December 14, 2010

Just Beastly, Make No Bones About It

An Interview with Illustrator Jared Moraitis

Part 1 of 2 (link to
Part 2)
Click any picture to engage enlargation drive

Okay, I have some more confessions. Yes, I know it’s starting to seem like I have something weighing on my conscience with all these admissions, but trust me, the concept of ‘conscience’ – and most probably ‘consciousness’ as well – does not come into play here.

It’s just that I like... no, correction: I REALLY like cool drawings of zombies. No, I don’t know why. I don’t particularly get into movies of that genre and I really have no interest to watch any films or shows that don’t either feature Milla Jovovich in various stages of (un)dress or knee-slapping British humorists (preferably dressed in the latter case). I just have some feeling in my head (heart? Which part is it again that has the feeling bits?) that if you can get your art to the point that you have mastered the ‘common’ depiction of Victus Mortuus (neat huh? That means ‘living dead’!! [Thanks
Uncle Google!!]), then you will go places! Hey, if a multi-billion dollar arm of the Disney Universe – formerly known as Marvel Comics – can even ‘go there’ with all their big money-makers in tow, then you know it’s got to be important. And no, I’m not talking about the next ‘Toy Story’ either, even though I do understand that some of the toys buy the proverbial plastic farm in Part 3...

But for better or worse, zombies are an indelible part of our public psyche (and yes, I caught the Freudian bit tied into marriage there as well). In addition, I think that in all honesty, many of us are drawn to not only the macabre but also the ability to tie-in and make cool cross-overs throughout a vast variety of our social and cultural markers as well as milestones over the past 40 to 50 years or so. Especially when they can be incorporated into talented art-work that is not only unique and stylish in form but also in the cleverness of how it is ultimately presented. And that is something that Jared Moraitis is very good at!!

I recently caught a glimpse of Jared’s work – just a ‘simple’ one of the ‘mascot’ icons for the new incarnation of his free-lance illustration work
BeastPop Artworks – and was immediately hooked! I went on to find that Jared is a masterful story-teller, using rich flowing lines coupled with an intelligent subtlety not found every day to get across his message. As such, I hope you’ll also have a good time getting to know this talented artist and developing a taste for his brains... no, no, I mean his very enjoyable abilities and offerings!!

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Jared, welcome to ZN HQ. To get started, can you tell us a little bit about how your journey began in terms of becoming a freelance illustrator and pop-culture/pulp/sci-fi/comic-book fiend?
Like most young folks, I didn’t leave high school with a great sense of direction. I was struggling to find my way in life. All I really loved doing at that time was drawing – and making silly movies with my friends – but I wasn’t very good at it. But unfortunately, I didn’t pursue my interest in art with a proper sense of passion and motivation back then.

I tried going to college for fine art, but just wasn’t ready for it. So I dropped out, got married, and found a ‘real job’. Alas, neither the marriage nor the job lasted, but the seeds of my passion for and ability to focus on art began to bloom in the wake of my dissatisfaction with my factory job! So I decided to go back to art school and pour as much of myself into it as I could. And that’s where I began my journey as a freelance illustrator.

As I was browsing your galleries, I kept a list of different influences and inspirations I was seeing: rock and roll, magazine covers, video games and comics, vintage ads, television shows and movies, with even some iconic Catholic imagery thrown in to boot. If you had to choose (you don’t) a single sort of ‘that was it’ influence out of all that, what would you say it was/is?
I grew up with a pretty solid and advanced sense of curiosity and awareness of the pop-cultural landscape. I was one of those fortunate ‘Star Wars’ kids whose life was utterly changed by the sudden arrival of this majestic and imaginative behemoth. It ignited something inside me that still burns to this day, not only as an artist, but also as a collector of ‘cool toys’ and memorabilia.

Music has also always played a big part of my cultural foundation. I never really dug typical ‘kid’s music’ as a youth, gravitating instead towards some of the music my parents owned (on vinyl back then - I feel old)[ZN: no, you’re not, but this makes ME feel old...]. The music of Queen, Mountain, Pink Floyd, the Who, Deep Purple, Abba, the Rolling Stones, John Baldry, Led Zeppelin - all of these were on constant rotation at my house growing up. I would sit and draw while these bands and musicians took me to places in my mind that I just couldn’t get to with the help of the more juvenile fare I was ‘supposed’ to have been listening to.

Seeing the
original ALIEN film in the theater at the tender age of 5 was also a major cultural milestone. It stunned me, it terrified me, and it gave me nightmares for years to come; but it also touched me and awakened a love for horror and things disturbing (and a rabid need to collect all things ALIEN)! My father owned the original comics adaptation of the movie by Walt Simonson (published by Heavy Metal, which I still own), and I poured over the pages, copying drawings and trying to capture that beautiful nightmarish creature on paper.

So all of this began a thirst for everything from EERIE and CREEPY magazines to Frazetta paperbacks to Fantastic Four and Spider-Man comics. And don’t get me started on the explosion of the video game arcade and home video game consoles! I was in heaven!

Jared, you’ve already had some ‘unpleasant’ experiences with ‘bootlegging’ or to put it bluntly, people just plain ripping off your images and selling them under their own name or brand. They’ve been seen being sold by street vendors in NYC, being pumped out en masse by manufacturers in the Philippines, and have even been offered by other graphic ‘artists’ and comic book companies (not to mention having someone even try to win a pumpkin carving contest with your ‘ZOMBAMA’ design). Shoot, even a few days ago we saw another version of a cheap ‘copy’, ‘move a bit’ and ‘paste’ version of this same shirt (noting that I will NOT give the copier the satisfaction of including their image here).

Obviously, this is maddening and difficult to defend. But how do you balance the need to get your ‘stuff’ out there in the ether vs. making sure it doesn’t get absconded and abused?
All I can do right now is put a watermark on almost every image I put on the web, to at least confound and create difficulty for these thieves. I’ve had to block a few folks on Facebook as well who hail from some countries that are hotbeds for bootlegging if they seem suspicious. All I can do after that is send threatening letters or emails.

Sure, ‘they’ say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but thievery? That’s just being a douchebag.

ZN extra: Jared recently included this ‘tale’ of a communication with one such bag of zee douche'ing:
...my ebay bootlegger responded to my "firm" letter with this:

’I will definitely remove this listing. I'm sorry for the trouble and
if you could forward me something where I can see your other work so this issue will not happen again that would be appreciated.

Or unless you would like to keep the listing active and take 50% of MY profit.
We could leave it up. But that would be up to you.’

Still, you obviously need to get your message out. What have you found to be your most effective means of communicating with not only your current fans but also the poor deprived masses that are not yet hooked on your style? (btw: loved the entry: ‘GOD HELP ME, I'M ON TWITTER!)
I use Facebook and Twitter (as well as DeviantArt) to promote what’s going on with my design work as featured on my blog. I get far more response from those two outlets than I get comments on my blog, which I don’t mind.

I also like being able to keep up with other artists and what they’re working on (unless they post a bunch of political or philosophical mumbo-jumbo in lieu of art-related news). Still, I don’t like the amount of time I have to spend on the computer doing promotion, posting my work across multiple sites. I could be using that time to work on actual art! I need an assistant who is more computer-savvy than I (and knows how to build websites, because I am clueless).

I have to know: why do gorillas – beautiful and majestic creatures that they are – hold such a special place in your heart?
You know, I wish I had a cool story like I was rescued by a tribe of gorillas when my parents’ plane crashed in the jungle and they nursed me back to health until a rescue chopper could come... but the fact is I just think they’re cool! They have a very powerful form and there’s some fun shapes to play with there.

Same with squids and octopi. Fun to draw.

After going through your blogs and the often well chronicled steps it takes to get your works ‘ready to go’, I have a couple of questions:
You seem to ‘labor’ for lack of a better word with different color combinations for many pieces. Why do you think that is?
I feel sometimes like I don’t have a very good sense of color, or maybe it’s just that I don’t have much confidence in my choices. I have to struggle to remember all the things I was taught in color theory class and I do a lot of research and experimenting to give me several color choices to choose from.

Even then, when I think I’ve nailed it, I’ll let it rest, come back to it the next day and think it looks rubbish, so I’ll start all over again. Sometimes I’ll try to overcomplicate things and it takes me a while to step back and simplify.

How do you know then when it’s time to stop fiddling about and put the pen down? Do you have a kind of built-in ‘OK that’s enough’ mechanism (say something that acts as if someone slammed the piano lid down on your fingers)? For example, you share a number of postings with the aptly named ‘
She-Spartan’ as she progressed over time (ignoring for now the issues with Facebook concerning some specific bits of her bobs). When did you know she was finished?
Well, many of my pieces probably still aren’t ‘finished’. It’s funny, but as much as I complain about guys like George Lucas going back and constantly monkeying with his movies, trying to ‘improve’ them, I can understand that mindset.

As I constantly evolve and improve as an artist, I go back and look at work that was done years, or even months ago and think ‘I can do that much better now’ or see a flaw that wasn’t evident before that needs patching or tweaking. I have a whole drawer full of old sketches and roughs that I intend to return to for the sake of improving and really turning them in to something swell.

Usually, though, if it’s work for a client, the deadline or commission fee will determine when I ‘put the pen down’. If they need it by the 4th, then I better be done by the 4th. Or, if they’ve only paid me $500 for the design, I need to make sure I don’t spend so much time on it that I’m only making minimum wage by the time it’s done. I also have to try and avoid going back and revamping too many old designs because I need to keep moving forward. That’s a trap that’s hard to get out of.

Even though you do try out a lot of different colors and even shading combinations before you submit things, often your works are ‘adjusted’ by the end-user. How does that work contractually, I mean, once the image is sold, is that it for you? How does it make you feel when you see a slight or even dramatic change?
Oh, I usually hate it! I’m fine with clients coming to me and saying ‘this color in the zombie’s intestines doesn’t look right. Can we change it to more orangey than pinkish?’ I’m fine with that, even if I think it doesn’t look quite right. At least they’ve let me know so I can change it.

Still, I’ve seen some of my shirt designs where both parties have agreed that MY final colors and design are pretty good and ready for print. Then I see the actual printed shirt and they’ve either changed colors or ‘omitted’ certain elements that I thought helped the design ‘pop’. For example, one design I was particularly unhappy with when it was printed had some color changes that ended up being not only a bit garish, but had also obviously been done without the care and attention I would have given it, because they missed a chunk of color on something. The average person, of course, probably wouldn’t notice or care, but it stuck out like a neon sign to me.

You’ve mentioned that ‘I've always had trouble keeping a consistently updated sketchbook, and I've lately fallen into only doing sketches for whatever job I had currently on my plate’. Why is that and how do you eventually force yourself to ‘keep at it’?
A lot of that is because I just don’t have the time to do much ‘practice drawing’ or leisurely sketching, which is a shame and results in my stunted development, I’m sure. When you’re doing freelance and you’ve gotta bring the money in or the bills don’t get paid and there’s no such thing as a regular paycheck, you try to make every bit of drawing you do count towards that final image or design.

For example, if the job entails monkeys, I’ll get out all my monkey references and draw up some preliminary sketches. But there’s never any time where I’m sitting on a park bench sketching people or nature, unless the job calls for it. Plus, it’s hard for me to draw on tiny little sketchbooks. I need to have room to move around!

I do try to make it a habit of sketching from imagination whenever I can – you know, doing creature design and concept art and such, just to keep in practice.


Continued in
Part 2

1 comment:

Kidchuckle said...

great interview!I've followed his works for sometime! it's great to sit down and read this