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Barton Damer Interview

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In this interview, Barton shares with us his humble beginnings and the story of how he landed his first clients, launched his career, built contacts, and over time became more selective with his freelance work. Barton has a tremendous amount of energy and it shows in his motion inspired colorful work. He has loads of experience and a creative, passionate spirit, which is inspirational. This is an awesome read, so lets get to it!

1. Welcome to Psdtuts+, please introduce yourself. Could you tell us where you're from and how you got started in the field?

My name is Barton Damer. I'm originally from the Washington DC area but have transplanted to Dallas, TX within the last couple years. I got my start drawing patent illustrations straight out of college. It was terrible. You have to trace objects all day long in a specific format that meets government regulations and have lawyers tell you what tweaks to make to the drawings. I didn't stay there long.

2. What's your day job? And how much do you freelance? How do the two influence each other? And where do you find all this time and energy? How do you balance your family and work life?

I work for RT Creative Group. We're actually four companies under one roof but I focus mostly on creating motion work for Ignitermedia.com as well as writing and illustrating for Collidemagazine.com. I've been stoked to freelance in the evenings for some really rad clients.

It's nice because I'm able to experiment with various styles at work and then really focus in on my own style with the freelance projects. I'm married with 3 kids so I stay active. I live 3 miles from the largest skate park in Texas and it's open until 11pm. A good skate session will get me pumped up to come home and crank on a project for a few hours while the kids are asleep!

Lately, I've been trying to take on bigger clients but faster/less involved projects in order to balance out the work and family life. Because I have a great day job, I'm able to be super picky about my freelance work and only take on pieces that I detect will have a lot of freedom and ultimately be a portfolio piece. That's a great position to be in! It's not hard to freelance in the evenings when you are really stoked on your clients and their projects.

3. Could you describe your work? How do you think motion graphics and your digital art influence each other? Also, what are your artistic influences?

Depth. Movement. Color. My digital artwork is heavily influenced by the motion graphics I create. I combine Illustrator, Photoshop, C4d, After Effects and traditional drawing techniques. I like the sense of motion even when it is a still print piece. My artistic influences include Salvador Dali, Billy Graham - the famous rock poster artist, and any of the artists that create for Shilo, Psyop, Buck, or Stardust! Those studios produce the most beautiful artwork - and it moves too! ;-)

4. How do your hobbies, beliefs, and passions influence your work? What role does skating and religion play in your life?

I've been skateboarding ever since the first Back to the Future. Thank you Michael J. Fox! The skateboard culture has helped to shape my style with its fashion, artwork, and music. My faith in Jesus Christ plays an important role as it inspires, motivates, and affects my daily decision making. I'm able to communicate that faith through a lot of my artwork.

5. What role does Photoshop play in your workflow? And does it come into play in your motion design work or is it just for your digital artwork? What other software is on your top list of digital tools?

Photoshop is where it all comes together and I can composite a final piece. So I may render elements out from C4d or bring in something I drew from Illustrator to get the end results. Photoshop plays the key role of being able to manipulate and composite those elements into a final seamless composition. I use PS for video as well. I love to apply a batch action to each frame of a video to get various effects that would not be possible straight out of AE. It's rewarding to combine a little bit from each software package to end up with something that is hopefully unique and engaging.

6. What are the greatest experiences you've had participating in online art communities?

Meeting other talented artists and keeping in touch. It's so nice to be updated and inspired by other people's work. About 5 (or so) years ago I had to rely on buying books or magazines once a month for inspiration. Having accessibility to various artists through blogs, twitter, etc. gives you so much insight into the industry, their process, their successes and failures. Things you may never experience if you don't land a great design job shortly after school.

7. What project are you currently working on? Could you tell us about one of your favorite projects? What excites you most about these projects? What would be your dream project?

By day, I've always got some fun stuff happening whether it's motion or illustration. Those projects are exciting for me because my skills are being used to communicate something very important in my life, christian faith. As far as client work in the evenings, I do motion graphics for the Kayo Corp - DGK, Organika, Gold, and Expedition. The motion piece I'm doing for DGK is going to be one of the trailers included on the next Tony Hawk video game.

That's pretty cool. I also work with Kareem Campbell who recently relaunched City Stars, as well as 2 new adventures: Guapo, and Hype. My favorite projects? Well, it changes all the time. I'll get stoked on a piece right after I finish it and then I'm over it by the time it gets back from the printer. At the moment, I'm really pleased with the pitch ad I created for the SUPRA Skytop (the shiny red shoe with the bling around it).

I've gotten a lot of great feedback on it as well so that always feels good. My most recent/favorite motion piece I've created is THAT'S MY KING REMIX - mainly because of the inspirational voice over.

I suppose my dream project would be more of an ongoing thing. I think it would be rad to have my own clothing line at boutique/skate shops! Either that or work with Rob Dyrdek at the Fantasy Factory! ha ha!

8. What changes have you undergone in your workflow as an artist over the years? And what changes do you anticipate in the future? Do you plan what you might tackle next - set targets on a dart board, or do you more roll with things as they happen?

In general, the industry is always changing and you will always need to adapt. I've dabbled with everything from Flash all the way to video shoots/editing and of course, layout/graphic design. More recently, I think learning Cinema 4d has really been a catalyst for my vision as an artist. I feel really comfortable and have more ideas that feel unique now that I've added that medium.

I suppose I'll always be developing my knowledge of software in order to stay current and have more options for expression. Motion Graphics are just an extension of graphic art that broadens what an artist has to offer as well as adds another form of creative expression. I've not set targets necessarily. I always have a handful of goals/dreams that I pursue just in case one of them blows up and allows me to quit working and skate all day long! I'll let you know how that goes. ;-)

9. What tutorials have you created? Do you see yourself growing as an educator in the future? Might we see more educational material from you in the future?

Hmmm. I don't think you'll find me as an educator in the future although "never say never." Right? What goes around, comes around. If I'm willing to share knowledge I believe it will be that much easier for me to gain knowledge as well. As the saying goes "Be a river, not a reservoir." Here are some tutorials I've created, which are available online:

  1. Plus Tutorial for Psdtuts+
  2. Intricate Patterns in Illustrator for Gomedia
  3. Bling Effect in Photoshop for Gomedia
  4. Ink Bleeding Effect in After Effects for Gomedia
  5. Cineversity.com tutorial for Maxon C4d. The title "Autumn Leaves" under the Illustration Track. You have to be a member though.

10. Any business tips for entry level artists and designers? How did you land some of your first clients? And later some larger clients?

Get online and stay online! Use Flickr. Vimeo. Youtube. Blog. Twitter. Throw your portfolio on your Facebook, Myspace, etc. Without spending a dime on a fancy website, you can get your work out there and that's how things happen. Keep it updated as well. If you don't have time, make time. Buy a domain name and point it to your online portfolio. If you are operating as a business rather than just displaying your personal artwork, you'll probably want to invest in a simple but professional site that you can update on your own.

My first clients came from word of mouth. Just random people I knew who needed logos, business cards, web graphics, etc. Eventually, I was able to raise rates and start becoming more selective. A couple years ago, I began only posting projects I love. I pulled down logos, brochures, etc. off my portfolio and only posted digital art. The result, people started contacting me for digital art!

I landed larger clients via the web. My work just sort of got spread around. If you do a great job for a band, they'll likely send other bands to you, etc. I've done work for skate shops and that led to doing work for skate companies. The skate companies liked working with me and told their friends (apparel & shoe companies). A lot of the skate stuff is based on who you know. It's a tight knit industry. Skaters like working with skaters. I've been blessed to meet and skate with a lot of people in the industry over the years.

11. Thanks again for participating in the interview Barton. It's been awesome working with you and best of luck on all your future projects. Any final thoughts for our readers?

Thanks for the interview Sean/Psdtuts+! I'm always on the site learning new stuff myself. I think it's a great thing you have going on. People need to buy the Plus membership. It's so cheap compared to schooling and you'll probably learn more!! ;-)

Where to find Barton on the Web

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