Ep.12: On finding your unique style with Robb Mommaerts

By Iva Mikles •  Updated: Sep 20, 2017 •  Interviews

Robb Mommaerts is an illustrator living and working in the frigid state of Wisconsin and works remotely for Cryptozoic Entertainment. Since a young age, his favorite thing to do was draw. He specializes in drawing comic books, children’s books, game art, and character design. When not attempting to put the strange daydreams in his head to paper, he and his wife are trying to keep up with two children and a dog. Along with Forge Publishing, he soon will be releasing a Kickstarter campaign for his first art book “Ink Tank”.

Get in touch with Robb

Key Takeaways

“Always stay true to yourself. Try to find a method in your art that you enjoy and feel comfortable doing. It shouldn’t feel like a chore”

Resources mentioned

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

All artworks by Robb Mommaerts, 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  

and lo everyone and welcome to the next episode of Art Side of Life, where it’s all about how you can turn your creative passion into a profession. My name is Iva and my guest today is super talented graphic designer and illustrator from Wisconsin. He specializes in drawing comic books, children’s books, game art and character design. He worked 10 years as a graphic designer in advertising agency, and later switch to full time remote illustration job at cryptozoic Entertainment studio in California. In September 2017. Elon with forge publishing, he’s releasing a Kickstarter campaign for his first art book, Inc thing when not attempting to put the strange daydreams in his head to paper. He and his wife are trying to keep up with two children and adults. So please welcome Robb Mommaerts. And let’s get to the interview. Welcome, everyone to the Art Side of Life. And my guest today is amazing. Rob, please welcome.

Robb Mommaerts  

Thank you. Thanks for having me. Hi. Hello.

Iva Mikles  

And I would like to start with them a background or how you go to art and I read that you like to draw, like from when you were a child, do you remember what do you like do first time or something? Um,

Robb Mommaerts  

the first thing I probably drew was probably Disney Disney characters like Mickey Mouse. I was really into the Muppets when I was like I still am. I was really into the Muppets when I was a little kid. And I used to draw characters from Sesame Street and the Muppet Show and a lot of Hanna Barbera characters that kind of stuff. So that was like my the earliest drawings I did. But yeah, probably I think Mickey Mouse might have been the first character I drew. Yeah. And

Iva Mikles  

what was maybe the time when you decided I want to take this seriously.

Robb Mommaerts  

How? Actually, I from a pretty early age. I think I was in kindergarten when I knew that I wanted to be an artist. Yeah, I It’s funny because I was I always tell the same joke over and over again. But when I was a kid, I either wanted to be an astronaut, or an artist or a cartoonist. And I thought I when I found out that astronauts didn’t have lightsabers, that’s, that’s when I chose to be an artist. So

Iva Mikles  

well, maybe now they do. Yeah. Go on. I’m sorry. Sorry. I was just thinking, like, if you kind of remember the conversation with your parents, when you told them like, Okay, I really want to be an artist.

Robb Mommaerts  

Yeah, they, my parents were always very supportive of that. I was lucky to have really involved parents and, and they appreciated the arts. And both of them were are pretty artistic. They weren’t. They weren’t professional artists or anything, but they both liked drawing and making things and not as much as me of course, but and they, you know, they’re both creative people with both have good senses of humor. And so I was lucky that way.

Iva Mikles  

Oh, that’s really cool. And I actually heard this question from another podcast. And they asked, well, how are if you remember, like, how your childhood smelled like,

Robb Mommaerts  

Oh, my childhood smelled like that’s a hard one to answer. Go good smell, I guess. Boy. Gosh, probably like, pine needles, maybe. I, you know, I grew up, I spent a lot of time outside and in nature, and I lived you know, in the country. And we’ll on the edge of the country, I should say, things built up around me but spent a lot of time outside and it was always pretending and role playing pretending I was Star Wars characters and my friends and you know, pretending I was a dinosaur Explorer. You know, that kind of stuff. A paleontologist I should say. And I was always outdoors and I like to draw what I saw outside loved animals. used to you know, we used to build tree forts and things like that. And I tried to design tree forts and mazes and obstacle courses and that kind of stuff. Oh, that’s so

Iva Mikles  

cool. Yeah, because also for me, it’s more like I always imagined this mud river because we used to go for these like Kayak trips on the road. Bernie, so I always made it his own, like a major and all of these things. Yeah. So that’s quite fun. And yeah, so what was like, the biggest decisions you had to do in order to get where we are now?

Robb Mommaerts  

Um, I guess? Well, I, I guess I was kind of a late and just my whole college deciding where I wanted to go to school, I struggled with that a lot. I grew up in a time when they’re really, things were a little harder to find than they are now. I mean, I grew up before the internet. And I didn’t really you know, if I would have to go to my guidance office in my high school, to get a brochure about different colleges or to send in or go to library and research colleges, it wasn’t like it is today where you can find everything immediately. And I struggled with finding out where to go to school, I looked at art schools near me, they weren’t, there was the Miad Institute of Art Design. And then there was the Minneapolis Institute of Art and Design. And in those were, those were fair, not that far away. But there, they were expensive. And I also, I didn’t have a whole lot of confidence. I thought that I would get kind of lost in the shuffle since I was more of a cartoonist and I always felt like I wasn’t really a true artist. And I always I don’t know I had I wasn’t also wasn’t much of a big city person at the time. I’m still not but I guess I was very intimidated by some of those schools. I wish I going back I kind of wish I would have went to a school like that, like an art school. I ended up going to, which was a great school, I went to a UW University Wisconsin Whitewater it was which is part of my states university system. And I majored there in graphic design, Bachelor of Fine Arts. And I always grew up in sort of a more of a practical environment. And where I always needed to have, I guess, always needed to have something to fall back on or have like a steady income, I was always worried about that. I was always worried about jumping into freelancing where it was like feast or famine. And at the time, I, I wanted to get a job out of college, I wanted to I wanted to be an illustrator. But I also wanted to find a job in graphic design, it was more of a steady eight to five type job with a regular salary or paycheck. But I was a little stressed about where I would, you know, I guess I guess, get the proper education and environment where I could spend the next four years that and but I went to Whitewater and graduated within four years. And it took took me a couple of months to find a job. But I was a graphic designer for about 15 years. And my first job out of college was a lot of fun. But then I ended up our department was eliminated because it merged with a it was for a healthcare system. It was it was pretty standard, you know, things that you’d find at a doctor’s office, a lot of stuff that we were designing, but we had a lot of fun projects, too. But I ended up losing that job. And I had a hard time finding another job. And at that time, I decided to go back to school for art education. And I went to school for about a year and a half to be an art teacher from kindergarten to high school. And during that time, I freelanced and pretty much all freelance illustration. And I was actually doing pretty well as as, as I was, you know, going back to school and one of my clients that one of my favorite freelance clients at the time was in an agent design agency. They offered me a position there, they said, If you don’t want to go into teaching, you can work for us. And I didn’t really it wasn’t for me, I discovered as I was doing it. So like a week or a few days after I ended my student teaching. I went I work started there right away at this agency, and I was there for 10 years. Oh, cool. Yeah. And it was it was a good experience. It was stressful at times. But during that whole time, I freelanced. I did feel that freelance illustration as long as it wasn’t competing with them. And, and during that time, one of my clients was cryptozoic Entertainment, which is the company that I work for now. And I worked from them remotely. They’re in California, and I’m way up here in Wisconsin where it’s cold. And and at the time, they offered me a position because they were they had only I think they were only around for not even a year. And they said I could work remotely from home on a variety of projects. And I’ve been doing that for about six years now. So that’s been going on. Yeah. So

Iva Mikles  

in like when you were doing the graphic design, it was more like logos and these like icons and infographics. Maybe A

Robb Mommaerts  

lot of yeah, a lot of logos I was doing a lot of, you know, we were, we kind of had all our own clients that we worked on. i At the time I did a lot for Kimberly Clark, you know, Huggies and Huggies diapers and Kleenex tissue, facial tissue, that kind of stuff. But I mean, I had a lot of, I was very fortunate because my creative director is a guy by the name of Jim rivet. He, he was a big fan of illustration. And he liked to try like a lot of really cool things. And he said, Give me a lot of real, real fun illustration projects, and we do animations for different things as trade shows, and things like that. And so I got to do work on a nice variety of things there. Like you asked before, like what a turning point, one of my, the big turning point, was, when I worked, I had been there for 10 years, and then I got the offer from cryptozoic to go there. So I had a it was it was hard for me to leave that job because I had developed a lot of close relation, you know, relationships there, and a lot of friendships was kind of like leaving your family, you know, to, but it was just, it was such a good opportunity, because I got to illustrate full time and work on games. And plus, I had I have two children. So it was nice to have more of a flexible schedule. And I worked down here in my basement, so So it was you know, it was it was a very good opportunity.

Iva Mikles  

And it was there someone who kind of advised you on the way like, did you have maybe a mentor, it doesn’t have to be in art, but maybe someone in life, you know, you’re so like, okay, maybe I want to be where the person is.

Robb Mommaerts  

Um, I didn’t really have a lot of the mentors I had were people that I worked with, like some of my creative directors, you know, over the years. I guess it was more artists that I really admired. You know, I was always some of my, well, it was hard for me for with career advice, because, you know, I there wasn’t really a person that followed that anybody that I knew personally that follow that same path. I was mostly going to like, like my, you know, I asked my parents for advice and my wife for advice. And, but, but a lot of the artists that I that I really admired, probably, you know, like Jack Davis, he was the Mad Magazine illustrator for years. He was, you know, big idol of mine, like Jim Henson, Mike Minneola, Frank Frazetta, those kind of artists, you know, I always I always thought it would be great to to illustrate full time and you know, so

Iva Mikles  

So what are those kind of the the biggest appeal on art for you? Was it like the the creating the stories? Or did you like the compositions of the colors? Or kind of what is your favorite part?

Robb Mommaerts  

I’m probably like, the Gods good question. Why I love storytelling. You know, I haven’t done a lot of sequential work, but just I like to pack a lot in one illustration that, you know, we have little little things happening in the background of a picture. I was really always really big into escape escapism. When I was a kid, you know, I was kind of kind of an awkward kid, a lot of times I didn’t feel like I fit in, in drawing was always like a way a way of escaping for me. You know, I kind of zone out and get into this, you know, weird zone where I would just draw and kind of tune out tune out everything around me. I still do that. Most artists do. But yeah.

Iva Mikles  

Oh, that’s really cool. Yeah, and what kind of where do you get inspiration for your stories? Because they’re like, really fun, or do you have a lot of zombies or all of these things? Is it like real life then translated into fantasy? Or?

Robb Mommaerts  

Yeah, um, I guess my kids are a big inspiration to me because they the kids, I think a lovable kids is they’re just they don’t have any. They don’t have a shield up yet. Like, I always have a shield in front of me all the time, because I don’t want to embarrass myself or, you know, I try to fit in with the world around me. But like, my kids will just come up with really weird stuff. random stuff, they’re real imaginative, and they’re both real creative kids. And a lot of the stuff that they say, things they do inspires me. Outside of my kids, I guess. Inspiration wise, I was always inspired by you know, I always love monsters and dinosaurs and that kind of stuff. And somebody I know you had earlier asked about weird things and inspiring. And I was always inspired by as a kid going in. I wasn’t a big gamer. But going into Ark I grew up in a time of there were big, you know, 819 80s arcades and a I’m in, you know, in the malls and things like that I used to just wander through arcades for the longest time and just stare at the artwork on the, on the screen. And on the outside of the cases of video game cases I don’t you call those consoles or whatever. And pinball machines, that kind of stuff. And also like, movie poster art. I was always very inspired by that kind of stuff. Oh, that’s really

Iva Mikles  

cool. We didn’t have those machines, I think, at least were like, where I grew up. I was like, so that now he’s like, Oh, that’d be so cool.

Robb Mommaerts  

Yeah, it was a fun time to grow up.

Iva Mikles  

And if you think about, like, motivation, and how do you keep yourself like going, like with so many projects, and like, what did you create?

Robb Mommaerts  

Well, motivation. It’s sometimes it’s really tough. Because I get like, throughout the day, there’s you always hit those tough times during the day where you’re tired, or you just don’t feel inspired. And you don’t feel like drawing. And, you know, everybody goes through that, of course. But I guess one of the things that I always do is, I like to just go online and look at like a lot of my illustrator friends, or other illustrators that I’ve admired for a long time, I like to look at their work, that just always inspires me. And Instagrams a big thing for me. I just joined it a year ago, I think, and, you know, I just paid through there. And, you know, what else? Yeah, I also, I also keep a pretty big archive on my, on my computer of all the different illustrators, I admire. And I have them all in categories. And I just go through there, depending on what I’m working on, if I just need a jolt of inspiration, I just go through and look at all their work. And usually, yeah,

Iva Mikles  

we’ll have the categories heavy, like color and light and composition, or,

Robb Mommaerts  

yeah, like, well, like, I’ll have, you know, realistic illustrators, or cartoony illustrators, or people that specialize in character design, environment design, or vector art. Stuff that’s more abstract, I usually have those kind of, you know, I was happy, of course, their name. And, you know, I just kind of, usually I have someone in the back of my head, that I want to look at their work and just, but I’m not copying them. I just, I just like to look at their stuff, just to, you know, because it’s been a fire.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah. And I thought, I think on Instagram as well that you mentioned that you did the Kickstarter, like then and now the artists. Yeah, I

Robb Mommaerts  

was involved with that. I just did two pieces in the book. But that was a really fun project. Because the guys that set it up the object of the book is and it’s coming up pretty soon, I just got a notice from Kickstarter. The, the book was basically you, you took a picture that you drew from the preferably they wanted age, like your more formative years, like tween, teenage younger teenage years, from like 11 to 18. And find two pieces and then kind of redraw that piece or revisit that piece as an adult professional. And I picked a couple pieces I did. One was a dragon that I did when I was 11 was a dragon fighting a night. And it he sprang up fire, but it looks like he’s throwing up on him. So I did, I did a kind of a play on that. And the other giant I did was when I was in, when I was 14, I entered this children’s book competition, you know, they were trying to get kids to write their own books and illustrate them. And then if they chose your book, they would pop this company would publish it. I will it didn’t get anywhere. And I was really disappointed. But then years later, I found the book and I looked at it I laugh because it was a really like, violent, because I was 14 at the time I was watching pro wrestling and all this kind of stuff. And it was just it had like the occult in it and stuff. I was a children’s book, and really bizarre had guns. And you know, I was a weird kid. But I took

Iva Mikles  

different perception, you know, when you are like watching something as a kid, and then when you look at it as an adult, they’re like, oh, whoa, yeah,

Robb Mommaerts  

it was pretty bad. But I took a picture that I drew from that. And I guess it was one of the lesser violent images. And I read you that it was these two big animal characters fighting each other. So

Iva Mikles  

and so when you are looking for this new project or have also before when you entered competitions, and you said you joined social networks only like recently. So how did you do the networking? Or how did you find new projects and maybe how do you do it now?

Robb Mommaerts  

Um, well before I started well, one of the biggest things that happened with me career wise as far as getting it into illustration and making contacts was in like 2007. I think I got I, I ran into some guys, some artists that I used to go to all that I still do go to a lot of the Chicago comic conventions, and Chicago was like a four hour drive from where I live, three and a half, four hour drive. And every summer I would go to these shows now, the one I go to now is c two e two. And it’s, it’s great because there’s tons of artists, they’re artists alley and, and I was to meet up with different artists and show my work or try to get comics work from people or make contacts. And there were some guys I knew there that they told me, Hey, you should go on DeviantArt. And I kind of known what I knew a deviant art was but I never thought of putting my stuff online. And so I did right away. And after that, it’s it was great, because I made so many contacts with fellow artists and, and I met a lot I got some freelance work that way. And that’s I think, also ultimately how I got my job with cryptozoic. I think they found me on on deviant. And so I mean, that was just a great experience. And sadly, I’m not on that site really much at all anymore. I mostly use Instagram and Facebook or you know, I’m not currently looking for freelance work, but you know, when projects come up I use a lot of those other ones in Tumblr, that kind of stuff. But, but that was a great tool for me. It was hard before because you’d have to you just have to meet face to face with people or send your portfolio to people through the mail.

Iva Mikles  

Physical

Robb Mommaerts  

portfolio. Yeah, like actual physical for portfolio. But now it’s it’s so much easier.

Iva Mikles  

And so what tools they use now and like maybe what is your favorite because you do also digital work and traditional, like maybe what are the mediums you use most?

Robb Mommaerts  

I mostly Well, I started out doing everything was traditional. Of course, I grew up in the time when there wasn’t computers. And when I started getting into the learning, graphic design skills, and when I was in college, that was around the time the Mac Macintosh or the Mac computers were coming into the industry and stuff was still done. But you know, of course by hand, Ruby lift and all that kind of stuff, which I’m glad i i waited that era, just I just barely missed that era. And so I had never touched a computer until I was like 18 years old, basically. And, and, but like, in college, I learned you know, Photoshop and Illustrator and those programs. But, but basically, I I’m one of these people, I like to do a lot of things. I’m still pretty old school, I like to do a lot of traditional art and all of like my, my black and white artwork that I do, I’m actually I’ll talk about this in a little bit, but I’m going to be doing a book soon called ink tank with forge publishing, it’s their their art book, their new new group, they’re public, they’re out of Canada, and they’re gonna be publishing art books. I’m going to be doing a Kickstarter with them soon. But saw a lot of all my black and white traditional ink workers is going to be in this book. And but I do everything by hand, I mostly draw everything, pencil everything, ink everything by hand. And then I do all the digital coloring with Photoshop or Illustrator. And I still, I still don’t use a Cintiq or tablet or anything like that I actually use a mouse to color which I’m still pretty prehistoric. But soon I’m going to get an iPad Pro and try to teach myself how to use a pen and

Iva Mikles  

then you will be too good. You know, because if you can do this with a mouse,

Robb Mommaerts  

Oh, thanks. But like a lot of like a lot of my stuff, I try to let like the original lines carry a lot of the work like a lot of the textures and stuff I try to do with my inking, but because I’m I’m still I’ll do digital painting, sometimes still using a mouse, but I just I’m not very confident with that kind of stuff. So I tried to let the linework do most of the work. So but for a long time I was doing watercolor and a lot of my earlier like stuff that I had on DeviantArt was all watercolors, but I got I was really frustrated with getting the right intensity of color and doing that I bought a really nice scanner. And taking the watercolors and putting them into the digital world was kind of frustrating because it never looked like the original and some of the textures wouldn’t show up and I got really frustrated with that. So I just basically just jumped to doing all my colors digitally. Yeah.

Iva Mikles  

And so do you have like a Everything brands from you know, like the tools you use, like the the pen for inking or the pencils. Yeah,

Robb Mommaerts  

good question. I use I use Windsor Newton brushes, the series seven brushes, which are kind of they’re kind of the pricey, they’re like, they range from, like, 15 to like 18 apiece. $18 american dollars. And, and I guess I don’t know how true this is, but supposedly they’re, they’re getting harder to come by because they are in the United States, because the type of sable that they use is considered endangered species here an hour or something. I don’t know. What

Iva Mikles  

are you okay, right. Yeah.

Robb Mommaerts  

Yep. And so, but I had I bought, you could still order them. I think you can still order them off of Amazon or Dick Blick, or one of those are public art supplies. But I have a bunch of them and I for me, they last a really long time. Because I take real good care of them. And, and so, but yeah, and then I use I use, you know, those brushes, or you think I use like a zero or one. I can’t remember the tip brushes, thickness or whatever. And I also use these to clean up some of my brushwork. I’ll use like these little pitt artist pens there. Right. I can’t say the name fabric Castel, I think. Yeah. And I use those to clean up the line work. And that’s and then digitally I you know, I use Photoshop and Illustrator. I still do a lot of vector art. I don’t really put that online much. But But yeah, mostly Photoshop and, and like a lot of the textures I use, I used to use a lot of like, textures that I would scan from, from, you know, watercolor paper and that kind of stuff. And I don’t really use that so much anymore. I mostly rely on like, the some of the brushes for texture, and then the the actual line art. Create a sense of texture by doing like cross hatching.

Iva Mikles  

Okay, yeah. Yeah, because your line art is amazing. So it’s like, you know, when you are coloring, it’s just like addition to it. Thank you. And so when are you doing the book? Do you already know how many like pages it will have and something you can share about the new Pro? Yeah,

Robb Mommaerts  

it’s going to be I’m not sure exactly what the page count is going to be. But we’re going to have a lot of some cool rewards for people that take part in the campaign. It’s going to be on Kickstarter. Pretty soon. It’s gonna be launching pretty soon. And it’s gonna be an all all black and white book. And if you want to keep up with information on it, forge publishing.com is a good place to go and get there. Yeah, okay. Cool. And, but it’s going to be all black and white line art. And do you ever participated in Inktober in October at all, like the ink drying? Yeah,

Iva Mikles  

I started last year. So I’m like, Okay, this year, I will do all of it.

Robb Mommaerts  

Awesome. I had a kind of a bad year for it, I got busy and I wasn’t able to participate as much. I think I only had like, just just, like less than 10 pieces this year. I was pretty jammed. I had kind of a busier fall but but a lot of the pieces I did for Inktober some of my favorite pieces will be in that is as well as some drawings I did for a card game I illustrated a few years ago called I Hate zombies. It’s a lot of zombie artwork, and it’s mostly monsters and things. And I’m also working on eventually I want to do a I’m hoping to do a, like a fantasy webcomic fantasy theme webcomic. And some of my conceptual stuff for that comic is going to go into be in the book as well. So but it’s all just gonna be all black and white. Just all like traditionally rendered ink drawings.

Iva Mikles  

It would be super cool. And you know, it might be also nice to be to have like a coloring book for kids even if you would like

Robb Mommaerts  

that’s probably going to be one of the reward ones for people that get involved with a campaign that there’s going to be a coloring book. Pretty sure we’re going to do on so.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, good. So that’s really nice. And what I wanted to ask you was Do you remember maybe some of the favorite books what you did? Was there something like really memorable project?

Robb Mommaerts  

For me projects for me? Yeah. See? I I did A I worked out well through cryptozoic. One of the first projects I did with them, I illustrated a comic series, they only went for six issues. And they actually I think they will they did produce it as a trade. But it was a book called lookouts. It was actually the guys from Penny Arcade, it was their creation. And me, I illustrated it and Mike Norton was the anchor on it, if you familiar with him, he’s super talented comic book artists. And and then Ben McCool was the writer of the series, but as based on the guys from Penny Arcade created the series and then cryptozoic wanted to publish a comic series based on it’s a fantasy book. And I did it it was a six issue series. Also. For was it, oh, I do covers four. I’ve done covers for booms, boom, comics, boom studios. Some of their Cartoon Network series. I’ve done Uncle Grandpa covers for the Cartoon Network show Uncle Grandpa and regular show. I did a Power Rangers cover, which I don’t know if they’re actually going to use it as a cover anymore, but then use it for something else. I’m trying to think what else I mentioned a few years ago, I illustrated a game called I Hate zombies. That was a card game. I was pretty proud of that, how that turned out. And a lot of the work I do for cryptozoic. It’s fun because I get to do work and a lot of different styles. And I get to work on some of their their DC Comics projects and their Cartoon Network projects. And recently that just came out. I don’t know if you ever watch Rick and Morty. It’s a pretty fun show. I did a game illustrated a game four based on and I had to actually copy the exact style of the TV show. So that was a lot of fun and a lot of really gross images. That’s that should be I think that’s all right now, I also work on the mighty meeples line. There’s like these little tiny figures they’re not articulated little wooden figures only an inch tall. But I am doing all like the DC characters all like the Justice League and all any care I did a ton of them. There’s a frown how many are currently out right now. But that’s all done with vector art. It’s all done. And and there’s soon the streetfighter line is going to be released. It’s all this the characters from the video game Street Fighter. That’ll be soon saw so many things. Yeah, it’s great. That’s the nice thing about cryptozoic is because you learn so much by working in different styles. I mean, I have my own, my own unique style, it’s mine, but working for them, I get to try a lot of new things out and you learn a lot by just exploring other examining how people handle backgrounds or that kind of thing. So yeah, it’s, it’s a lot of fun.

Iva Mikles  

And so when you’re like working on many different projects, how do you design your day? Or how do you plan ahead or balancing you know, like family life and work life balance?

Robb Mommaerts  

Good question. I usually work a pretty, pretty regular day. Summertime, I’m actually up, Mike because my kids the summer is kind of chopped up quite a bit because my kids are home and not I mean, they’re at their, their, at their grandparents throughout the week during the during the day but, but a lot of times I have to pick them up and take them into different places, sports and summer school and different activities. And so I usually start my day I get really I get up at about four o’clock in the morning, and I work until they wake up. And and then and then I once they are off to to whatever they’re wherever they’re going. And then my wife is off to work i Then I go back and downstairs in my office and I work throughout the day. And usually during the school year, I usually work like a eight o’clock to five o’clock shift. And if I’m real busy, I’ll work at night after the kids go to bed. But the summer it’s um, my schedule is really weird in the summer. I’m all sometimes I’m working on the weekends and but it depends on what I get done during the week. So

Iva Mikles  

and do you do something like daily which kind of contributes to your success, you know, like meditation or exercise or something special to you?

Robb Mommaerts  

Yeah, exercise. I do that and I I have I have a dog at home and he he’s usually around he’s pretty hyperactive. He’s still still still getting out of puppy stage. But I take him for a walk during the day around lunchtime. And it’s nice to get out. I mean, we’re outside and you know, no matter what rain blows your weather blizzards, I mean because he needs to burn off his energy and it’s nice to get outside. And it’s been nice to the summer getting out because it’s been pretty decent. Nice weather. But otherwise to like, you know, like a lot of people I know a lot of artists friends of mine I see on I’m always kind of jealous because they can do these like warm up drawings and, and sketchbook drawings and for some reason I just have a hard time with that I, I my sketchbooks are really bad. I mean all I mean, they’re like, really scratchy ballpoint pen sketches, that kind of stuff, I’ll do that. I never do these really nice, completed finished sketches. I need to do that a lot more, I need to actually take time during the day and do a personal drawing, which I really don’t do that enough. So

Iva Mikles  

So what is your process when you have that idea for your personal drawing, you just like have like, Okay, I’ll throw these and then you just go directly to lineworker. I usually

Robb Mommaerts  

do like a post it note drawing, or, or like off of like a notepad. Basically, like something you’d see in a high school kids notebook. It’s just like a real, real, badly done ballpoint pen sketch. That’s how I always start everything off. And if I really liked that, sometimes I’ll actually even scan that drawing, that’s thumbnail drawing. And I’ll blow it up in Photoshop to like eight half by 11 or 11 by 14 size. And I’ll just trace it onto like Bristol and then I’ll just ink it. I don’t know, it’s very I will, you know, kind of be interesting work process I can never capture. I can never capture the the right proportions. If I try to redraw something at a larger scale. It always looks really, like forced or stiff. That’s why I just like that’s what I love about little tiny like thumbnail drawings is just being able to try to capture that spontaneity and yeah,

Iva Mikles  

yeah, I love that as well. I always do these like tiny dogs because it for me, it looks cooler when it’s smaller, like, oh, I don’t see any mistakes. Yeah, I know. So and then I just go through Photoshop. And it’s like, easier, much easier.

Robb Mommaerts  

Yeah, I’ll even manipulate the really, really bad, sketchy joints in Photoshop to like, I’ll make a head bigger, and then I’ll print it out. And if you see it laying on my desk, it just looks like garbage in my head. I know what it is. I know what it’s supposed to be in the end. And usually the end result I’m pretty happy with but

Iva Mikles  

and how are you then because you’re doing a lot of like, kind of not the caricature style. But you are you know, when you’re designing characters, sometimes they have a giant head and giant alien. So how do you decide how do you want to stylize them?

Robb Mommaerts  

I like to play with really weird proportions. Sometimes I get like, sometimes if I feel like some of the proportions I’m doing are too, too. I mean, All my stuff’s cartoony. But if they’re going to realistic, I like to push the proportion or the composition more, and kind of give it a twisted angle or, you know, that’s what I usually try to do. Like I always feel like my, when I’m trying to draw realistically, it looks too stiff unless I’m figure drawing from life. I don’t know, I just just for me, I like to kind of try to put my own mark on it, I guess. Try to find words to explain it. But yeah.

Iva Mikles  

And so you mentioned also that you did the live throwing? And do you have like maybe books to recommend people to just learn from or maybe it doesn’t have to be art, it can be business related or something maybe which you give as a gift, like this is a good book.

Robb Mommaerts  

Um, I guess, you know, I have a ton I have a ton of books in my office, I have a big I actually have to put all my books into like the storage area next to my office in my basement, because I have so many of them. I don’t really have a lot of books about business or instructional type books. I mostly collect our art of books from like, you know, animated films, or I have a lot of comics, a lot of graphic novels, but I guess in lot lots, lots of children’s books. But I guess out of all the books I think I would like give to somebody is like any book that we’re Jack Davis’s artwork is in there because he’s had, he had such a long career and his style is so unique, and is pretty much ahead of its time. You know, he started off, you know, well started off his career and in the 40s or the 50s. And he working for doing the Tales from the Crypt comics. And after I mean, he was working up until his death pretty much I mean, not full time but I mean, he was in his 90s when he passed away, and just he’s a big inspiration for me. I mean, I if I if I could ever have a career anything close to his, that would just be great. But, I mean, yeah. And I just love his work is beautiful. And I think if I was going to give someone a gift, I give them one of his his big deal. He has a big retrospective book out of his career. And I think that, so

Iva Mikles  

do you maybe have a quote do like kind of really like or you live by?

Robb Mommaerts  

Well, it’s not really a quote from a person, but I guess my, I guess mine would be make the most of every day that you have, because I always feel I always try to I guess that’s why I don’t really get a lot of sleep, which Yeah, no, that’s not healthy. But I always try to pack as much as I can every day, because I always feel very lucky to be alive and not trying to try not to be sappy or anything. But I was I’m very feel I’m very fortunate. I’ve had a very fortunate life, have a nice family and had a nice upbringing. And, you know, I get to do what I love for a living. And I guess I try to do as much as I possibly can in a day and try to enjoy as much as I can. And get as much done as I possibly can. Because you never know what tomorrow is going to bring you. Or I guess you know.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, definitely. Because just to appreciate it’s small things that makes a person happy. Like,

Robb Mommaerts  

yeah, yeah, exactly. Whatever

Iva Mikles  

it is. Yeah, I

Robb Mommaerts  

mean, it’s the little things that that matter. And being out in nature, I try to get as much out of the seas of the changing seasons as I can. Especially like now a summer, you know, soon it’s going to be 10 below again. And so I’m trying to take advantage of the nice weather.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, same here. I learned to appreciate sun when I was in Denmark, so I was so happy every time we don’t sunny and,

Robb Mommaerts  

you know, yeah. Yeah, same here. We don’t get the sun as much.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, those la people. They don’t get that?

Robb Mommaerts  

Oh, yeah. degrees every day.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah. And so if you’re thinking about maybe the most challenging part or difficult part of your career, if there was something like that, then maybe if what do you learn from it, if you can share, um,

Robb Mommaerts  

I guess the most challenging part of my career, I guess, just like self doubt, that’s like a big I know, every artist deals with that. Not feeling that your work is good enough or, or feeling that you can’t keep up with a project. That’s always the thing that I worry about, or taking on too much work. Like, that’s why I try to careful with projects that I get involved with, because, you know, I don’t want anything to affect my, my daily work with, you know, my job. And just taking on too much. Okay, I guess another challenging thing is just finding, finding your own unique style, that people can, you know, that recognize that it’s your own work, like I always used, obviously, like that someone like Dr. Seuss. You look at his stuff, it’s his in, you know, if, if someone’s trying to emulate his style, it pops out, you know, it’s obvious that, you know, I’ve always struggled with trying to, like, build my own brand, basically, like, I always, one of the hard things with jumping around too much as far as, like, with different styles as an illustrator is, you don’t want to, I’m always afraid, I’m going to confuse someone, like a lot of times, like, on my own, on my own personal on my Instagram site, or my, my Tumblr site or my blog, I try to keep that with keep that filled with just all my personal art. Because that’s, that’s my own stuff and my own style. And I want, I want people to know me, as an individual for that work. But the thing is, it’s hard because, you know, there’s so many different styles I appreciate. And if you ever get that feeling as an artist where you want to, you want to try working in this style, you’re like, oh, maybe I should jump to a different style. You know, this would be faster and easier to do. And, you know, it’s cleaner, and, you know, maybe I could get more work working this way. And that’s what I always struggle with. That’s, that’s a hard thing to do.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, definitely have a mess on my Instagram when he’s like dead when he’s like that. It’s just like all over the place. So

Robb Mommaerts  

yeah, yeah, I really struggle with that a lot with my own work.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah. But it seems like that everyone has that. And it’s great to hear, I think for young artists that are also accomplished artists, like you, you know, can say these and they’re like, oh, it’s not only me.

Robb Mommaerts  

Yeah. Yeah, I think it’s something everybody deals with. So I’m always jealous of those artists that have that really distinct style that I always try to be. Find that in my own work. work

Iva Mikles  

just to get better and learn and yeah, yeah. Good. And so do you have maybe something which simplifies your life, maybe your daily work and maybe something you purchased or some software or tool?

Robb Mommaerts  

Not so much. I mean, I’m pretty simple like I, you know, I use, I kind of I kind of follow this the same. I haven’t really nice scanner, a scanner I originally bought when I was when I was doing watercolors, I spent a lot of money on it. But it’s held up for I’ve had it for about, I think about 11 years now. And it’s still working great. And it can I mean, but now it’s funny because I bought it to scan watercolors. But now I’m just pretty much always just scanning sketch either sketches, or just black and white, like bitmap, high res linework. Like, color digitally anyways, so, so I don’t use it for trying to do these really nice high quality scans. So but that made my life a little easier. And and I guess, you know, just when I mentioned before deviant art that that just really opened a lot of doors for me getting a buying a subscription through Deviant Art originally, but you know, I don’t use that as much anymore. But Instagram is also another really great, but that’s free, so you don’t have to pay money for that. But then my, my I haven’t I work on an iMac. And I’ve had that for about six years now. And that’s been so far, so good. It’s starting to slow down a little bit, but I’m not really sure the exact lifespan of of that computer of that nature. But hope long. So yeah, I know hope. Hopefully it hangs on as long as it can. Yeah.

Iva Mikles  

And then you mentioned that you want to get a tablet. And so you are thinking about in the companion or what did you kind of choose? Yeah.

Robb Mommaerts  

I still don’t I know Cintiq is are pretty pricey. And, and I was here the the the negatives and the positives of both. And I know that a lot of people are working. I’ve been working on that artists, friends of mine, when using the the iPad Pro. And I thought of investing in something like that pretty soon. I’m just waiting to, you know, Apple’s also secretive on what they’re going to release. And so I’m waiting until maybe this fall, I’m not sure. A friend of mine told me that they usually release things in September, October or something like that. So I’m trying to train a hold back for a while until I can get the next version or whatever. So good.

Iva Mikles  

We’ll wait as well.

Robb Mommaerts  

Yeah, I’ve always I’ve tried syntax out before, and I thought they were really cool. But I had that it’s just, it’s hard to get used to. I was always afraid that I would buy one and to get really intimidated by it. And, you know, I just had to force myself to make that jump and learn how to use it.

Iva Mikles  

But I think it just takes maybe like a day or so to get used to it. I think it’s fine here.

Robb Mommaerts  

Yeah, I just kind of have to relearn everything. I’m so used to my old my little windows and like even you know, all that kind of stuff. So I don’t know, it’ll be interesting.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, I’m looking forward to here. And then what do you think afterwards? And so the some of the last questions I want to ask you, it’s about the future. And maybe where would you see yourself in five to 10 years and kind of your dream scenario?

Robb Mommaerts  

Um, dream scenario, I guess. I guess I would just love to, I guess I’d love to create something that that could take off into something bigger. I just love seeing you know, I’m a dad. So I two kids and my, my my daughter is really starting to get into all ages graphic novels. And and I would love to create something like that. My, you know, develop my own story. And maybe I was thinking of starting a webcomic and it’d be it’d be cool just to have something like that. I I’ve worked in children’s books as well. I had I was working with a author named Julia Dweck. And I did a couple of books with her one of them that hasn’t hasn’t come out yet I’m not sure when it when we’re we’re still kind of working things out with that book. But the other book I did with her was called frostbite. And it’s a it’s on amazon.com But it’s a children’s book, you can get it digitally or, or actually order the book itself. But I like to do like a comic or a children’s book and I love I love seeing kids reading and seeing kids because I was you know I mentioned before I He’s big into escape when I was a kid. And I would just I loved comics, I love children’s books, I would just just, I was always reading and looking at pictures and trying to copy what I saw on the pages. And I would love to have that kind of stuff of my own work out there for children to read and escape to and and I love seeing kids enthusiastic about art and imagination. And I hope that I can create something that kids can get into and

Iva Mikles  

I’m super nice. Yeah. And maybe like a more difficult question, like super far in the future. Like, what would you like to be remembered for? Like, in 100 years?

Robb Mommaerts  

I’m remembered for, I guess, having something that lasts a long time, like I mentioned, Dr. Seuss before, you know, his stuff is still I mean, he’s been gone for. I mean, he says, career started, I think, in the 30s. And his books. I mean, there’s, I mean, they still they still hold up today. I mean, they’re timeless, in the house, something out there that I created that that will outlive me. I would love to have something like that. Something that’s yeah, will outlive me. I mean, a pipe dream of mine is to create something like, you know, Star Wars or Harry Potter or peanuts or you know, Dr. Seuss’s books. Something that will last a long time and loved by a lot of different audiences. And my ultimate goal is to be remembered as a good father to my children. But that’s my second goal is to Yeah, to do pretty something a lot outlive me.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, that sounds great. Because it also like to just the split two goals you can have like career artistic goal, and like a family goals. So that definitely makes sense. And this was so much fun. And if you have like, last advice for young artists before we say goodbye. Oh,

Robb Mommaerts  

yeah, always stay true to yourself. You know, I one thing that I, I remember reading an interview with an A well known illustrator, and he, he said, what really hit me because I’ve run into this problem. He said, try to find a method that is a method in your art or, you know, of creating your art that you feel real, that you enjoy and feel comfortable doing. Like I love, I love to just draw on paper and color digitally. But like, in the past, I’ve tried to do things that I wasn’t really comfortable doing it, it’s always great to learn new things and get out of your comfort zone. But sometimes when it’s too much of a chore, like even if the end result looks beautiful, and but it was really like painstaking to do and time consuming. Like I ran into that when I was working in watercolor, I would just have to, you know, do layer upon layer and the colors would get muddy. And it got to a point where I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. I love the end result look cool, but just the process was just too painstaking. And I thought I’m not really enjoying this. I want to just have fun. And that’s, that’s, you know, the, you want to enjoy your work. You don’t want to dread dread doing it. So. So

Iva Mikles  

perfect. I love it. And so thank you so much for being here. And

Robb Mommaerts  

thanks for having me. Yeah, super.

Iva Mikles  

Thank you. It was really cool to talk to you as well and really nice to meet you and thanks. And thanks everyone for watching, and see you in the next episode. Thank you. Hope you guys enjoy this interview. 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 little freebie waiting for you so go check it out. If you enjoyed this episode, please leave a review on iTunes, hopefully five stars so I can read and inspire more people like you. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to Art Side of Life podcast because I post new interview every single workday. If you want to watch the interviews, head over to artsideoflife.com/youtube. Thank you so much for listening. Don’t forget 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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