Erin is a professional illustrator/animator working for Rovio. I'm always amazed at the volume and quality of work he puts out. Each of his illustrations are like a panel taken out of a graphic novel where you want to know the story before and after the drawing you're looking at. Erin's good at all the things you're not ;-) hands, dynamic character poses, spot on facial expressions, baggy skinned animals, and great compositions. Check out his work and I'm sure you'll be as impressed as we are.
Did you always want to be an artist?
Yes. I've loved cartoons ever since I was a kid.
When did you started getting serious about art?
When I went to college. After about a year of classes, I took my first 2D animation class. The first time I saw my drawings start to move on the screen, I knew I wanted to be a 2D animator.
How were your parents with the idea of being an artist for your career?
They were all for it! They were nothing but encouraging about me pursuing my career.
Did you have any family members, teachers, or mentors that helped guide you or did you blaze the path alone?
I was mostly self taught up until college.
I had two outstanding teachers in college. One was Don Long, who had the amazing ability to pick up a pen and create these dynamic, fluid, and most amazingly anatomically correct drawings without having to sketch out an under-drawing. His drawings always had such force and finesse, and Don would almost just “scribble” them out as he happily chatted with you as you stared bewildered at his drawing. I always try (not always succeeding) to channel Don's loose but refined strokes when I am trying to build a dynamic or flowing pose or character.
The other was my life-drawing teacher Tom Flanagan. Tom was a “nose to the grindstone” teacher who made us all work HARD in his classes. He would make the models pose for up to 20 minutes, and he forced us to FOCUS on all the little details in the muscles, how the skin would hang, how the light hit it, and he had no issues about criticizing our work. During every minute of Tom's class we were drawing, and our hands ached by the end of the class, only to be given more assignments to draw more subjects in the same “photo-realistic” fashion. He made us work our butts off, but that was great preparation for what was to come in the industry, and there was NO denying that our overall draftsmanship skill had improved by the end of the class.
I learned from so many artists I worked with. Ben McSweeney – an amazing animator who can animate insane action scenes like you would see in high-action anime. Dominic Carola and Aaron Blaise – two incredible Disney veterans whose draw-overs opened my eyes to pushing silhouette, straight vs. curve, and body/facial expression. Henry Yamada's character designs were so complex yet beautifully streamlined, it was tough keeping up with him, but I feel my work is stronger for it. Ricky Roxburgh – a hilarious writer who was the MASTER at taking a simple idea and turning it into a complete, incredible, HILARIOUS script; Tim Moen – an awesome character designer whose designs would introduce new techniques and ideas into my art as I would storyboard his designs; Tony West – an awesome 2D fx animator, and possibly the nicest person in the animation industry; and Julio Medina – an incredible 3D modeler with a work ethic and attitude that demands admiration.
Did you go to school for art or did you learn some other way?
I did go to an art school, where I learned some skills that I still use today, like Adobe AfterEffects, Premiere, and some basic 3D modeling. However, aside from Tom Flanagan and Don Long, I credit most of my "industry quality" work from what I learned on the job.
If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice, what would you say?
When I was a kid (and even a college kid) instead of scribbling little doodles in my free time, I should have been trying to master gesture drawing, finding clear silhouettes, applying structure to the face, etc.
My advice to myself would be "Learn With Purpose". If you want to draw as good as Milt Kahl or Don Bluth, don't just redraw their characters - dive into the fundamentals that THEY did that built them into masters they are today. Don't just "do the assignments", really micro-analyze them to try and understand WHY this assignment is so important to your art, and FOCUS on mastering that technique within the assignment so it adds to the strength of your own art ability.
You illustrate and animate, which do you prefer?
2D animation - all the way.
What are your favorite tools?
Traditionally - for my rough pass I use Col-erase carmine red pencil, standard polymer eraser, and for cleanups I will use ballpoint pen, or if I want to get fancy I'll use Pentel Arts Pocket Brush Pen. For tones I usually use wine or coffee since one is usually by my side. But if I want to get serious, I'll use an ink stone.
Digitally - Clip Studio Paint is AMAZING! Completely ditched PhotoShop for it. For storyboards I use Toonboom Storyboard PRO. For digital 2D animation I use TVPaint. LOVE that software.
Are there any tools/skills you wish you could get better at?
Everything listed above. That includes all the life drawing/perspective/etc. Being more proficient in digital painting/coloring, and 3D modeling would be handy as well.
You were an early adopter of Sketch Wallet, did you carry a sketchbook with you before that?
Not really. I had a card sized mini-sketchbook that I carried in my old wallet, but it was too small for me to really use. Plus I never had any drawing utensils on hand.
Has carrying a Sketch Wallet changed your sketching habits?
Now that I have my Sketch Wallet, I find myself using it while having a coffee in the morning, and/or a glass of wine at the end of the day. So that's two extra drawing sessions a day thanks to Sketch Wallet! Not bad!
I saw you’re doing a project with Dark Horse Comics, can you talk about what you’re doing or is it top secret?
They just announced it! I'm partners with Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer on a comic called "Calla Cthulhu". Thanks to Sarah and Evan's connection with Dark Horse, they will be publishing the book version (The digital version is already out on the Stela app in the iTunes store). This was definitely a cool experience because I've been a fan of Dorkin's "Milk and Cheese" comics ever since middle school. I definitely feel Milk and Cheese influenced my work. Especially those eyebrows.
Congratulations on your new job with Rovio, what do you do for them?
I worked with them previously on their "Stella" web series, and now I'm storyboarding on their web series "Piggy Tales".
What’s a typical day like?
Nothing special! I work typically around 10-6, eat, play video games, and after a glass of wine and my Sketch Wallet, I'm back to bed.
If you were a Kool-Aid flavor, what would you be?
If you could do any personal project and had all the time and money you needed, what would you do?
I'm working on a personal project with my wife; a comic called BAND. I also have an idea for a short, and then I have three feature film ideas I would love to do. All 2D animation of course. Who knows what will come of the ideas, but I've been developing them and sharing some concept art on my social media to see what kind of reaction they get.
What advice would you give an artist that wants to level up their work?
Same advice I would give myself as a kid: "Work With Purpose". I know there's the saying out there "You need to make a million bad drawings before you start making good ones" but instead of blindly doodling, if those drawings were spent focusing on mastering anatomy, silhouette, perspective, straight vs. curve, gesture, structure in the face and body, etc. Then you will find yourself in a much stronger place artistically after those million drawings are behind you.
Thanks for allowing us to get to know you better! How can people see more of your work? (please share any links you’d like to share)
I try to make it easy for the viewer to find my work, so I try to post on a LOT of social media.
Google+: Erin Humiston
If you're interested in checking out my comic BAND: