KAB.N! Interview with John Sanford

1. Who are you and how long have you been working as an artist?

John Sanford

My name is John Sanford and I’ve been working as an artist in animation since 1993.  I’m a Storyboard Artist and Director, and I’ve worked in both Features and TV.

2. How do you personally define art block? How often do you get art block? 

 Classically, art block is when I sit down to draw and nothing useful or good comes out. Now, truthfully, this only happens when I do my own stuff. When I’m given an assignment, I’m handed script pages or an outline, designs, locations, and specific directions and, most importantly, a deadline. I can have a bad morning or afternoon, but the work has to get done, so I just have to work through it. I have had to do a few late nights to work through these moments, but the deadline must be respected, so I’ve learned how do dig in and work past whatever issue I’m having. It’s more difficult when I’m working on personal stuff. I do drawings I hate, I have few ideas, or just no desire to draw. 

John Sanford: Self Portrait sketch

3. What are some specific strategies you employ when dealing with art block?

I try some drawing that is unlike what I normally do. I draw my dogs, I draw my wife. I draw my hands. I draw from photos. These drawings are usually just studies I’d never show anyone. I’m just keeping my hand moving, keeping my brain engaged in the drawing, in an academic sort of way “how does the foot turn in space, how do dogs ears really attach to their head” and so forth. The other thing I do is look for inspiration. I try to find new artists, see how they do things. I try to listen to music I’ve never heard before. I try watching TV shows I’ve never seen, movies I’ve never seen. On the flip, sometimes, I look at my old favorites and try to see something I’ve never seen before in their work. I’ll look at Walt Kelly, for instance, and study nothing but the way he draws leaves, or I will look at the various ways he poses a character who is just listening to someone. 

Art by John Sanford

4. Describe the biggest obstacle / challenge you’ve encountered working as an artist and how you overcame it.

  I continue to be vexed by drawing real things in space. Back in art school, I took Perspective twice. I know how it works, but I’m terrible at drawing buildings, cars, tables, chairs, etc.  I just keep studying. I keep having to go back to the basics…horizon line, vanishing point…..etc. I’ll get it one day. 

Art by John Sanford

5. What’s your favorite, must-go-to online art resource that other artists may not be aware of? Why is it your favorite?

I use Pinterest shamelessly the way we used to use photo files. You can categorize it just like an old school reference file, anatomy, animals, environments.  Every time you look something up, put it in a Pinterest file. Loom at other people’s Pinterest pages. It’s an amazing resource and I use it constantly.

6. Where can we see more of your work online?

  I have an Instagram I update regularly. https://www.instagram.com/jsanford86/     Instagram is also a great place to find great art!