INTERVIEW: Graphic Artist Andrew Sebastian Kwan
Andrew Sebastian Kwan is a published freelance artist based in Toronto, Canada.
Andrew writes, illustrates and publishes his own comics; The Work and GEL and is the character designer for Nanomyte Studios and their multimedia series Injection. He has also done design work for the video game Move or Die, Parks Canada Original (clothing line), TeeFury, BustedTees, Ript Apparel, University of Toronto and Hero Complex Gallery.
I first came across Andrew's work when I was looking for some movie poster inspiration. I was about 1 hour deep into an internet black hole of movie posters and fan artwork when I found his minimalist poster series and stopped in my tracks. I loved the imagery he used, taking unexpected film frames not usually associated with marketing of the films. Simple and so effective.
Andrew took some time out of illustrating his latest instalment of comic series GEL to talk with me about his process. We talked about how GEL came about, his movie inspirations and writing a Game of Thrones book for children.
Read/Watch our interview below.
AD: I've got a really cool guest joining me today all the way from Canada, he is an artist an illustrator, he is a comic book creator and character designer. He is also a bit of a Game of Thrones super fan which I think is really cool, it is Andrew Sebastian Kwan
AK: Hi, thanks for having me
AD: Thanks for being here. I'm really excited we can just sit down and chat a little bit about movies because I know you're a bit of a movie fan, so I love that
AK: A little bit
AD: Just a little bit. I actually wanted to get started before jumping into your background. I want to let you know how I first came across your work actually. So here's the story.
I was looking for some inspiration to decorate my office space, this actual office and I came across a poster series that you designed where you took really cult classic, all the cool pop movies and you had paired them back in this minimalistic poster design. I just thought it was really really cool. I loved the whole series. I could already pick out 8 in my mind and I thought it would look really great as a feature on a wall. All lovely framed and printed out. I'll definitely flash up some images on the screen so our audience can see what i'm talking about. I really loved that series, it was really cool.
AK: Thank you yeah that's the series that kind of blew up in a way where I had no idea it was going to catch on so much. I consider myself more an illustrator more than anything else and this series actually came about where throughout, I almost did a movie poster every day for the year of 2017 and I did that because that entire year I was actually working on a graphic novel and that was like a full-time job and I realised that "oh I'm not allowed to post any of the drawings that I'm doing" so for instagram I couldn't post any of the work I was doing. So I needed to figure out a way for my followers to know I'm still alive and doing stuff and I thought this was kind of a really cool experimental thing to do on the side and then it just caught on. I was really stunned with how many people really enjoyed them.
AD: So fantastic. I think it's also awesome because you've taken images that aren't always necessarily associated with the film. So you've taken sometimes more obscure which is just really fun. To see them all together, it's really cool. So how many did you end up doing in total?
AK: I think initially once I actually started the series I only had about 10 that I actually wanted to do in mind. Then the main place I was posting them was on Tumblr and then more and more people started following them and messaging me and I just suddenly said "you know what, I'm going to open them up to requests." Then I ended up doing them every day and I thought maybe I can reach 300, I'm not sure how many that is or how many days are left in the year but I thought 300 would be a good number and I don't know if I got to 300 but I definitely got close.
AD: I love that you did so many that you don't even know how many there are in total. That's when you know you've done a lot!
AK: I was thinking, man, have I even seen 30 movies?
AD: Have you seen every single one of those movies that you've done posters for?
AK: I have yeah because when I opened them up to requests anyone could send me a movie to request but I could only do the ones where I had seen them. Thankfully just going back and looking, I ending up watching a really wide range of different types of movies which I'm pretty happy with and I think everybody should go and watch all these types of movies.
AD: You just reminded me that I think it was on Tumblr that I think that I found you. Yeah scrolling through the page and the sheer volume of posters and like I said going through them and "oh I love that one, I love that one."
AK: I definitely tried, like the order I was posting them, I did a lot of bigger movies and I definitely thought that I should post an obscure movies in between. So people who see them they might be introduced to movies they haven't seen yet. So I do Lord of the Rings, The Avengers, The Dark Knight and then I'll throw in Amelie or something. Then people can go "oh what's this movie?"Hopefully some people have found movies that they've never seen before and end up loving through these posters.
AD: Yeah I love that. That's definitely a similar philosophy I have when I bring my movie reviews as well. I love the big action blockbusters but as well I like those indie gems, hard to find more obscure movies and I find for every big movie that I talk about I always like to try and throw in a smaller movie or a foreign movie as well.
Anyway, let's take it back. Let's go back a little bit. I'd love to hear about how you got into this line of work in the first place. What is your background and how did you get into illustration?
AK: My background is illustration more specifically I studied sequential art which is a really fancy term for comic art and I'm one of those kids where every kid draws when they're little and I just never stopped and throughout high school I kind of... I got into comics really late during high school and I thought well this is really cool, people can make a living drawing superheroes and stuff well maybe I'll pursue that and I was actually really interested in storytelling, I wasn't aware that was what was happening, I just really loved that visual communication.
AD: Very cool and what kind of projects are you working on at the moment or have you been working on recently?
AK: At the moment I am working on my own comic series called GEL, it's a post-apocalyptic sci-fi adventure, it's a very manga take on the genre kind of like a mix of Hayao Miyazaki did a combination of Mad Max meets Lord of the Rings and it's full of crazy action, monsters, aliens and just also pairing back and telling this really human story about this girl surviving in a wasteland. I kind of describe this main character who's name is Sera, if Rey was combined with Mad Max. The shoot first ask questions never type of person.
AD: And it's available online and is it also in stores as well?
AK: It's available online. You can actually read it for free on a website called tapas.io and I update every week, new chapters go up every Wednesday. So it goes up for free first and then I collect them in print editions which I usually distribute through my online store or kickstarter.
AD: I'll make sure to leave links to everyone can go check that out.
AD: Now you're also a Game of Thrones fan. You've done some cool artwork. Especially I'd love to talk about the illustrated book that you did called The Winds of Winter which is a Game of Thrones... how would you put that?
AK: I would say it's a book inspired by Game of Thrones. It came about.. there's actually 2 versions, so this actually came about for a class in my college called "children's Illustration" where essentially the entire semester we had to write and illustrate a children's book and I was kind of racking my brain on what to do because I thought "oh my god, I've never really written anything for children or all ages." I think at the time Game of Thrones was airing and I just thought well I just had the title The Winds of Winter stuck in my mind and then just sitting on the subway to a class I just started thinking about these rhymes and I literally wrote the story on a train to school. Then I forget which season of Game of Thrones where the coolest 10 year old girl was introduced Lyana Mormont and I thought "this girl is so awesome." I think it was just by coincidence I was going through old files and I saw the original files for my book and I thought "you know what, if I redrew this book starring Lyana Mormonth, that would be a really perfect fit." So that's what I did and I guess the rest is history.
AD: Yeah! Well it's a beautiful illustrated book. You've brought two worlds together that do no belong together: children and Game of Thrones.
AD: So you've done the undoable.
AK: That being said, for all you listeners. It's not a book where it's just shock and awe and really gory but in a cutesy sort of way. It's a very genuine kind of poem and fairytale. I kind of imagined it like, I wrote the poem thinking this is something parents like characters in the world of Westeros would tell their kinds at night. This rhyme called The Winds of Winter.
AD: Let's get a little bit more back into movies. Now, what is the movie that stands out in your mind as one of the key films that made you fall in love with movies, maybe when you were a little bit younger?
AK: Oh, I don't know if I could say, when I was younger because I guess movies were just on in the background my entire life and I really never paid any real attention. They were always this thing that was there and I never started really paying attention to movies until later in life, in my teen years and I think it was probably The Dark Knight... because I was always into the comic books and Batman and stuff and I guess growing up we had the very campy Joel Schumacher Batman's and the X-Men movies and the Spiderman movies and some of those were really great, some of those not so great, they really never impacted me that much. It wasn't until The Dark Knight where it was so undeniably great and different than anything that came before. I thought wow. What's going on there, why exactly is it different, why does it stand out? Why do I find myself returning to that movie over and over and over again?
AD: That's a brilliant one. That is also probably a stand out for me as well that really made me pay attention to superhero movies because I myself didn't quite, I haven't got a big background in the comic book world and that was one of the first movies that really made me pay attention to the superhero genre and get really interested just because it's so different.
AK: I guess growing up so many of the pop cuture superhero genre, so many of those things I was introduced to through adaptations, like TV series and movies and stuff, I never really found myself looking at any of the original material until having seen Batman Begins and The Dark Knight and really getting into that and thinking ok where exactly did this come from.
AD: And you've done some cool artwork, Batman themed artwork haven't you?
AK: Yeah, I think I've done a few. I think the 2 of my personal favourites are, there's this one where I did a Mad Max meets Batman type piece where I keep going to Mad Max, it's just so great! I had really fun exploring what the Batmobile would look like if it was torn apart and put back together in a Mad Max style and doing the joker like one of Immortan Joe's war boys, I thought that worked perfectly. Another piece I really liked was this very minimalist graphic design style poster for The Dark Knight. I called it "Christopher Nolan's 7 Psychopaths" in reference to another movies and doing a minimalist style for each villain in the Christopher Nolan trilogy and the 7th psychopath being Batman himself.
AD: Oohhh twist.
AK: Plot twist.
AD: I've got a question that I love finish up with. If you could hang out with any movie character who is alive or maybe has died an onscreen death, who would you like to hang out with?
AK: So I think this was pretty easy question for me to answer right now. If you'd asked me a year ago it would be a little bit more difficult. But after having seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi I would definitely have to say Master Yoda! Specifically has to be the puppet Yoda because he's just so full of crazy wisdom and so full of humour and I just want to spend the rest of my days hanging with that little guy.
AD: That's a fantastic answer. I love that! I was not expecting that answer. But then actually now that I think about it and knowing your interests maybe that is the best answer. The perfect answer.
AK: He shows up in Empire and Return of the Jedi he's definitely the Yoda so many people grew up knowing. But for me prequels and Yoda being there fully CGI and how he's written and his dialogue and demeanour is very different from the original and then seeing The Last Jedi and being reminded of how Yoda used to be in the original trilogy. Oh my god this is so fantastic and I completely forgot that this is what Yoda used to be, just the pure unadulterated crazy little frog creature that was living in that swamp. I thought he's just so fun.
AD: So fun! Crazy little frog creature. That is a quote. Did you like what they did with Yoda in The Last Jedi? You were a fan?
AK: I loved it because he was definitely something where literally everything that he said was just so full of wisdom that you can keep going back and finding different meanings depending on where you are in your life and it, everything was just pure truth from that character and that movie.
AD: Great answer. I love that so much. Awesome well thank you Andrew so much for chatting with me today. I thought that was really fun, just sitting down talking some movies, talking a little bit about the artwork and stuff that you've created because I absolutely love it. Where can people find more from you?
AK: So people can find me at my instagram where I post pretty much every day. You can find me at @the.andrewkwan and that's pretty much the place where you can find me and chat I'm always procrastinating and just checking my instagram where I should be doing work.
AD: And how long until the next installment of Gel is out, Volume 4
AK: Volume 4 I think it might be sometime in August/September 2018 because I do release them 3 at a time on kickstarter so whenever it comes up it'll be Vol. 4, 5, 6 and then 7, 8, 9. So I'm going to release them in 3 parts.
AD: Great. So Volume 1,2 and 3 are available now for those that are interested. I'll make sure to get those link and leave everything on screen and down below so people can go and find you and support you and support your work.