We sat down with Joey Spiotto aka Joebot Illustration. His unique blend of children’s books and geek culture have been creating a buzz on the con circuit and the artist community. We talk porgs, art, and all things geek!
Q: How did you come up with the idea of combining children’s books and all things geek?
A: Well I had been working on another series of prints where I turn some of my favorite movies/games/tv shows into vintage children’s record albums. I love the idea of taking something that’s not necessarily for children and making it kid friendly. The next obvious choice was turning my favorite geeky things into children’s book covers.
Q: When did you realize you had this special talent and could make a living out of it?
A: I think my parents recognized it long before I did. I was always drawing as a kid, and my mom was very supportive of it. So I was always taking various art classes growing up. In high school I got serious about my future goals of becoming a professional artist and I kinda geared my education towards that. I skipped “regular” college and went right into art school after graduating high school. Growing up I had great teachers that never said that being a professional artist was not a viable path. I was very fortunate to have supportive parents and great teachers helping me along the way.
Q: Is there a specific genre you never get tired of creating?
A: I don’t think so. The great thing about loving a lot of different things is that there’s always new great things being created to base new projects off of. Great TV shows pop up constantly, we’re getting great new genre films on a pretty regular basis, with music based pieces I tend to stick to the classics, and with video games there’s a constant stream of releases throughout the year. If there’s a great character that I feel can easily translate into my style, and i’m a fan of whatever that thing is, i’ll typically tend to go for it.
Q: What sparks your creativity? I know it’s cliched but what’s your creative process?
A: Sparking creativity is rarely a cliche… sometimes it can be a challenge. I typically create artwork only based off of things I love. So if there’s something that i’m drawn to, it’s usually pretty easy to come up with an idea based off of it. Unless it’s a commission, I really don’t make artwork based off of something i’m not familiar with and that I don’t like. Creativity can be elusive and so if I find myself getting bored of something, I have to step away and come back to it later. Typically I try to work on something else and then come back to what I was working on, and that really helps. Taking breaks, changing gears, and revisiting a piece.
Q: Have you ever wanted to venture out of the children’s books and into another style?
A: I have another series called “High Fidelity” where I recreate vintage children’s records in the style of the old Disney vinyl LP’s. I just released a book with the help of Kickstarter collecting that series. I’ve been very fortunate to have two pretty successful series of prints that i’m known for, and those have kept me busy so I haven’t had time to work on another idea yet. Like with the “records” and the “books”, i’ll know it when the time comes. Those ideas really just came to me as a spark and I saw them clearly in my mind. They also came to me when I had some downtime, and I’ve been super busy the past few years with work and family life so I think I haven’t made room in my brain for another thing. Recently though I’ve been feeling the need to create my own world with characters that I can give life to, that’s sort of where my artistic passion currently is and so while I have nothing to share now, i’m definitely working towards developing those ideas.
Q: Lootcrate recently turned your designs into figures (which we love), can we expect more figures or other mediums for your art?
A: Thanks so much! That was a really cool project to see come together. I can’t say whether we’ll see more of those or not, but feel free to reach out to LootCrate on social media and let them know how much you enjoy them, and if you want to see more! It’s amazing how powerful a tool things like twitter, Instagram and Facebook can be.
Q: Bob Odenkirk from “Better Call Saul” signed your work, what was his reaction? and do you have any other interested celebrity stories with your work?
A: Yeah, that was AWESOME! I’m a big fan of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. I first became familiar with Bob Odenkirk’s work on the HBO series Mr. Show years ago… the dude is brilliant. I’m a big fan so having him appreciate my work is a huge compliment. Unfortunately I wasn’t around for the signing. I guy that follows me online was working in a studio and Bob had come in to do some work. The guy had my prints and brought them in for him to sign and then was awesome enough to take some pictures and send them my way. I did meet Bob Odenkirk a few years earlier when I was part of an official Breaking Bad art show at Gallery 1988. He’s a great guy, we had a real nice conversation. Living in Los Angeles and working with Gallery 1988, i’ve been fortunate to meet quite a few people who’s work I admire. Joss Whedon, Conan O’Brien, JJ Abrams, and Neil Patrick Harris are just a few people who have my artwork hanging on their walls. It’s kinda surreal because i’m a big fan of theirs and then they become fans of mine through my artwork… it’s all kinda weird, but also pretty cool.
Q: Is there a certain person or event that you credit with making you the artist you are today?
A: Jensen and Katie at Gallery 1988 took a chance on me after I quit the video game industry and found myself unemployed when the economy tanked at the end of 2008. They invited me to a few shows and for the first year I sold nothing… it was pretty depressing. Then I went to Disneyland and found inspiration in Mary Blair’s poster for “It’s a Small World” and I came up with an idea for what I wanted to do for their annual “Crazy 4 Cult” art show. My fake kids record “River Tam & The Fireflies” spread around the internet like wild fire and sold out at the show. That was a huge turning point for me and my career as a pop culture artist. Then along the way more opportunities arose as more and more people saw my artwork. I had another career before this working in film and video games as an artist, but i’m happy to have moved on from that world to where i’m currently at.
Q: Has becoming a parent changed your art?
A: Hmmm that’s a great question. My wife and I have two amazing baby boys, and currently I’d have to say the only thing that’s changed my art is the time I have to dedicate to it. I work from home and while that sounds really great, and for the most part it is, it comes with it’s own set of challenges. I’ve definitely had to become more efficient in my use of time, but that’s still hard because sometimes I don’t have it in me, but they’re both napping and I have an hour window to make something happen. But I think i’m starting to want to make something that I can share with my children and that goes back to wanting to create characters and worlds and tell stories in them.
Q: When are we getting your interpretation of porgs?
A: Ha! I’m VERY excited for the Last Jedi. I’m going to sit on the fence with Porg related art until I’ve seen the film. What if they turn out to be the Jar Jar of The Last Jedi?!? Then I’ve created a bunch of Porg prints that nobody wants to buy. I remember going to the theater just to see the trailer for The Phantom Menace and thinking “There’s no way this will be disappointing!” (For the record, i’m 98% sure Porg’s will be awesome.)
Q: What are you most excited for this Christmas?
I’m excited to take some time away from my desk and be with my family. This has been a busy year for me, I still have some freelance projects to wrap up and then I have a bunch of books arriving any day that I have to ship out to Kickstarter backers, so my year is far from over, but once those all go out and my work is done for the year, i’m looking forward to trying to relax (i don’t really take time for that…ever) and enjoy being a dad and husband without deadlines hanging around me. Oh and Star Wars. I’m very excited for a new Star Wars movie.
Q: What’s next for you? Cons? Prints? Projects?
A: I’ve got a bunch of cons lined up next year, with my first one in March I think. So my goal is to work on my own personal project until Con season kicks in and then get back in the swing of things with new prints. I find myself wanting to write a lot lately, so i’m going to take some time to do that and listen to the spark of an idea I’m currently figuring out. Last time I did that it led me to where I am today, so i’m very excited about this new project and looking forward to diving into it.