We’re back with another awesome addition to our Nerdlocker Artist Series! I first came across Tim Anderson’s work with his Breaking Bad inspired Respect the Chemistry. Great concept and I loved that he hand screen printed them himself. Very impressive. But we here at Nerdlocker see a lot of art, so unfortunately this print and artist got lost in my muddled brain. It wasn’t until my sister sent me an e-mail with a blueprint for an X-Wing that I rediscovered Tim. Obviously Star Wars will always garner my attention, so when I saw how cool that layout was for The Battle of Yavin: Rebel X-Wing, I looked deeper. To my surprise, I saw Respect the Chemistry print on his website and realized I’d made a grave error. I already knew of Tim and had somehow lost track of his great work! Shame on me. But never again. So, without further ado, Mr. Tim Anderson!
Nerdlocker (NL): Tell us about yourself.
Tim Anderson (TA): Probably first and foremost, I’m a husband and father of three. I’ve been married to my wonderful wife for 10 years, and we have three little boys whom I am raising to be at least as geeky as I am. Well, my wife is raising them, too, but I’m most responsible for the geeky parts, haha. She’s a good sport about it.
I grew up in a suburb of Philadelphia, and after having lived in Utah, California and Oklahoma, I now live in Salt Lake City, working as a Concept Artist on the Sims games for Electronic Arts. Um, that’s about it. Oh, and I make pretty good chocolate chip cookies. And I have a beard.
NL: Where do you find inspiration and what are some of your influences?
TA: I’m finding that my interests become more and more diverse the longer I’m in this game. Early in life, I was inspired by comic book art to pick up a pencil and learn to draw. Then, years later, a book of Star Wars concept art inspired me to make the decision to actually pursue a career in art. Now, I continue to be inspired by great comic book art and concept art, but I try to find inspiration in any kind of art and design I can find. I draw a lot of inspiration from great architecture, furniture design, typography, etc… and I tend to be influenced by whatever thing gets me excited to draw/design. One day, it will be the amazing pulp cover work of Robert McGinnis, another day it will be the comics work of Travis Charest, another day the furniture design of Charles Eames.
NL: Where did you get your training and how do you continue to perfect your skills?
TA: After earning a BS in English from BYU (I went through 6 majors before deciding on Illustration; I figured I might as well finish one of them), I graduated from Art Center College of Design with a BA in Illustration, emphasizing in Entertainment Design. The education I got there really served to lay a foundation upon which I continue to build every day. Sometimes it feels like everything I learned there got filed on a shelf in a vast library in my brain. Some brain-shelves get a lot of use, and there are some dustier corners that I rarely visit, but it’s all in there. I hope. I try to keep a sketchbook for doodling and experimenting visually with different ideas. I constantly try to dissect imagery that I really like so I can figure out how that artist achieved a certain look, and I try to take parts of that and use it in my own work, without just copying the original.
NL: When did you get your professional start in the art world?
TA: While I was in school, I had a summer internship with a game studio called Luxoflux designing expansion material for the Transformers 2 video game. That was my first professional exposure to concept art in the real world, and I learned a lot and formed friendships that last until today. In fact, I have the job I do now because of the relationship I formed with my Art Director during that internship.
NL: How awesome is it working at Electronic Arts?
TA: I worry about giving an over-complicated answer to such a simple question, but in my professional experience I’ve learned that there are two main aspects to working for any studio: 1) The people with whom I work, and 2) what I work on. I’ve been in situations where the “what” could be fantastic, but I’m miserable because of those for whom I was working. On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve worked with great people on projects I haven’t been as stoked about. While the ideal would be to work with awesome people on a project I’m really proud of, but it seems like that balance is more difficult to come by than it should be.
All that being said, the EA studio here in Salt Lake is a great place to work, and I enjoy working there, even if I don’t necessarily fit the key demographic of the projects we work on.
NL: What is your favorite medium to work with?
TA: I work almost exclusively digitally these days, in Photoshop and Illustrator. I’ll often sketch something out on paper, but I always wind up taking it into the computer and finishing it there. I have lately gotten into screen printing, which has been great for getting me away from my computer and getting my hands dirty. I made the decision earlier this year to do more designs for screen printing—a skill set well outside of what I learned in my entertainment design training—so I got a DIY screen printing kit, figuring that if I could understand how it’s done, I could better design for the process. It can be extremely frustrating when it doesn’t work out, but also very satisfying when it goes well, and I’ve been enjoying the learning process.
NL: What is your game day process, meaning when you start your day with a project, how do you get prepped/psyched to do it?
TA: Well, the first thing I do is get the kids to bed, haha. Because I’m at work all day, I only really get to do my “fun work” after I get home and we finish taking care of the kids for the day. Other than that, I guess I don’t really have much of a kick-off to a work session. While I’m at work, I usually spend a lot of my down time thinking about what I want to do with my personal work, so I’m constantly gathering reference or inspiration that would help with whatever I’m working on at home. My commute home allows me to kind of process all of the ideas I’ve had throughout the day, and by the time I can sit down to work at night, I’m rearing to go, and I just dive right in.
NL: What’s your favorite nerd related snack? (like what do you munch on while playing video games, reading comic books, watching movies, etc…)
TA: Man, that’s a tough one. I usually try not to eat anything while reading comics, because I don’t want to mess them up, and I can’t think of anything I consistently eat while gaming. I recently discovered, however, that there is a Cold Stone Creamery at the theater I like to frequent, so ice cream has become my favorite theater snack. I’ve never been much of a fan of popcorn; it always gets caught in my throat and I spend the next few days sounding like a cat trying to hack up a hairball.
NL: Who are some of your favorite artists?
TA: Ha, you thought some of my previous answers were long, wait until I get into this one! I’ll try to limit it to my favorites of favorites, but there are so many whose work I just love… Syd Mead and Ralph McQuarrie are two of my favorite concept artists. Poster-wise, I love the work of Tom Whalen, Kevin Tong, Ken Taylor, Gabz, and most recently, Joshua Budich. There are so many others, though. And I feel like I find more every day; there are such amazingly talented artists out there, I wish my walls were big enough to accommodate the collection I want to acquire.
NL: What posters/art do you have on display in your house?
TA: My home office/workspace is actually just half of our family room, so I don’t have the luxury of hanging up a lot of my collection there, but I’ve managed to hang up a lot of my more kid-friendly ones in my kids’ rooms. So I’ve got a handful of Tom Whalens (Paranorman, Wreck-it Ralph, Rango), some Dave Perillos (Ghostbusters, Thundercats), and a handful of others that wouldn’t freak out my kids too much (Ken Taylor’s Aliens is hanging up at work, among many others). Someday, I want to have a house that has an entire wing just devoted to my art collection, but for now, I’ll take what I can get.
NL: What is your favorite subject matter to design?
TA: I am a huge science fiction fan, so I think most of my stuff fits into that genre; or it at least starts there. I enjoy taking science fiction subject matter and filtering it through another genre, like pulp fiction novels or spaghetti westerns. I worry that approach may become too gimmicky, but it can be fun to approach relatively well-known things from a different angle, and ultimately, I want to have fun making what I do.
NL: Star Wars of Star Trek?
TA: Star Wars all the way. I have nothing against Star Trek, I’ve actually really enjoyed most of the Star Trek to which I’ve been exposed—but I just grew up on Star Wars. One of my parents’ earliest dates was to see Star Wars in the theater, so in a way, I owe my very existence to the franchise. I have such fond memories of watching it with my dad and brothers growing up, and Star Wars has kind of become my “happy place.” Well, the classic trilogy, anyway. The prequel trilogy often takes me into my “rage place.”
NL: What do you do in your free time?
TA: What is this “free time” you speak of? Haha, I almost never have time when I just sit down with nothing to do. If I’m not at work, I’m playing with my kids. If they’re in bed, I’m working on personal work. I guess sometimes I take a break for a day or two after I finish a big project and need some time away from work. During that time I usually try to catch up on video games or movies that I’ve missed, but that never lasts long before I come up with an idea that gets me excited to get back to work again.
NL: Give us a Nerdy secret that most people don’t know about you.
TA: Man, that’s another tough one. I tend to be pretty open about all of my nerdiness, haha. I guess one thing nerdy that might be kind of odd is that I saved (and still have) a rejection letter I got from Richard Taylor at Weta Workshop. I had applied for a concept position, and while I obviously did not get it, I’m such a huge fan of what they do that I was just excited to get a signed response from them.
NL: What is your favorite movie?
TA: The answer to this is always changing depending on my mood, but I can give you my most consistent top three if that’s alright. I’d narrow it down to Blade Runner, Gladiator, and the classic Star Wars trilogy. Oh, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. And the Lord of the Rings trilogy. And District 9. Is that three yet…?
NL: What is your favorite video game?
TA: The game into which I’ve put the most hours would probably be Gears of War 3. I still play Horde 2.0 with my brothers on a regular basis. Nothing beats tearing into an enemy with a chainsaw mounted to an assault rifle.
NL: What is your favorite comic book or comic book character?
TA: I’ve always loved Wolverine, ‘cause he’s the best there is at what he does. I’ve always been counted among the more “vertically challenged,” so it was cool to have a superhero who didn’t need to tower over the rest to be a badass.
NL: What are some of your upcoming projects?
TA: This one is always tough for two reasons: some of them I can’t talk about yet, and the others I just don’t have figured out yet. I don’t know if it’s just because I only do personal work in what little spare time I have or if I’m just terrible at planning, but I usually figure out what I’m working on next just in time to get it done for its deadline. I’ve always got a list going of what I want to work on, and I’ve got a bunch in various stages, but sometimes it takes a while to see what excites me for long enough to see through to completion. I hope to tackle more of my favorites like Indiana Jones, Tron, more spaghetti westerns, some Pixar films, etc…
NL: Is there a question you’ve always wanted to be asked, but have never found the opportunity?
TA: Q: “Would you like to come work for us at Lucasfilm on the next Star Wars movie?”
A: Absolutely, yes.
And there you have it folks, Tim Anderson!
Stay tuned for a fantastic giveaway thanks to Mr. Anderson!
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