Erin Lefler, thank you for joining us today on Comic Con Addicts. You have a lot of art fans among our rowdy crowd. I must say I am one of the biggest fans (and not simply because I have a fondness for cheese puffs and butter pecan ice cream) but rather because you are a spectacular artist adored by many. In fact, you’re such an incredible artist I actually sleep with one of your creations every night. I’m talking about the ever so gorgeous sketchbook, “A Study in Chris Evans.”
Yes, people, I said “Gorgeous” because this lovely book is gorgeously filled with adorable sketches not only of Chris Evans but also drawings of “heroes, villains, and more.” I could go on about the fun of the sketchbook, and I have shared – chatting, drinking wine, and watching Avenger movies together, but I won’t. This interview is all about Erin Lefler.
First of all, thank you, Erin, for being kind enough to answer a few weighty questions (and I assure you they are important because the Internet never inquires about anything else). In your willingness to answer, you have made it feel like Christmas in the longest and hottest summer ever.
And so we begin, with part one of our interview with Erin.
Nat: The first question, you are a Jill of all trades. You’re a character designer, concept artist, illustrator, and visual developer. I have no idea what all of those jobs actually entail, but I do know that you probably do more before 10 am on Monday than I do all week.
How old were you when you decided to get into the business of creating art and what inspired this decision? Please don’t tell us you knew it when you were three or four because many of us were still eating crayons at our tenth birthday parties.
Erin: I started creating art SUPER young (at about three ironically, drawing on whatever I could get my hands on, which included the walls of my room. Needless to say, my parents weren’t exactly thrilled about that.), but I didn’t start taking it seriously until I was 11/12 years old. I had a significant influence as a child growing up with friends and family that were Disney artists, and professional graphic designers. Growing up knowing, being close to, and loving these people, it was almost hard not to be starry-eyed seeing what they did. They were visual storytellers and changed the art industry-I knew I wanted to do that, but I didn’t know it could be a job.
And again, at that age, you’re not thinking about jobs yet, you’re just thinking about what’s fun. Besides the people in my life as an influence, I grew up constantly watching Disney Classic 2D animation films, and Jim Henson’s classics (like the Muppets, Labyrinth, and Sesame Street) and those pieces of media exposed me to the idea of creating different worlds where anything was possible.
By the time I was 11, I remember meeting a Disney fine artist, and my parents telling him that I was an artist; Mind you I was totally your stereotypical nerd at that age: I was quiet, did my schoolwork, and I was always carrying around classic novels, comics, and sketchbooks that I would take out at lunch or if I finished my work early. That was my escape. I could delve into other worlds, see myself in the eyes of the heroes of the books/comics I was reading, and create my own worlds and characters.
So, I was practicing and sketching every single day, every chance I had. My parents were definitely starting taking notice when I’d go through a sketchbook and my notebook in a week’s time and ask them for a new one. So, they took the time out of our vacation to Disney World and found a live art demonstration that they were having in Epcot, and took me to see it. I was just absolutely mesmerized!
And I can remember him looking at me and asking to see what I could do, which to me was terrifying because there was a real-life professional asking to see my work. He had me sit in his chair, let me pick some of his tools, and I got to work. I remember once I finished, he just gave me this look that I can only describe as excitement, and he turned to my parents to give them a list of tools they needed to get me once we got home.
Then he turned back to me and said, “You have a bright future ahead of you, and one day you’ll be my boss… even better than I’ll ever be. Don’t waste that future.” It almost reminds me now of that moment in treasure planet where Silver says to Jim, “you have the makings of greatness in you.” It was that push I needed to focus my path on becoming an artist, and over a decade later, here I am!
Nat: Wow, Erin, that’s a great story. To have your talent recognized and nurtured at such an early age. You really awe me. For those of you who feel discouraged by the lack of support you received for your early artistic endeavors, don’t feel dejected. I, too, was removed from my eighth-grade art class. I don’t believe that it’s my fault the teacher failed to mention that all paints are not edible.
And to You my dear reader, I will return with more of our Erin Lefler interview. Meanwhile, if you’re interested in seeing (and possibly buying) some of Erin’s fantastic artwork, visit her Etsy Shop, ButternutGouache. You can also stay abreast of what Erin’s thinking, drawing, and doing by following her on Twitter, @Butternutgouach, and on Instagram, butternut_gouache.
*About Nat, the interviewer:
Nat Niemi is an award-winning writer and a dreamer with introvert opinions (the kind that sounds loud in her own mind). She has written unnoticed books, unnoticed screenplays, and a million grocery lists greatly appreciated by grocery stores throughout the Atlanta area. Nat is also one of the executive producers and writers of the upcoming comedy web series, “Bad Practice.” When not dreaming about comic con conventions, writing, and being walked by her 90-pound dog, Nat serves as the Director of the Lizzie Newman Brown Scholarship Fund, a non-profit organization that gives a yearly scholarship to an exceptional student who’s good grades are nearly eclipsed by his/her contributions to the community