This week on Pikaland we talk to Andy J. Miller, creator of fun, fabulous and very bendy creatures. I thought his work and name seemed familiar, so a quick search brought up his buddy, Mr. Bowlegs, whom he had collaborated on a project before. Talk about deja-vu! 🙂
Tell us a little more about yourself!
I was born and raised in USA. Lived in Indiana, Western New York, and then did my college in the UK, met my wife there (she is a Brit!) and had a beautiful daughter named Dorothy who is lucky enough to have both a US and UK passport!
Where do you live? What stands out about living where you are, and what is your daily schedule like?
I live in a great place called Columbus, IN. After last year starting my freelance career, I found I could do my work from anywhere in the world online, so I moved back home. It’s a great place, actually the cities architecture tour was branded my Paul Rand! Great culture here.
My daily schedule is annoyingly very hectic and not really a schedule at all. Having just moved it’s all over the place at the moment.
How did you get your start in illustration?
My first work was doing some pitches for the great guys at YCN (Young Creative Network) in London. The first ones didn’t work out, but it got me going and I quickly learned many lessons.
Could you tell us more about your thought process when you start a piece?
When I receive a project I start by sitting on it a bit. Just letting it sit in my head. I then usually research a bit to come up with straightforward symbols to start from. Just pictures of things that have clear meanings. Then I turn to my sketch book. Fill several pages and work out how to draw some of the images, and doodle some ideas, how the imagery can fit together. Usually by that time I have some sort of idea. I start sketching the idea really small. I like for the idea to be clear enough and the imagery to be bold enough to work really small and simple before I translate it to full size. This really helps me layout my image. Then I usually sketch it out full size, sometimes if it’s a really complex image I will sketch it out really rough at first then trace it.
What’s your favorite project so far?
Probably have to be working with Yo Gabba Gabba for Nickelodeon. It’s not necessarily my best work since it was the first animation I have directed and illustrated, but I distinctly remember the first time I came across Yo Gabba Gabba, months before I got the job, saying “Oh it would be really awesome to work with them”! So that was of course huge for me, especially since I grew up watching and being inspired by Nickelodeon.
Do you keep a journal/sketchbook, and would you mind if we had a sneak peek?
Yes, I have become absolutely obsessed with my sketchbook, hardly go anywhere with out it. It is essential to me for finding good ideas.
Would you care to share your studio space as well?
I just bought a house and we are redoing almost everything! So currently I am just working wherever there is a flat surface, sorry! Workspaces can be so inspiring.
What or who inspires you?
I take inspiration from all over the place. I get inspired when I look at nature and people. I love looking at creation. The Bible and God are huge inspirations for me, the vastness, mystery, magnitude and beauty all, deeply move me to create. What I love is the well of emotions, topics and themes, it really blows me away. I think art that encompasses ALL of life is most inspiring to me. For instance Wes Anderson movies, Sufjan Stevens work, even Dr. Suess all have the hilarious and the desperate. That artwork seems most true to me and motivates me most to work in art.
What keeps you motivated?
100%, a sense of purpose. If I am doing something I really feel passionate about and can really feel the meaning in it I don’t even need sleep! I can get up at 4AM and work all day and night when my work feels like that. When I lose that meaning or purpose in my work I get disillusioned really quickly.
What’s your favourite tool?
PENCIL. By a mile. I love drawing with a pencil, I love the imperfections of the pencil and how human it feels.
Are you a full-time artist?
Yes and no. I have been for awhile now but it was such an intense process moving back to the US with my wife, that I had to slow down a bit on my work for awhile. I have been substitute teaching a bit recently on the side and it’s been a blast. I have a billion hilarious stories with these kids. They are really inspiring too.
What advice would you like to give people who are interested in being an artist full-time?
Make sure that is what they really want. It’s super hard work. Here is the best advice I have heard on this topic : “Do what you love because it’s the only thing you will work hard enough to be good at it”. Basically if you do something you hate you will never have the motivation to get good, you will only do the bare minimum, and you will ultimately fail or be really mediocre because to be successful in anything is hard work. If you do what you love, working hard is just so much easier, haha kind of ironic. Hard work is necessary, no way out I don’t think, so might as well work hard doing what you love.
Where do you see yourself within the next few years?
To be honest I haven’t a clue. A year ago I had only a worked with a few clients, and a year before that I was still at University. If you would have asked me then I would have been today, I would have been way off. Also I have my hand in about a bajillion different pots at the moment, some of them are just on the verge of really make or break. In a few years I guess I see myself a lot more focused, working on one or two projects and giving them my all. What projects though, I have no clue!
What message do you want to send out to people about your work?
Great question, difficult to answer. I guess the main message is just to look deeper. Every once in awhile I come across a blog or someone who really sees something beneath my work and is moved by it, that is huge for me. I put a lot of thought into many of my pieces and I know sometimes it’s easier for people to just see some silly characters, which is absolutely fine, I mean it’s cool, it can work on different levels for different people. All I am trying to say is there is usually something behind that smiley face or skull I drew, if you want to think about what that might be, go for it!
Tell us something random about yourself!
My high school had a dance off in front of the entire school when I was a senior. I learned the entire dance Napoleon Dynamite does to ‘Canned Heat’ and tied for the win!