From Ken’s Bio:
I grew up playing in the coal hills of Union Bay dreaming of designing future worlds and creatures for George Lucas. Decades later, after working for numerous companies, including LucasFilm, I find myself back at home being amazed at the beauty of the island I left. I’m thrilled to say that technology has enabled me to bring my wonderful young family back to Courtenay where I continue to pursue my craft.
Ken’s artwork ranges from sports to fantasy. His career has led him to producing the artwork for video games and kid’s television shows. He also spent time working for Lucas Arts, any geeks dream come true.
Ken was nice enough to conduct an email interview with me this week. Read it after the Jump.
- Your work is pretty diverse, as fantasy and sports often don’t mix. Do you find that it is tough to jump from one genre to the other?
Not really, the fact that they’re so different means that they don’t cross over much. Its easy to have a different approach and mindset for both. With my film / television / book fantasy work it’s all problem-solving and invention. Usually I’ll be given or create certain parameters for why the scenario / character / object that I’m depicting exists and I try to be true to them, making the resulting work seem as plausible as possible. With that type of art, be it Sci-fi or pure fantasy, you’re trying to make it as immersive and captivating as possible. So a lot of effort goes into conveying why it is compelling, why the viewer should be interested. With sports art, specifically my cartoons, I’m trying to comment on or editorialize real world events that involve well-known personalities. The challenge there is to encapsulate, as succinctly as possible, what my point of view is on that event and why I think it deserves attention / scrutiny. The difference between these two forms of artwork is almost right and left brained, at least in their initial approach. As far as jumping between them I really don’t have a problem. Both types of artwork have their own unique challenges which I enjoy and jumping from one to the other affords me a bit of a mental recharge. As well… I’m always learning from each image I make and those lessons and techniques carry over to the next piece that I create.
- How was your LucasArts experience? What projects did you work on?
LucasArts was a bit of a dream come true. I’ve always said that my calendar, my childhood memories really started in 1977 when the lights when down in a small theatre in Peace River, Alberta, and the title STAR WARS burst onto the screen. I had always drawn as a kid but seeing that film gave my imagination and emerging skill-set a focus and purpose that it hadn’t had before. So, when I got to visit SkyWalker Ranch for the first time… it was a pretty amazing moment for me. On the other hand it was a bit of a disappointment for me as well because I wasn’t working as an artist for George Lucas, instead I was managing artists in one of his companies. I also came into the LucasFilm conglomerate after more than a decade of professional experience and while the underlying magic of being part of LucasFilm persisted, that starry eyed wonder quickly gave way to the practical realities of my job and the productions I was a part of. That being said I wouldn’t trade it for the world and cherish the experience and the people I met. It’s not often that you get to go to a Halloween party dressed as a Jedi Academy janitor and get to screen George Lucas for his midi-chlorian count, or play softball in the LucasFilm employee league at the Skywalker Ranch field and worry about hitting the ball so hard that it might bounce off of the warehouse where the Millennium Falcon is stored. Seriously… these are the things you concern yourself with when you’re working for George Lucas. It was a very strange mental space at times.
In regards to the projects I worked on there were a number, the most exciting of which was the video game adaption of EP III, Revenge of the Sith. The great thing about that project was seeing all of the footage and conceptual material before anyone else got to see it. I think that project, more than any, encapsulated what working at LucasFilm was all about. Amazing talent, cutting edge technology, daunting production hurdles and some of the most iconic characters ever created… amazing. Every day we’d see something cooler, learn a bit more… it was a very exciting time. Other projects I worked on were Mercenaries, Star Wars Battlefront, Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, Star Wars Republic Commando, Armed and Dangerous and Secret Weapons over Normandy.
- Who have been your artistic influences?
Well, as I mentioned above, Star Wars has had a pretty amazing influence on my career as have a number of Sci-Fi films. I’d say that every film / TV show that I saw, from Aliens to The Thing to Buck Rogers etc. all fueled my imagination and had me drawing more and more. Another massive influence on my career and development was playing Dungeons and Dragons when I was younger. I would draw everyones characters, creatures, settings, weapons etc. for every quest and adventure. Not only was that world inspiring but the amount of drawing I did really pushed my skill-set when I needed it to happen. As far as individual artists that inspired me growing up I’d say Frank Frazetta for his technique and imagination, Syd Mead and of course, Ralph McQuarrie.
- You have had your artwork featured in a number of places. Where has it appeared that makes you the proudest?
That’s a tough one but I think I’d have to say that my new strip “StraightJAB” which is published weekly in The Georgia Straight in Vancouver takes that honor. My sports cartoons started off as a hobby more than anything, a melding of my passion for sports and the art of editorial cartoons. I never really had a plan for them initially and they’ve taken on a life of their own now. I’m pretty proud of that and the fact that one of Canada’s most iconic independent weekly newspapers choose to take them on.
- Who are you picking to win the Stanley Cup this season?
That’s a tough one. I figure that Montreal and the NY Rangers will make the Eastern final and that San Jose and Anaheim will make the Western final. From there I think it will be San Jose and the Rangers who make it through that slugfest and I think that the hated (at least here in British Columbia) New York Rangers will pull it out. I think San Jose will be too beaten up and Nabakov too worn out to finish the job. The East is a much easier road, physically, and the defensive minded Rangers with Lundqvist will hoist Lord Stanley. At least that was my theory for my playoff pool.
- What are you working on next?
There always seems to be another project down the road. Along with my continuing StraightJAB and OffsideSPORTS weekly cartoons I’ll continue to work with a few of the local production companies that I have struck up a relationship with to develop conceptual designs for kids TV shows. I’m also working on some card art for some fantasy card games and have been working for over a year on an amazing project that will, hopefully, be starting up soon. Other than that getting my sports cartoon anthologies together and up in the marketplace at LULU is an immediate goal as well.
Thanks everyone… I look forward to sharing more work with you in the future!
Thanks to Ken Henderson for taking the time to respond and I know i’ll be waiting for him to publish his anthology through Lulu.com!