Since I have recently decided to get back into the sketchbook, I found that it helps to find a favorite artist or artists. Basically they are these wells of inspiration from which I drink from time to time to replenish my creative juices (dang that was a baller metaphor!). One of them is very conveniently related to me, that being my brother whom you all know as P-Shinobi. The others I have discovered through my daily troll sessions of Deviant Art and Instagram. On today's Spotlight interview I had the pleasure of talking to one of my earliest and still one of my favorite such inspiration wells.
Peter Mohrbacher is an independent artist best known for creating the Angelarium series. From the start I had a feeling our talk would be quite revealing. I met him at Anime Central last year in his home state of Illinois where I got a canvas and 2 prints from his booth. Suffice it to say I was a fan long before that meeting, and was thrilled when he made the time for my interview. When I asked him his age he responded thus, “32? 33? I forgot. I think I'm 33. No wait, it's 32.” I'm going with 32. He worked several years in the gaming industry in very low profile and some unsuccessful titles. When asked what caused him to leave that world he answered flatly, “I have a hard time having bosses.” Peter places a lot of value in the worth an artist places on their work, and being managed by someone else tends to distort that self evaluation.
“I want to value my work highly and when I work for someone else, that isn't always the way they feel. It's more comfortable for me to take my work straight to an audience rather than filter it through the layers of management present in office work.”
I feel that this is a thought most artists will appreciate. We at Boomslank are constantly walking the line between managing our artist and giving him full creative freedom.
It was one thing to want something different, but Peter needed an extra bit of inspiration to go in the direction he chose. He found that inspiration in the form of another independent artist.
“It was when I saw my friend Sam Flegal (http://www.samflegal.com) make as much money off his personal painting doing a Kickstarter as I got paid to make a Magic card. I realized that an artist could find success on a scale that was achievable for me. When I got fired from my last job, I didn't hesitate skipping the search for a new one. I just packed up and started working for myself instead.”
The success that followed was instantaneous. Peter had built an online following spanning a decade by featuring his work on as many outlets as he could find, and when he finally went independent his fans were ready. It is a model worth considering for any artist.
The Angelarium (http://www.angelarium.net) is by far Peter’s most well known work. It is a collection of original paintings of Angels. Peter starts with the name, which can be found in several sources. Then he paints his interpretation of that name. He enjoys the artistic challenge of giving a body to seemingly intangible notions like “Mystery” or “The Written Word”.
“The idea of personifying abstract concepts like ‘dust’ and ‘memory’ was immediately interesting to me.”
There are currently over 40 Divine Beings with more to come. Those of you that are already familiar with Angelarium also know of the poetry and storytelling that accompanies each piece. Peter was doing all the writing himself at first, but has since enlisted the help of Eli Minaya to handle the bulk of Angelarium’s written content. When asked about the possibility of a complete story to accompany the paintings, Peter leans towards leaving some things to the imagination.
“I'm a big fan of the storytelling in something like Dark Souls. Rather than setting up a grand epic, I prefer to see glimpses of a story that is better imagined than told outright.”
He does however encourage fanfics, so go nuts!
In closing Peter had some wisdom to share on the worth of an artist, and how this power is sometimes misunderstood or even unnoticed by the artists themselves.
“Artists need to be the first people to declare their work has value. It's a running joke that people think artists should work for free. That's why it's so important that we chose to be our own advocates. We have a monopoly on our own output and we should exercise that power when the circumstance arises.”
Certainly words to live by; artists first and foremost have to be their own biggest fans.
I absolutely enjoyed my talk with Peter Mohrbacher who's favorite anime include Evangelion, FLCL, and Samurai Champloo. Do check out the complete Angelarium collection at http://www.angelarium.net where you can pick up prints and even an art book (already pre-ordered mine!). You can also follow him on Instagram at @bugmeyer. We wish Peter and all independent artists the best, and cannot overstate how much their work is needed and appreciated.