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Featured Artist: Lawrence McWilliams

You can't help but notice Lawrence's work out there, he has a distinct style and cranks out tons of art. Although his art is uniquely his, he likes to mix it up, constantly trying new color schemes and approaches to similar subjects. He's great at digital art, but you can also tell he has a love for good old fashioned pencil and ink on paper. Lawrence is a humble guy with a story similar to many of yours.
When did you first realize you were an artist or wanted to be an artist?
When I was about 4 years old my mom brought me this little blank notepad from her job, and I made a flipbook of a stick figure walking a vew steps and getting shot in the head by a ball.  My mom thought it was amazing so she kept on bringing me the little blank notepads.  So I would say around then.
 
Did your parents encourage you or were they skeptical of the art world?
My parents for sure encouraged me.  I’m pretty sure my mom is still waiting for me to be a world famous artist… my dad probably just wants me to be secure.  They have both been pretty supportive though.
 
Who were your biggest cheerleaders to pursue art? (Teachers, friends family)
I recently found this letter my brother wrote me years back (he was in college, I was still in high school at the time).  In it he talked about how he was proud of me and how I needed to take my stories out of the town I grew up in, go out into the world and actually make something.  See the world and draw it.  It kind of lifted my spirits all these years later and gave me an additional push.    
 
Is your art a side gig or are you a full time illustrator?
At the moment it’s a little of both.  I’m in a sort of transition period, switching over to art on a more full time basis.  I’ve been doing freelance work (both animation and design) for a while and am starting to do more illustration work lately.  The plan is to be able to completely make that switch very soon.
 
What would be your ideal job? 
My ideal job would probably be doing visual development or character design at an animation studio.  Its one of the reasons I moved from the San Francisco Bay down to Los Angeles about  year ago.  Anything where my primary job function is to draw everyday.
 
It seems like you experiment with different styles and methods, is that part of your practice strategy or do you just have fun with whatever comes out on the paper?
I think it is a little bit of both.  Coming from an animation and visual development background means you have to be a little flexible in terms of style.  There is certainly a specific style that I work in more, but I also like to try out different methods.  
 
What routines do you have for drawing? Like where, and when do you draw most?
I don’t usually draw in the mornings. If it is for work I usually start sometime midday to evening, continuing into late night if coming up on deadlines. For myself I draw whenever really.  Having the Sketchwallet is great because I’ll take it out and draw whenever.  While waiting for food at a restaurant, at a friends house, on a train. I usually always have a couple pens, pencils and markers in my pockets at all times. When working digitally I usually am on a Surface Pro 2, so I do work from almost anywhere.
 
If you could travel anywhere in the world just to fill a sketchbook, where would you go?
I’ve wanted to go to Thailand since 9th grade (my geography teacher went and showed us a bunch of cool pictures). Also New Orleans.  Really I would want to go somewhere where the architecture and culture is different from where I live.  Someplace with an interesting history.  
 
What movies, music, comics, games or other pop culture do you find inspiring?
I take inspiration from a lot of sources, I’m constantly watching movies. Everything from Pixar to foreign dramas, to action blockbusters. I read a ton of books and comics, everything from Blacksad to Batman. If it has a good story I’m down. I have bookshelves full of comics and artbooks that I’ll just thumb through from time to time for inspiration.  I really love things that go outside the norm in terms of style or story, things that subvert different tropes we’re used to.  Atlanta was an amazing show and kind of made its own way last year doing thing most shows wouldn’t (at least not in a first season). Who Framed Roger Rabbit changed my childhood and is one of the main reasons I wanted to get into animation.
 
Who are your favorite artists, living or dead?
I’ll try to keep it brief and know I’ll leave out a ton of people I admire.
Chris Sanders style is amazing, and I probably owe a lot to him in terms of the bubbliness of some of my characters. Simon Stålenhag is an amazing painter, I wish I could live inside his brain and just learn.  Jake Parker is another that I’ve admired for years, he’s also where I first saw Sketchwallet and who got me to your Kickstarter.  I mentioned Blacksad before, and really Juanjo Guarnido is phenomenal. Sean Murphy is one of my favorite comic artists. His inks are great.  Takashi Murakami is my favorite fine artist, though he isn’t strictly a fine artist.  Here are a few more that have impacted me one way or another: Ron Wimberly, Thomas N. Perkins, Nico Marlet, Eric Powell, Paul Pope, Carter Goodrich, Jamie Hewlett.  Also this past Christmas while visiting family my 8 year old niece gave me a drawing, and sat contently while I gave here a lesson on watercolors and color theory, so she’s on that list too.
How did your Kickstarter book "100 Years From Now, Our Bones Will Be Different" come about? Was it a good experience? What would you do different if you could go back in time?
It came about through some conversations with my friend (and co author on the book) Anand.  We were talking about how few children’s books there are out there about people of color, and since we both are people of color, he’s Indian, and both artist we decided we should just make one.  It was a good experience, we had a pretty tight deadline, maybe four months from starting it to getting them printed, so I was constantly painting.  The only thing I think I would do differently is maybe a little more time planning and a little more on post production/editing.  Kickstarter is a very interesting thing, and a lot more work than you think it’s going to be once you start, but I’d do it again if given the chance.
 
Do you have any upcoming projects on the horizon?
At the moment I’m finishing up illustrating a dark real-world fantasy book for someone else, and am about to start a children’s book that I’m writing and illustrating. I don’t yet have dates for when either will be out though.
 
If money and time weren't an issue, what project would you do?
I have this story I’ve been playing with for a while about a couple time travelers.  It takes every time travel idea, every paradox I could fit, and pushes them to the farthest point I could push them (and in a few cases even breaks them)  It’s fun and crazy, and has this central core about family and growing up, it also has robots made by Da Vinci, time loops, and the end of time.  The time travelers are African American so it also deals with some more heavy issues around race in different time periods.  I plan on actually doing it one day, just not set on when yet.  
 
What advice would you give for anyone who wants to "level up" their art?
I once had a teacher who every class his advice to me was “draw more”. He was a horrible teacher. Of course I needed to draw more, that was obvious, what I needed to know was what I should be doing differently, what I needed to draw more of. I’ve seen people who weren’t very good artist become amazing in a very short period of time because they just worked on it everyday.  There is this thing called deliberate practice which I won’t go too into detail into except to say, it is one thing to doodle the same cartoon dog everyday. Sure it might look pretty good, and you can get to the point where you can draw that dog in your sleep.  It is another to look at real dogs, to look at how they move, how they sit. To draw them at different angles, draw different breeds.  To learn everything you can about dogs, then if someone asks you to draw a border collie running, or a pit bull terrier sleeping, you can without looking at any reference.  In whatever you do you obviously have to practice, but you also have to think and analyze what you’re doing, to see where you aren’t as strong and learn how to get better.  To learn from others, whether from a class, or online, or from books is key, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, just learn how it is made and put your own spin on it after.
 
Where can we follow your work?
My tumblr where I post ink drawings, digital art etc: Robosockmonkey.tumblr.com
My instagram (has mostly ink drawings and sketches): https://www.instagram.com/lawmcwilliams/


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