Chitchat: Robb Mommaerts

interview

Your Full Name
Robb Mommaerts

Tell us about you.
From the earliest age I can remember I wanted to be an illustrator. Creating images has always played a major role in my three decades of life, from drawing, to sculpting. It was always the tool that would enable me to fit in with others. I had a lot of support from my parents along the way too which was great.

I am a graphic designer and art director by day for an ad agency. My greatest pride is being an illustrator, which I do in the after hours. Unfortunately I am not yet a full-time illustrator, but plan to be some day. I am married and I have a 2.75 year old daughter as well as an infant son. Being a daddy is my FAVORITE job.

In your opinion, what would be the secret ingredients to become a great illustrator?
I would say loving what you do and not thinking of it as “work”. That is what allows me to draw at night after I put a full day of work in at my day job. I think keeping track of what other illustrators are creating. Trying to stand out in an industry with a lot of individually talented people. I think being able to change with the times as well, embracing technology and being open to new ideas. Being a night owl helps too.

Where are you located?
Currently wandering the frigid wastelands of Wisconsin on the vast continent of North America

What is the most fascinating part of being an illustrator?
Oh wow, SEVERAL things, not sure where to start…I’d say being able to pick up new skills along the way. Learning and growing in your creativity and problem solving.  Being able to communicate with and learn from other illustrators.

Where do you get inspirations from?
Illustrators’ blogs, art books, the great outdoors, historical stuff, vintage artwork, my daughter’s imaginative humor, book stores, movies, and children’s books.

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How do you promote/ sell/ showcase your work?
I have a website robbvision.com. I am also on Deviant art, which has made a HUGE difference in my career. I don’t know how I survived without it. You get to meet so many interesting people, and the exposure is excellent.

What is your long range goals in your life?
I would love to be a full-time illustrator some day and regularly work on children’s books. It would be so exciting to create a property and see where it would go. Also…character design is a lot of fun as well and something I’d like to be able to do more of.

What types of assignment/ project are you attracted the most? Why so?
Projects where the client has an open mind and wants to see you create something reflective of your own personal style. Creating something unique and taking a different spin on subject matter or a specific character.

Who is an illustrator that you look up to? Why so?
Crap…there are too many!! Tony DiTerlizzi, Bill Wray, Jack Davis, Frank Frazetta, Peter DeSeve, LeUyen Pham, Brian Biggs, Derek Yaniger, Shag, Chip Wass, Walt Kelly,”Dapper” Dan Schoening, Ragnar, Brett Helquist, Chris Houghton, Adam Rex….(whew!)

I’ll comment on Tony DiTerlizzi, because he seems like such a great guy and has really done so much with his properties in such a seemingly short time. His work retains a classic fairy tale ambiance, with a fun Saturday morning cartoon feel. I wrote him an email once asking him some basic questions and he took the time to write back and give me a ton of great advice. Every time I look at his work, it just blows me away. I love reading his book “Ted” to my daughter. He is also one of the artists out there who’s work gave me an inspirational kick-in-the-pants to really hone my style, improve my skills, and build my portfolio.

Chip Wass is also an illustrator who combines strong graphic design with his illustrations. I love seeing his take on charactersThat is something I always try to achieve with my work.

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Describe a difficult work/ project situation and how would you overcome it?

Listen to me cry…I had a tough project years back where I was contacted to create a character for a children’s game. It was for a nonprofit group, so I was working at a reduced rate. But it was one of those classic situations where I was VERY excited at first, then it was death-by-committee that ended it. I gave the client dozens of character designs and stayed flexible and enthusiastic as the character changed over the weeks that followed. They would react to what I gave them, but then would change the character to different species of animals…to a human…to a fantasy character…to an object, ect ect..

I stayed positive and open–minded till the client leader sent me a crudely drawn cocktail napkin sketch of the final character concept. I worked up a tight version based off that sketch then received a very angry email from the client stating that they had wanted me to colorize that napkin sketch so that “it would look like a child drew it”. AND that they did not want me to redraw it. At this point I was honest with the client and told them how I felt I was treated with not a lot of respect, lost a lot of money and time, and that it was time to end my involvement in the project. They did end up using my version which was nice. But politely I walked away being proud of the work I did, and staying a professional.

What do you think about the Internet and how it is affecting our lifestyle?
I think it has opened up a whole new world and things seem to be so much more accessible. Contacting people and getting your work out to the masses seems so much more doable that it would have been 20 years ago.

With the internet as a tool…Just finding subject matter for references, research, and looking at other’s websites for inspiration, That makes such a difference. I remember always having to go to the library to photocopy books and magazines for reference materials, Now I can get it in seconds, not leave my home and be a shut-in.

If you could turn back time, how would you do things differently?
Being honest…I would have gone to an art school, and a bigger city to be exposed to other artists and cultures. I’m more of small town person, but I feel like I missed out and took the “safe” route. I would have focused more on illustration right away and would have been more ambitious. I really did not get the spark in me until I was a couple years out of college, which kinda stinks. I know so many people who are still in college/art school, and they have portfolios that look as if they have been working professionally for 5 years.

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How do you keep your work fresh? Do you need to consciously adapt your style or does it progress naturally?
I like trying new materials, but I try to have fun with them. If something is un-fun, I avoid it. I tend to stick to things that I feel comfortable with and I can just let my ideas flow without worrying about the medium.

Name 3 of your favorite (art) books/ magazines.
The Spectrum books, Naïve: Modernism and Folklore in Contemporary Graphic Design, amazing Figure Modeler too.. even though I’m not a model builder.

What is your life motto?
Treat others like you wish to be treated.

In what kind of a work environment do you do your best work?
I like working in my basement dungeon listening to podcasts, old time radio shows, or sit-coms. I do also love working with other artists, but I seldomly get to do that.

What do you like the sound of?Why so?
I love my daughter’s voice. She is so full of energy and happiness, and always makes me laugh.

If you have online portfolio, what is the URL?
My deviant page is…. http://robbvision.deviantart.com/
My website is…robbvision.com…or robbmommaerts.com….
my blog is…. http://robbvision.blogspot.com/
and my OUTDATED Dinosaur themed blog is… http://paleo-buffet.blogspot.com/ I REALLY have to get that started up again.

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