apple, artist as brand, gaming art, illustration, illustrators journal, innovation, levinland, Levinland studio, lon levin, mike cressy, painting, silicon valley, sony playstation
When it comes to gaming art, funny characters, wildly silly characters and places Mike Cressy is among the top artists in the world.
I’ve sat and watched him draw in his sketchbook and marveled at his inventiveness and sheer talent. His style is unmistakable and each and every drawing is filled with imagination and excitement. Here’s Part One of an interview I had with him.
Mike you’ve done so much in the commercial art world and been at it a long time. How do you stay motivated? Don’t you want to go off to Monet’s garden and just hang out?
It would be great to just spend time on vacation somewhere that I can enjoy just the weather, a beach … but I’m a bit of a workaholic. I’m always doing something. Rarely do I have time to my self. I’ve done that before but it’s been about 6 years since the last time I had a full time job. I’ve done 6 month contracts at Microsoft since then and now full time at Amazon but I also work on my own projects throughout the year. It leaves very little time to do anything else. Taking the time to do other things is something that refreshes me, much more so then going on vacation. But then again, if I’m on vacation with someone I’m dating then it’s a different thing. My main motivation is that life is finite and so I’m bothered that I won’t have enough time to finish all the art that I’d like to do before the whole thing comes to a crushing halt. I’m amazed that so many people don’t have that as a prime motivator. When you have such a crazy, varied journey, such as mine, then you understand your limits and try to do your best every day. Some days are better then others but there’s always that kick in the pants of mortality that I get when I wake up in the morning. Hopefully by the end of each day I’ve made good decisions about work and life.
To me your work looks fresh and not dated even though you’re a veteran illustrator. How do you keep up to date. Is that a conscious effort or is your work timeless?
Thanks. I appreciate that comment. I work hard to try and be up to date… it would be nice to be timeless but very few artists can achieve that. To that end I look at every new artist I can get my hands on. I think that at this stage in my career I can assess the truth in an artist’s work and make a judgement as weather that person’s work is something I want to work off of or use as reference. Not ripping them off in any sense but without hesitation using a certain truth or essence that I perceive in their work. That sort of thing keeps me excited about making new art and having fun doing that. I still have some pieces of art that I did in the 80s and that work looks very much of that time to me. Sometimes when I show it to some of my current art friends, they are taken aback and ask me why I still don’t do that kind of style… which was mostly realistic. Back in those days at Group West I was working side by side with legends in the illustration business. Most of them were anywhere from 20 to 45 years my senior and all of them were great. I had admired their work years before I had met them and it felt great to be there with those guys. Bill Robles, Larry Salk, Ren Wicks, Neil Boyle, Nick Galloway… all fantastic artists and I think about their work and friendship all the time. I also have made a ton of new art friends who are mostly in children’s books and the computer games world and most of them are incredible artists. All that influence helps to keep my art moving forward.
Any impact on you since the economy tanked? Have you shifted your focus to more active markets?
Of course we’ve all taken a hit when the economy bottomed and it’s still very difficult out there. Many places aren’t buying art anymore, companies are hiring in house staff to do art they used to contract out and in general things have almost ground to a halt. I had a rough year and a half with a 6 month bout in the middle where I was on contract at Microsoft on Avatar Kinect at Xbox. The market for art is constantly in flux now. You never know where to find the next job or contract. I still get some magazine work here and there and the occasional book to illustrate, but they’ve been harder and harder to come by the last few years. I had two prospects for full time work that came to me this last summer. Obviously I took the Amazon job. So far it’s been a great place to work. Also on the up side is that I have a lot of friends working there from places I’ve worked for in the past. I still keep on the look out for free lance jobs that I can do quickly on the side, but I’d rather work in my spare time on the several book projects I’m doing for myself. If the general public accepts them, perhaps I can sell some books.
More of this interview soon.