Harbinger Extra: Brian Ormiston – Interview with the Artist

Follow the Path! 24 incredible illustrators and artists have picked their favorite scenes and characters from HARBINGER to give you a taste of Faye’s world. Each week, in the gallery at the Holbrook Academy website, a new illustration will unlock…

This week’s art reveal is hosted by: Icey Books

Faye, Rita, and the Screamers from Harbinger. Artwork by Brian Ormiston

SWE: Hi Brian,

I love that you chose this moment. It was one of my favorites to write. Can you tell me a little about why you picked it?

Brian: I chose the moment Faye comes running into the circle of screamers and meets the mysterious Rita. It felt perfect for an iconic picture. I liked the idea of painting those terrifying statues, the strange landscape and Rita’s distant gaze. I wanted to capture some of the mood that came across in your writing.

SWE: The colors you chose really achieves that tone. Not to mention the creepy statues! My favorite part is how you silhouetted trees though.

Have you always known you wanted to be an illustrator and artist?

Just a few of Brian Ormiston's post-it sketches!

Brian: I have always enjoyed drawing and painting. In elementary school I drew pictures inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien and Lloyd Alexander. I stopped drawing and painting for about ten years following art school  – not because school killed it for me – because I was working hard as a puppet animator on commercials and films and the work took a lot out of me so I never had much energy to paint or illustrate but I was reading a ton of alternative comics. That kept the flame alive for me. Now that I’m a storyboard artist my day job feeds the juices for my illustration work.

SWE: That’s great to hear. It can be hard to strike a balance between your job and your personal work.

Can you tell us a little about the projects you’re working one?

Brian: I’m working on several picture books, each at various stages so hopefully we’ll see one out there in the not too distant future. Fingers crossed. I also run a blog called Roostergator, where I post single one off pictures on yellow post-its. Each picture is a mini story with no explanation behind it. What I like about the single image post-it is I can feasibly start and finish them in a small window of time. It’s basically a way to maintain creative momentum.

One of Brian's post-it sketches for Roostergator

Also, and I’m sure this has been done before but I’d like to create an ensemble of found objects that, when played a specific way, sound techno, like a mini, almost quiet, acoustic techno band. Will it ever happen? Who knows but I already have one instrument in mind I’m going to call “The Hobo.”

SWE: Okay, your found-objects techno band sounds AWESOME. I officially volunteer to play “The Hobo!”

So,  how does your day job fit in with all this?

Brian: In the day I’m a story artist at Laika Entertainment in Hillsboro, Oregon. It’s really quite nice because I draw loose pictures all day and many get thrown out and redrawn so I’ve become comfortable with tossing out ideas that aren’t working. It’s like boot camp for sketch artists. It’s a good way to learn not to get too attached to your drawings. The last film I worked on was ParaNorman – coming to a theater near you next August.  There’s a cool trailer for it online.

SWE: I love the idea of a boot camp for sketch artists… Drop and give me twenty drawings!

Orangutans or squids?

Brian: Squids – I found one in a tide pool as a kid. They’re beautiful and fascinating and move in the most graceful way. Also, they’re delicious deep-fried in batter.

My studio is crammed with odds and ends. I have more books than I think is healthy stacked everywhere around me. All the shelves are full and now islands of stacked books are popping up all around my desk on the floor. There’s a rough path from the door to my desk. Oh, for people who ask, I could do all the work on the computer but frankly; I’d rather draw and paint it on paper. I like the contact, hand to brush, brush to paper and the clinking sound as I rinse my brush in the water. All of that is as important to me as the finished picture.

SWE: Mmmm… squid.

Brian: Orangutans don’t interest me much. Ever since I watched that movie as a kid  – Every Which Way But Loose – kind of made Orangutans cheesy in my mind. Sorry Orangutans, blame Clint Eastwood.

SWE: Wow. Harsh! If we ever hear of a monkey attack on Clint Eastwood, we’ll blame you.

What’s your favorite thing about illustrating?

Brian: That’s a tough one. If the picture comes easy it’s pure joy all the way through but sure enough the next time around it’s a royal pain then doubt and creative crisis’ creep in and it’s a slog all the way to the end. The trick I recently learned is to keep going.  With that in the back of my mind I’ve been able to enjoy the process much more. So when I hit the skids I say to myself – keep going– and usually I can draw my way out of a problem feeling relaxed about it. Like what my old band teacher used to say – “Keep Going! Keep Going! Don’t Stop!”

SWE: Those are wise words from the band teacher. ‘Keep going’ is pretty much the only answer. I think it’s Robert Frost that said, “The only way around is through.”

Is there an artist you look to for inspiration?

Brian: William Steig is the man. Also Quentin Blake. The one that really gets me is Ludwig Bemelmans. But once I make a list about fifty other artists and interesting folk pop up and I say to myself – “oh, those people too!” So there’s a whole lot more. My family of course. I test a lot of ideas on my wife and daughter. They’re a tough crowd.

A peek at Brian's picture book dummy, Fiddle Fox!

SWE: I’m a huge fan of all of them! I’m probably a fan of your family too, but I’ve never met them…

What are you working on now?

Brian: I’m currently working on two picture book stories. One is close to being a presentable dummy the other is in the early development stage.

SWE: Exciting! Can we get a peek at some of it?

By the way…do you have a superpower?

Brian: I have the ability to create lint out of thin air. Unfortunately, we live in a time in which the potential of lint hasn’t been fully realized. In the future when we live in a lint dependent society I will be heralded as a tragic genius, a man whose powers came too soon for humanity. Meanwhile, I make paper puppets with my daughter, using said lint as hair, beards and mustaches.

SWE: Sounds fun, even for a tragic genius!

So… drumroll please… Wonder Woman or Supergirl?

Another of Brian's awesome post-it sketches for Roostergator

Brian: I’ll go against the grain here. Shadow Cat/Kitty Pryde of the X-Men had a power that always fascinated me (I always preferred Marvel). She can fade through solid objects. Can you imagine learning how to control that power? You would have to be very careful not to turn solid again while intersecting something, for the danger of fusing with the object or exploding outright.  And if you took a short cut through the earth and got lost. How would you know which way was up? So be careful if you’re just finding out you can fade through solid objects. Start simple. Like fading your hand through a saltshaker or something. A fork. A pencil.

SWE: That does sound tricky. I think I’ll stick with the lasso of truth.

Thanks, Brian for creating such an amazing illustration for Harbinger! To see more of Brian’s art check out his website, his Roostergator collection of post-it sketches, and his work on the Kidlit Artists website.




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