Illustrator Interviews: Josh McKenna Grills Studio Mate Sebaldo About Drawing Scissors & Crossing the Line
WORKING NOT WORKING
We love having candid conversations with our members about the breakthroughs, challenges, and dreams that come with their creative pursuits. But sometimes, it also makes sense to pass the mic off to someone who knows the creative better than we probably ever could. Like a studio mate. So that’s what we did with WNW Members Sebaldo Pietrovito and Josh McKenna. The two London-based illustrators were more than game to interview each other in their brightly lit studio. We provided some questions to guide the conversation but also encouraged them to keep things fun and loose. The resulting interviews are equal parts insightful and hilarious. And hopefully insightful for more than just readers looking for a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the creative processes of two illustrators. After heavy-hitting and eye-opening topics ranging from what their studio mate can do as an illustrator that makes them jealous to whether the brussels sprout is primed to be the vegetable of 2019, we’re pretty sure Seb and Josh have learned a great deal about each other.
All Photography by Flora Maclean
Josh Interviews Seb
Josh: What is your name and where do you come from?
Seb: My name is Sebaldo and I am from Yorkshire, in England. The U.K.
Josh: Please could you tell me what your day-to-day is like as an illustrator?
Seb: I guess I will tell you. As an illustrator, I get up ...
Josh: Each day?
Seb: Each day, I wake up. Sometimes I find it very hard to wake up but I manage to get up most days, yeah. And then, I come into the studio. Sometimes I go for a run before I do; it helps a lot with productivity, actually. That's a tip. You should start doing it actually. I then come into the studio, have a coffee with you, chat to you and the guys and everyone here for a bit.
Josh: We discuss what you watched on television the night before, usually, don't we?
Seb: Usually, yeah. Usually we spend about two hours talking about TV. Masterchef, shows like that. And then I'll just get on with my work for the whole day. Sometimes that’s straight into drawing, or it’s something else. It depends what stage I'm at. I usually do my sketchbook out of the studio and then computer work here.
Josh: So your ideas come from when you're not here in the studio?
Seb: Mainly but sometimes I force myself when I'm here and I just stare. If I'm thinking of ideas, I sort of have to just stare like this.
Josh: What's your favorite thing to stare at?
Seb: Well really I've got to stare at nothing. It's like nothing’s there. So I’m just walking around in there (points to head). And then I go home, usually, at the end of the day. And I eat. And then I sleep.
Josh: Watch TV then ...
Seb: Yeah, TV too so I've got something to talk about with people the next day.
Josh: What most interests you as an illustrator?
Seb: This sounds really a bit egotistical but just like me and my thoughts and things that I've always been obsessed with really. Well it's just like the world innit, I suppose. Just everything that's going on and then I take it in. But it's not just things I'm interested in, but a lot of why I'm interested in those things. That's deep man, ain't it? There are patterns to what I'm interested in.
Josh: So do you think you would do that anyway or is that because you're an illustrator?
Seb: Well, I think illustration or animation or any creative output is a way of me using that as the meaning to everything. Because it means if I see something funny outside, I don't know what might be funny, what would you find funny, Josh?
Josh: Someone jumping over dog poo.
Seb: Yes, that and not falling in it, jumping over it. Then it's not good enough for me to just be like, "Haha, that was funny." I have to make something from it to give what I just saw a reason to exist, if you know what I mean?
Josh: Wow. So you must have a lot of things going on up there, and many ideas.
Seb: No, actually, I don't.
Josh: No action.
Seb: I don't really do much though, but yeah, it gives me meaning to life. Because I don't believe in god and things like that, so that's it.
Josh: So, you believe in yourself?
Seb: I don't know what I believe in. Carry on before I start crying.
Josh: Which of your projects are you proudest of and why?
Seb: Well, Mussel, this guy, I was really proud of it. Actually, once I was about to give up on my -
Josh: Oh, sorry.
Seb: Not life, not that bad. And I gave up, and I was doing this other job that I hated, and then I saw the mussel in this museum, and I started getting a bit obsessed with it. It was in a jar and then I started drawing this character, and then I was like, I'm going to make him into a 3D sculpture. And then I went from quitting everything to just naturally making stuff again. So he's a symbol for me to-
Josh: Start creating again. So you were inspired by a mussel, and that ...
Seb: I was inspired by a mussel, and then that spurred off another. It made me keep trying because I sort of thought I was failing.
Josh: So you have a lot to thank for that guy.
Seb: Yeah. (Seb turns and thanks the mussel sculpture on his desk). And then I did some work for Domino's pizza the other day, some animations that I was pretty proud of.
Josh: Why were you proud of your Domino's animations?
Seb: Just because I really learnt a lot about how to animate my style. I learned a lot from doing it.
Josh: What's one thing you cannot draw?
Seb: Scissors. Well the thing is I can draw them, but when I was a kid, I'd always draw them with the end bit closed, and then the hands open. And then I'd be like, "It's not like that." And then I'd draw the hands closed and then the end bit open. So I never got it right.
Josh: I think the trick is to draw the handle and the blade first, then draw the second set.
Seb: Yeah, you draw that bit there, and then that bit there.
Josh: We probably drew the blades.
Seb: Do not fall into the mistake of thinking that blades together, handles together.
Josh: Say that to the camera, “do not fall in”-
Seb: When drawing scissors, do not fall into the trap of drawing blades together and handles together, because these are not together. These are together. See? Like that.
Josh: What is one thing that I, Josh McKenna, your studio pal, can do that makes you jealous?
Seb: In general?
Josh: As an illustrator… Or maybe in general, that might be quite interesting.
Seb: No, no I'm not going to get into that. I mean you're a lot better at getting work than me probably. And also, you're really good at coming up with really good simple designs, whereas mine sometimes I feel like I have to spend ages doing shading, and that sometimes I get a bit-
Seb: Well, yeah, it just takes more time to do the shading, and sometimes I’ve sat thinking, "Dammit, I shouldn't have created this style. I should have done something more vectory."
Josh: And what about on a personal level?
Seb: Well, physically, probably that you've got massive hands. Okay?
Seb: Oh, and also your ability to ... I think we'll probably leave it actually there.
Josh: Okay, full stop.
Josh: Do you think our senses of humor align well?
Seb: Yeah, I think so. I think they do. I think the most important thing is probably being able to talk a lot of rubbish. With some people, you say something, they'll be like, "Ha, yeah." But it’s good to go on from that and expand on it, and who knows? Hey, who knows where you might end up?
Josh: We do have some pretty interesting conversations, don't we?
Seb: Yes we do. Usually about boring things.
Josh: Like your favorite vegetable... vegetable of the year.
Seb: Which in 2018 was ...
Josh: Brussels sprouts.
Seb: Brussels sprouts. No, Brussels sprouts are going to be in this year, 2019, the year of the Brussels sprout. What's next?
Josh: You seem unafraid of irreverence. But how frequently do you draw something and think, "I've definitely crossed the line here"?
Seb: I don't really ever think that, because usually I just think it's quite normal what I've drawn, and also usually people want me to do what I do, so it's-
Josh: So even when you're drawing Narnia within a vagina, that's still not too far?
Seb: Well, I think with that, I probably thought I was going a bit far because I was getting really bogged down in the detail of the vagina.
Josh: What kind of detail?
Seb: Just a lot of shading, a lot of shine to it. But I was doing it for a poet, and she talked about Narnia being inside a vagina. So it wasn’t too far, no. In fact, I probably didn't go far enough for her, probably.
Josh: Not enough shading.
Seb: Not enough. I should've drawn Mr. Tumnus in there.
Josh: Seb, what is your spirit animal?
Seb: I should've drawn Mr. Tumnus in there.
Josh: You spoke over my question.
Seb: Sorry, yeah.
Josh: They're not going to be able to use that now.
Seb: Shall we say it again?
Josh: Do you want to say Mr. Tumnus again?
Seb: No, it's fine. Go on, ask the next.
Josh: You should've drawn Mr. Tumnus in there.
Seb: I should've drawn Mr. Tumnus in there. Anyway, come on then.
Josh: What is your ...
Seb: Carry on with the questions.
Josh: Will you leave me some time to fucking talk?
Seb: Yeah, go on.
Josh: Sorry fans. Seb, what is your spirit animal?
Seb: I've always said it is a turtle.
Josh: Do you have any facts to back this up?
Seb: I think I look like one probably, and then because I feel like turtles contemplate a lot. They just swim around thinking about stuff, and contemplating things, and probably never actually acting on the things that they're contemplating, like me.
Josh: Probably never get where they want to go, do they?
Seb: Never doing it. They think a lot, but they don't do anything about their thoughts, and that's probably like me a bit. Yeah, probably a turtle.
Josh: Yeah. If you didn't have a studio mate like me to keep you honest, what would you be doing right now?
Seb: Alright mate, yeah mate. To keep me honest?
Josh: Yeah, keep you grounded, you know?
Seb: Oh grounded, I was going to say, because you usually encourage me not to be honest.
Josh: What, I tell you to lie? About what?
Seb: Just generally. Just a few things I've noticed recently. Never really bring it up with you, but ...
Josh: What was the last thing I asked you to lie about?
Seb: I can't think. Usually it's just to close friends and relatives. (laughs) Do you keep me grounded? I suppose you do. I'd probably just panic a bit, yeah. I would've probably been working on some other jobs, like I had to do last year to keep myself going, and I probably would just be doing them now. I'd probably just get too worried about money and be like, "Shit, I need to do that." But because of you, you keep me grounded, I kept on going on, and trying, and I get there in the end. Thank you. My career is down to you.
Josh: Thank you. You're welcome, I mean. So would you say you might be in an insane asylum?
Seb: Yeah, maybe. Well, I would if I had to do that job, yeah. Probably would've killed myself. So I owe my life to you.
Josh: How do you feel about Instagram and social media as an illustrator? Are you into it or are you over it?
Seb: Yes, I'm into it. Because I do illustration and animation, and I animate my illustrations, it's quite good. There's quite a lot of content on there. Especially since people want me to do GIFs for their Instagram stories, and I can do that on my own, so I don't have to get other people to help, and I think it just broadens what sort of commissions you can get, and it's good to promote yourself. But everyone knows this, I'm just teaching you how to suck eggs.
Josh: Okay, thanks.
Josh: Here's your final question. What is your dream project?
Seb: I'd like to do an animated short film. That'd be cool, but I'd need time and the money to do that, but if someone could give me that, that'd be ace. Also I'd like to be involved in making a game, like an app.
Josh: What's the idea for the game?
Seb: But what happens if I give it out and people ...
Josh: Then someone might make it, contact you, and want to make it.
Seb: What happens if they just nick the idea?
Josh: I don't think they'll do that.
Seb: No? Why, because it's not a good idea? The idea is a game where it's a dog walker and, I've not sussed it out properly, but the dog sort of like poos and you've got to jump over the poo, and you've got to stop it from eating as well by moving it, because the more it eats, the more it poos, and the more likely you are to fall in the poo, and then that's the game.