Pen Pals Interview: Cartoonist, Art Director, and Bravest Warriors Character Designer Bob Flynn

Pen Pals Interview: Cartoonist, Art Director, and Bravest Warriors Character Designer Bob Flynn

An interview series featuring notable people whose lives intersect with the world of pens. Bob Flynn is a cartoonist, art director, and character designer who loves to doodle!

Bob Flynn
Can you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Bob Flynn. I'm originally from a small town in southern Maine called Buxton, and I've been living in Boston for about a decade now with my wife, Loren, and a cat named Baxter. Folks may know me as 'bobjinx' on the internet.

I'm a cartoonist, dabbling in all sorts of things like comics and animation. I grew up loving cartoons and drawing all the time, so I went to school for illustration. I like telling stories and doodling weird little guys.

I'm also really interested in science -- almost majored in physics at one point. That about sums me up.

How did you become a cartoonist?

I've had this passion for drawing for as long as I can remember, and I've worked incredibly hard at it. I'm not sure anyone becomes a cartoonist; I sort of happened into this odd profession. I don't think I'm a naturally funny guy, so I've come at it by conjuring up bizarre stories to drop my characters into. I do think it's a good word that sums up what I do, and I dig that it has the word cartoon in it.

Which artists do you personally admire?

A lot of people ask this; there are far too many to list. I've admired Bill Watterson the longest, and he was probably my biggest influence when I really focused during my teenage years on comics. Now I'm fortunate to have inspirational artists as peers.

Tell us about your work with Bravest Warriors!

I was brought on early in the development of Bravest Warriors to help design the new characters that appear in each episode. The producers mentioned that two friends of mine from Adventure Time, Phil Rynda and Andy Ristaino had recommended me for the job, but I expected to only be on for an episode or two.

It quickly became a regular gig, and I was very lucky to work with showrunner Breehn Burns to design characters like Catbug, Impossibear, Jelly Kid, Emotion Lord... Plum, too! My personal favorite character would have to be Impossibear, even though Catbug makes me smile the most... and my favorite warrior is Beth.

Being a character designer on Bravest Warriors, a script-driven show, means I usually get a list of characters to sketch out during development before storyboarding begins. This was especially the case during Season 1, where we really only had the four main leads (Beth, Chris, Wallow, and Danny) figured out when we first started.

Inevitably there are always a host of little creatures and aliens that need to be created, and lots of costume changes and special poses that need to be drawn. It's hard work, but a lot of fun, and I really enjoy working with everyone on the Frederator Studios crew. They're the best! They do a great job of keeping me connected, even though I'm not out working with them in LA.

What inspires the wacky little creatures that you create? Are they based on real people?

Interesting you mention it -- sometimes Breehn will toss a celebrity name or actor my way for inspiration, especially when he has a voice-type in mind. In the case of Catbug, they'd already cast Sam Lavagnino so I could picture how he should look and sound. Normally though, they just come from pages and pages of weird little things I dream up as doodles.

I've always been drawn to anything weird, and I often look to natural organic forms and shapes to make into creatures. That and studying undersea life and ancient organisms, which I've been doing for a long time. Lately I've been really interested in plants and flowers, which are often overlooked -- they appear so alien when you get close to them.

The style of the show has a simplicity to it, so it's a matter of breaking down the aesthetic code of nature into something that is simple, cartoony, and ideally...adorable! Of course I'm also very inspired by my peers in the animation and comics communities, as well as favorite artists from the past.

What is FableVision?

So Bravest Warriors is just something that I work on as freelancer nights and weekends. I primarily work as Director of Art & Animation for a Boston-based studio called FableVision. I've been there for nearly a decade now (crazy!) -- it was one of my first jobs soon after college.

We create educational media of all shapes and varieties, be it a short animated film, mobile app, video game, interactive website, comic book, board game...you name it. It's a super-rewarding job, first because I work with an amazing team of artists, developers, writers, and producers, but also because what we create reaches people...especially kids.

Instead of learning about, say... photosynthesis via a textbook, you may watch an animation about it, or explore an interactive game that gets those ideas across. Not everyone learns best through memorization, lecture, and other commonly used educational practices.

The studio was founded over 15 years ago by illustrator/author Peter H. Reynolds, who believes very strongly in helping people reach their full potential through media and storytelling. Boston has a number of smaller studios like this (ours employs about 30-40), and I'd like to build out the animation and gaming community in New England even more.

Do you have any words of advice for aspiring cartoonists and animators?

I think sometimes people are looking for a path to take... Follow a, b, and c, and you'll get to z. I'm not sure any of that is true. I believe it's more important to work on your craft, carve out something unique and personal, create things that you are incredibly proud of, and share them... be it on the internet or with friends. Find your audience. Work, as it's called, will find you, not always in the way you dreamed or expected.

Drawing-wise, I think we all get too caught up in our mistakes or what we can or cannot do, or what people tell us we need to do. Make time to doodle and play...that's often when I come up with my best ideas. Draw tons, don't worry about all the bad drawings you'll make along the way.

Anything else you want to share?

I sometimes write and draw for SpongeBob comics, which is the best.

What tools and supplies do you use more often in your art?

I grab whatever I can to draw with -- the simplest of pens, pencils, and markers...I love to doodle with Crayola markers. But everyone would admit it's fun try special tools on for size. For a while I was using the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen like everyone else, but on paper I've been increasingly favoring tools that can make quick marks. The Uni Live Pigment Sign Pen is great for that. Kuretake makes a bunch of cool brush pens and markers... I like the Kuretake Fudegokochi.

Pentel Pocket Brush Pens Uni Live Pigment Sign Pens Kuretake Fudegokochi Brush Pens

In terms of software & digital, where I do most of my finished art, I currently jump between my 22HD Cintiq and Intuos tablet, and have had a lot of luck with Manga Studio— I'm actually a version behind and I still love it. I do all of my coloring in Photoshop. I still recommend Flash for animation, although I'm finding Toon Boom Animate Pro increasingly easier to draw and animate in.

More of Bob's fun illustrations! Click to see full size images.

You can find more of his work over at his portfolio Jinx the Monkey, his personal blog Bobjinx, and his Tumblr. You can also watch him in action in this short video, and catch episodes of the show on Youtube.

Ever wonder how artists use JetPens products? JetPens showcases artists every month and interviews them to see what their favorite JetPens tools are. Please send any suggestions for Artist Interviews to penpal(at)jetpens.com!

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