- Amerikan Made Prints
- Art Buyer Magazine
- Art Order
- Association of Illustrators
- Cartoon Art Museum
- Cartoon Brew
- Design is Kinky
- Drawn and Quarterly
- Fantagraphics Books
- HOW Design
- Hi-Fructose Magazine
- ICON The Illustration Conference
- Illustration Class
- Illustration Friday
- Illustrators Illustrated
- Juxtapoz Magazine
- Lines and Colors
- National Cartoonists Society
- Plan 59
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- Sugar Frosted Goodness
- Taught by a Pro
- Today's Inspiration
- UPPERCASE Magazine
Bob MacNeil has been called a renaissance man. You may not know it, but more than likely you have seen his work! For 15 years he has passed the day as a graphic designer, illustrator, concept designer, background artist for animation, web designer, copyrighter and toy designer. It seems that he cannot keep a steady job, but that is simply not the case. He works as all of these at the same time, (not simultaneously of course, but rather) through a well organized time regiment that allows him to be part of one artistic endeavor after another. There are also days when he doesn't sleep. He calls those days, weekdays! His work can be seen in your local grocery store on your favorite packaged item, in your entertainment center next to your console gaming system, at your local toy store, or on your television set behind some colorful characters. A short list of companies that have employed his lunacy go by the names Cartoon Network, Good Humor-Breyers, Pepsi Cola, Toy R Us, Nickelodeon, Microsoft and Electronic Arts.
His wife Deana, tolerates his busy schedule because she knows no matter where they go, she's guaranteed a laugh from his endless mentioning of what he did in whatever store they're in! You can check out what keeps him busy at his blog, Bob's LOG (http://bobmacneil.blogspot.com) or on his other web presence, his online portfolio (http://www.taminglight.com)
When did you first decide to become a graphic designer/ illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?
I always remember drawing, or creating something that didn't fit the mold of a typical kid. For years, my Mom joked that she would yell at me to go out and play with the neighborhood kids. I was more content with staying in the house and concocting some sort of artistically centric expression. I guess the mess I would make is what inspired her to those heightened vocals. The earliest drawing I did, circa 1976-1977 (which I saved for posterity sake) is a tracing of a cover from the comic, Shang Chi, the Master of Kung Fu. I gave Mr. Chi an 8 pack stomach! I guess you can say the reality of anatomy those many years ago typically got lost in translation. As far as pivotal moments go, I guess it would be 4th grade grammar school. We (the students) were given some busy work to do by the teacher, a craft project which employed the illustration trick of using a grid to copy a picture. The picture was a line drawing of a lion. I replicated the drawing pretty accurately, but never used the grid overlay to do so. Finally, I found something that warranted a gold star! And, I guess another time would probably be when I failed the "You can draw a pirate test!" (remember that), which you could receive through mail order. They told me that my rendition of the pirate wasn't quite there yet ( I may have been 7). Well, they pissed me off and I wanted to prove those turtle/ pirate peddling art devils that they were wrong... I COULD draw a pirate! So I guess at 6 or 7, is when I decided that I would be a famous artist, or maybe that's when I decided to be a pirate (I don't really remember...)
Who or what inspires you?
A little bit of everything I guess. I really love retro era art, 50's era design and culture. I love anything that has a hint of tiki influence in it, (if tiki is a good enough definition for an almost forgotten culture) I like Disney, even though it seems to carry such a negative reputation. I absolutely love anything that Pixar does. It's a dream of mine to one day walk those halls of employment. The first artist I looked up to has to be John Byrne. The exactness in his drawing is what I aspired to achieve in my work. Presently, I would say that the variety of art you can find on the web keeps me inspired. The blog explosion of artists has definitely changed the way I look at things. Design Inspiration, as a matter of fact, has been a great resource for me! I also seem to love foreign artists. I'm American, but there are some contemporary Latin and French artists I have found on the web that do some great work. In particular, the comic work done outside of America, to me, has so much more creativity to it. I guess that's why, as of late, I've become more partial to independent artist works. The big guys of the industry have become more and more predictable and boring. The sappy answer has to be my wife, Deana (her family) and my sister, Jodi. With a slew of recent tragedies in my life, I lost a lot. They have all been very supportive and there for me through it all.
Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?
My family is full of artists. So I guess their support throughout the years could possibly equate to my first form of training. The school I attended, felt sort of like the school from the TV show Fame. There weren't any academics, just art class, but because the curriculum wasn't so structured the teachers followed suit. If you didn't want to work and were more so interested in social mingling, you had no trouble coasting by. I glommed on to a few teachers who I felt had something to offer and pretty much chewed their brain for whatever info they were willing to share. Dennis Dittrich a talented NYC illustrator, and now friend, is the person who has probably had the most impact on what I do. These days I do most of my work entirely on the computer and that is mostly self-taught, with a bunch of assistance from another long time friend named James Bukowiec (my first official art/ creative employer). When I was a matriculating student an apple was either something you ate, or one of those giant computers that filled a 40 ft. sq. room but held 500 K worth of information. All of my computer knowledge was acquired through on the job training, and for that, I have to thank James.
How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?
I try to experiment with something new all the time. I guess that's why my work really doesn't have a distinct style to it, and I have such a varied portfolio of work. It's been both good and bad in my career, as I never pigeonholed myself with an identity. I did however, mold myself to become a chameleon when I do work. It tends to always keep me very busy, but my name isn't busting down any doors. In addition to that, I try to shower as often as I can!
What are some of your current projects?
I just finished up a run as a background painter on the television show The Venture Brothers. Currently, I'm working on two other projects that both involve entertainment venues. Unfortunately I cannot show any of that just yet, but as soon as I can, my website will be the first to know, I promise. I also work full time as a graphic designer for MegaBrands America, so there is always something on the burner relating to that.
Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?
I would say the image I did for no other reason than to simply thank the guys over at Flight has to be my favorite most recent image/project. My Mom lost her battle to cancer (one of the aforementioned tragedies) and Flight 1 happened to be a book I read during what I experienced while she was sick. Flight inspired me to keep pushing forth with my art, while my world changed before my eyes. I made the painting to simply post onto Flight's forums, and to extend a thanks to everyone there for keeping my head in the creative game. I felt the stories in the book were there to help get my mind off of the reality I was living. Fast forward a couple of years, Flight is now in it's third installment and my image is included with its history. I have worked on campaigns that can be seen all over the world, but this little image in the back of Flight 3 will be the one I'll never forget. Kazu was very kind to include me in the edition.
Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?
I have recently started to return to animation after many years of putting it aside. In the past, I experimented with everything from 3-D digital animation to stop motion claymation. Now I'm working on actual 2-D productions and I really enjoy it! I want to get my hands on After Effects, and see what I can do now that I know how it's done, so to speak. I also would like to use some real paint again, I'm dying to ruin my carpet. And once again, I would give a body part to work with anything Pixar has slated.
Any advice to the novice designer/ illustrator?
Do not give up. Start out small, and soon the bigger stuff will come looking. Realize you're not curing any world problems, you're creating art, so by all means have fun while doing so!
What makes a designed piece or illustration successful?
Since design or illustration is so subjective and relevant to where it's being used, it's hard to give a textbook answer. If you inspire someone to think about your work, enjoy your creation or dream to do what you do, I guess that is a success. I feel successful when I finish a project, no matter what it is, because I know I've grown as an artist, I've used my gift, and my next project is around the corner waiting for me.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?
I look at my monthly bills! I also make sure I laugh at someone every day... there's no reason to not laugh at other people.
And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?
The best thing on TV? I love putting various objects on my TV and watching my wife put them back where they belong in the house. Oh, and The Simpsons!
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