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Artist Highlight - Chris Roman

This week we talk to Illustrator and Artist Chris Roman about cats, inspiration, work balance, and weird bars.

First and most important question, Tell me a bit about your pets! Oh my pets! I have two terrible monsters. Hamilton and Meeko, they’re cats. They turned one over the summer, so they are young. And they love to ruin my apartment and all my nice things. They’re not fat, but they act like they are because all they do is eat and meow at you and wreck my couch. And you love them very much *laughing* I do, I do love them, I would die for them. It’s amazing how pets do that. I’ve unloaded a lot of water bottles at them. What do you do? Squirt the water bottles at them? Yes, and we have a decoy Christmas tree. We have two Christmas trees, one of them is a large real one, and the other is a small decoy that they like to go into. But they try to eat it, so I have to spray them to get them out of there. Does the spraying actually work? No, they love water. Which is awful. They like to go into the sink and lay under running water. I don’t know what to do, they’re bizarre. Meeko is the tiny one and she bullies Hamilton. They are brother and sister, Hamilton is bigger and he’s bullied constantly by his sister.

What do you like to do to get out of a creative rut? I look at a lot of reference. I look at a lot of stuff that I would like to be making; movies or shorts. Or go outside and not look at screens, sometimes that helps. I’m pretty much staring at a screen all day long when I’m at work, and then when I go home and go back to work. Sometimes it helps to look at stuff I like from people I like, and sometimes it just helps to go away and not think about it.

What people or things do you like to look at? I like all Disney stuff, I like Jim Henson. Current artists,everyone knows I’m a big fan of Kevin Dart’s work. There’s a lot of other people that I can’t think of right now, but I like to keep stuff on hand to look at. Music helps a lot if I’m stuck, especially on personal projects. Do you have a go-to album? SmashMouth’s “The AstroLounge”

Can you tell me a bit about your role here at Reel Captivation? I am Arms and Ammunition as well as Day-to-Day Operations. I also do art and motion graphics. I’ve sort of fallen into more of towards storyboarding, concept art and design part. Which is fine because I like that part, and I do animation and motion graphics.

What do you do outside of work? I usually work. I do more work when I’m not working. I design pins for Disney Theme parks and I also do designs for Creepy Company, a Chicago based pin/collectibles company that specializes in halloween and spooky themed merch. I’m looking for work or probably going to the movies, restaurants, bars, cocktail bars, tiki bars. What’s the weirdest bar you’ve ever been to? Or favorite weirdest? I’ve been to a lot of crazy ones. It’s not not really weird, but definitely the most unique one. It’s called “The Drifter” and it’s the last remaining speakeasy in Chicago. It’s in the basement of a restaurant called “The Green Door Tavern,” and you have to find a shelf in the basement and knock in the middle of it, the wall will open up, and then you go inside. It’s all brick, it’s literally a prohibition era speakeasy. There’s a stage in there and they do rounds of Vaudeville acts. I saw a juggler there the last time, there’s a 3 piece band, sometimes there are burlesque dancers. And then there’s three tiki bars in Chicago which are all awesome. And the Spy Bar, that one’s weird. It’s basically the Rainforest Cafe, but if it was James Bond themed. Either you know the password, or you don’t. And if you don’t know the password, then you have to do some kind of weird thing before you go into the bar. And if you do the weird thing, then they let you in, you go downstairs, and then it’s like “Surprise! You were on tv the whole time and everyone could see you being an idiot.”

What inspired you to come into this field of work? I didn’t start here. I started in the film program at Columbia, then I realized that I didn’t really like it because I never thought I could do anything with art. I just liked movies and making movies. But then I ended up missing the art side of it once I started doing exclusively film stuff. And it never really clicked that I could do animation for a job. I didn’t even really think about it. It was like, “People don’t get paid to do that, that’s just a fun thing that people do.” And then I realized, “Oh yeah, you can!” So then I started doing 3D animation and just one thing led to another and it pushed me more into the design part of it. And I like that, I like being able to create my own stuff and more finished looking things. But yeah, I like filmmaking and I like art, and animation, motion graphics, and design was a good combination of that.

Who or what inspires you on a day to day basis? Probably the artists I mentioned before. And then my fiance inspires me. I like to make stuff that she likes, and she likes the stuff that I make. So, if I can make money while making stuff that she likes, that’s even better. I don’t even tell her to like it, she just does!

Was there a defining moment when you knew that you where in the right field? I had a moment where I realized what I should be doing. I remember I watched Wall-E for the first time, and it’s funny because I’m not in 3D animation at all, but that was sort of the moment where my whole thought process changed. I think it was more, “Wow, you can get emotion and stories from things that aren’t people.” And I just thought that was so cool. And after that, I changed my major at Columbia to animation. It was actually by accident. I accidentally ended up on the animation floor of the film building and was like, “Oh my god, what is this place?” There were weird drawings up everywhere and weird people that were really cool and not pretentious and lame. And I was like, “Oh wow, all these people are really friendly and want to help each other.” The film industry, personally, felt like everyone closed off and they all wanted to make their own thing and the thought of, “This is MY thing.” And animation was, “This is OUR thing, we all did this.” And I liked that part of it.

Do you have any tips for any new/aspiring artists out there? IT’s a combination of always be creating stuff, but don’t. So always make stuff adn work on your things even when you’re working on stuff you don’t like. Like if you are at a company and you have to do you work or create stuff you may not like making. Just make sure that you are making stuff that you DO like so that you don’t get burnt out and hate the medium that you are working in. But also take breaks and don’t work TOO much, because you’ll get burnt out on making too much stuff. Make your own stuff, and make stuff that looks good that you don’t really like get paid. And keep track of your hours and turn in your timesheets.

What is something that you would really like to improve at? A whole lot of stuff. Specifically I would love to get better at design in general. Lighting and more dimension and color. I didn’t go to school for design or illustration, I went more for animation. And while I had design classes that were part of the curriculum, it wasn't my focus. So everything that I’m doing, I’ve either just sort of picked up, or tried to build off of what I do know, which isn’t a whole lot. So I would love to get better at design, and also 2D animation. Because there is some cool stuff that I wish I was able to do.

How does your job affect the way you view the world? Cynically. No, not really, it’s more that there are some people that just don’t know how to communicate what they want. And it’s essential to have people who can translate that into a language that other people can understand. And Patience is a big part of it, being patient with people.

What is your dream project? Yeah, I would love to art direct and animate on a 2D short. And actually finish it. I’ve been a part of a lot of projects that just are either too ambitious or there’s not enough people working on it, or it’s just me, and I just can’t get through it because it’s just so much work. So, it would be cool to be on a team of people with a dedicated we’ve got 4 months, let’s make a short and this is what we are going to work on. That would be cool.

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