Me: Who are you and what do you do?
Apple Atti: My name is Atticus Diablo Waller, but most folks call me Atti! I’m a super-sincere, neurotic Canadian-American manic pixie dream trans girl living in Seattle, Washington, USA. I do a lot of things (sing, dance, draw, play Pokémon, make music, make comics, write stories and poetry, etc.) but my main passions are 1) practicing unconditional love and radical honesty, and 2) obsessing over monsters. When I’m not ravenously searching for new creature design artwork, creature design books, or kaiju toys for my collection, I’m usually working on Farmland Monsters, my original monster encyclopedia project that I’ve been working on since 1999, when I was nine years old. I haven’t changed much, and I’m proud to be continuing the work of my child-self.
Me: Why do you do what you do?
Apple Atti: I do what I do because of a combination of being obsessed and fortunate. Thanks to the support of amazing friends and family, I’ve been able to live a stable life and be who I naturally am, and that frees me up to let my mind wander and get fixated on stories and weird creatures.
Me: How do you work?
Apple Atti: Most of my drawings begin as a concept—either as an idea of something I want to see in the world, or as an illustration for a story in my head. I rarely doodle without something specific in mind.
If I’m drawing a stand-alone character, I usually either begin drawing right in Photoshop, or I use pen and paper for my line art. I never use pencil, so sometimes I draw the same character hundreds of times, trying to get the perfect line art without a sketch. I don’t know why I do that. It’s just how I’ve always worked. Once I’ve finished the line art, I scan it, clean the scan, and I always colour my drawings digitally. If I’m drawing a more complex piece, with scenery, I usually do a rough thumbnail sketch of the layout in pen, scan it, trace the scan in Photoshop, and then clean up the trace and add colour. I often combine methods and digitally drop standalone character drawings into separate scenery drawings.
In Photoshop, I rarely use more than four layers: a line art layer, a mask layer for line colour, a fill colour/shadow layer, and a low-opacity layer for highlights or additional shadows.
From start to finish, I usually take somewhere between 5 and 24 hours of actual drawing to complete a piece, but I stretch that out by taking lots of breaks—it’s hard for me to do one thing for more than 2 hours at a time, so I either take lots of breaks or, if I’m smart, work on several different projects at once so I can jump between them when I get antsy. I drew a comic about my distracted drawing process once: appleatti.tumblr.com/post/109832819524
Me: Would you consider yourself a full-time artist? If yes, what are the joys and struggles that you have experienced in choosing that career? If not, what is your full-time career and how much does your artist side integrate in your life?
Apple Atti: I do art all the time, but not professionally. I used to do freelance graphic design, but while compromising with clients’ needs can be a stimulating challenge, it’s also exhausting. These days, I work full time from home as a customer support specialist at an online education company. Working from home means that during my breaks I have all my art supplies with me and can spend little moments drawing—and I can even practice singing! This, along with the encouragement, support, collaboration and inspiration I get from tumblr followers and the art club I’m a part of (club-crab.tumblr.com), has made art almost as big a part of my daily life in my mid-20’s as it was when I was a homeschooling teenager.
Me: How has your practice change over time/How has your style changed?
Apple Atti: My artwork has always been primarily focused on character/creature design (my first recorded drawings were of flamingoes and frogs). By the time I was twelve, I had an meticulously simple character design style with rounded shapes, designs boiled down to minimal elements, and a total focus on cuteness. I saw this streamlined style as “striving for perfection”, but eventually realized how limiting it was. At 14, I realized while making Halloween decorations that I was incapable of drawing anything frightening, and with years of practice taught myself to draw hideous creatures as well. My style lost some simplicity in the process, but I still preferred more artificially honed designs to free-form, organic ones. Then I went to design school, and emerged exhausted by the rigour of design, and desiring less polished work. For a year or two, my art was little more than frustrated scribbles, but eventually I developed a more relaxed style that still made use of my steady curving lines and blend of horror and kawaii. Right now, I’m practicing integrating scenery into my drawings, instead of always placing characters on stark white backgrounds. No matter what I draw, though, a major focus of mine has always been getting lost in the small details and finding a
Me: What themes do you pursue/What is the inspiration or story behind your art style?
Apple Atti: My style is a result of striving to express life, movement, and emotion without being too hard on myself or striving for realism, and of growing up using pens instead of pencils and therefore being unable to erase or revise. It’s also hugely influenced by my friends and family. If you like my work, I suggest exploring the work of my friends, tumblr users guinnesswalleranimation, butterbeanbun, llliq, qt-milk, gumdropghost, tuesday-cat, huliia, checkok, hpdoodles, ambafius, vavarazzi, skronked, and caplori. I’m sure there’s more I’m forgetting here, too… >_<
Me: What’s your favourite of your own art work/which print means the most to you?
Apple Atti: The artwork that means the most to me is still in progress—it’s the world of Farmland Monsters as a whole, and all the drawings and writing that will go into it. I’ve only just started publishing that, but there’s over 800 monsters, characters, and myths lined up to be released.
In terms of individual drawings, the varied and dramatic reactions people have had to my drawing of Venusaur (appleatti.tumblr.com/post/83489491523) have made it close to my heart.
Aside from that, I’m usually most proud of whatever I drew in the last month or so. Right now, that’s prints like “Mold Ogres” (appleatti.tumblr.com/post/115997312774) and “In Aldo’s Bag” (appleatti.tumblr.com/post/115770379015), and standalone character illustrations for Farmland Monsters, like my drawings for Yaia (farmlandmonsters.tumblr.com/post/115475521496) and Olgooey-Khorkloy (farmlandmonsters.tumblr.com/post/116481332806).
Me: Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?
Apple Atti: When I was in the final quarter of design school, I went to get my portfolio professionally reviewed, but hadn’t received my business cards back from my printers yet. Panicking, I improvised and hand-drew a bunch of business cards, which I gave out to each reviewer at the portfolio review event. Everyone commented on them, and some of the reviewers made it to my end-of-quarter portfolio show, still remembered those cards, and preferred them to my printed business cards. To this day, I hand-draw all of my business cards instead of printing them. A lot of inspiration comes from mistakes like that.
Me: Why art?
Apple Atti: I have an extremely broad definition of art, so I kind of see it as an inherent part of human life. To me, art is essentially the act of a human reinterpreting their experiences, surroundings, and thoughts through acts of creation—and sometimes, the reinterpretation itself is what’s created (as with found art). I make art to entertain myself, to communicate, and to comment on what interests me and on the correlations I draw between different concepts.
This animated gif of Yaia, the giant decapitated space giant in
whose flooded brainpan the Farmland Monsters live, was
something I drew for the front page of farmlandmonsters.com.
I’ve gone through dozens of redesigns of the planet for this project
over the past 16 years, and was inspired to set it on a giant head
after seeing the trailer for the film Guardians of the Galaxy.
Most of the planet’s previous designs have left their mark on the
final, but the details of how are something I’ll have to reveal later…
The “floating head” concept went through many iterations as well,
but I love drawing folds of fat, and felt this robust shape
looked bountiful and welcoming.
Me: What is your artistic outlook on life?
Apple Atti: I think of the artistic outlook as a great sister to the scientific outlook on life—or possibly an alternate form of it.
A scientific mind is driven by a curiosity about what’s out there and how it works and came to be, and as it learns more, it’s inspired by the correlations between the things it learns to combine pieces of knowledge into tools for obtaining more knowledge.
An artistic mind is inspired by the things it learns to talk about and share knowledge and experience, and it’s also fascinated not only by what is out there, but by what’s not out there. An artistic outlook lets me go in between fact, weave around what I’ve learned, and imagine impossible things—but this fantastic theorizing can often feed back into a scientific outlook by suggesting experimental pathways beyond the immediately logical ones.
Me: What memorable responses have you had to your work?
Apple Atti: I love hearing people squeal, laugh, or retch when they see my Venusaur drawing, and it’s always memorable to me when people like my original work more than my fan art. But the most impactful responses to my work have been from my friends and family, for example:
– My grandfather going so far as to financially support my art projects
– My sisters Guinness and Soraya counting me among the biggest influences on their early artistic development
– My friend Erin maintaining a correspondence with me for over a year, during which we wrote each other dozens of poems
– My friend Bunny being inspired in part by my drawings to break out of realism—they’ve since developed some truly fantastic creature designs
– My friend Miguel claiming me as his muse—honestly I don’t think it’s my drawings that lead him to say this, but I feel it had something to do with some form of my creative output.
Me: What do you dislike about your work?
Apple Atti: I dislike the areas in which my lack of skill blocks me from drawing what I have in mind. Right now, my biggest challenges are drawing human bodies and faces, and learning how to balance colour throughout images with high levels of detail and multiple layers of background scenery.
Me: What do you like about your work?
Apple Atti: I like how naturally I’m able to express a sense of life and movement in my drawings, and how smoothly and organically I’m able to produce lines. The latter is something I not only find nice to look at, but also find spiritual pleasure in producing. Putting a pen to paper and chasing a curving line in a single, fluid motion is so much fun.
This Venusaur was drawn for pkmnathon.tumblr.com. When I was a kid, I was really fascinated by Mitsuhiro Arita’s illustration on the Base Set Venusaur trading card—it’s stomach is so large that it’s flat against the ground, and it had such solid rolls of flesh under its chin—it seemed monstrous in a way that really inspired me. Years later, when I drew this Venusaur, I remembered that and drew Venusaur overgrown and heavyset. As I kept trying to bring balance to the picture, I spread Venusaur’s body further and further outwards until it became almost a puddle of Pokémon.
Me: What is your dream project?
Apple Atti: My monster encyclopedia, Farmland Monsters, has stood the test of time and become a childhood dream I’m fulfilling as an adult. I’ve been designing monsters and writing stories about their biology for the past sixteen years, and the world they live in has become so complex that it’s hard to show restraint now that I’m finally sharing it. I hope that I can keep up with a weekly update schedule, and eventually demonstrate to my readers how every monster article is connected to dozens of others through a huge surrealistic ecosystem. If you’re interested in this project, please visit farmlandmonsters.com, or follow farmlandmonsters.tumblr.com.