Our latest City Creative interview features local illustrator/graphic designer Joseph Urban. I think Joseph’s style can best be summed up as “The Dark Crystal vs Spawn”. Well, at least that’s how I would describe it. His extensive character repertoire ranges from cute and cuddly cartoons to dark, steampunky creations to wondrous imaginary landscapes.
12 Questions For…Joseph Urban
Being a robot lover myself, I had to ask…what’s with your website name “for robots”? I love it! Please tell me more!
Back in the summer of ’95 I was camping way up North in Canada with my family. We kinda rough it a bit and get flown out in a pontoon plane and then are dropped off in the wilderness for a few weeks to just get away. Well, this particular time I had my walkman and only one CD of the band named For Squirrels. It was an alternative band – needless to say I listened to it a bunch…a bunch bunch. When I returned home I had the same question that you asked me, but “what’s with For Squirrels?” I read that the band said if no one liked their music they could always just play for the squirrels. I also read that the lead singer, the drummer and their tour guide all died in a car accident…awful – that stuck with me. So that’s were “for robots” comes from. Same philosophy. If no one likes my art, I can always build some robots and program them to like it.
I’m an industrial designer so maybe you can help me clarify the gray area here. Would you call yourself a graphic designer, graphic artist, graphic illustrator, etc…I’m always confused by the plethora of titles in the industry.
I guess it depends on what you’re doing at the time. Or possibly what you love to do the most. If that’s the case, I’m a scribbler.
Your style, to me anyway, does for illustration what McFarlane did for action figures. It has a dirty, gritty texture to it that has a warm, familiar and human sensibility. How would you describe your style?
It’s neat how an artist’s perception of the world can reflect in his/her work and I think that happens with me a bit. People have moments were they stop and really take it (world/life) in. For me, when I do that I see a very dirty, crummy place one moment and then a bright, warm and inviting place the next. But most of the time it’s mixed and I think that’s why I get the result I do in my work.
Any thoughts of penning a comic book or graphic novel? Or have you possibly already?
I do have a bunch of short stories and concepts written and sketched out I just haven’t committed to any of them.
Who were/are some influences that helped you develop your technique/style?
Charles Shulz, Norman Rockwell, Ralph Stedman are my top three as of right now.
Do you primarily use a digital tablet or prefer illustrating in the real world?
I’d say its about half and half. I use a Wacom Cintique for digital which are Amazing! But then I like to just hang out and get messy using traditional mediums where you can actually feel texture. Really depends on what mood I’m in.
Is there are a cave somewhere that you like to hide away in to draw, or are you a more public kind of artist?
Working on getting a studio in the attic together but until then wherever feels comfortable at the time I guess.
Is there any specific place you go, physical or web, to get inspired?
Galleries and just being around other artists usually does the trick.
How did first become interested in art, design, etc?
Not sure just seems like I’ve always been into it.
I always like to ask….bigger fear….robot attack or zombie uprising?
Good question – Now the important clarifications – are they running zombies? Because if so then there is no contest I’d rather get vaporized by a laser or depending on the size of the robot being crushed instantly underfoot. These are by far a quicker and more painless way to go rather then being eaten and torn apart by the walking dead. However this is where the gray area falls – if they are indeed walking dead… like the zombies in the old horror films or Shaun of the Dead. Then perhaps I would fear a robot uprising more because face it if you get caught by one of the walkers then well that’s pretty sad and is more humiliating then scary. Now living in Pittsburgh there is more of a chance of a zombie uprising…hmm although there is The Robotics Institute of CMU… horrible realization.
What is your favorite Photoshop tool?
As an artist, where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Not sure. Still kinda hoping that the 2012 thing will work itself out.
You can check out more of Joseph’s work at:
http://www.forrobots.net/ (have patience…update in progress as we speak)