome. First, let me ask you: who is Julius ‘Bulius’ Santiago and what can you tell me about him?
Let's see… well, first of all, I have an obsession with drawing animals with heads that are way too big.

On the other hand, my day job consists of a certain position in the video game industry that inevitably needs further explaining. Also, I ride my bike to work and spend way too much time reading blogs about pop culture. Oh, my wife and I have a pug and two cats.

Cool! Julius, one of the aspects of your work that struck me almost immediately was the creativity of your pieces balanced against an almost innocent simplicity. I’m always intrigued to ask artists that I think can achieve this just how they go about making sure that their message(s) is understood without over-engineering a piece.

With that in mind, let me ask you: Do you have a process for same, that is, for knowing when to put the proverbial pen down and leave something as it stands?
Luckily, I think that it's because of this simplicity that it's easy for me to know when I can put the proverbial pen down.

When making new illustrations, I sort of strive to make it as simple as possible. That's part of what I enjoy most about illustrating things. So when I have an idea for something, the piece is done as soon as the idea is conveyed.

I try not to think about it too much... how long do you need to think about a colon and a parenthesis to make sure your readers know it's a smiley face? (ZN: uh, what’s a smiley face? ^_^)

Julius looking a bit at your most recent ‘day jobs’: the gig especially with EA Sports seems to be an exciting one. Can you run us through what it is you’re involved with in terms of either the lay-out or even programming of the game? For example, if I took one of the screen shots from your portfolio collection, could you walk us through what we’re seeing and how you affected what it is we’re, uh, seeing?
I'm sure I could, but I promise you that my answers to your other questions would be much more exciting.

Okay, if you say so. But what is it exactly that an ‘Interface Artist’ does? Is this somehow related to your skills description as someone who ‘Bridges the gap between Software Engineers, Production, and Art Direction’?
Pretty much. Let’s just say I make all the not-fun stuff you see in video games.

I guess you could think of it as some artists want to make dwarves or dragons in video games; I take care of the main menus and HUDs and credits. You know, all the things you usually try to get through as fast as you can so you can move on to the fun of shooting things.

You also state that you’ve, quote, ‘Watched
Daft Punk live in concert. Twice.’ No after-effects? Honestly?
I will forever be a fan of electronic music. I try to incorporate this whenever I create my robots.

Your style – or let’s say more precisely your ‘bear stylings’ – evoke an almost Japanese or better said Manga feeling. Did video games or other Japanese art influence your development?
A lot of video games and anime influenced me, sure. But I’d have to say it was mostly
Sanrio stuff like Hello Kitty and Genndy Tartakovsky cartoons. Remember those*? Man, they were awesome.
(*ZN: are you kidding? ‘2 Stupid Dogs’ is a must see for anyone out there considering becoming a parent!)

What would you say have been your biggest influences? And in your younger days, was there a ‘flash of light’ moment that led you to wanting to this – uh – ‘this’ for a career?
I think it started with cartoons, but then moved more towards graffiti and independent comics.

I never thought it could be a career. Even now, I consider my art as more of a hobby than a career.

I’d always just assumed that I'd be doing web design right now. Pursuing that got me into UI (user interface) Design, but that also introduced me to Penny Arcade, Copper, and other artists that utilized the web as a medium. It was reading web comics like Apple Geeks and Mac Hall when I noticed these guys are art students just like me and there's no reason I couldn't pursue it myself.

Are you still located in the Tampa area? What is the general graphic artist (struggling or otherwise) design scene like there?
I've just recently moved to Los Angeles and I love it here. Suddenly, I find myself living in the same city as all the artists that I've been following. It's nothing short of inspirational to be surrounded by the art I love so much.

Have you seen ‘
Exit Through the Gift Shop’ yet? I saw it a couple of months after I moved here and all of a sudden I recognize all these places in the movie. It was nuts.

Are you working as part of a company or bigger collective? Or is your focus right now primarily on establishing your own solo work?
Solo dolo for now.

Half of me wants to live the dream and work on my art full-time.
However, the other half is just doing all it can to try and pay off these school loans!

Continued in Part 2, including extensified ‘Bear Gallery’ collection

No comments: