Hello and Happy New Year from all of us here at AnthroBrand!
Our first article of the year is yet another interview with one of the amazing creators in the Anthro community, PointedFox! Fox has been part of the community for several years now and has held positions in a professional capacity with more than one major studio! I sat down with him for an in depth interview to see just what he had to say about being a creator in the Anthro community. I hope you're ready to do some reading, because Fox was very generous with his time and kind enough to provide me with an amazing look into his life.
1. In your own words, please introduce yourself! Tell us about your sona, or main character, and what inspired them into your life.
Well my character is a fox and I never really named him since he started out as more of a mascot than a sona. He just happened to share a lot of my real life attributes. That said, I just go by Fox or pointedfox if it creates confusion in a group. I chose a fox for a few reasons: I have red hair in real life, my dad would always call me 'Fox McCloud' when playing Star Fox 64 as a little kid, and I really related to Nick Wilde's character when seeing the early storyboarded versions of Zootopia. I didn't know anything about the Anthro community at the time but a fox just felt right.
2. How long have you been drawing in the general sense?
About 5 years now as a side hobby. It took me seeing the quick messy boards and visual development at Disney to really kick me into gear to learn how to draw. I always assumed every drawing coming out of Disney would be a pristine masterpiece but after realizing that 99% of the art done internally was quick and loose, but skilfully expressive and clear, I realized what needed to be prioritized in drawing and I became truly inspired to start learning. I would literally tear pieces of paper out of my meeting notebook and trace Cory Loftis' work off my screen when no one was looking, just to figure out how he did it. I would take those home and try to draw them again and slowly but surely I started figuring it out. It's a really silly way to learn how to draw but it was exciting still.
3. Do you prefer digital or traditional art more?
Digital is definitely my go to. My background in computer animation lets me leverage a lot of the skills digitally that I couldn't do traditionally. Traditional work is still fun though. I enjoy the hands-on work during the latter half of my sculpture process and it's fun to muck around in a notebook at a bar with friends from time to time.
4. What art program do you use the most? What are its best and worst features?
Photoshop, Zbrush, and Maya for my personal work but I've used just about every software under the sun for CG tasks. My software choices are simply familiar and standard at work so it's what I run with. The best features are the ones I can rely on both in hobby or professional work and their worst feature is that they are industry standard. There's many choices out there, all tempting, but it can be really tough to justify the time to learn something new unless it has a feature I desperately want or need to complete a task.
5. What brought you to the Anthro community?
Well I worked on this talking animal movie, ended up meeting people that were kind of, well, extremely into it, and turns out they can make for some pretty amazing friends. The growing audience inspiring me to create more for myself is a nice perk too.
6. Tell us about an artist that has inspired you~
My holy trinity is Chris Sanders, Corey Loftis and Byron Howard. Chris for storytelling sense and creative ideas, Corey for his wonderful sense of appeal in everything from characters down to props, and Byron for his storyboards and ability to create a clear idea with an incredibly simple but distinct style. These are all artists who's styles and attributes are usually known before you even learn their names and I really want to be the same way. They inspire me to be the kind of artist where others know my work and are motivated to know the name behind it.
7. What are your current art goals?
I'm working towards being an art director one day. With all my experience in lighting, my new adoration for drawing and painting, and my background in live action cinematography, I think I can bring a really unique and diverse skill set to any given project. If that were to take off and work out, having my own studio would be the end game.
8. If you could master any skill overnight, what would it be?
That's a tough one. Probably drawing. I think from art direction, to directing, to animating, to storyboarding, drawing is a skill that's so incredibly versatile and one that doesn't come naturally to me at all. I'm far more comfortable in my CG stuff, and confident I could tackle just about anything that is thrown at me, but I definitely can't say the same for drawing.
9. If you could give one piece of advice to new artists, what would it be?
For drawing: I always heard the saying: "you gotta do 10,000 bad drawings before you get to your first good one." While it's not wrong, I definitely hate the sentiment. It makes drawing seem miserable, inaccessible, and daunting. It really turned me off when considering the skill; especially since I had CG under my belt. I'd like to offer up a better take on it that sounds a little counterintuitive but hear me out:
Quantity over Quality. Don't focus on trying to create masterpieces and spending forever on any given drawing. You will learn so much more, so much faster, if you take a drawing to something like 80% of what you think is 'done'; then calling it good and moving on. Perfection is seriously a waste of time and will only interfere with meaningful progress. When you let go of perfection for the sake of progress and keep practicing, today's drawing might look okay but that drawing from a year ago is embarrassing compared to what you can do now. With that in mind, your skill will build and if you want to go back to push a drawing further, you can do that too. For CG: Start simple. I get a lot of people asking about getting into Blender or Maya, wanting to model their character. You can try, it will be wonky looking, and you will probably not be happy. You maybe even a little discouraged after your first attempt. Starting simple while embracing the CG workflow holistically is the single best piece of advice I can offer. It's exactly what I did in the beginning. It's better to shove five spheres together, learn to color it pink and red, apply a face texture so that you can light and fully render 'Kirby' as your first project, than it is to spend weeks on a model that would require a lot more experience to do any justice to your personal character. You'll feel a lot more accomplished completing simple projects that build up to making full characters over time.
10. What prompted you to begin taking commissions? How was it when you first started out?
Frankly it was out of necessity as my start day for work was delayed a couple months due to scheduling problems. It was nice though. I was still new to the community and only had a handful of drawings posted on twitter. I only had a few followers but managed to make ends meet. The commissioners were all very polite and had fun and simple ideas for drawings that made for a good time. I never thought I could make money drawing, and it wasn't much back then, but heck it was still money.
11. What advice do you have for artists that are thinking about beginning to take commissions for the first time?
I've been really lucky overall with customers being incredibly cool and open to what I have to bring to the table. I'm not sure if I just scare people or what, but I hear a lot of horror stories of artists getting terrible customers to work with making them jump through hoops at rates less than minimum wage. I've seen it a lot with friends and loved ones who also do commissions. My two pieces of advice are these: One, it is a commission not a collaboration. Customers are paying for your vision, and your time spent, creating that picture. A good commissioner is happy to see what you bring to the table and will give little to no input on direction or notes since they trust that you'll deliver something that is uniquely yours. A bad commissioner will treat you like a fast food menu, trying to customize everything about what you're doing. Stand your ground. You are the artist. You may lose that bad commissioner and that bad commissioner may blacklist you to his other bad commissioner friends. That isn't lost money, it's just more slots for good commissioners to fill. If you don't stand your ground and fall into collaborating with a bad commissioner, he will recommend you to his bad commissioner friends and you're going to be in for a bad time. On the flip side, good commissioners will recommend you to other good commissioners and you will be in for a fun time. Two, don't undervalue you art and time. Time is money. If you are charging $25 for a drawing and you've spent five hours on it, you may as well go find the nearest minimum wage job because not only would you be making more there, you'd probably get company benefits. Evaluate your expenses and ask yourself what is really viable to charge per hour of your work. If you're completely indie, consider that you have to compensate for the fact that you don't have company benefits. Where an artist lives can really influence the price of their work. Instead of thinking "my art isn't worth this much", think instead "I need this much per month to live, and, how long do I spend on a drawing?" Then charge accordingly. For me, I do this in addition to a full time job. I could come home, cook, relax, and have an evening with my partner; or I could draw for you. If you want me to do that though, I'm on overtime at that point so I have to make it worth the time I could be spending doing something else like resting or leisure. I could do a panel on this subject alone about tackling the fear of charging too much and missing out as well, but maybe I'll save that for when we can do conventions again.
12. What's your favorite thing about the Anthro community?
I can be more of myself with this community than I can with the "normie" side of my life. Sometimes I log back into my facebook, see the vanity and shallow nature of everyone on there, and it's a real bummer. Here though, I can draw and model whatever I want and have fun with it. I can have great art days, horrible art days, and share all of that with this community. I couldn't do that elsewhere. It's really been one of the best, if not most interesting developments in my life. It's taken me to the other side of the world at this point; to a place where I've been able to meet artists I thought I would only ever tweet at.
13. Having worked for two major studios, what was it like?
A lot of hard work and a lot of fun. It's not all sugar and rainbows, and can be really stressful when deadlines creep up, but man do they know how to party after everything's all said and done! There are some similarities, but a whole ton of differences between my experiences at these two places as well. Disney is a massive team cranking out 90 minutes of high-end material in about a half a year, where Blizzard has more of a nimble track. They jump from show to show, style to style, software to software, even when working on multiple shows at once. I have to say that I do like the smaller, tight-knit team at Blizzard. I'm pretty introverted so it takes a lot of energy to interact with a ton of different people; so the smaller team definitely made it easier for me to find a place. I was also a lot younger than most everyone else at Disney, so it was a little tougher to make friends beyond the office. That said, the greatest part about both is just the sheer skill and talent I'm surrounded by. I've been taught so much in my time between the two studios and the knowledge flow is pretty mind blowing.
14. Do you consider your artwork to be a long-term career? Or are you hoping to transition into a different field in the future?
This is definitely what I'll do until I can't do it anymore. The breadth of skills and experiences I've garnered already in my relatively young career just doesn't seem to lead anywhere else but forward. It's diverse enough to keep me enticed yet repetitive just enough to coherently improve the skills involved. I would have to find something pretty wildly different to change career paths.
15. How did you get started in 3D modelling? Is it something you picked up as a hobby or was that part of your career goal from the beginning?
I had convinced myself that I was going to be a musician right up until the final semester of high school. A few months before graduation I was thrust into a 3D animation contest hosted by Autodesk; the company that makes Maya and 3Ds Max. My parents weren't keen on the music direction and, not sure what to do with me, my dad suggested video games as a career since I basically lived in front of them like every other guy my age did. So, he hands me this old, dusty copy of Discreet 3D Studio Max bundled with Auto-CAD he got from his time in the air force. It came with this bible-sized manual and as he gave it to me he said: "Here, our robotics team needs an entry for the 3D visualization category of the competition." I started reading, then installed the software, and I'll never forget making my first object glow in 3Ds Max.
Following the tiny text in those black and white printed instructions, I made my first object glow on my computer with a post render effect. It was the single coolest thing I'd ever made and from then on I was hooked. I lugged that manual around school, buried in it, not paying attention to classes and a month and a half later I would go on to win a state-wide animation contest. From there it was pretty clear this is the kind of stuff I needed to be doing.
16. Given the size of your audience, do you have any advice for those who are looking to expand theirs?
Genuinely love what you do and keep your voice consistent about it. If you really love the stuff you make and have fun with it, that's attractive to follow. Sure, if you're already established the followers will pour in but I actually didn't reveal what I do for work until I was already established as a fox that draws on the internet with several thousand followers. I didn't explicitly tell the internet what I do for a career until much later, mostly because I was afraid of the career implications if I was found out, and to this day people are still surprised that it's actually what I do for a living. Point being, I started drawing and making 3D printed stuff because it's fun and I love it. I wasn't as good when I started, but people followed because half the fun is watching someone's journey unfold. Constantly chasing trends and trying to build your numbers to determine your sense of self worth will only hurt you and your ability to create. Have fun with what you do and you will build a relationship with your audience.
17. In your years as a creator in the Anthro community, what kind of tips and tricks have you picked up in regards to things like social interaction online?
I think this plays into expanding your audience in the sense that it's just about being consistent and genuine. I know that sounds ridiculous coming from someone who hides behind a fox mascot online, but the way I appear as a cartoon and interact with you online isn't far from what you'd get with me in person. If I like the interaction, I follow and interact. If I don't, I block and I don't dwell on it too much. There's just too much to do and experience to keep track of every little thing that may have rubbed you the wrong way along the journey. Sometimes I get asked if I remember that one time this dude did xyz and I legitimately don't remember at all. I think that rolling stone mentality has let me gloss over and keep away from some not so savory interactions; while seeking out more positive and mutually constructive relationships with folks online.
18. Is there anything you would change about your style, if you could?
At the risk of maybe sounding a little self-absorbed, I really don't think I would. I love the way it's developed and will continue to develop. I've learned that people have a pretty easy time picking out my work out of a line-up because it's so distinct. There's always stuff I want to improve or could do better, such as getting more and more variety into my work, but overall I'm really happy with where it's come from and where it could go.
19. Tell us a little known fact about yourself!
I have a titanium metal plate and seven screws holding my shoulder together with a big gnarly scar from the surgery. If you look closely you can see it on my fox character sometimes. It's also why I draw pretty quickly as I have to take frequent breaks to prevent RSI flare ups.
20. Where can we find you online?
And there we have it! Our first article of the year and a wonderful interview with PointedFox. I want to extend my thanks to Fox for participating in such an extensive Q&A session and I'm sure our readers are happy to have a little insight into his life as a professional Anthro artist. For those who didn't know, the adorable bunny featured alongside him is Cider and she can be found here! If anyone has a question about this article, AnthroBrand, or would just like to get in touch, my contact information is always available on the home page.
Thanks for reading and I wish you all the best in 2021!