Industry Interview: Podgy Panda



Where you have studied, how long have you been in the industry?

Hello! My name is Richard, born and raised in New Zealand, I have been a professional artist for 7 years, blurring the lines between Animation, Illustration and Graphic Design.
Being multi-disciplined, I have worked on an array of projects, from TV shows in New Zealand to concept art in game studios in London. As of late, my career has taken me down the path of pop art; creating artwork using my illustrative style to be exhibited in galleries all around the world. As someone who is always eager to learn, I have studied multiple disciplines at many schools including 2D animation at Animation College.

Can you tell us what motivated you to start the Podgy Panda?

PodgyPanda started out as a creative outlet during the time when I was working in studios, working for other people in other styles. I wanted to work on my own art and further develop a style which was recognisable and one I could call my own. 7 years later and I'm still doing my own thing, which must mean I'm doing something right, right?

What is the latest project you have been a part of?

Unfortunately due to contracts I am unable to show the latest client-based projects I have been working on (wish I could though!). Lately I have been doing a lot of group art shows in exhibitions all across New York, London and most recently, in LA.

Did you always know that you wanted to be in the creative arts when you were young?

I have always liked drawing from a young age, and I was always scribbling on long sheets of paper, depicting battle scenes of Ninja turtles vs G.I.Joes. I have a very creative dad who is skilled at wood carving and drawing. I think I must have inherited the creative genes from him!


What sparked you into a career into creative arts?

After fumbling around in Uni for a year prior to my studies at Animation College, I just wasn't fitting in. A friend of mine who was currently in his 2nd year at Animation College urged me to apply as he saw I was wasting away under the pressures of my computer science degree. I'm really glad I did :).

How did you get into the industry?

After my schooling at Animation College, I went on to work on the popular TV3 animated show Bro Town, which I was a part of for three and a half years. After the show wrapped up, I went solo, taking on freelance work whilst doing my own art projects and participating in gallery shows all over the world. Apart from the odd freelance work I pick up, I've mostly been fleshing out my PodgyPanda world, where I hope to take my characters and their stories and pitch them to tv networks, merchandising channels and more gallery shows.

Who or what have been the main influences of your work? Do you have someone that is like a role model to you? Why?

I have been lucky to become close friends with a lot of the artists I looked up to when I was starting out. Artists such as Luke Cheuh, Huck Gee, Jamie Smart and artist duos such as TADO have all been super inspiring as they are the masters of their craft. I have a close network of friends from all over the world who inspire me day to day, often sharing our creative doings and critiquing on our projects. They all are role models to me - seeing someone strive to perfect their craft is truly motivating and it urges me to do the same.


What would you recommend to someone who is starting out in the creative industry or who is a student keen to get into arts?

The number 1 advice I give to students is to keep drawing. I carry a sketchbook with me wherever I go, and always try to draw as much as I can. You never know when an idea will strike. The more you draw, the more pencil mileage (as they say) you do, and the more pencil mileage, the closer you are to achieving your drawing goals. To quote Neil Gaiman, "Often you will discover that the harder you work, and the more wisely you work, the luckier you get". The second advice I give is to BE NICE. This is important. You are the vessel in which your artwork lives and breathes through. Even though you may be an amazing artist, if you come off as someone who isn't pleasant to be around or to converse with, you often lose the trust of your fans. Be Nice :)

What is the something that you are most proud of, looking back on your career thus far?

I am most proud of the fans and friends I have met along the way. Seeing the reactions on people's faces light up as they view my work for the first time still gives me the tingles (in a good way). That is something to keep creating for.

What has been your biggest challenge in your career as an artist so far?

Financial stability. Being an artist in today's world is expensive, so finding the right balance between paid work and work you do for yourself is hard. Especially when you fund your artist trips overseas.


Besides artistic skills, what other qualities of an artist is the industry looking for? Is it Punctuality, work ethic, personality, attitude, team-player, etc.?

Definitely a mix between work ethic, personality and punctuality. I think having a mix of these 3 things is essential for a professional freelance career. Again to quote Neil Gaiman; "...more and more of today's world is freelance, because their work is good, and because they are easy to get along with, and because they deliver the work on time. And you don't even need all three. Two out of three is fine. People will tolerate how unpleasant you are if your work is good and you deliver it on time. They'll forgive the lateness of the work if it's good, and if they like you. And you don't have to be as good as the others if you're on time and it's always a pleasure to hear from you."

Why do you think that it is important for current students to cultivate such qualities when they are still at school?

Developing a good work ethic, a good personality and punctuality whilst at school is definitely important. The latter stages of school simulates a real-world working environment, so I feel it is important to develop these qualities early on.

For more on Podgy Panda visit his website.


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