Unearthing Veeblesaurus: Interview w/ Cartoonist Vanessa Buldowski

Although putting together the Strange Kid Comix Anthology was inspired by all of the phenomenal artists I had met online over the course of this past year, it also allowed me to meet a whole new crop of artists who are just as talented and proud to wave their strange kid flag high.

This week’s guest is one such artist that I discovered during the course of the anthology, Vanessa Buldowski! A self-described “animation-loving pencil-wielder,” Buldowski has dedicated the past few years of her life honing the craft of animation in hopes of finding her audience and (to a degree) herself with an ongoing, autobiographical webcomic called Veeblesaurus.

Thanks for climbing up to the clubhouse, Vee! Grab some couch and tell us a bit about yourself.

Naw, thank you! It’s totally an honor. I’m an animator-cartoonist from Moosic, Pennsylvania originally– got my undergraduate from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia where I met some great artists and got to be taught under even better ones, including the awesome Mike Manley of Draw! Magazine. I moved out west to Valencia, California just over a year ago where I started to obtain my Master’s degree at CalArts. I’ve been working freelance on a children’s book for a while, which I hope to finish sometime this summer– so in the future be on the look-out for it! Pretty much I’m just an average animation-loving pencil-wielder trying to get by.

If you had a choice between sky diving to your death into a pool full of Jell-O or eating your weight in chocolate until you fall into a coma, which would it be?

Eek. Tough question. I’m going to go with chocolate-induced-coma. Though I love me some Jell-O, I’m not a sky-diving type of girl.

CalArts is the same school that greats like Tim Burton, Brad Bird, and Butch Hartman (among others) have attended. How has your experience been there so far?

Pretty great, on the whole. Everyplace you go has its ups and downs, but if you can find good, hard-working people who are passionate about what they do, you’re golden, and Calarts has a ton of those people.

You seem to have a very loose, painterly art style. Do you have any specific influences?

Haha, thank you very much. For myself, I always think my lines are too tight, not enough flow, so I’ll keep working on that. Two of my biggest influences currently are Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele— the flow of their figure’s bodies moves me to my core, and I want to embrace that seductive quality of line in my own work. Another huge influence on me in the past was Glen Keane— in both his drawings and his mastery of animation. But his drawings hold a freneticism– you believe they will come right off the page, they hold so much energy.

What were some of your favorite cartoons growing up?

POPEYE! Fleischer and Looney Tunes/ Warner Brothers shorts were always on. We still had saturday morning cartoons, and I loved them so much I never stopped watching them to this day.

How hard has the struggle been for you between making “art” and producing “commercially viable” work?

My work has long been geared towards the commercial spectrum, but recently I’ve begun to question my own validity. Am I really an artist? Can I make the statements I want to make through this medium? Who can I touch, how can I touch them, when can I help the world? I think my whole life I will struggle with feeling complete in both aspects. I actually love producing appealing work for a mass, commercial audience– it’s fun and I can’t really scorn it if for that reason alone. Yet the other side of myself reaches out, makes projects and ideas that fulfills the need to create artistic pieces, statements of truth-purity that I may be too frightened to draw on commercially.

Currently I am working on a project called “Word of the Day” which is an independent comic about relationships and abuse. I think it’s valid for me to create something based upon experience, a piece of art that can make a statement for those who want to hear it or who have been through it. But again, the term “art” is relative– what I could consider it is, another would not.

If you could recommend one book for an aspiring animator to read, what would it be?

There are so many good books out there now, I really can’t list just one. Resources have blossomed since the 70’s– but if you’re interested in Character Animation, definately check out The Illusion of Life by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, The Animator’s Survival Guide by Richard Williams, and Character Animation Crash Course by Eric Goldberg. There’s so many resources online too, and forums, so just half a minute of looking is lucrative.

Despite it being 2011, there still seems to be a real lack of women at the forefront of animation. Why do you think that is?

That’s such an interesting statement for me, actually! Since my undergraduate I’ve been surrounded by a majority of women– even now as I’m getting my masters we have a total of twenty-one women…and ONE man in my graduating year. There are quite a few women in animation as we speak; Tina Price, Maureen Selwood, Kathy Zielinski, and animation historian Maureen Furniss. I think “forefront” is probably the key word there.

As for that I’m simply not sure, but I have a feeling that the future has a lot to hold for women in animation. So many people are being turned on to it, and its so easy to go out and do your own thing, create your own shorts if you have the programs. They’re all affordable, much more so than even sixty years prior creating animation on cels and shooting on hundred-of-thousands of dollar down-shooting multiplanes. The future looks bright, I think, for animation regardless of gender.

How important do you believe a foundation in Life Drawing is to someone who’s interested in cartooning?

Draw everything! Don’t stop drawing! It’s so good for you, it’s like eating your vegetables as a kid. Maybe first you won’t like it, but pretty soon, broccoli is going to be your favorite vegetable. Life drawing will only help you, and especially for cartoonists/comic-makers. You should feel a command over the human form, not just and ability to draw it, because in all honesty that one thing, the ability to observe and translate what lies in front of you, is going to help you in every other aspect of drawing.

You recently launched your first webcomic, Veeblesaurus. What’s the story behind that project, is it autobiographical?

Sure is. It’s essentially a slice-of-life comic about strange things that happen to my friends and I. Veeblesaurus is the title-comic, but eventually I want to include multiple comics on the site, ranging from my slice-of-life comics, to individual short-story format novels and full graphic novels. Too many ideas floating in my head!

So Vee, what’s the strangest thing you can remember doing as a kid?

I’d have to say it was probably thinking that if i pretended to be something, i really was it. It was trouble for anyone in the house if I thought I was a werewolf or a dragon, they would be sure to get bitten at some point!

Written by Rondal

Rondal is the Editor-in-Chief of Strange Kids Club and a creative instigator who tackles each day with Red Bull-induced enthusiasm and a mind for adventure. Rondal has written for other sites including Rue Morgue, Fuel Your Illustration and Bloodsprayer. His obsession with horror movies, 80s animation and action figures is considered unhealthy by medical professionals.

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