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"Hey ium, get your butt going. You got another Arterview!"
"Huh? Where to?"
I really hope it's not too far... Honestly, I wish Smeargle's Studio had more artists in New York. Although my last Arterview with Volmise was only in Michigan, the trip back home felt like it took eons. I couldn't bear to take a longer plane ride, especially across countries. Well, on the bright side, I guess it's nice to constantly meet and talk with some of my favorite artists on Smogon...
"Well, there's Australia, or Sweden, or E-"
"Okay, okay. Shit, I got it."
I get out of the airport, only to be greeted with an excruciating, scorching wave of heat coming from the sun. I'm now in Australia, but I really don't know what to expect of it. Am I going to get mauled by kangaroos and koalas? Are there going to be drop bears? I continue to think about it until I arrive at a quaint, little house. But what's this? There's an absurd amount of cats everywhere—the window sills, the porches, the garden—with their eyes all fixated on me. They're pretty creepy... and for a moment, I considered getting the heck out of here. However, the door opens and a young man, slightly younger than myself, invites me into the house.
"Come in! Take a seat, and have some Vegemite on toast if you'd like!"
I take a nibble, and immediately feel a slimy, jelly-like substance. Then, a stinging, bitter taste coats my tongue to the point where I gag. Note to self: Vegemite is nasty. I really wanted to wash down the taste with a glass of water, but I had to start the Arterview...
So Ritter, just give me a little information about yourself and where you currently reside.
I'm a 16-year-old student living in Melbourne, Australia. I'm looking to do something in science for a career but I'm not really sure yet.
How did you come across Pokémon in general?
Actually, I only got into Pokémon when I was 14, in year 8. My friend was getting everyone into Shoddy Battle.
So I assume that's what brought you to Smogon? Or are there more reasons as to why you joined?
Yeah, through that I found Smogon, but I quickly got bored of battling. However, I then found Smeargle's Studio. I was more interested in spriting originally, but saw a thread where someone drew on their iPod, so I tried it out and posted my thread, and it just went from there.
Wow, drawing on an iPod... I would never do that. Considering you joined a while ago, how was your experience at Smeargle's Studio like back then?
It was late 2010 back then, with aragornbird (Arkeis) and CyzirVisheen as mods. The mods were much less involved, and there were less forum activities similar to the ones we see today. But it was a really great time, and I really enjoyed it. For my first year on Smogon, I hardly left Smeargle's Studio, so I was really centered around my thread. As I wasn't doing art for the Smog I spent the whole time doing requests. There were a few users who would be frequent posters on the thread, and we formed a really close, tight-knit group.
How have you changed over the years at Smogon? I'm talking about just in general, not necessarily with art only.
Oddly enough, RitterCat appears to be daydreaming. It's as if he was in a daze with his eyes fixated at the windows. Maybe he was just staring at the kangaroos outside? I wave my hand to grab his attention.
Uh... just with art only?
No, just in general.
Oh, um... ah, okay.
Ritter scratches his head and takes a moment to think. Meanwhile, I was sitting very still, with the exception of my twiddling thumbs in anticipation of a response.
When I joined I was only 14, so I was a little bit less mature, but honestly I'm much the same person. I'm older now, and the lovely people here at Smogon have definitely affected me growing up but I'm largely the same. The one thing I have realized is that one should never speak in leetspeak. Unfortunately 14-year-old me thought it was cool to say "liek" back then. Seriously, check out my old visitor messages. I would message someone when I finished piece saying "here u go, hope you liek."
I was in disbelief. Ritter? Leetspeak? You have got to be kidding me.
Hahaha, really? So how did you go from leetspeaking Ritter to Grammar-Prose Team pro?
Actually, getting into GP was how I moved out of just Smeargle's Studio. I had always been pretty good at English at school so I tried it out late 2011. I also found IRC around the same time, so I got to meet all of the wonderful people at #grammar.
Moving on, what is your history with art?
I just always drew. I only started drawing all the time in grade 3 in school, where they gave us these notepad-type things to have in class and I would just draw on them all the time. Still today, all of my school books and work sheets are covered with drawings. My experience with digital art started basically the day I started my thread. I found the iPod app, did some (really bad) drawings, and posted them. From then on I improved only by doing a ton of requests and looking at good artists/pieces of art to try and work out what they did. Practice is the number one thing for becoming good at art, especially if you're self taught. This year I actually did art in school, but it was useless and taught me nothing.
Though you say that you look at other artists' works for study or reference, your art is really unique. How would you describe your style? And better yet, how did you develop it?
I guess I always lean towards a more bold, cartoon style, because it's easier than realistic and painterly, haha. I just really like making my drawings have expression, because while sometimes the technical quality in a work will just astound me, if it's fairly good quality but bland and boring I would prefer expression and character and slightly less quality any day. This doesn't mean you can give a picture a goofy face and ignore line art and shading and whatever, but the character of a piece really makes it for me, so I guess I always try to reflect that.
Yeah, you definitely found a balance in your work; what I notice in many of your pieces is that you still have some attention to detail like lighting and such but at the same time you have that animated cartoon look. However, have you tried to delve into some intricate or daring pieces that you don't explore often?
Sometimes I'll think to myself, "let's try painting without line art one more time, maybe it'll go better this time." It's always a mess. Partially that might be the restrictions of using an iPhone, I'm not sure, but I can never get it to work well. I'm sure with enough time I might get there, but in the meantime I'm too accustomed to line art to innovate. I do attempt to try new things with my shading, however, with which colors I use, technique, backlighting, etc. And expressions are much easier to do with line art. One thing I would like to do is make my pieces more... atmospheric. As in, have a theme running through with colors and background getting across a theme/emotion (think Bummer's latest MAC entry), so I'm kind of working on that at the moment. For way too long I just did single Pokémon pictures with no background and a standard top left light source, and while those are still fun (and great for expressions), breaking out from that would be nice.
I see. So we talked about forum activities running around in Smeargle's Studio, but very recently, you have become a badged Community Contributor yourself. And it's obviously because you're involved with contributing art in various areas of the site like hubs, Smogon media, contests, projects, and much more. However, the biggest thing I notice is that you give encouragement or advice to new artists unlike many other people. What drives you to do that?
When I joined, since I was so new to digital art, I was really bad, but the nice words and encouragement from people in my thread made me want to keep drawing. And as I kept drawing and did requests, the help of the people who replied and pure practice helped me improve. So while it's easy to look at a new thread from a first time artist and ignore it cause it's pretty bad, giving them encouragement and advice can hopefully help them like it helped me.
So what do you think about the most recent community projects? Namely the ongoing card project and recently-finished Secret Santa?
I think community projects are great for the Studio; they bring in activity and are a really nice way of getting everyone involved in doing something together. Props to icepick for being the king of projects, with the legendary Battle Free For All and now the great Card Project (I will definitely be buying it). Meanwhile, Secret Santa is always a fun thing to look forward to every year. So here's to many more awesome projects in the future!
And your enthusiasm definitely shows, especially when you went out of your way to do an extra drawing for Secret Santa! Anyway, any plans in the future, whether it's artistic or otherwise?
I'd like to do something in science or maths for my career; I find physics and maths both really interesting, but I don't have a specific direction at the moment. For art, I don't think it'll ever be overly serious or any sort of career.
It has always just been a hobby for you.
Yeah, for me it's always just been a hobby. A little fun thing I do in my spare time. I've never really considered doing graphic design or anything. I'll probably keep it as just a fun, relaxing part of my life like it is now. I don't think I'll stop drawing at any point in the future however!
I would hope so! And finally, I'm sure everyone knows this already, but what's your favorite Pokémon?
Ritter laughs for a moment. Of course, the answer is so obvious...
Purugly! I have a thing for cats, and Purugly is by far the best cat Pokémon. And despite the rudeness of the namers at at Game Freak, it is cute; people just draw it wrong. Mienshao would have to be a close second, however.
And so that concludes the Arterview! Thanks for letting me interview you Ritter!
So we're done?
Before I was able to say anything, Ritter instantly jumps up and gives me a high five. How much more enthusiastic could this guy get?
RitterCat's style can often be described as "cartoony" and whimsical. Basically, the anatomy of the Pokémon are exaggerated rather than drawn to absolute perfection, the expressions are clearly shown, and the art is classified as being rather simplistic. However, that's not all that RitterCat has to offer. Any person can clearly see that he still pays great attention to certain details like shading and lighting, and utilizing variations in brush softness and colors. This combination is what makes RitterCat's pieces absolutely unique. No, they're not the cleanest, nor are they the most complex and intricate ones that Smeargle's Studio has to offer. Rather, Ritter's art is generally adorable, bright in color, and really simple. When I think of his work, I think of back-to-basics: every single piece has the lines, colors, and shading down just right.
While there's no doubt that RitterCat has the foundations of art under his belt, there needs to be extra praise for his style. It stays so true to Ritter's own nature, being expressive and cheeky no matter what. You cannot hand any artwork done by RitterCat to a person and expect him or her to not understand the character and emotion being conveyed in the piece. That is RitterCat's strength in his artwork, and that is why his art is adored by many people, veteran artists and general Smogon members alike.
Feel free to check our RitterCat's artwork in his Smeargle's Studio thread here! You will not be disappointed. If that isn't true, then I don't know what the damn hell is wrong with you.
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