We left off with Caytlin talking about her inspirations, next we decided to talk about a little about Pixel Prism doing animation and she answer’s a couple of fan questions.
You can read part 1 of our interview here
Bagogames: A woman of animated culture, have you ever tried your hand at animation?
Caytlin Vilbrandt: A little! I did a lot more when I was a kid, because my mom taught 2D animation at the college level. Since I’ve been an adult, though, only a little.
But, one of my best friends is a professional animator and I spend a lot of time hovering over her shoulder and nudging her for tips! It’s something I definitely want to do more of.
BG: So your whole life has revolved around art!
Duskitty on Twitter asked, ‘How do you start with designing a character, is it a matter of writing them first, or do you draw them and figure out who they are before they’re even in the writing?’
CV: Yep! I’ve been an artist since I was itty bitty, haha.
Hi Duskitty! I take two separate approaches to designing a character. If I’m designing for a story, I figure out what their role is and their general personality first. Then I figure out what I want to draw (what sounds fun, what seems to fit, etc) and start trying a few designs.
Usually I’ll try to do a couple of emotion tests, because that’s how I connect with my characters and who they are. I usually will do this before I write anything, but I do have to know what they’re going to be doing, even if it’s just in an emotional way (“they’re an antagonist”).
If I’m designing a character just for fun with no story attached, I’ll usually pick a motif that sounds fun (“winter” or “glitter” or “thief”) and get a mood-board together of a bunch of images that make me think of the amorphous blob of a character in my head. As it starts to take shape, I’ll draw it! This is usually what I do for adopts!
BG: That does sound fun, how often do you use a character you originally designed for fun, but fell in love with and ended up using in a story?
CV: Belfry was one of those characters! As was Oakewood! Most of my stories will start out with some character I enjoy drawing and want to explore. Now I just need about 30 more hours in a day!
BG: And Belfry’s a main character (In the webcomic Tamberlane)! Did the character Tamberlane start off similarly or was she always the main focus?
CV: So, the original seed of Tamberlane as a comic was a very brief dream I had, which was just a visual. It was a black cat in finery (a la Cat Returns) standing in a golden field.
I knew I wanted to do a comic that looked like that. Then Belfry came into the picture thanks to idle doodling. I had a little side character in my head named Tamberlane but I didn’t have an appearance for her.
She was originally a little dragon actually, but turns out a little dragon isn’t “Different” enough to be weird in an animal world!
BG: Awww, I was wondering if dragons were real in the world of Tamberlane.
CV: Alas, no! Just plain ol’ animal hybrids. Hopefully my next comic will have dragons though.
BG: Well that’s slightly sad to hear.
VoidSlice on Twitter asked ‘What advice would you give for someone who wants to take the next step on their project? Such as improving their website, reaching out for new readers, tuning up their Patreon page, etc’.
CV: Hi Scott! That is a very difficult question.
I think the first thing I would do is to sit down and take inventory of your situation. What’s working? What’s not? What do you wish were better? Poll your readers/fans/friends for feedback.
After that, I’d prioritize, by urgency and importance. Whatever is both urgent AND important goes top of the list. And then plan accordingly.
BG: Speaking of hiring others, recently you tweeted about artists raising their prices and how that’s a good thing, would you elaborate on that
CV: Sure! So, I see a lot of discourse about how artists need to charge what they’re worth, and raise their prices for the good of the industry as a whole.
And it’s true, we do. As a whole, artists don’t charge enough to even make minimum wage much of the time. However, on the flip side, I’d never seen any mention of what happens after you raise prices. Instead I see the aftermath, when artists finally realize they can’t sustain themselves at the rate they’re going and raise their prices…and then are heartbroken that they’re no longer flooded with commissions.
The thing is, though, in an ideal world you want to do less work for more pay. You don’t want to raise your prices and STILL be breaking your back to do them all. Supply vs Demand is all about reaching that middle point where your prices net you a chunk of work but put you solidly out of the lowest common denominator bracket.
Artists associate their identity with their work. We put our hearts into our productivity, base our self-worth on our output. It’s not healthy, but it happens constantly! So when we see demand drop off we feel it’s a problem with ourselves, with our work. Not just a natural extension of higher prices.
So since I hadn’t seen anyone talk about that, I just wanted to put it out there. I had just seen an artist on my timeline torturing themselves over it, and I know I’ve wrestled with similar feelings.
And, ah, apparently it struck a nerve. A lot of folks flooded my inbox with gratitude for saying what they needed to hear. It was really really sweet, honestly.
BG: That all sounds fair, allow me to ask this, what of writers? Many artists write their own stuff but nearly every writer can’t draw, at times it feels like the artists holds all of the cards.
What can artists do to help writers and what can writers do to help artists?
CV: Great question!
Writers do have the short stick in many ways. It’s not as flashy as art, so those 5 seconds you have to grab eyeballs are much harder. What artists and writers can do to help each other is respect each other’s art!
Artists need to pay writers a fair wage when working together, and visa versa. And even if artists can write, many times writers can do it better.
Just in the same way I hired Thornwolf to write my Kickstarter copy (and my Patreon copy!), it’s always worthwhile working together. We’re always stronger together than apart. Otherwise, I’d say if an artist and writer are working together, let each of them use their own strengths.
Writers can’t micromanage artists; artists can’t step all over writers. Artists, you feel like doing charitable work, writers can often use some help. Back atcha, writers.
BG: Working as a team, that can get tricky when writers want an elaborate scene, many artists complain about that side of writing (especially freelancers), how do you (on the drawing side) break down a scene from script to page?
CV: A big part of being an artist, especially a comic artist, is figuring out acceptable corners to cut. Breaking down a script is all about figuring out the important beats and putting the right emphasis in the right places.
I haven’t done any professional work on someone else’s script, but the last webcomic I worked on did have a writer and it was always fascinating navigating between the two.
Sam was new to comic writing (though a long time comic fan) so we were both figuring things out as we went, so I was able to kind of… move things around in the script.
I couldn’t do that on a professional job. So unfortunately I don’t have a lot of insight there!
BG: Before we leave I want to ask you some fun questions.
BG: What is your worst fear?
CV: My worst fear is probably fame. The overwhelming shift in status and demand is beyond intimidating to me.
BG: What is the one dream you wish to live out?
CV: I want to be the primary breadwinner in our household! It would be awesome to have my husband quit his job to be my assistant, and to know that my art is keeping us afloat.
BG: That’s a wonderful goal!
Last question, if you could have any of your characters come to life and be your pet/friend, who would it be?
CV: That’s tough, but even though Belfry would destroy every object I love and smash every piece of glass in my house, I’d still love to have her around. I imagine she gives great hugs!
BG: I was sure you would have said Briar or even Piper.
CV: I almost said Briar! And I definitely had Piper as a pet; she’s based on my previous cat! (So is Anthony.) Loved her to pieces, would never adopt her again. (I say it with all the love in my heart haha)
BG: Oh wow that’s awesome, I love Piper! She’s such a trouble maker.
Thank you for taking so much of your personal time to talk with me and good luck with your Kickstarter campaign!
CV: Hey, thank you so much! You asked some really great questions and this was a lot of fun.