Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Artist of the Week

Britton Walters

The most challenging aspect of pursuing a career as a creative professional (artist, writer, or musician) is taking the time to stop and create. I've talked to writers who say they have to write for 30 minutes per day, but it is the more ambitious projects like Brendan Losch's song per week project that really drive creativity. Since 2005 Chicago's Britton Walter's has been forcing himself to do something similar, and the results have fueled a career that is just starting to really take off. His yearly project is called 4x6x366, and it finds him focusing what energy he left to create a personal painting or drawing every day. It is an ambitious goal, but one that has helped him create hundreds of original drawings.

Yet, Britton is so much more than just drawings, he has created a series of illustrations that are filled humor and creativity. He has been able to turn these illustrations into successfully marketed products. A skilled graphic designer, Britton has been able to take his creation from the canvas and place them on stickers, t-shirts, buttons, and more. Under the heading of Nerfect, he has created favorites like Diabolical Dog, Hip hop hamburger and many more.

Recently, Britton was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): Now that you are nearing the end of your 4x6x366 project for 2008 how do you feel it has helped you as an artist? Has your approach to doing this changed since you started working this way in 2005?
Britton Walters (BW): The daily drawing series have been extremely helpful to me as an artist. On a basic level, it is an exercise of sorts. The practice helps me build up my skills, and the daily deadline keeps my imagination cranking. I also get to experiment with a lot of ideas on a day-to-day basis. Not every drawing is a winner, but I know that I have another shot the next day. You don’t always get that when you’re working on larger pieces.

When I started doing the daily drawings, it was mainly because I had noticed that I hadn’t done quality personal work in quite a while. I needed to warm myself up by starting this practice.

The drawings from that first year, seem a bit alien to me now when I look at them. I tended to over-think and overwork the pieces. I see them as to too tight, tense even. I feel that as I’ve moved on with this project, I’ve been able to be able to really loosen up and let things flow more
naturally. If a drawing stinks now, so be it, but back in 2005, I might have redraw a bad piece again and again.

Now, I’m at a stage where I’m a bit more comfortable just letting things happen, and to trust my gut more.

OA: Have you ever had anyone take you up on your offer to finish their paintings?
BW: A handful of folks have and the results have been really good. I think people know roughly what to expect out of me and in the pieces I’ve “finished” have been really well received by the people who submit work to me.

I’m actually surprised that more people haven’t taken me up on the offer to finish their unfinished artworks. Every artist I know has a couple pieces they just didn’t complete lying around, and I don’t charge a crazy amount for the service. It’s a bargain, I get another collaboration in my portfolio and the submitter gets a sweet piece of artwork.

OA: You have created a wide range of sticker designs. What is your most popular and when do you know drawing should or could become a sticker?
BW: Diabolical Hot Dog is definitely my most successful creation lately. Anything I put him on moves out the door. The character just has the right magical combination of parts and people dig him.

It’s hard to say what makes me think a particular design is worthy of getting produced as a sticker, a t-shirt or whatever. In the beginning I just put stuff out that I was happy with and I just kept my fingers crossed that someone else out there in the world would be willing to buy

Originally, I saw making stickers and buttons a way of getting affordable bits of my artwork out into the world. Now, as more and more shops have begun to carry them, and it has become more like a real business, I rely on feedback from the folks who sell my stuff in the retail environment. If something is doing really well as a button, I will consider turning it into a sticker or t-shirt.

OA: Tales of the Danged looks interesting, what can you tell us about your comic book?
BW: I’ve always liked comics, and over the years I’ve tried my hand at the comics form. Tales of The Danged is the last real comic book I put out. It was a real labor of love, and if I had the time and maybe a team to work on comics with to take a bit of the pressure off, I’d love to do more comics in the future.

The original idea Tales of The Danged was for an anthology book that I could try different kinds of stories in, but as I was working on it, one of the stories seemed to grow and grow and was eventually the length of the book. That story was the story of Secret Dog and Doug Nerfect, a
couple of unintentional adventurers. There are a lot of twists and turns, a few things that I thought were funny, a 3-D center spread (glasses are included), and a special appearance by Diabolical Hot Dog.

OA: Is Chicago a good place to be a professional illustrator and artist? With the internet does it really matter where you live?
BW: Chicago has a large community of professional artists and with a lot of ad agencies and publishing firms located here, it is a pretty good place to find work. The gallery and art scene is pretty healthy, but has a bit of room to grow.

Granted, as you suggest, the internet really frees people up. As an artist, you can really work globally and build a strong network of connections. You can truly set up shop anywhere as long as you have the chops and a good core base of clients.

However, it really helps to be able to physically attend shows and make personal connections with others in the art community offline. You never know whom you might meet at an opening or how going out to lunch with a client can benefit your career.

OA: What's next for Britton Walters and Nerfect?
BW: I feel really good about the upcoming year artwork wise. There are a million things I’d like to work on and develop.

I’m moving ahead with the daily drawings. So many ideas come out of that series that are ending up in the larger pieces I’ve been doing lately. I’ve been doing a bit more painting these days and am really excited to show these pieces off.

Speaking of which, I have a couple of shows in the spring that I’m doing work for and planning now. Please check out regularly to find out more about them. I’m also keeping my eyes open for group shows and new opportunities to show my work.

I also plan to continue developing the merchandise extension of my work. I’ve got a few new items in the works and hope to get my stuff into more environments around the globe in aught nine.

To be honest, the most exciting thing coming up for me are those opportunities that I don’t even know of yet.

Bonus Questions:
OA: If you could sit down to coffee with anyone (alive or dead) who would it be?
BW: I would really love to chat with physicist Richard Feymnman. He was a brilliant, curious and interesting human being. The collections of his essays and other personal writings are very entertaining.

OA: What type of music do you enjoy and who are a few of your favorites?
BW: I’d like to think that I’m pretty eclectic in my tastes in music. There is so much great stuff out there. On a single day I could easily go from bluegrass to old school hip hop or classic soul and funk to hardcore punk. As long as there is some honesty in it and it is a bit rough on the edges, I’ll give most anything a spin.

For more information on Britton Walters please visit his website.

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