- Who are you and how long have you been working as an artist?
My name is Brad Lewis. I’m currently a character designer on the Cuphead Show at Netflix Animation in Los Angeles, CA.I have been working in the animation industry for 7 years now. In those 7 years I’ve had the pleasure of working on various projects for TBS, FOX, Nickelodeon, Disney TV, Bento Box Entertainment, ShadowMachine films, Powerhouse Animation and Netflix.
- How do you personally define art block? How often do you get art block?
I define art block as a moment of burnout, a point where my creativity has been pushed to its limit and refuses to budge. A point where I don’t have the mental capacity to do the things that I love because I become hyper critical of myself or just physically can’t draw anymore. I would say that I get art block quite regularly. It’s part and parcel of being an artist I think. Like most things in life and the universe, creativity comes in the form of a wavelength, there are highs and lows, peaks and valleys. The peaks can be glorious moments of triumph and the valleys, more often than not, can be quite a bummer. Once you realize that it’s the natural order of things, it becomes easier to understand and you find ways to handle it.
- What are some specific strategies you employ when dealing with art block?
I can smell an art block coming from a mile away so I brace myself. I know things are about to get rough. The one thing I do is mentally prepare and tell myself, “this is fine” or “this is natural”. I take a deep breath and remember not to take it personally when I go to put down a line and it looks like something a robot who was programmed to suck at drawing would do. The last thing you want to do when going through an art block is to get frustrated. Being frustrated will make your actions more sporadic and uncontrolled, thus resulting in further frustration until you reach a boiling point where you screech and crumple up your paper. TAKE A DEEP BREATH AND DON’T TAKE THINGS SO SERIOUSLY. When I get an art block, I do one of many things depending on the type of art block.
If it’s general drawing fatigue (which happens every now and then when you draw for 40 hours a week) and I physically can’t draw, I don’t force myself. I go and rest. Think of it in the sense of working out. If you’ve been lifting weights and you’re sore and tired, don’t push yourself, it could result in serious injury. Read a book, a comic, watch a movie or some cartoons, play a video game, something, anything to keep your brain stimulated while simultaneously feeding your imagination.
If I’m going through creative fatigue but still want to draw, that is when I go back to basics and study. My go-to art block busters are gesture drawing, anatomy studies, and classic cartoon studies. Remember that weight lifting comparison I made earlier? Think of going back to basics as a form of creative weightlifting. Quite often when doing studies I find myself getting sidetracked. Like say I’m studying hands. I’ll draw some hands in different poses and before I know it, I have a page of monster hands, hands with human faces, a character with giant hands etc. just like that the creativity is back and I can jump back into things. So while you’re not necessarily drawing the things you WANT to draw when studying, you’re beefing up those creativity muscles so when you jump back in you know just a little bit more than you did the last time and can apply what you studied to new work.
I also find mindlessly doodling to be a therapeutic way to deal with art blocks. Nothing is more liberating than drawing poorly on purpose. Drawing hilariously bad doodles makes me laugh and laughter IS the best medicine.
- Describe the biggest obstacle / challenge you’ve encountered working as an artist and how you overcame it.
My biggest obstacle as a professional artist has always been imposter syndrome. When I landed my first LA gig, I would beat myself up over every little mistake I made. I remember one time in particular, I was tasked with designing an 8 point turnaround of a character on Final Space called ” The Frost Bear Overlord”. I had done turnarounds in the past but this one was a doozy. 12 feet tall, horned, jewel encrusted armor, spikes all over the place. I nailed down the front view, no problem, but when it came to actually turning the character I ran into so many snags.
One responsibility of being a character designer that I learned pretty quickly is to be a creative problem solver, to be able to design appealing designs but also design something that functions. I had such a hard time figuring out certain views on the turn, because some details would obscure others and muck up the overall silhouette. Long story short I figured it out, but my imposter syndrome kept telling me every step of the way that I was not worthy to be there. I’ve learned that this is something all artists go through. Listening to the woes and personal anguish of my co-workers made me realize I’m not alone and we aren’t bad, after all, we all got hired for a reason! Once I was able to overcome the nagging, critical voice in my head I was able to move forward and knock out assignments with general ease. You have to trust your own judgement and assume you’re doing things right.
- Where can we see more of your work online?