WARNING: INTERVIEW CONTAINS NUDITY
Hi Branko! Now you're a familiar name to us here at 3DTotal – your work's been in our mags, on our website and our Digital Art Masters series… but what about the guy behind the art? I'm intrigued because while your website is full of amazing images, there's zero information about you! So to kick things off, could you give us a quick overview about who you are, where you're from and what you're up to work-wise at the moment?
Howdy Jo! Well, where to begin… I suppose the same place I would if you met me in person: appearance. I'm a short, big-nosed Serbo-Croatian, with one leg calf significantly smaller than the other, which is dashingly complimented by a small scar over my left eye. Now that I've got the ladies salivating I can tell you I currently live in Toronto, Canada, having moved here from the former Yugoslavia when I was six with my mum and pops. Currently I'm employed at 9 Story Entertainment and am responsible for all things color, and the creation of Title Slates.
(Laughs) You've made yourself sound like a pirate with that description! But you've also given me the perfect opening for my next question: Title Slates. What are they and what does the work involve?
Ah, that's easy. A Title Slate is an illustration consisting of the name of the animated episode in fancy letters, along with a fancy illustration of the character doing something exaggerated that links with the plot of the story. They're quite fun to do, although it's a challenge taking a flat 2D character with ridiculously shortened limbs and giving them volume while still keeping the model accurate. Luckily, I have a wicked director who gives me as much freedom as I could want, so even though I have to knock out one of these a week at high res, along with regular duties, I nonetheless find it a pleasure.
Onto the art! Now I've checked out your gallery and there's a definite theme running through it – fantasy and sci-fi. As a big fan of this genre myself, I can totally get on board with that. But there's also a dark twist to the majority of your work – in the words of our editor Simon, you make "innocent things seem horrible” (Laughs). What's that all about? What is it about this juxtaposition of innocence/light with twisted/dark that attracts you?
Until the age of six, I was reared on Grimm fairytales. Then I moved to Canada and was more or less "Disneyfied”. Despite this fact, one thing that remained constant to me – even in Disney's re-tellings – is that the villain in fairytales is usually quite terrifying.
A proper villain fills us with fear, anxiety and fascination, and the best ones have a certain malice that is convincing enough to make you feel that that kind of evil could exist. Long after the story itself is forgotten that feeling lingers, and for that reason I try to incorporate a bit (or a lot) of malice into everything I produce – hoping that will help it linger. For that same reason I try to add beauty where it isn't expected. For instance, in "Someone Hug That Witch” there are flower petals streaming from her hair – a suggestion that even a horror like that still has a part of her that can, at least for a moment, stop and appreciate the beauty of some pretty pink and red petals. She's willing to put them in her hair because she thinks they make her look more beautiful… The fact that she would even think herself beautiful is both horrific and somehow pathetic.
On a more deadpan note, I should add that I grew up with very liberal parents. They let me watch Friday the 13th, Halloween etc., when I was six, and I'm pretty damn sure that has something to do with it. Oh and also, I like gloves with claws.
That's pretty hardcore stuff for a six-year old! I can still remember being terrified by the spitting dinosaurs in Jurassic Park when I was nine and that killing off any desire I had to watch even vaguely scary films… seems like you thrive on them. You mentioned a lot of fairytale influences there – who would be your top fairytale villain?
Ah, hard to say… I'm really not sure what my favorite is! The earliest villains I can remember visually are Giger's Alien and Freddy Krueger. As for fairytales, I'd have to say the wolf. It's hard to say he's my favorite though, because he is truly revolting and terrifying. Not some charismatic badass, but a real monster and one that made an impact on me. I was told the original version by my uncle when I was young, so I remember Little Red Riding Hood as a horror story more than a happy kid story. Recently I've been reading up on old fairytales and have come across some truly revolting stuff. I was surprised to discover that my uncle wasn't lying or even exaggerating in his retelling – let me share a few (I'll warn you, they're pretty grim…)
Little Red Riding Hood. So there are many variations to this fable, but in the very early tales the wolf eats the grandmother and Red and that's that. They aren't rescued in the end; he simply just gobbles them up. That's kind of crappy and creepy, sure, but more disturbing though is that in one version the wolf, still disguised as the grandmother, leaves some of the grandmother's remains out for Red. He tells her he has prepared the meal for her, and yep, she eats it, never realizing she's consuming her own grandmamma!
There are a few others as well. In a version of Sleeping Beauty, the queen is a descendent of ogres and has an appetite for little children. And in The Juniper Tree, a jealous step-mother decapitates her step-son, places his head back on his body and gets her daughter to slap the boy, knocking his head off and causing the daughter to believe she killed her brother. Then, to top it off, the step-mother makes a stew out of the boy's body… Hannibal Lector, eat your heart out!
Wonderful stuff, no?