December 14, 2010

Just Beastly, Make No Bones About It

An Interview with Illustrator Jared Moraitis

Part 2 of 2 (link to Part 1)
Click any picture to stop squinting at it

Jared, one thing I am curious about is that before BeastPop Artworks was ‘born’ this past September, you put your previous venture and even blog called ‘PopMonkey’ to rest. What’s it like ‘killing off’ a blog or an identity like that?
My life has changed so much from the time I was ‘PopMonkey’ that a brand new identity made sense and was necessary. My personal life has been pretty tumultuous since I graduated art school, and I wanted to make as clean a break from that time as possible.

Plus the name ‘Pop Monkey’ had recently been appropriated by several other business ventures, most notably I suppose is a new TV production outfit that goes by the name (and has a dreadfully poor mascot). Thus, BeastPop ArtWorks was born! BeastPop is also for me a bit more in-tune with what I do and who I am.

You’ve also mentioned that you are ‘continually growing and developing as an artist’ and at least trying to trend ‘away from the overly cartoony/simple aspects of (your) work that held sway earlier on’. What are you doing to push your own creativity in a new direction?
I’m trying to bring more detail, dynamism and unique techniques into my work. My skill at inking with a brush has improved ten-fold over the past several years, which also helps.

Plus, I’m looking more closely at the artists who influence me, spending time pouring over their work. But I’m going beyond just being impressed by them or doing something as basic as trying to copy them; instead, I’m trying to see the thought behind the decisions they make in composition, lighting, technique, design, and more.

I found your various inputs about your inking processes, including scanning and all, very interesting in a kind of ‘I wish I understood that’ kind of way (for example, with your ‘
UGLY STICK’ work). Can you talk us a little bit through your process please? Are you mostly a ‘pen in hand’ artist or do you primarily rely on the various soft- and hard-wares out there today to create your work? Or is there some sort of happy medium (every pun intended) between the two?
I don’t think I could ever depart from the tactile fun of inking and drawing by hand with real pencils, pens and brushes on real paper. But, having said that, this may just be because my technological capabilities do not allow me to produce work as polished and detailed as I can do by hand.

If I had a powerful computer with a Cintiq and the latest, coolest drawing software, I might be satisfied working solely digitally. But as it stands now I am working on an outdated iMac with an old version of Photoshop and an old Wacom Intuos 3 tablet. I would love to be able to do a lot more ‘painting’ in the computer, but my system can’t handle the speed necessary for me to open up Painter and tear into it. I need a grant!

Here’s a description of my current working method: first, I do the sketching and put the roughs on paper. Then I scan them into Photoshop, resize, manipulate, add text, etc. Print larger and refine and tighten the drawing with my lightbox. Scan again, blow it up, manipulate it or whatever other adjustments need to be made. Convert tight pencils into a blueline image, print it out on nice bristol paper. Ink with brush and pens over blueline drawing. Scan inks, clean and resize in Photoshop.

Usually I will print the inks again in blueline and ink the shading/ highlight elements on a separate sheet of paper, scan these in and layer them over the inks to assist with coloring so I don’t have to muck about too much with working out the shading in Photoshop. This also creates a nice hand-drawn look to the shading and is where I can imprint my unique style. The rest of the coloring, shading, halftones, text, etc. is usually handled in Photoshop.

Over the years, your work has been sold via tee-shirts (see also below), skateboard designs, logos, convention banners, coffee mugs, bags, buttons, posters, boxer shorts and
thongs (‘Dirty Rat’ themed no less = this year’s holiday gift to ALL my family!!). With all that in mind, where would you really enjoy seeing your work ‘presented’ in terms of where it hasn’t been yet (or as much as you want)?
I would love to have some of my character concepts and drawings turned into vinyl toys and/or action figures! The world of vinyl toys is expansive yet there’s so much repetition and boring design out there. I mean, how many stubby bear/bunny shaped characters can one stand before you go crazy? I want to see some radical cool designs captured in vinyl.

I would also love to create an animated series and do all the character designs and such. This would scratch my artistic itch as well as my creative writing itch!

I recently had the pleasure to interview
Chow Hon Lam of ‘Flying Mouse Designs’, a really great guy operating out of Malaysia who has become somewhat of a ‘modern legend’ in tee-shirt design circles. I asked him as well about what advantages or even disadvantages do you see trying to ply your trade in this area? And why tee-shirts instead of fashion or even more ‘traditionally’ oriented graphic arts?
I personally love to wear super-cool tee-shirt designs, whether it be rock band shirts, pop-culture based shirts or shirts featuring just plain cool designs. So to me it’s just natural that this would be something I’d want to be a part of. It just seemed the easiest way for me at this stage in my career to get my work out into the world.

Tee-shirt design just fits really well together with the kind of art I do. It doesn’t have any deep meaning: it’s fun and cool, and it isn’t designed to ‘sell’ anything outside of itself (except maybe furthering my brand name). I’d like to branch out more into CD album covers, skateboard design, and poster art, all of which are fairly closely tied.

I promise not to dwell too long on this but I do want to ask about the ‘ZOMBAMA’ design and what turned out to be almost literally the brain-eating mania that followed it’s release, with
one national publication calling it ‘one of the most stunning post-inauguration (graphic art) successes’.

On one hand, it must be quite satisfying to enjoy this kind of success with a piece (selling in just 24 hours more than 1,300 shirts on - triple the site's previous record-holder). What was it like for you when that took off like it did and even later when it literally would sell out printings as soon as they were announced?
It was thrilling and took me completely by surprise. Folks can go read my original blog post for the details behind the origin of that design, but I had no idea it would take off the way it did. I had approached TeeFury to see if they’d be interested in printing a different design of mine, but they picked the ZOMBAMA piece off my blog (and I really just considered it a fun throw-away design to poke fun at Shepard Fairey) and wanted to print that instead.

The sales figures stunned me, and even more so, when after the day of the sale, my inbox began to be deluged with a steady torrent of emails begging for another chance to own the shirt. I had to take matters into my own hand and get it printed by a screenprinter and fill the orders myself (it’s too dear to me now to sell the rights to the design to anybody). It went through three printings before TeeFury decided to reprint it, and I’m still getting emails from people who want the shirt. I may have to do another printing here soon.

ZN update 1: as shown here, the ZOMBAMA shirt is in fact on sale NOW for a limited time in the
UK via!!!

ZN update 2: in addition, the design ‘Glass Bast’rd’ shown at the end of this blog
will be offered via under the name ‘Not Kool’ starting December 21st!! Just in time for December 22nd everywhere!

On the other hand, is there any sense for you of 'oh no, I don’t want to be known as the ‘ZOMBAMA’ guy the rest of my life'? How does an artist eventually balance the two extremes, namely, a sudden and significant success with the potential ‘pigeon-holing’ that might naturally follow it? Like, do people phone you up and say ‘oh please please do me in Zombie form?’ (just thinking maybe Sarah Palin had called).
I have only had a couple requests so far for a Zombamafication-type design, but one was from a really distasteful ‘band’ that I simply did not want to be associated with, and the other guy just simply couldn’t afford me, I think.

In all honesty, I don’t mind being pigeon-holed for now. It’s the piece that started me on the road to recognition, so it deserves to be one of those things I’m most associated with right now. Most importantly, I definitely think I am growing and moving above and beyond that! I am convinced that there will be much more that I create that will cause people to take notice. So I don’t think I’m forever going to be known as ‘the Zombama guy’.

I would note though for our readers that more recently, your ‘historical Japanese’ take on PAC-MAN (shown above) has also experienced a good level of sales (true story: I had been looking at this pic for a while before I realized what the pattern on his skirt was... I’m still sore from the headslap). This raises another interesting aspect of the work of modern ‘pop art’: how important is it for an artist to really do his homework and research a piece before getting started?

In addition, and here I want to play devil’s advocate a bit: how do you eventually draw a line between ‘basing’ a piece on something you find and avoiding the very processes which have seen your own works ripped off?
With the Pac-Man samurai design, avoiding rip-off territory was easy:
the back-story I included in my blog post about the old scroll print and the ‘real’ inspiration behind the creation of the game was all baloney! I made it all up!

Now, don’t get me wrong: I still did my research, and I always do, even if it’s just to make sure I’m not accidentally ripping something else off or ripping it off in just the right way (there’s a very fine line). For example, with my recent
Boba Fett/Speed Racer piece, I wanted to do a fun mash-up of Boba with some other lesser-known (to me) pop-culture icon. When I stumbled over the Speed Racer imagery it just seemed to fit, plus it allowed for some minor commentary on Lucas and his Star Wars empire.

I immediately scoured the Internet to see if anybody else had run with the idea before me, and this is usually what I do before sketching even begins. I’ve had many a ‘brilliant’ idea that it turns out were already conceived and executed by other artists.

You’ve also mentioned being selected to appear in various collections (e.g. the
SPECTRUM annual art book) but having just missed out on others, as with the Darkstalkers Tribute shown here. What does that mean to you both personally and also professionally when you get invited to be involved in something like this?
Well I wasn’t ‘invited’ to either, unless you count open submissions as an invitation. The SPECTRUM thing was a nice surprise and an honour to be included in. Things like the DARKSTALKERS TRIBUTE are disappointing, not only because my design didn’t get featured, but because I’m not too keen on that sort of ‘contest’ in the end. It’s just that you pour all this time and effort and passion into a piece, hoping to be published in the book.

But in reality, the publishers of things like that are essentially getting a lot of free work which they can make money off of by selling the book, and there are no payments or prizes to published artists outside of a free copy of the book. I’m probably going to stay away from such things in the future, but I will be submitting to SPECTRUM again this year.

My son and I have enjoyed looking through your character designs for ‘
COLLIDE-O-SCOPE trying to imagine what neat stories must go along with the gang. How did the concept pitch go?
COLLIDE-O-SCOPE was actually my senior thesis at Ringling School of Art and Design. I came up with a pitch for an animated series (or maybe comic book) based around a crazy, mega-popular rock band. This included a ‘series bible’, full character descriptions and finished concept art for all the major characters. It was tremendously fun to work on, but also tremendously stressful as it involved many sleepless deadline nights.

I have yet to really do anything with the pitch outside of simply posting it on my old blog, but I have every intention of dusting it off and doing something with it soon. I hope.

Can you share with us one thing that no one or let’s say not many people know about you that will not get you arrested or otherwise in trouble?
I collect spores, molds and fungus. No, really..

Other than that, I do seem to have a predilection for ‘starving artist’ type pursuits. I think that if I had not chosen to be an illustrator or had no artistic talent, I would have traveled the path of the musician instead. I love music and I loved creating music back when I had time to. I love singing, playing bass, guitar - I just simply don’t have the time to pursue both, so the world gets BeastPop ArtWorks instead of BeastPop MusicWorks.

What else would you like to add as we begin to wind things down?
I think I’ve been long-winded enough, so I’ll just say if you like my work, follow me on Facebook and at my blog (and maybe Twitter, if you’re nasty) and spread the word.

And, hey, if there’s any wealthy philanthropists out there looking to give a hand to a starving artist whose entire computer set-up is dangerously close to crapping out on him, I’d make a perfect candidate for a large grant of some kind. I promise to use the money wisely and put it towards fancy equipment that will boost my production speed... and maybe as well a screen printing set-up so I can print my own shirts and posters. I will also swear loyalty to you should you become the duke of your own uh... dukedom after the zombie apocalypse AND I’ll name my next pet after you.

Plus, if there’s any lawyers out there, I might soon be needing the pro-bono services of someone who is equipped to handle George Lucas’ attack dogs! BeastPop out!


Jared Moraitis and BeastPop ArtWorks are currently to be found in the foothills of the glorious and extremely visit-worthy Blue Ridge Mountain area in Hickory, North Carolina (yes, I have family from this region who would benefit from increased tourism, why do you ask?). He’s got oodles and oodles of honest-to-goodness talent and we are really looking forward to seeing how his next projects come out!!

Keep checking back at his blog and/or social media sites often, as he likes to keep his viewership and fans posted on how given projects or pieces are advancing!! Plus, it’s a great way to keep abreast (oops, sorry Facebook!!) of the tee-shirts or other design voting’s going on! In addition (or ‘Plus, The Return’), he occasionally re-posts some real-life ads for freelance illustration which are totally stupid but funny as ... well, they’re really funny, let’s leave it at that (for the kids, you know).

To help you with your own enjoying and finding actions, again you can find the following stuff at the, uh, following links:

Illustration Blog:


All pictures, videos and other media are used with written permission of Jared Moraitis, including all current or previous business affiliations related to same, or are available in the public domain (noting copyright and other restrictions, accordingly). No further reproduction or duplication is permitted without contacting the artist directly.

Some pictures have been modified slightly or combined only for the purpose of space limitations.

1 comment:

Pop-Monkey said...

Wow! I'm flattered and thrilled at the results, Ziggy! Thanks so much for all the hard work you did in putting this together and for your interest in my stuff in the first place!