Ep.123: How to improve your skills fast with Brett Bean from Drawn To It Studios

By Iva Mikles •  Updated: Mar 05, 2018 •  Interviews

Hey, guys! In this episode, I am chatting with Brett Bean, a Character Designer, Visdev Artist, and teacher. He is the owner of Drawn To It Studios, creating original content and outsourcing for clients like Disney, Dreamworks, Riot Games, and Marvel.

Get in touch with Brett

Key Takeaways

“Be happy with how far you got, but not satisfied with where you are at!”

“Try to screw up on daily basis to move forward!”

Resources mentioned

💡 Please note: We are supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you! For more info, please read our disclosure.

Special thanks to Brett for joining me today. See you next time!

All artworks by Brett Bean, used with permission

Episode Transcript

Announcer
Creative, artistic, happy! That’s you. There are endless possibilities for living a creative life. So let’s inspire each other. Art Side of Life interviews with Iva.

Iva Mikles

Hello, everyone, and welcome back to the next episode of Art Side of Life where I chat with inspiring artists and create various art related videos. My name is Iva, and my guest today is Brett dean. And in this episode, you will learn about his art process, working with clients and why he sometimes screws up on purpose. And then I just

Brett Bean

sit there and I draw for about an hour, hour and a half. And that’s just my time to get out ideas and I screw up on purpose. So that is something that I’ve learned to do as well in my sketchbook is not trying to make a nice piece of art for the internet. And for Instagram, it’s to really push myself and say screw up on purpose and see what you can do because you always learn more from your mistakes.

Iva Mikles

But it is a character designer, a visual development artist and a teacher. He is an owner of drawn to it studios creating original content and outsourcing for companies big and small. His work has been featured across films, TV shows, video games, comic books, cardboard games, and children’s book Brett has been in the entertainment business for over 12 years and worked with Disney DreamWorks Riot Games Henson’s Creature Shop, Marvel, Penguin Books, Scholastic, and more. So please welcome Brett beam. Let’s get to the interview. So welcome everyone to the next episode of Art Side of Life. And I’m super happy to have Brett here. Hi. Hello, hello. How are you? Everybody? I’m good, good. How are you? Good, perfect, then let’s just start with your background right away. And maybe you can fill out some fun stories from your childhood when you are first time like creative. Or when you decided, okay, I want to take this professionally.

Brett Bean

Okay, all right. So my childhood is I started drawing in church, because church was really boring to me. So I would take any piece of paper or the pamphlets or whatever, and I would just draw on the back of it. So I had like, GI Joe and like Thai fighters like blowing holes and like temples and the church and, and my father was up on this podium, so he wouldn’t see what I was doing, he would probably not be very happy. But my mom would sort of instigate me and she would draw with me. So we would just kind of sit there in the church seats, and just sort of like draw stuff all happening all over. And that that kind of started out the love of enjoyment of drawing. And then you know, it was through high school and then I refound it, years later and just went, Oh, I should probably either choose to do this or not. So there’s plenty of years in between where you go, I society tells you to be an adult. And I was like I better start adulting I’m out of high school, and I should go get three jobs and I should go to regular college and I and I did that for a while and then I got married and divorced. And then that’s when I decided after the divorce is like, Okay, if I don’t start now, life will start going too fast. And I’ll you know, everything else will catch up. So then I kind of just jumped in full dive, I had to take out a personal loan, and I went to two year art school program, and then just kind of kept going from there. So it’s kind of a wild ride to try to get into the art world. So what

Iva Mikles

advice do you to do go to this art school or like how you should approach learning and basically just how to become a professional? Did you have a mentor? Or did you look up to someone like in the profession?

Brett Bean

I didn’t I still I still talk to my wife about like not having a mentor. I want a mentor, I haven’t had one. I’m 41 and I don’t have a mentor. So I’ve tried to use that energy of wanting one into trying to be one for other people. But it’s also much harder being on the outside as a freelancer I’m not in a studio to work with somebody who is 1020 years older or somebody just smarter than me because there’s plenty of them out there. But I don’t have that connection in a regular studio space to to make that easy, you know to find. So I kind of have to do it vicariously by reading biographies, listening to audio commentaries. I do a lot of like little things like that and you know, reading Gamma Delta morose book, and just sort of like, taking out the tidbits of information. They’re going, Oh, that’s smart. Oh, I like that. Oh, so I’ve, I’ve sort of done it by accident by sort of sort of finding vicarious ways of finding the mentorship. But really, it was. It was my mom saying, like, it’s like, you got to put up or shut up, you gotta go. And then yeah, so I went to art school. And then she passed away the month before I graduated. So that that one was a hard one. But she was sort of the the pusher of like, because she wanted to be a jazz singer. And she was a crafty person. And she was really, that, but the world kind of made sure that she didn’t get what she wanted. And so she kind of vicariously live through us, you know, who we’re doing artwork. And so we kind of related that back and forth. So she was probably the strongest proponent of that. So yeah, that was kind of the biggest push was, was her saying, like, you know, I didn’t get to do it. If you don’t start you, you’ll find out, you’ll be 60 and go what happened? You know, so that was sort of the biggest motivator. So,

Iva Mikles

so and kind of this helped you to go mostly through the difficult time? Or what do you consider kind of the most difficult time of your art career? If it wasn’t this one? Or maybe what you learned from this, it’s like, you have to do it now. Or like, never kind of in a way,

Brett Bean

I would say that I have a different take, like, art career wise, like there’s been downtimes, you know, when an art director is not constructive, is just giving you a critique, and it’s a little stinky, like, out Oh, okay. So I’ve had plenty of those. And like, downtimes, where you think you can’t draw, I still, I thought those days were over. I was like, one day, I’m gonna be professional. And then all those days are behind me of thinking, I’m not good enough to do this anymore. It’s like, Are you kidding me? It’s like, almost daily, still to this day. But I would say, the, like, Mom passing and divorce and seeing the state of how people live their real life, like, I love traveling, and it gives me a solid foundation of understanding this business better. And so when I have a bad day, in the art world, it it doesn’t really matter to me. Like it’s, it’s such a small thing compared to what real people deal with on a daily basis. That when people like, oh, when something happens in the art, it’s like, it’s just a it’s a day you are so you drew bad. Big deal, you know, your day didn’t turn out the way you wanted it because they didn’t approve the one drawing that you really liked. They approve the one you didn’t like. It makes it makes it really easy. So to me the art thing, I don’t really have those sort of days anymore, because it my perspective has shifted so much. But I would say in my 20s and early 30s, when I was just starting out and I had a giant ego and I wanted to get filled by everybody else to like everything I posted, you know, that stuff worried me. And luckily now I’m a little bit older, hopefully wiser that it doesn’t anymore. So yeah, I don’t worry about that stuff anymore.

Iva Mikles

And what is maybe the thing you learned, which helped you the progress the most in your artwork?

Brett Bean

Oh, I would say the probably the biggest thing is, is truly just to add on is losing the ego part like trying to draw and trying to make art that is either going to like get likes on social media, or do something that’s going to get me a job, the more art I tried to do to get a job or to say pay attention to me. Once I let go of that, the easier it was to find artwork I actually liked doing. It was like oh, my, the motivation has shifted completely. So that that was probably the biggest one for me. And because there’s always jumps, there’s like lots of them, where you learn about shapes or you learn, you know, you reach milestones where you work, work work is like how come I’m hitting this wall and then one day you’re like, Oh, I’m over that wall. I gotta go find another wall to go jump over. Right. So there’s always those things, but I would say the biggest jump has been the it’s not like you don’t care. But the idea behind the motivation of caring has shifted. Yeah, and that has

Iva Mikles

been kind of give an example of you know, like, what would be maybe the artwork which can get your job compared to Yeah, maybe fine art.

Brett Bean

Um, well, fan art I think is a still a valid form. People love stuff and they do it um, But, like making a design to fit within the mold of Disney or DreamWorks, or what you see trending on Twitter, hashtags, Instagram, you know, I, I can go through all the big names on Instagram. And I can also find all of the people that kind of draw very similar stuff. Just you just go, oh, I, I know those eyes because I saw him on the Instagram post yesterday and I saw that shape and which is good. But I think once I got out of that rhythm of worrying about that. So I guess my example is just white, why did you make that piece of artwork? Is it to get attention on the internet? Or is it because you needed to get it out? Because it was a design that was in your head and it was rattling around? Because I know you’re making lines. And when you’re making artwork, you’re in your own head completely as you’re drawing and you’re thinking, and you’re doing stuff? And then before I would go like, Okay, what line would so and so make or what? What are they going to like this shape? Are they going to like the way the I do the eyes here, because all of the cute girls have giant eyes, thank you Disney. And then it looks like this. And then here’s the chin that I’m going to make and people are going to like this online, you’re thinking about all that stuff. But now, none of that stuff enters my head. Now it’s like, what’s gonna impress myself? What’s gonna make me do something and go? Oh, hey, I haven’t done that. I haven’t seen that. That’s interesting. Oh, let’s take that the motivation has shifted, in all the conversations in my mind. Does that make sense? Yeah.

Iva Mikles

Maybe can you give some bullet points how you maybe work with art process? You know, like, when you are about to start a new project? And maybe how do you do the research? Or maybe do the thumbnails or kind of some steps of your artistic process?

Brett Bean

Sure, yeah. So um, it really depends on. So I’ve different clients that asked me for different things. So some clients will have an entire idea of what the show cause should look like. They have like reference sheets of the style. And they have the characters down pat, and they go, this is where we’re going, let’s nail this like, Okay, that’s pretty much you’re more of like a cog in the wheel, like, like a monkey, you’re just sort of like trying to fit within the mold that they want. So when they’re specific, I try to give them what they want. Because that’s their the client, that’s, that’s what I’m there for is to help them out. And then you have the other clients that are much more like we don’t know what we want. We have a main character, but we’re really not sure. So more of a shotgun approach. And those are the ones that the blue sky phase, you know, they call the blue sky phase, those are the ones that are more fun, because then it’s like, well, you can go in this direction, or you go over here, you can do this, or you can do that. So my process is usually if I have time, I’ll do paper and pencil. And my first round is kind of like a brain dump. I actually don’t do reference gathering first, the first thing I do, unless it’s a period piece, and it’s specifically like, we’re going for, you know, Victorian era data, then I’m like, Okay, I actually don’t recall what the costuming is, I should go research first. But it’s if it’s mostly like, Oh, we’re doing a show for, you know, it’s the main person is an eight year old boy. And he’s got this and then this is happening. And he loves trucks. I’m like, oh, okay, I at least have some sort of basic knowledge of that, that I do a brain dump, and I try to just come up with as many ideas as I can just from myself, then I put that aside, then I’ll do a phase of like reference gathering. And then I’ll do a phase of that. And then I sort of mold the two together, and come up with some hybrids, and then I will send that off. Now, if that doesn’t work for the client, if nothing in there works, then it’s another whole round of like, okay, what do I introduce, let’s introduce some other artists interpretations. Let’s so when I do my reference gathering, I don’t, I don’t reference gather any other artists. It’ll just be like, from like a movie, I know, movies or art and all that kind of stuff. Don’t get mad at anybody. But, but like not actual concept art or character designers. It’ll just be like costume designs, or fashion photography or something like that. cosplays whatever it is that I’m working on, then it’ll be that that road of things, just because my interpretation of the real world things will still be my version of art. Once you start looking at other artists, their art starts to creep in a little bit. So I try to leave that if I can I leave that out as far as I can down the road. And that line, no matter what I don’t have to worry about. I steal somebody’s idea or I use that shape or I use that thing. And then once Something’s approved, it’s usually a Frankenstein monster, you know, or somebody goes, Oh, I like the nose on a and I like the eyes of of B and I like the feet of C and you go, that would be the ugliest creation ever. Okay? And you were like, yeah, good choices. And you go back and you go, Oh, how do I fix this? And you do, and you give them exactly what you want. And then. So that’s usually when I say, when I tried to plus something. So for the client, it’ll be that they asked for, right, it’ll be this one thing that they asked for. And then I go, I’ll try to make this as pretty as I can. But this is really ugly, what you chose. So because you’re the client, and you’re paying me to give you what you want, here it is. But then here’s this one. Here’s a list of the things that you liked, but I think is more aesthetically pleasing. So I’ve done my job, I’ve given you what you want. And then I’ve tried to plus it and say, but I think this is a better option. And here’s here’s why. And that it usually satisfies them. And they usually end up choosing part of this. Sometimes somebody down the road goes, No, I’m just really in love with these ideas. And you go, wow, that’s, that’s what I’m paid to do. It’s not my project, I can’t really dictate that stuff. So, but I feel satisfied when I give them what I think is my best work and then give them what they want. Because that’s how I ended up getting jobs with them later is giving them what they want.

Iva Mikles

Yeah, definitely. Yeah, you’re definitely right. They used to do that as well, when they chose something, which I thought it’s strange. I’m like, okay, that’s really weird. And then I side of it, but look at this. What do you think I think that might work for you as well.

Brett Bean

Yeah. It satisfies it satisfies you, as an artist. Yeah, that you kind of did. You did the best job you could do with what you had and go Well, okay, if you that’s still your choice. It’s out of your hands, you know? So like, you just made something that’s so good. Like,

Iva Mikles

don’t be there. And yet you are not happy about what you created. Right? Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And when you were mentioning like different jobs, what was your first job right after when you were like, okay, finished studying when you decide, okay, you don’t want to do this? And maybe how did you get your first paid artistic job?

Brett Bean

My first artistic paid job was, I couldn’t, I couldn’t draw yet. So I was, my first job was I was a 3d modeler and texture artist at Sony, in Bend, Oregon. So that was my first job out of art school. Out of my entire portfolio, all this artwork, I had animation, everything. And Sony saw one turn of a bunch of props. And they’re like, hey, look, that’s a prop guy. Let’s give him props and textures. And so I was like, well, a foot, I always thought to myself, you want to get your foot in the door, so you can kick it down. That’s what you’re looking for. Right? You’re looking for that foot in the door, so you can kick it down later. And so I took this job moved with a couple of my other buddies, my, my first friend Jason, he got the job there. And then he, he told us, we’re all in school together. And he’s like, hey, they’re still looking for Prop guys. You’re looking for like Junior prop guys to you know, do the Syphon Filter games. And so my other friend and I both applied both got the jobs, both moved down to Bend, Oregon, you know, rented a place together. And then we got our foot in the door by all doing props for Sony for like nine months. And then they asked us to wait three months and then reapply because they didn’t want to. Because if you work more than a certain contract, they have to pay for your medical and dental. So they want to give you three months off. And then he’s like, Oh, just find a job as a pizza guy and then come back in three months. And then that was a big decision for me because I I went back to Seattle and then got a job at Zipper Interactive making the SOCOM Navy SEAL games, still a 3d artist, but I got that job. And then I ended up helping my other friend get a job with me there. So it was sort of like who you’re networking with in school. sort of becomes your buddies and we still we play online together still to this day. So my art my art friends and I we’re still we’re still pretty close. So but yeah, that’s kind of that was my first job. And then once I was super interactive. I was making I remember the day that I was like, I can’t do this anymore, because 3d is not my thing. I don’t really enjoy it. But I had to research dead bodies being gassed for a video game. And that was like with my personnel and everything. I was like this, I am done with this. I can’t do this anymore. And I walked into my boss’s office and I said hey, I need I want to do concept art. I want to do something different than this. I want to move on I didn’t want to do these sorts of props and swimming pool full of bodies. I’m done. So can I do concept art? Can I do like 5050? And I’m like, No, you’re gonna be you’re gonna be a 3d guy. You’re too valuable and which was nice. But I went back to my office, I had just gotten married, like a month before that, like a week, like a week to a month before that. I can’t remember the exact time. And I called her up. I called up Julianne said, like, can I? Can I quit my job? And can we just restart? Can we just move to California and restart? Because I need a big shift? And she was in Japan at the time? And she’s like, sure, yeah, go ahead. I was like, really? She’s like, sure. I was like, the best life ever. Awesome. So I went into the office and, and he’s like, I think I have to quit. And he’s like, Nah, we’re gonna offer you $10,000 a year to stay on as a 3d artist. And I went back to my room, called my wife again. I didn’t tell her that part. I didn’t tell her the part about the about the days. I was like, You’re sure, because by the time you get back from Japan, I’m not gonna have a job. She’s like, No, no, do it, do it, we’ll figure it out. And then I went back in and I quit on the spot, gave my two weeks. And then we moved to California. And I ended up working at GameStop because I didn’t have a job. So I ended up working at GameStop, which is a used video game store. And I was literally selling the games I had just finished making for Sony, and Zipper Interactive. That was the most humbling sandwich to eat is to have what most people say is that you got in you have a career. And then now I’m back to square one selling the very games that my name was in, and like people wouldn’t believe me. I’m like, Hey, this is my game. Like Sure. Bodie. Sure. Go, really? That’s all right. So that was that was a good restart. But it really made it. It made all the other decisions easier. Because once you start jumping and making big shifts like that, it makes all the little decisions like, well, if I could do that,

Iva Mikles

yeah, because it can be scary in the beginning, exactly. As you mentioned, like if I imagine to be unemployed, then you’re like, ah, but if you actually do it, and then you see like, nothing happened. And you’re like, Yeah, okay.

Brett Bean

Yeah, it’s not that big. It’s not that big of a deal. So sorry, that was a roundabout story. But that’s kind of like from the first job to like, being a concept artists being a character designer, that was sort of the,

Iva Mikles

the path and how did you do the networking? When you were in California, when you move when you didn’t know that many people? Or did you already know some people there?

Brett Bean

I didn’t know anybody in California. So um, I couldn’t afford classes. Because again, I wasn’t thinking long term when we left. So I actually interned in I answered the phone at Gnomon school of visual effects. And that paid for my classes there. And then I networked with everybody who would come in the door, I would help them out anybody who called up, I would talk to them. And then eventually a very nice Frenchman named David Levy. He’s out of North Carolina now. But he came in, he was teaching, he was doing a nomen DVD. And we started talking and he’s like, Oh, hey, I’m about to go to Texas. I’m certain this job, show me your portfolio and then hired me from the phone desk. And, and so I went out to Texas, and that kind of started the whole concept art phase in my career. So yeah, so I went with him and to Austin. And that was fun, too. So

Iva Mikles

you move too much.

Brett Bean

Yes, I have moved around a lot. But yeah, I mean, school is a good networking. But I found it really nice to sort of find my end by like, I was just, it was very interesting to be just back to being sort of a schmo all over again, just answering phones Hello, this is Gnomon School of Visual Effects. How can I direct your call and you’re directing your call to you know, more important people, but you ended up getting to know everybody, you know, from that. So, you know, you find your way, you know, you jump in you eventually sort of find where the cracks are and you find how to network and and do it your way, but there’s no set standard way of doing it. And I’m not a schmoozer. I am not one of those like, Hey, how’s it going? You’re you’re walking around the party shaking hands with people you don’t know and pretending that you do. I can’t that’s not me. So it has to come more naturally. Which is like you know how I ran into you have a natural process when you start talking. You’re like, oh my gosh, let’s have a conversation. This

Iva Mikles

was fun. Yeah, these either call them Yeah. CTN. So what are the other conventions you maybe you go to or something you maybe can recommend, like? I obviously like them as well and you All right.

Brett Bean

Well, I would say, um, I’ve done San Diego for like 10 years now San Diego Comic Con is the big one. It’s kind of like the Facebook of conventions. It’s like the big one that you go to. But it’s much easier when you have a booth because the networking kind of comes to you. We want you Yeah, exactly. You know, it’s kind of easy. So CTN works. I love designer con as well. San Diego’s the big one WonderCon I usually do WonderCon as well. I did on Ghulam a couple of years ago. And that was awesome. I mean, I just walked the floor that was just me as a fan. I didn’t actually, like have a booth or anything like that. But that was really fun. So I’ve bounced around to a bunch of them. But a lot of the networking happens more by accident for me. It’s not like I don’t choose to go to something because it’s an opportunity to do it. Because then no matter what my personality is not me. It’s because I’m only there to like who’s in the room. And I’ve been around enough of those people that it feels really gross when I’m around them. It’s just because I don’t like that. And so that sort of trains me again, like when I listen to biographies, or you know, I read books, I’m learning a lot more not from what I do, but from learning what other people are doing. So I would see how they interact with me. And I get that feeling. I go oh, I don’t want that. You know, it’s kind of like Ian McCaig. He was talking, I’ve never met him. But he is one of the best speakers, the way he speaks to the audience and the way he talks about art and how much he loves it. I saw him talk, and I just went, Okay, that’s how I, that’s how I want to. That’s how I want to explain things to people. I want them to be excited, and I want to be a good personality. And oh, my gosh, Ian McCaig is amazing, you know, also as an artist, but you know, just as much as him as a person. And so that’s the sort of things I would glom on to, so I would sort of go like, don’t like that personality. I don’t want to be like that. And then you sort of like, oh, I want to be like this. This makes me feel better about myself. So let’s put a patch that on forward, so yeah, the

Iva Mikles

positive attitude and just Yeah, influencing others. Yeah, definitely. That’s really

Brett Bean

amazing. Being nice to other people. Is better networking than anything else I’ve ever been a part of.

Announcer

Yeah, definitely. Nice

Brett Bean

Person. Nice Person. Yeah. And then people

Iva Mikles

appreciate you then. Yeah. And you never know, when he also you can either have a friend or you can have a new job or whatever comes from it afterwards. Definitely, definitely. Yeah. And so when you also mentioned that the you’re working on different projects, is it mainly from your office? Or do you also go to studios, or how does it usually work for you?

Brett Bean

I do both. So a lot of times, there’ll be like a kickoff. And I’ll go into a studio and to see all the artwork and see what they’re doing and what they’re building and you get some good FaceTime. So you, you kind of get to have a rapport with the person in front of them. And then you can do all your work remotely after that. So I do have a studio here in Monrovia, California. But before that, I used to work just from the house. But then once we had a child, it was very hard to do. So now I have an outside office. But yeah, I’ll go into the studio or even when I have to do pitches and stuff, it’ll be I’ll just be able to drive in, do that. And then come back to the office and do most of the work. So most of it’s all done here at the office. But also easier because there’s it’s not bleeding into each other. So when I’m here, I’m working. And then when I go home, it’s off and I’m with the family and I’m with my son and I don’t think about it even started to turn off the phone after 7pm Just so because I’ll get like email dings and I’ll get certain stuff and then it creeps back in and then all my son’s eases dad. Yeah. And all in all he sees is Is dad doing this? And that’s not a good you know, that’s not that’s not what I want my son to remember about me, you know, so

Iva Mikles

yeah, exactly. So yeah, you can go through the forest or for worlds or something like that. So do you have maybe some daily ritual which contributes your success, you know, either walks into nature or meditation or something which you do daily?

Brett Bean

Yeah, I would say that. I definitely I go to the same coffee shop. I love all my baristas. And so I talk to them every day. And then because I got again, as a freelancer, I don’t really interact with a lot of people during my day. So that almost becomes like it’s kind of like your milkman You don’t have that anymore, you know, where you, you know, your neighbors and the milkman and all that kind of stuff. But like, that coffee shop is now that version, hey, it’s bread, you know, you go in and you talk and you know, you know, like, which kids are going to school, which ones are going to be a nurse who’s going to, you know, go on to, you know, be a teacher. And then I just sit there and I draw for about an hour, hour and a half. And that’s just my time to get out ideas, and I screw up on purpose. So that is something that I’ve learned to do as well in my sketchbook is not trying to make a nice piece of art for the internet. And for Instagram, it’s to really push myself and say, Screw up on purpose and see what you can do. Because you always learn more from your mistakes than when something’s right. You’re like, hey, that worked out, and then you move on. But when you make something that is wrong, or mistake worthy, you go, oh, oh, let’s not do that. Oh, that worked. Let’s do that again. Whoo, that’s a happy one. That’s a happy mistake. And then Ooh, never again, that’s the worst thing ever. But so I tried to do that as my daily routine. And then, you know, I’m also trying to work out more. So after reading the Drawn to Life books, where he really talked about, there’s a very physical connection between your physical health and your mental health. As an artist, I’ve been trying to do that as well. So that’s also now part of my routine, going on walks, working out in the morning, doing stuff like that. So I still play pickleball, and volleyball. So there’s a lot of things outside of art, that makes it easier for my brain to concentrate on art. Because if I’m just sitting there shooting baskets, or just running, that’s where my brain gets bored. And that’s where my best ideas come from. If I fill it with, with a bunch of music and everything going on in a book, I’m reading in this and then there’s moving on to the background, my brain is concentrating on all those things. So I need that sort of boredom space to be creative. So that’s kind of what I’ve learned to do. So

Iva Mikles

yeah, definitely, it works as well. For me when I’m exercising and thinking about like, what I want to draw on the project I’m working on which I need to continue. It’s like, oh, this is I can solve it like this. And then you’re exercising and you’re like, Okay, that works.

Brett Bean

Yeah. And it’s almost like you get a little bit of jolt when you’re exercising. When you get that idea that works. You’re like Oh, yeah. Yeah, exactly.

Iva Mikles

I used to do that all the time with Lego when we had these giant projects, and I’m like, how would I make this work? And then I was on some treadmill or something. And I’m like, oh, yeah, I can do this. So yeah, definitely. And is there some maybe tool you kind of cannot live without, you know, like, favorite pencil or favorite sketchbook or software?

Brett Bean

Man, that is a tough one. Um, I would say out of everything, a brush pen. Like I have my favorite types of brush pens, but I would say whether I’m in Photoshop, Sketchbook Pro Manga Studio, at home at a convention, that thick to thin line is super important to what I find appealing in my lines, and so I would say no matter where I’m at, even as a new program, I will try to like procreate. The first thing I did is try to make the brush, you know, the brush pen that I wanted in that so every program it’s pretty much a brush pen in some form is what I try to get down. So it’s my favorite I NYC other artists that elegant, like thick to thin line and that beautiful stroke. So I love it. I love it whenever somebody does it. So that’s my favorite.

Iva Mikles

So you have one also is a physical brush pin and then you recreate it in the software or you buy it from somewhere or how do you

Brett Bean

Yeah, some some of them. I’ll make it and sometimes it’ll be part of a brush pack. You buy online. But yeah, so I’ll have I have far too many. I’m looking around going I have far too many brush pens, and I just fell in love with the new Copic one right here. Really nice thick to thin lines. But cura talkies I use almost all the time for the physical ones. But it basically any brush pen if it’s around, I’ll try it out. And I just I just liked the feel of just that thick to thin lines. I used to do nothing but microns, which are you know, for that little tiny detail. So I still use that for like little details. But I just really liked that really flowy gestural lines of it. And then online. Yeah, it’s just finding out which brush which pen kind of feels the same and then tweaking its features. Yeah, to get that sort of feel because everyone’s hand moves a little bit different. You know, so I kind of mess with even my way calm features. You know where I press, I have to press a little bit lighter and I get a nice stroke. So I mess with all the little features and stuff to find something.

Iva Mikles

Yeah, definitely. When I’m looking at the older toys, what do you have? What was maybe your like kind of influential thing when you were growing up or along the way, maybe some either to theories or books or I don’t know styles.

Brett Bean

So many, I will try not to bore you with all of them, I would say probably the biggest influence that I that after really thinking about it was most of the Rankin bass stuff. I don’t know if you know, Rankin bass, they did the Hobbit. Cartoon way back in the day, they did like Thundercats Silverhawks. They did this series of shows. And when I, when I look at my hands, and I look, the way I do a lot of stuff, I go, Oh, there’s a lot of that influence in there. But I would say, you know, Jim Henson was a big influence all this stuff with the Muppets and Dark Crystal and labyrinth, which is awesome, because I get to work with them now. And it’s like, I have to keep myself from geeking out every moment of the day, because like he was such a big influence. George Lucas, you know, another one in all of his universe. So the all the artists involved, but just the autour behind these ideas, you know, the person who started driving all of it is like impressive. And then Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes, I think is probably the biggest, my son’s middle name is Hobbs. So he Bill Watterson was a huge impact on me as well. But you know, you can all the way back from, you know, he-man every I mean, I was a product of the 80s, and all the GI Joe, Transformers him and everything. So all of it has sort of played a role in in shaping all those formative years, and that you don’t really know that are happening to you at that time. Because there’s influences that you try to bring in as an adult later, but you’re very conscious of those, you’re like, Oh, I am choosing this artist, because I think they’re really good, I’m gonna make, I’m going to let them sort of guide me on a designer, but there’s all those formative years that you’re not thinking about any of that stuff, and you’re just a sponge of, of creativity, and it’s just jamming into you, and you don’t know what it is, but you’re taking it all in. So I was born in the right in a good era for that stuff. So

Iva Mikles

definitely, when you are creating now also your own stuff, what are your thoughts on personal branding and developing maybe the art style, or how important is personal branding for you,

Brett Bean

um, personal branding, I used to think was really important. And then I realized it was sort of holding me back a little bit. Because you’re putting stipulations and a rule set on yourself. And so it was sort of becoming a little bit soulless in that pursuit where the the art wasn’t going where I wanted it to, to go, it was going where I was making it go, you know, instead of a natural evolution, it was like, No, it’s this. And so I was sort of like, putting like little tapers on it or not showing this piece of artwork, because it had boobies on it, you know, or not, you know, stuff like that, where there just wasn’t, it wasn’t true to itself, it was more like me trying to trying to district to something. So, branding is I kind of switched it around to say branding is whatever I myself as an artist want to explore, that’s my brand. There is nothing else there. It’s it’s not I’m not making a, you know, a product for a company. I am the company, I’m the artist. And the reason I got into it is because I wanted to make art. And it wasn’t because I wanted to make in a store established IP that everybody is going to identify with, it’s going to be what came from me. So I’ve had to sort of bring back a little bit of my artists, you know, the creator from back in the day, I had to kind of bring him back a little bit because I think we go through that, you know, we go through those cycles, we go, oh, this is what this is what I’m supposed to be, I’m now this professional and people are paying attention me. So I better draw like this or better act like this or do this. And you sort of go on these little waves and these little kicks of what you know, society wants and then what you want and then what you’re expecting yourself, you know, because your expectations of yourself is different than expectations from the outside community as well. So you’re juggling all those things all at once. And then so now I’ve had it started kind of pull back a little bit and go now okay, the branding is really whatever you want to explore, you should be exploring, you know, whether it be a kid comic book or an adult comic book or that drawing, it doesn’t matter. It’s coming from you. And that’s that’s my personal brand. But you had a second part of that question. I apologize. You can’t

Iva Mikles

remember Have the art style and branding. So you kind of answered the whole thing. So because some people can call it that, or if you are, you know, like you have a website or you create bags, or if they’re like piles of things, which kind of always goes through your art, like a vision or mission and these kinds of things. So, yeah,

Brett Bean

but yeah, style that I do want to mention that because a lot of my students, they still ask about style and say, like, you know, how do you develop your style, and I think of style is this, your style is always going to be changing, or my opinion should be changing. Because you’re taking in new information and new stuff every day. I mean, you shouldn’t be a sponge your entire life, right? That’s the great thing about art. The bad thing is that there’s no roof. But it’s the also the great thing, but there’s no roof. So there’s always something to learn and get better at. So your style, I think, will dictate where you’re at at that moment. But that’s just, if you stick with one thing, I don’t think you’re really exploring anymore, you’re sort of just sort of staying staying put. And I think style will change with who you are and your influences at the time. So I would hope five years from now, my artwork still looks like me, but it has expanded in some way. And in trying something different. So style to me is is much more a amorphous. And I think most people are identifying with a brand. From a from a studio. Most people when they think of style, they think of a brand of a studio. You know, what’s the DreamWorks look? What is the feature film? Look? What’s the TV work for Cartoon Network? What is the Nickelodeon? Look? What is the Disney look, what is the, you know, what I mean? And individual artists, yeah, different,

Iva Mikles

you create something like the world, you know, you want to establish your own like brand or whatever, like certain styles. So usually you have one kind of style, if you are like selling maybe one art book with the with the same, I don’t know characters and universe, and then you want to kind of have the one branding with it and everything around it.

Brett Bean

Definitely, if you’re making like an IP, you’re talking about a world. So you’re talking, in my opinion, you’re talking more about consistency than you are about style. Once you’ve decided the style, it’s about just staying consistent within that rule set. So you can make up whatever rule set you want for that style. And then you work within that. And then you have you know, a product that has that. But I think a lot of artists generalist, I feel myself as a generalist is you can kind of come in and out of certain illustration styles and certain design choices. Yeah, so you’re like, Okay, this is what this is decided to be, you can work consistently within that style. And then the next one is going to be this. But I think a lot of people just think of style is like, I have to look like the Disney princess thing. And then they just fear everything towards that when there’s more to it than just that as an artist, you know what I mean?

Iva Mikles

Yeah. Because it’s more, as you mentioned, as a project. Like for example, if you take whatever, Harry Potter and you see this car for that it’s kind of the brand, almost, you know, you see it on someone and it’s like, Okay, that’s it, you know, so that’s like a bit of it. So these kinds of things like, yeah, developing the brand of the idea, maybe then the art. Yeah, yeah. Okay, yeah. And what about maybe the income stream? So you have easy though, mainly through client projects, or your products you are making? Or how do you combine your income streams?

Brett Bean

Well, I am under the belief that to really make it as a freelancer, I’ve been doing it for eight or nine years now is you need multiple places to pull from, you need a lot of eggs in different baskets. So I would say primarily, most of it comes from clients. Still, I would like to reverse that. I’m, I’m currently writing a couple first drafts for graphic novels. And I’d like to switch over into doing creator owned stuff in finding a publisher and then sort of working through that. And so it’s it’s sort of like, reversal of those things still to taking on clients. But mostly it’s it’s my own ideas. But conventions are part of the equation. I have my book sales online, I have a digital store, I’m gonna start doing some tutorial videos here. And my wife and I are just starting our business together, which is screen printing. So we’re going to start doing that and going to boutiques and doing that as well. So those are probably the main ones. So it’s a little bit of all of them. And then they sort of compensate for each other when you know one client you know doesn’t pay on time and then you know, so that you’re not always living from paycheck to paycheck, so

Iva Mikles

definitely perfect. And then what about the future and maybe five to 10 years? What would be your dream scenario, you know, you cannot fail Everything is going according to your plan.

Brett Bean

There’s no failing. Oh my gosh, the best future ever. This is awesome. I would say I more more stories from from myself, whether that be IP development at a studio to do you know, you know, everyone wants to sell a pitch, but I’d like to be part of the pitch not just like, make something and then go a made $1. And then it’s a way like I like to be a part of part of that. And then comics, I still have a huge love for comics, I still think that is one of the purest forms from what your original artistic intent to somebody’s eyeballs. That is the direct books and comics, you only have like an editor and maybe like three or four people involved. But that is a true translation of the artist and writer to the audience. When you get into like movies and TV and all the other stuff. There’s a lot of people involved. So there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of voices in there. But I still love comics. So I read them and go, Wow, I I really got what they meant from that story. So I still love them. And I’d like to continue to do them. So that’s in the five to 10 year plan. I’m doing books, whether they be chapter books, or, or graphic novels or whatever. So

Iva Mikles

perfect. Yeah, that sounds really good. And yeah, as you mentioned, as well, like working with a big team on either short animation or feature film there is there are always so many people and yeah, many opinions, many shifts or cooks in the kitchen. Right? Yeah. So I know what they felt like super far, far future and what would you like to be remembered for in like, 100 years?

Brett Bean

Man. You know, I did hear a good quote. And the only thing you take your grave is your name. So I would really i is what I really want people just to go. He was a nice guy. Perfect. Like, I enjoyed him as a person. He made the world a better place than he left it. That’s that’s pretty much it. That’s

Iva Mikles

nice. Yeah, I like it. Before we say goodbye, maybe you can share last piece of advice or key takeaway, and then we will finish.

Brett Bean

Oh, man. Let’s see. My bit of advice is well, advice to myself, I guess. I less, less internet more work? Yeah, I mean, I that’s what I would say to myself. But you know, I guess overall for everybody, I would say be be happy with how far you’ve come but not satisfied with where you’re at. You’ll always be a little bit hungry, but you should never degrade yourself with how far you’ve come. And that was a problem I had where I thought the only way that I could get better is by really getting down on myself. And it doesn’t have to be that way you can be happy with, with how far you’ve you’ve gone. But you shouldn’t, you know, just sit there and go at done. You know, there should always be a little bit more hunger in there to not be the smartest guy in the room or gal in the room. Learn. Keep keep finding that spark that goes forward. So

Iva Mikles

yeah, that makes sense. Yeah, totally agree. And just like never stop learning and be nice to other people as well, as you mentioned, and let’s keep inspiring each other. And thank you so much for it was super nice. And thanks everyone who joined today as well and see you in the next episode. Hey, guys, thank you so much for listening. I really appreciate you being here. You can find all the resources mentioned in this episode at artsideoflife.com. Just type a guest name in the search bar. There is also a couple of free artists resources ready for you on the website as well. So go check it out. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher so I can reach and inspire more artists like you. If you want to watch the interviews, head over to artsideoflife.com/youtube. Continue to inspire each other and I will talk to you guys in the next episode. Bye.

Announcer

Thanks for listening to the Art Side of Life podcast at www.artsideoflife.com

Hi, I am Iva (rhymes with “viva”). I am an artist, illustrator, founder of Art Side of Life®, and Top Teacher on Skillshare. Since 2009 I've worked as an illustrator, character designer, art director, and branding specialist focusing on illustration, storytelling, concepts, and animation. I believe that we are all creative in infinite numbers of ways, so I've made it my mission to teach you everything I know and help either wake up or develop your creative genius. Learn more about me.

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