Jun 10, 2016

5 Questions with Junkyard Sam, Artist by Night and Artist by Day, Who Only Takes Time Off in Octember, Jaugust or Septembray

Sam says, "I never understood the 'tortured artist' thing." Born and raised in Texas, his career in games took him all over the place until he finally put down roots in Seattle. The man known as "Junkyard Sam" has a brain for art. And that brain overflows with dinosaur riders, duck armies, and quaint notions like pedaling for freedom.  Currently he works as UI/UX designer on Guild Wars 2.

We both share a love for imaginary worlds and tiny happy creatures that defy description, so I knew I had to pick his brain a little. Here we go.

The Small Box by Junkyard Sam


Can you remember the first thing you ever drew?

Yes! I drew square-shaped happy-faced characters with ribbons that looked like gifts. Presents. Kids love cool boxes with neat things inside so I brought them to life. My art has always been about MAXIMUM FUN!

What do you say to people who tell you "they can't draw"?

Oh, I get where they're coming from. I can't either!!!

I'm fascinated by your little cities and towns teeming with ghosts and giants and pint-sized people. How does one of your pieces begin? Can you walk us through your creative process?

Thanks! I like the idea of people living on small terrarium-like planets. So I often start with a sphere or box and add peeps and monsters until something happens!

I also spend time in Google Maps travelling about, looking for buildings or places that inspire me. Next thing I know some Junkyard version of that place is on paper and monsters, ghosts, and little yellow people with round heads are taking over.

There's a randomness to how I work, because the moment I overthink it the life and energy is lost... and what fun is that?

"Duck Army gathering for strength.
Ready now to serve, ready to go the length.
Whether with weapons or ink, these guys are quick to draw.
Ready to paint a picture or enforce the law!"
- by Junkyard Sam


How would you describe the experience of working at ArenaNet, on GuildWars 2? Any advice for people who would like to break into the games industry?

Arenanet is great! It's a rewarding studio full of people with incredible talent and we're making a game I really love. Nothing beats that!

I worry about people getting into the game industry today, though. It's very competitive... and by that I mean the amount of talent out there is almost impossible to compete with. There are really good artists out there literally begging for work. This has a depressing effect on wages. But hey, for people able to find work it's pretty amazing to bring a game to life!

It's changed over the years though. In the 90s you might work on a team with a handful of people. Today, teams can consist of several hundred people so it can be challenging to have significant impact on a personal level.

Also, to succeed as a game artist you have to create art that matches the style of the game. So there's a tendency for people to get caught up in that and never develop their own voice. I know dozens - maybe hundreds - of game artists and very few of them actually create their "own" art outside of work. They're okay with that, but it haunts me. That's why I draw.

I really don't mean to be a downer, but yeah, I think it might be a rough career for people coming up now.

"Three unicyclers ridin' on a narrow road,
with a bottle in each hand, no one knowin' where to go.
They ought to get a tan, 'cause their bare skin is yellow,
Rollin' on a pavement pilgrimage to find a home.

Now they'll never find a place to live, rowing on this path,
On a race to leave behind a life that's going nowhere fast.
Not meddling, but pedaling to settle down and crash,
At a pad where they can relax - I just hope the beer will last!"
Junkyard Sam



What's the one artistic tool you could never do without, and why?

When I was a kid I specialized in pencil because I figured even if I end up homeless I can find paper and draw with those pencils at lottery kiosks.  But luckily I never went homeless. Things worked out and I found my true love: fountain pens!!!

There's something magical about the way a nice fountain pen feels on paper. I see people all the time writing with cheap office pens or drawing with disposable art pens like Sharpies or Microns. Those things get the job done, but a good fountain pen makes you go, "Oh man, I can't believe how good this feels" every second you use it.

My favorite fountain pen is the Pilot Falcon. It's a unique pen with a soft nib that gives a bit of line variation when you apply pressure. Without pressure, the nib is springy and has a bit of a "bounce" as you write or draw. I love this so much that I'm actually motivated to draw just because the pen feels so amazing!

Fountain pens caused me to rediscover my love for drawing... now I can't stop!!! :-)

Dad's Mystical Wonderboat
by Junkyard Sam

Enjoy lots more Samminy goodness over at Junkyardsam.Com -- or connect with Sam on Ello and Google+. He's a nice, down-to-earth guy with his head up in the cosmic winds.

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