Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Guest Post - Ray Frenden!

1) What was your first published work?
I think my first published work was a poster for an anti-drug campaign in the sixth grade. The teacher asked us to contribute a design for the given theme. It was proto-spec work. I drew a monster in a police uniform fighting crime. My memory is hazy, but I think I won third place in the contest and the image was displayed in Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.

2) Who or what inspires you?
As a kid, I loved EC Comics. The Tales from the Crypt television show led me to seek out reprints of the comics on which they were based. Once that surface had been scratched, it was a short jaunt to discover Creepy and Eerie, and their stable of artists, too.

Some of my favorite illustrators include Johnny Craig, Milton Caniff, Mort Drucker, Alfredo Alcala, and Noel Sickles. Craig led me to Caniff and Caniff led me to Sickles. The latter two’s fearlessness with spotted areas of dense black account for the direction of a lot of my work.

3) What would be your dream job to illustrate?
I’m fickle. My dream job probably isn’t illustration at the moment. My sketchbooks have long been equal parts illustration and game design. I have a few rules sets for trading card games written and created some playable prototypes a few years back.

Illustration has been successful enough to keep me busy and I haven’t had much of a chance to try and make games. But I have had a few freelance game art opportunities arise of late.

It’s exciting to see those two worlds overlapping. I completed an update’s worth of art for the iOS app Tiny Tower, and have been asked to contribute to a few other titles, but my schedule hasn’t allowed for it. I’m trying to get my current slate of lingering obligations finished so that I can give these little game art gigs a shot at growing into more.

The last year has been my most successful to date, so it’s hard to complain about not having the time for vanity projects or dream gigs. Being able to support my family is reward enough. The rest’ll come as time allows.

4) Tell us a bit about the illustration(s) you've sent?
I'm probably best known for my low-brow, comic style work, but I like to create in a myriad of styles. Commercial success begets a certain amount of specialization. You often hear folks say that showing too many styles can confuse an art director. That they won't know what they'll be getting from you.

Specialization may be necessary for commercial success in most instances, but it's death to creativity and the learning process. You have to make room to try new things. That doesn't mean you have to market those new things to potential clients, but resting on your laurels and never attempting to expand your skillset sounds like a death sentence to me.

With that in mind, I wanted to include a mass based piece rather than line.

5) What can we expect to see from you next (what are you working on)?
I just finished a poster for Nickelodeon. I can’t tell you for what property, but it was a fun gig and that’s probably the next highest profile thing that you’ll see from me.

Last year, I spent around six months illustrating a line of Spongebob apparel and it led to this poster job. Nickelodeon is easily among the nicest folks I’ve worked for. Their notes on Spongebob were to veer further off model and make the character more *me.* That’s pretty amazing.

Aside from that, I’ve been busy reviewing digital art hardware and selling digital art tools. I hope that those sales can allow me to pause from commercial art for clients and start to build something for myself.

6) If you hadn't become an artist what do you think you'd have ended up doing?
I drew a lot as a child. I knew at six years old that I wanted to be some sort of artist when I was older. At fifteen, I left home and entered the workforce. I had to put my ambitions on pause and support myself in a more practical way.

I built, serviced, and sold computers for a while. It wasn’t until the age of twenty-three or so that I redoubled my efforts at making art for a living. If self-teaching hadn’t gone alright, I’d probably be doing something in the tech industry.

It’s that near equal division of technical interest and artistic inclination that’s led me to investigate digital art hardware and create my own art tools. If I feel burned out on the art side, I review a new graphics tablet or make a new brush setting and vice versa. It’s nice for my two areas of interest to overlap a bit in a venn diagram but still be different enough to feel like a pause from one another.

7) Where can we see more of your work (web links)?
I’m a Twitter junkie (@FRENDEN). I probably post more shots of work there than on my site, Flickr, Instagram, or Facebook page combined. But you can also find me at,, and

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