Hey guys, we hope you’ve been enjoying Drew Pocza’s Frightlies set. The response has been awesome — and we can’t wait to add one set to our #NeonMonsters collection! Coming Tuesday, October Oct 29 (one week from today), you’ll be greeted with some truly horrifying work from Gregbo Watson — the darkest stuff we’ve had on NeonMob to date — and just in time for Halloween!
We think he’s actually a tremendous talent with a specific flair for original cartoony mayhem — and our newest set Frightlies — available now— proves this.
Featuring 100 original limited edition pieces (with an equal number of variants to pursue!), this is one of the biggest sets we’ve launched, and marks the half-way point through #NeonMonsters month, which we kicked off with Vaughn Pinpin’s The Orphanage two weeks ago.
Wanting to know more about the development of his style, comic work, and how he manages to create work that both adults and kids love, we shot him some quest ions. Without further ado:
NeonMob: “Art so cute that it’ll make you puke” — where does that come from and what does that mean to you?
It was kind of a happy accident. I love doing cute and kid-friendly styled work. But to see the art and then see me, it’s sorta jarring. I’m an old, decently covered-with-tattoos guy with a few facial piercings and 1.25” stretched ears. The contrast just cracks me up. And somehow when messing around with tag lines I landed on the puke.
NeonMob: So, how would you say that character manifests in your forthcoming Monsters set?
“Manifest” is the perfect word since they are monsters. Creating 100 monsters was hard. Not gonna lie. But I love character design and so I tried hard to give each monster that little something that makes them fun and unique. I wanted each monster to have enough personality that it would be easy to see them in some kind of setting they should belong in. You could just see them and imagine for yourself what they are about.
NeonMob: Tell us more about the themes and stylistic choices you made with your set? Did you try to stretch yourself in a new direction, or is this “quintessential Drew Pozca”?
Stylewise, at the time, I was only doing the thick black outlines stuff for the most part. It seemed natural to me and something you would see on Cartoon Network.
The themes were a little more difficult: “Monsters.” Sure there are LOTS of them out there. But I knew I wanted as much variation as I could get. I used to do monsters for fantasy gaming similar to Dungeons & Dragons (DnD) and I grew a nice fan base off of monsters. Easy peasy. But there are more than just fantasy monsters. Looking beyond the typical DnD monsters I got into sci-fi, classic movies, and folklore. I can’t say that I tried a new direction for them, but went with the encouragement that NeonMob wanted me for MY style. As an old art director friend of mine used to say, “Go with what ya know” — which for me, means bright colors and fat black outlines!
NeonMob: Tell us about the process for creating each illustration. How did you come up with the idea for each character?
At first I was thinking 100 monsters would be easy to do. So I just start pulling monsters out of my head. As I began to really think about them I realized there are “basic” monster ideas but that only got me so far. I had to dig deeper.
I work digital on a small Cintiq. But it always starts with a sketch. Sketchbook Pro is great and I feel much closer to traditional drawing in a sketchpad in it than I do in Photoshop. I needed to keep track of monsters so I would work up about 10 sketches per page. I find my initial thought is good so I’d send it off for approvals and once the approval came in, I’d take them into Illustrator. One thing I tried to keep was line consistency. So I worked on all ten monsters on one page again. That way the style would match through all 100 and not have lots of different line weights. It was a system that helped produce a consistent visual language, outlining and coloring in Illustrator. As I worked through the 100, I found new ways to get more out of the design, so I ended up going back through to make sure they all matched up.
Once they were dialed in, it was off to Photoshop. Everything was built in Illustrator, even backgrounds, but I put them in PS to lock down all the bells and whistles so that nothing would be potentially lost in file exchanges. And PS has nice automated stuff to batch a process exporting so I could run it and go get more coffee. With working on so many monsters, I felt like I really needed project management and any way to save time.
NeonMob: Was there anything difficult about producing this set? Anything that surprised you or that you hope our community of NeonMobsters will notice?
YES! The first 40-50 were much easier. I knew what I wanted for the first 30 or so, but had to kick in the creative juices for the rest. It reached a point between 50-75 that I needed help. I put out a call on Facebook to ask people what their favorite monsters were. I got a lot of responses and fortunately not many overlapped.
The last 20 were brutal. I was staying up late to meet the deadline and was losing feeling in my drawing hand! I had to start looking into folklore from several nations and put my spin on it. From China, Native America, and Australia, I found lots of crazy creatures. One of favs came from an Aborigine folk story about a monster who’d wait for people who were hot and tired to take a nap under a tree, then once they fell asleep, he‘d suck their blood through suctions on his fingers and then barf them back up. WILD.
I was as close to mental fatigue as ever and yet somehow, I think reading that story helped.
NeonMob: Some of your work is decidedly bubbly and “cute”, with bright, solid patches of color. Some of your other more recent work is textured and subdued. What determines how you select your color palette and texture, and how does it change the way people respond to your work?
I have my “periods” just like Picasso had. LOL! I started everything with vector and it just had that bright, cheerful look. I think it was almost the nature of the application. But it worked for me. Bright work kinda led to cute and vice versa. And the contrast of the fat black outline really made it pop. But I got tired of always using the outline. It worked often, but I was starting to get business/office related work and it made it feel too cartoony. So I started doing work without the outlines in hopes it would have a more “illustration” feel — it did. I had to find ways of toning down the brightness as well, but didn’t go the obvious route with dull colors. Instead, I went with strange textures and shapes; a more vintage approach. Then I found myself pulling the outlines back in. When I realized I could never get exactly what I was looking for in vector, I started taking the art into Photoshop to add textures like brown paper bags, wood etc. It took it to another level. (I hope. But I like it!) I still use punchy colors, but the textures help tone them down.
Some time later, I got tired and bored of the solid outline and wanted a more brush-shaped look: something more natural and easy on the eyes. So when I started doing Pokeweed comics, that’s where I started. I wanted mistakes and uneven lines.
Today I like to think my work is pretty versatile visually yet it still smacks of Pocza . People can check out my site and know I did all the stuff even though there is variation. Now I would say my work is 60//20/20: 60% is done with the loose brushwork, 20% has the hard line, and the remaining 20% has no outlines.
Each project tends to dictate what style I use. If it needs to be scalable I keep it all in Illustrator. If it’s a set size that’s small enough, I go at it ending up with textures in PS. But it all works for kids and office work alike.
NeonMob: Tell me about Pokeweed Comics. It seems like many of these are somewhat autobiographical, so what role does creating these strips serve for you?
I have made comics off and on over the years. Always admired the daily comics and would have loved to done the syndication thing. Pokeweed is a culmination of a few strips that failed. But somehow together they work well.
It started when I was laid off from a gig in a the gaming industry. I was on unemployment and looking for work and wanted to stay creatively active.
So I started making a few strips and playing with technique. I was not interested in doing my typical fat stroked art and wanted something loose and free. But I couldn’t get the look I wanted in AI until I figured out how to make a custom brush and got a Wacom tablet. The Cintiq changed how fast I could work in general, but the pressure sensitivity was exactly what I needed. It pains me to look back at the early strips, but I also enjoy seeing the growth and watching the characters get refined.
Pokeweed has and always will be a fun place for me to visit. It’s an escape. It was never about making money. Although I wouldn’t be opposed to that. In it’s prime I was doing the strip five times a week. Sadly I never got a buffer to work ahead of schedule. Being unemployed I could just do one a day, but as freelance picked up — or heck, even the stress of no work coming took its toll on me creatively — the strip got pushed back to “when I can”. That really bums me out. I miss the strip. A lot. You can read more about the strip here. I go more into depth about it there.
NeonMob: Have you learned anything about yourself by creating them on a regular basis?
Yes. I realized I know nothing. The older I get the more interesting everything becomes, but the faster it goes away. Pokeweed covers alllllll kinds of stuff from philosophy, conspiracy theories to fart jokes. The first 100 or so strips were pretty easy. It was almost all potty humor. Once I ran out of poop jokes it got harder. I had to dig it deeper, like the monsters. If you know me, you can see me in each character. And often, I use daily stuff that actually happened. For example, and ex friend in real life called me a “good little Nazi" and unfriended me because I am not a fan of the current administration. And I am vocal about it. But what she didn’t understand is, I’m not a fan of BOTH sides. But I digress. So I used that jab as a fun gag in a Pokeweed. If anything, people will read Pokeweed and realize, I have no clue. LOL. But I try to have fun.
NeonMob: You wrote that at one point you were headed to become “a hip, youth pastor” but that path didn’t pan out. How has spirituality influenced your work and how you think about it?
Oh yes. I had this wild idea that I should be a youth pastor. I was heavily involved in my church and was pushed in that direction from friends. It seemed good. So I went off to Calvary Chapel Bible College. Shortly after graduating I ended up not staying at the church and took on various jobs. It was a several years before I got back into art. It was around then computers were really taking over the creative process and I had a friend encourage me to go back to night school and I ended up getting a certificate in design from Cal State Redlands. But the real training was doing the work on the job.
Many years later while doing design and illustration I got into doing work for Mars Hill Church here in Seattle and then other churches and so on. But what was fascinating to me is that I came around again to the Bible. Now I had art training and Bible training and put the two together.
Now, as an old guy, I look back and am thankful I wasn’t a youth pastor. As much good as I think I may done, I wasn’t cut out for it. Now is the time I hope to shine with a new series of stock illustrations geared towards kids I call Drawn By Faith I’ll be launching soon. It’s intended for churches and ministries to use. Do a search for Bible based art and there is mostly cheesy clip art crap out there. I am not saying I have the perfect answer to art needs within the church, but I do offer something a bit more fun and well done. SO, if you know anybody in the church creative teams, tell them to look into drawnbyfaith.com!
By doing the Bible-based art, I have picked up several other gigs including work for Microsoft, so you never know how God can use situations or talents. And doing Monsters for NeonMob helped me land work for Project Spark coming out on XBOX. And after almost 20 years I had a guy connect with me on Facebook and tell me how much he appreciated me way back when I was hanging out with his parents. He is grown up and married now, but it was great to hear from him and I was very encouraged by that. (Insert some cool song like the Circle of Life here).
NeonMob: What advice might you give to someone considering a career in art, but might be on the fence? In other words, if you were to go back to a younger Drew Pocza and tell him something you wish you’d known then, what would you say?
DON’T! Find something stable. LOL. I went about it alllll wrong. Career-wise, I wish I had gone to art school from the start. Not just kinda make my way floating around in life. I try to encourage my son to find out what he is passionate about and to make money with it. It’s so cool getting paid to do what you love, but have some kind of plan. Take a business class! It’s so important if you want to make money from what others consider “a hobby”. There are so many things I would go back and do, and that is a must.
Another is to not listen to negative people. Sure, take into consideration feedback from people you respect, but don’t give up doing your own thing. Find what YOU do. Then do it well. Bruce Lee applied this in martial arts and called it Jeet Kune Do. He took the best aspects of martial arts and made it his. Do that. It’s ok to use something you like from another artist as long as you are not ripping them off. Take what you like from here, there and everywhere but make it yours. What works as a model for one artist probably won’t work for you and so on. I am still trying to find myself the right art buyers. If you can find your target audience, that’s half the battle. My work isn’t for everyone, but it is for someone. Now I’m trying to find them and get in front of them.
Oh, and for younger Drew… I was happy with the illusion of reality from the blue pill while asleep in the Matrix. But once I took the red pill, I can’t unsee or unthink all the conspiracy theories. And it’s scary seeing a lot of it unfolding. Thanks Morpheus!
NeonMob: Finally — what’s your take on NeonMob?
I’ll admit, I had no clue what was going on when we first started this adventure. I think I may have been one of the first artists? I had a blast doing the pieces, but when I saw the site come together… wow . NeonMob has done a great job at creating a great collection of artists of so many styles. It’s an honor and humbling to be a part of it all. So, Happy Collecting and thank you VERY much.
The next installment in our month-long love affair with #NeonMonsters is Drew Pocza’s 100-piece (aptly named) Frightlies set — a lighter, cartoony take on a motley gaggle of mischievous creatures. Meet them next Tuesday, October 15!
First, read the little backstory for this set. Got it? I’ll wait.
I added a little built-in game as you collect The Orphanage. As you meet new children, some will give you warnings and some will be far less than kind. The game is: how many warnings will you receive before Elsabeth Grinn’s ghost claims you? Your fate rests on who you’ll meet before your final confrontation with Elsabeth.
The little game organically came about as I was conceptualizing the set. It wasn’t in the initial planning, but when I got the idea, I really tried implementing it.
(Early concept sketches)
The idea itself came to me easily. Being a person who can’t deal with children like a normal person, I translated my irrational fear into humorous and macabre drawings of impish children. It sort of pokes fun at my awkwardness towards children, but I thought it was an interestingly and charmingly grotesque idea worth actualizing. Thus The Orphanage was born.
I drew quite a bit of inspiration from some of my favorite artists such as Tim Burton, Brett Helquist, Chaz Addams, and Edward Gorey and found the experience quite enjoyable and enriching for me as an artist. I hope you enjoy the set as much as I enjoyed making it!
Welcome to The Orphanage, a wickedly wonderful 100-piece set by Vaughn Pinpin — available now on NeonMob
Elsabeth Grinn was the last of the Grinn family and therefore she inherited the vast fortunes of the clan along with Grinn Manor. And for a while, she found herself living alone in it with her only child. Elsabeth’s husband mysteriously disappeared after the baby was born.
And just as a storm raged on the night Elsabeth lost her husband, so did she with her only child. She was stricken with grief and filled with love she no longer had anyone to give. She ran into the forest with her child slumped and lifeless in her arms as tears fell from her eyes. She returned hours later alone to her large ancestral mansion. Her baby was nowhere to be found on her.
But during the first year of running her orphanage — and on the first anniversary of the death of her child — she hung herself in the attic! And still the orphanage stands with a dark past and a dark future.
Now here you are, a visitor of The Orphanage. And through your journey, you will meet the current residents of these dark halls. No one is truly safe under the roof of this mansion, not anymore.
Next Tuesday (October 1) we’ll be releasing The Orphanage, a creepy 100 piece set — kicking off a month of #NeonMonsters. Prepare yourself for some ghoulishly frightening art!
We caught up with creator Vaughn Pinpin to discuss the set, his influences, and his work on Pokemon done in the style of Tim Burton!
NeonMob: Tell us about the process for creating each illustration. How did you come up with the idea for each character?
A lot of these characters are based on ghost stories and old, timey horror movies. The initial idea was to create a set of monsters inspired by classic monster movies, but it transformed into a set of creepy children. But before I could start making any characters, I always decide on a look. In this case, I drew inspiration from Tim Burton and Edward Gorey, and then I decided to allow my voice as an illustrator to be more prominent. This resulted in the style that is present in The Orphanage.
Conceptualizing 100 characters was a pretty difficult challenge for me actually, but eventually I found a groove. After I’ve made a list of names and concepts, it was easy to make a character happen. Once I understood what a character’s personality was, I would attempt to communicate that through the shape of the character and its pose and other features. I give quite a bit of attention to the character’s eyes and the way the character stands, as I think that’s one of the major signifiers of personality. The goal was to either make a child look creepy, eerie, mischievous, or even dangerous.
NeonMob: What is your background and how did you become an artist?
I am currently a Visual Communication student. I’m on my final year at the University of The Philippines. And I think I became an artist when I realized making art made me happy and that I’d rather just keep creating for as long as I can. I think I was 9 years old when I first started taking art seriously and ever since then I’ve just escalated my obsession with art over the years.
NeonMob: We have had the pleasure of working with several wonderful Filipino artists. What is it like being a professional artist in the Philippines?
Well, it’s always hot here. Haha! But I think it’s pretty difficult and exciting to be an artist in the Philippines. This country isn’t exactly developed enough to patronize the art industry to its full potential, but lately it seems that the creative industry has been growing quite rapidly.
NeonMob: Tell us about the Burton x PKMN project. How have Tim Burton and Pokemon inspired you in your life?
Well, I’ve always credited Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas as one of my earliest creative influences. It certainly opened me to the idea of experimenting with art and illustration at the very least. The Burton X PKMN Project is sort of a re-exploration of Tim Burton’s aesthetics.
As for Pokemon, Pokemon was just the best. I think it might be my favorite game. I love it. Both things though had a lot of crazy character designs, and they may have influenced me in mine. I’d like to think Tim Burton’s influence was also present in my NeonMob set.
I would like to say that the Burton X PKMN Project started out as a well-thought out tribute project, but I really only began it on a whim. I just wanted to do a project and I wanted to enjoy it and I wanted to experiment with a style. So I did. What I did discover about myself through the whole project, is that I really enjoy this style. And I might develop and incorporate it as I define my own style as an artist.
NeonMob: Where do you go for inspiration now?
It’s been impossible to predict where my inspiration comes from nowadays. I don’t often force it though. It seems my ideas and inspiration comes from recollecting images and concepts that I’ve gathered over the years and finding interesting combinations. These connections often happen when I’m just staring into space or some other banal activity. But it’s difficult to make these connections without having a huge pool of knowledge. So I’ve been trying to collect trivia and trying new experiences in the hopes for inspiration.
NeonMob: What’s your take on NeonMob?
I think it’s a great idea. I’ve always enjoyed collecting, but then I grew up in the 90’s in which trading cards was still a thing. I used to own Pokemon cards, and I always wanted to collect more. But what interests me about NeonMob, is that it has allowed me to collect good art and interesting stories. It’s just plain fun.
Meet Abigail Pounce, the first teaser from Vaughn Pinpin’s 100-piece Orphanage, scheduled for release on Oct 1. His grim, cartoony style invokes nightmares from Tim Burton (for obvious reasons) with elements of Prophet artist Simon Roy’s line work mixed in. We can’t wait for this set to drop, which will kick off the very first (and very scary!) #NeonMonsters month!
Come collect Rick Murphy’s “Americas” — the newest set on NeonMob!
Rick’s produced the first geographic set for NeonMob which, when finished, will represent every country on every continent. Not ambitious or anything. The first installment called “Americas” drops next Tuesday, September 17, 2013. We sat down with Rick to discuss his obsession and learn more about the work he does.
NeonMob: Tell us about your set “Americas”.
Mike Duca reached out me to do a set for NeonMob. He liked my recent work exploring geometry and geography. We decided that flags would be a good fit for my style and something people would enjoy collecting. There’s roughly 200 countries on planet Earth and we decided to release them in installments. “Americas” is the first release.
NeonMob: What was the process for creating each flag? It looks like you really dug into local culture and geographic features to produce these pieces.
Each flag’s geometry is preserved and filled with imagery from the region and history of each country. Have you ever Wikipedia’d a random country? They are ALL really interesting. Try it sometime! Illustrations were re-drawn when needed and consistent texture/shading systems were used to give the set a cohesive look. There’s over 200 pieces in the set, so time management became a serious part of the process. It was a great workout.
NeonMob: Where does your interest in geography come from?
Most of my work aside from NeonMob deals with locational attachment. Returning to a specific place can return you to a distinct time. It’s a feeling sometimes stronger than hearing an old song.
NeonMob: While a lot of your work seems to fit the “Flatland” aesthetic, you seem to have preserved some depth and added a considerable amount of texture to these pieces. What lead you to this style, how did you develop it, and do you think you’ll use it again?
This set of 200 was an opportunity to screw around with my style. I think I learned from each flag. Sometimes about texture, shape, perspective or blend mode. Other times about a country I’d love to visit soon. Yes, any successful exploration will definitely influence my future work.
NeonMob: Tell us about the Seattle print and t-shirt you did. How did that project come about, and what was the reaction?
I live 50 yards from the water in downtown Seattle. I will not experience this forever and wanted to document this moment in my life. The print was self-initiated and some blogs picked up on it. United Pixelworkers wanted to distribute a shirt for Seattle in the style of the print. Many people in Seattle commute to work via boat, so I simplified the shirt’s art to focus on the ferry. Both the print and shirt are enjoying their second runs. I’ve been very fortunate with this one.
NeonMob: You were commissioned to do a similar piece of San Francisco for Microsoft’s Build Conference materials. What came of that project?
The Wonderful Nishant Kothary was working on the Build conference collateral and wanted to add an illustration of San Francisco to the conference books. All of his work for Build Conference was beautiful. I’m happy to have been part of it. Nishant was great enough to let me retain rights to the art so I could later release it in print. I’m changing up the composition for 18x24 inches and working with Vahalla Studios in Kansas City on screen print gradient techniques. I’d like to have it available in October.
NeonMob: Have you played Ridiculous Fishing? I can’t but help see the similarity between the geometric art in that game and some of your work.
Ha. Yes, maybe from the 45 degree geometry and such. I don’t think it looks like my work. My work is older than that game. We’re living in an era of visual simplification. Some of us are coming to similar conclusions on how simplification should be achieved. Ridiculous Fishing is a fun game though.
NeonMob: Where do you go for inspiration now?
The obvious stuff like Dribbble, Designspiration, Fox is Black, Design Work Life. Maybe just a walk around Seattle. The best stuff comes over iChat from my designer friends. My motivation for inspiration lately is that of a spectator. I love to cheer others on but I think I’ve absorbed my fill of inspiration in this era of deconstruction and simplification. As I begin to rebuild and return to complexity I’d like my next wave to be inspired by things internal.
NeonMob: Who or what would you consider to be your top five influences right now? Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang.
NeonMob: So, gotta ask, do you collect anything in real life?
Hmm. If you look around my place you’ll see a lot of wine and music. Acquired from unintentional collecting.
NeonMob: What’s your take on NeonMob?
It’s an interesting concept and you guys are implementing it wonderfully. I’ve talked a bit with Rogie about some of your future plans. I think y’all are headed for great things.
NeonMob: How would you explain it to a friend?
It’s like Clash of Clans meets art collecting.
NeonMob: Thanks Rick — this has been super interesting. Was there anything you’d like to add?
No, man — good luck! Thanks for having me. It’s been fun to be a part of the NeonMob story.