Saturday, June 14, 2008

Artist Profile: Kevin Dalton

The work of Kevin Dalton has always been a visually stimulating delight. Born in Detroit, Michigan, Kevin comes from a big family with five brothers and one sister, where they all dabbled in the arts in some form. Though, not all of them decided to continue with it, Kevin spent about a year at The College of Creative Studies also located in his hometown. With a distinct style and a knack for great character designs, each of his illustrations carries the hint of a greater story. This perhaps reflects the fact the he has experienced life all around the United States and also has a great interest in different cultures. Now living in California, Kevin is currently working as a storyboard artist for South Park Studios and is open for freelancing upon request.

RF:: Was it the influence of your family that made you want to pursue art or did something else spark that interest?

Kevin: I had a BIG love for comics in my early years around elementary school. I used to take computer paper in secret from my teachers, since we had a pretty old computer for the majority for my life. I would draw comics usually of my own creation and sell them to kids. All of my brothers were into this though, so it was kind of a family thing. I remember I gave all the comics my brothers drew to some girl I liked. Haha, so it was definitely a family thing, plus it fueled my love for comics, but it was also due to an overactive imagination.

Looking back, I think the thing I was most interested in was storytelling. Every now and then, my elementary school and other events I went to would have those folk story tellers. I always loved watching and listening to them. I’d much rather listen to their stories of how the skunk got its whites stripes than read about the evolution of a skunk and whatnot in a book.

RF:: Haha, I like that you gave comics to the girls you liked.

Kevin: Yeah, if you’re talented at art in elementary school your like a super star.

: Who have been your influences?

Kevin: Early on, it was of course cartoons, stuff from Warner Brothers, Disney, and early anime, like Akira and Dragon Ball. A lot of those have narrowed down, now that I’m older. I’m more influenced by life and musicians now than visual artists. But I love all the stuff that studio 4c does, as well as Otomo, Ghibli, and Akira Toriyama. The last two mostly because they mix a cute style and explore all emotions with their characters, plus their design sense is simple. I also love religious and Indian art. It’s very iconic and graphic.

RF: Did you ever have a mentor or someone that helped to guide you into becoming the artist you are today?

I had one teacher when I went to school in Detroit named David Chai that got me into animation and out of comics I owe a lot to him. I probably wouldn’t be the artist I am today if he wasn’t in my life.

RF:: What were some of the things he taught you or advice he gave?

Kevin: Mostly it was to have fun with your art and rock out. He stressed getting the feeling of a pose across. To this day if a pose isn’t perfect I have to redraw it until it’s clear. But he mostly taught a lot of animation foundations and his approach focused on pushing people to be creative and independent. I’ve got a pretty independent mind, always thinking of how to do thins on my own. That’s probably what has kept me going all these years. Being or becoming talented in such a way that you can really do what you love and live off it. Haha…what we REALLy want to do is probably NOT what we think we really want to do. So I’m working towards that.

RF:: So how would you describe your own style?

Kevin: It might be better if you told me that. Hahaha, I have no idea what I’m doing. I just go with the flow and what I feel works. But if I were to look at my style from the outside in, I would say it’s an animation influenced style with influences in European and Japanese animation. I focus a lot on pose and subtle nuances in people. How people interact with other and sort of a study of the human nature. If I wasn’t an artist I’d probably be into anthropology.

RF:: Is there ever a specific message that you're trying to convey when developing characters and ideas?

Kevin: Not really. A character is just a core. I believe that the story is greater than the character. A cool looking character is just a cool looking character if the story sucks. Sadly that seems like enough nowadays. But for ideas and stories, I want to “tell a lot with a little”. That’s kind of what I’m working on now, figuring that out. Most of the stuff on my site is a world where I would be if I wanted to escape. People have said that my characters have stories in just the expressions and gestures I use. It’s crazy when people get it… I’m like Whoa!!

RF:: Yeah... I enjoy characters whose posture and faces can seem to tell their stories all on their own. Most of the time, you see simple pin-ups that really don't do much. They're nice looking, but when it comes to wanting a compelling story there definitely needs to be more.

Kevin: I agree! It’s definitely something they can’t teach you in school. It’s more so something, a person has to do on their own. Norman Rockwell was a master at that. What’s that one saying? A picture tells 1000 words?

RF:: Yep and it’s so true.

Kevin: Yeah, that’s why I’m liking photographers more and more lately.

RF:: They have to take a lot of things into account and be able to use the model and props around them to tell some sort of story. I think an artist, especially a young and untrained one, forgets to incorporate a lot of things that can give substance to their art.

Kevin: I agree. The human body alone has so many elements to it. Hand, eyes, mouth, posture…add that with other environmental elements and you’ve got a lot of story telling right there.

RF:: Well, can you describe your own approach to creating a picture?

Kevin: Since I’m into people, I don’t normally do backgrounds, because I’m trying to get the story from the waist up. But it’s kind of hard to say. I do a lot of work by feeling, a feeling I get that I want to express onto paper. I’m big on expression and pose, so once I have those at a point where I think they tell the story, colors and such is just icing on the cake. I like to get into the minds of the characters and show that they have thoughts and have life to them. It sucks because sometimes one picture is not enough and they turn into stories. Haha. Or I’ll think of how [the characters] would look as animations.

RF:: So do you find yourself making pictures that resemble detailed story boards or maybe just a series of illustrations on the same subject?

Kevin: Yeah most of the time, a lot of them start out as whole stories that I know I cant finish so I just try to condense them into a picture or series where I want to explore a couple of different takes on the same subject. The Almighty Tiger pictures on my site are an example of one of those and awhile back I had these orchid pictures that were also a series. Good ideas are pretty precious I think, so whenever I have a good one I want to give it good treatment. Lately, my sketches have been broken into panels, so I’ll be able to perhaps get one view of the whole idea and then maybe one close up for a particular part of the body.

RF:: What's the story behind The Almighty Tiger? How did that spring up?

Kevin: The pictures? Or the words?

RF: Both =)

Kevin: Haha, oh well like I said, I draw a lot places that I’d like to be…very tropical areas and how I would like to see things. So on top of that, was what I felt is the lack of people of color I see in animation. “The Almighty Tiger?” is a name my friends and I came up with to describe ourselves as a group. Asian, Black, Hispanic, Indian, and all other forms of people that you don’t often see portrayed well in entertainment. I want to do some special things with it. To give more exposure to those groups of people in their arts, because we could all use exposure :-). That’s for the future though.

RF:: Ah I see, really cool. Do you feel that race has ever had an effect on you as an artist? Maybe it's just because of what I've been exposed to but there seems to be very few Black and even Indian artists who are out there visibly and show exceptional talent.

Kevin: Well I can say from experience that there are quite a lot of talented people from all races in the world known and unknown. I just want to expose younger people to MORE types of art from different cultures. It sucks how narrow most teaching is. Especially speaking as an African American and showing younger kids just like me the opportunities out there. There are a lot of untapped stories and ideas if people look. I'd love to collaborate with people all around the world and have them bring their own culture and art together with mine. It’s about getting out of your comfort zone. I don’t necessarily like when stories about other cultures are tailored to a certain taste.

RF:: Any specific examples?

Kevin: Haha, a lot of Disney movies, but they are what they are and serve a purpose. It’s more so how I would do it. If I were to say do an animated movie about Native Americans, you better believe the score of the film would be have traditional from the culture I was trying to depict. I would go out of my way to learn as much about them, get their input, and learn from their artists and their art, because the film would be about them. It just seems like the logical thing to do, but I totally understand the business of trying to cater to as many demographics as possible for maximum sales and etc. Does that make any sense?

RF:: Yeah it definitely does. Haha, and yes, it’s definitely all about the business.

Kevin: Yeah, sadly.

RF:: When you're working, what programs do you use?

Kevin: Mainly Photoshop, sometimes Illustrator. I like vectors but man are they slower than doing work in Photoshop. It’s a different way of thinking.

RF:: How about traditional media?

Kevin: Pencils, colored pencils, markers, ink/ink washes and watercolors are usually what I dabble in.

RF:: Have worked on any big projects?

Kevin: Right now I’m on South Park, previously I’d done design work for a couple of studios. Stuff you could actually see was on the Legion of Superheroes TV show that came on. I’m not sure if it’s still on air though. I’m pretty happy with the turn out on South Park, thus far, since they create episodes so quick a lot of the stuff we do in the storyboard and production department actually goes into the show. Often times [in animation], through revisions and things just falling under, our ideas and work are never used, kind of sucks.

RF:: I can imagine. You put all that effort into your work for it to never see the light of day, but that South Park, job sounds very cool. Especially since I heard about the deal the creators just signed, so it’s a really great gig.

RF:: So you're rooming with Ed Tadem do you guys ever collaborate on any pics or have you ever had any other opportunities to work with any of your other peers?

Kevin: Since we are both busy right now we don’t get to collaborate to much. I want to collaborate with other people and make some books, but when two people are busy it’s sometimes hard.

RF:: I'd buy you guys books and some others in an instant!! *Laughs*

Kevin: Haha, that’s where the fun is I think, doing those collaborative pieces. Books and all that, it’s not as crazy as working in entertainment. You can still keep some of the creativity since they’re not a huge gamble

RF:: Yeah I see some groups who try to go the self-publishing route some of them though, I don't know if they're at the level where I'd want to invest any more than 20 dollars on their stuff, but for some other people, I'd seriously put down some money to have a hard bound book. Haha. Like the Exposé stuff by CG Society/Ballistic publishing. However, I think if it’s artists that I knew and sort of grew up watching I’d have more of a sentimental value but that’s me.

Kevin: Yeah I agree :-) It kind of goes back into The Almighty Tiger, artists working together.

RF:: So I guess I want to go ahead and throw this question in here now since you've sort of voiced some opinions, but what are you thoughts on the comic/art industry and any related fields you want to include? Where do you think it's heading towards?

Kevin: I would love to see games go in the direction for fun games over focus on graphics. The games coming out are just first person shooters, but I guess you could say that’s our type of game in America as RPGs and such come out of Japan. For comics, I think it’s open ended since you can easily put out comics on your own. There are so many creative people in it. I still love comics and hope to get back into it. It’s going wherever people take it. 

RF:: Haha, you can dedicate a comic to someone you like. =D

Kevin: Haha, totally!! Comics are awesome. Ed Tadem is the future I must say.

RF:: Oh I agree, I agree!! I bookmarked his journal so I can keep up with it, but who doesn’t do that for their favorite artists?

Haha, I agree and I’m glad I get to see it from start to finish now. He’s so talented it’s crazzyyy.

RF:: *Laughs* Lucky. I'm sure you learn new things and vice versa

Kevin: Yeah, I’ve learned how much I suck. Haha.

RF:: *Laughs* Out of the pictures you've done, is there any that means the most for you?

Kevin: "Piano song" because its referenced off a old picture I have of my grandmother and my jazz dance picture which was for a friend of mine. Inside the picture are both him and his wife, but also because I just really like seeing people dance :-)

RF:: =) That’s sweet. What are you future goals?

Kevin: To take time to get better at art and animation, finish a comic I'm proud of and perhaps a personal art book. Then get to work on The Almighty Tiger and animation. But I definitely understand paying your dues so right now gaining work experience and connections. I hope to start my own art business perhaps later on in life after I’ve gained some experience.

RF:: So you've spoken a bit about animation, what are some of your favorite animated shows?

Kevin: :-( I have none. Some are done well though, like Fosters Home for Imaginary Friends, El Tigre, and Avatar.

RF:: Do you have any other interests besides drawing?

Kevin: I love music to death, as well as traveling. Now that I’ve got a little more money I plan to travel a bit since I have friends that are artists in other countries to visit. And there’s my never ending love for food.

RF:: Who are some of your favorite music artists?

Kevin: I love blues, jazz, rap, soul, funk, I seriously like it all. If it’s good it’s good. Music should be able to transcend tastes. But I guess it takes an open mind. Most of the time my favorites range from Billie Holiday’s sultry jazz to compilations of CDs with samba and bossa nova and Japanese orchestra composers. It’s hard to remember names and I try to check out all sorts of music. I’m always open to hearing new stuff

RF:: That’s always cool in my book =) ... I try to keep that philosophy with music too. If I like it I like it. I'm willing to try and listen to anything

Kevin: Ditto. I’m the same with food and art. I want to try everything even if I won’t like it. All good stuff for the brain.

RF:: What's your biggest fear?

Kevin: Hmm… maybe dying and not doing anything of worth. But since I went through cancer I kind of got rid of that fear. In terms of horrific things, the unknown scares me. However, since I did go through cancer, that’s my biggest fear, of it coming back.

RF:: Oh, if you don't mind me asking, what kind of cancer did you have?

Kevin: Hodgkin’s lymphoma

RF:: I see, well I'm glad it's gone now. It’s something quite fearful to go through. What's the strangest comment you've ever gotten, regarding your art?

Kevin: Haha one guy said my art annoys him.

RF:: Oh wow, did he give any reason why?

Kevin: Because I had two hands that looked like they were from two different universes.

RF:: *Laughs* Oh well… you can’t please everybody.

RF:: Do you have any advice for any other aspiring artists?

Kevin: Just be yourself and do things as how you want to see them. Not how you think people want to see them. It’s you chance to voice your artistic opinion in the world so use it to the best of your ability.

RF:: Well, I believe that’s it. Thank you for the wonderful Interview.

Kevin: Aww thank you thank you it was delightful, I learned some new things about myself :-)

RF:: Glad to hear that =)

Visit the following links to see more work by Kevin: - Homepage - Kevin’s Sketchblog - Kevin's sketchbook which you can purchase - MySpace page
kevindalton@dA – dA gallery
Checkered Penguin – Group Sketchblog with friends.

You can also contact Kevin through the email address on his homepage.

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