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Bonus Feature: Join us at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, where Stefan is interviewed by writer and creative strategist Terry Lee Stone after a screening of his film.
Skill Level Appropriate for all
(music playing) Stefan G. Bucher: Usually, you have an image in your mind and you watch yourself fail at getting it on paper over the course of hours, days, however long, and with this, everything comes out of that ink blot.
(music playing) You're creating the image without having it in your head.
You're just working off the shape. It was so liberating to start with something that's violent and wild and not under my control. These all started in the car. I was driving around. I was actually driving home. It was in the afternoon. It was sunny out. I was kind of going through a tough time at that moment of my life.
For some reason, I had a vision, which I am not prone to. Stuff doesn't just pop into my head, but that day for some reason I saw one of the monsters on my arm, just sort of coiled around and looking at me. I sort of knew that it was something special, that it wasn't just another idea. Initially, it was a series of monsters called the Upstairs Neighbors. As I was trying to get the Upstairs Neighbors their book deal, it was taking a long time and so I thought I should--I need to keep myself interested in the project.
That's why I started filming them, and that's why I started putting them online. I never thought that people would actually really come and watch it in a big way, but all of a sudden, through the support of some other blogs like Ze Frank and Speak Up at the time, I had hundreds and thousands of people every day showing up. (music playing) One of the great big tricks of it, such as it is, is that I just use the cheapest possible paper, so I don't get precious.
I've tried doing it with Canson paper, this really sort of fancy stuff, and I get completely paralyzed. So instead, it's just this, and I take a few drops of Sumi-e ink. Then I just take a duster can. (air duster spraying) So now my task on it isn't to create something, it's to find something.
I think I see something. There you go. These pens I inherited, or this brand of pen, was one that Norm Schureman used who was a great mentor of mine. I used to watch him draw when I was at Art Center, and he drew incredibly fast. I wanted to get that, but I can't draw as well as Norm. Certainly I can't draw as fast.
So I just thought, "I will film it, and I will speed it up." And I usually start by putting one of the eyes in, because we also don't want the little guys to get pissed off that I'm working on them and they can't see what's going on. They hate that. I don't know. Whenever I hear people talk about their characters as real things, it's sort of saccharine and annoying. But now that I make these characters every day, it's hard to resist, because they do have a life of their own.
I'm just the caretaker. I'm released on my own recognizance with these. So I don't have anybody standing behind me going, 'Well, you know you have to hit certain deliverables with these monsters. They have to function a certain way,' which in some ways makes it harder because there is no outside force, but the outside force is the web community, and it's the people that love the monsters and that keep coming back to see them.
There were actually people that would email if they weren't posted on time, and they would say, "Are you okay? We're missing our monster today. We're missing our daily monster." That's fantastic motivation. I have a whole bunch of friends and family of the monsters. They'll say, "No, come on. Do it," and as soon as I put pencil to paper, then the monsters have their own gravity.
It's kind of how they did the moon shot, where you had the earth, and you had the moon, and you have to kind of shoot out of the earth atmosphere, and then once you get to this point, then the gravity of the moon pulls you around. That's sort of how this is. The greatest thing is the day after is to just sort of wake up again and see the whole stack that appeared. Let's see. And this happens too, where I don't actually know what he's going to do right now, but I know where the arm could go.
So I'll just put it here, and we'll see what it does. I'm going to give him a doughnut. The monsters are ink-and-paper improv, where it's always 'yes, and...' but if you planned out the drawing, you would say 'Oh, man! I screwed that up because I ran out of paper.' But what I'm trying to do with these is to push myself and to challenge myself to figure out a way to make that an asset.
Another monster of a certain size. Of course he's going to be intently focused on said doughnut. And who knows how many Sharpie fumes I've inhaled over the last five years, probably way too many.
People always ask me if I get high when I draw these. I don't. I don't know. If I got high, I'd probably be an accountant. All right, we'll give him some real nice, big teeth. He'll have a green tongue, so that he can almost get right up to the doughnut there.
He is so close to it he can taste it. Since he is eating all these doughnuts, let's give him some cavities as well, so the kids can learn something. So, there you go. (music playing)