Could you introduce yourself?
Hi there, my name’s Philip Dobbs. My digital art handle is DrRiptide, and my electronic music handle is Cyan Mentality, because I apparently thrive on aliases I came up with when I was 14 years old!
I’m a 24 year old graphic designer and illustrator who works as a 2D game artist. I make electronic music as a hobby. I studied for a ‘Bachelor of Media Arts’ at the Waikato Institute of Technology in Hamilton, New Zealand and have been working freelance for 3 years, after working 2 years at a video games company in Christchurch.
What made you decide to go Freelance?
Unfortunately it wasn’t quite my choice… the company I worked for at the time were a little strapped for cash and severed almost the entire art department… which was very sad, there were a lot of fun, talented people there. I wish the reason was for something more noble like “self improvement” or “enlightenment” or something… but yeah, it’s not.
I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’ve definitely improved in my time spent freelancing; no two jobs are the same, even with the same client. Different styles, experimenting, having time to develop my own skills in web-art animation, music, that sort of thing. And I have been contacted by the company a few times since to do some contract work, so opportunities never dissolve, they just resurface elsewhere.
Do you prefer freelancing now then, as opposed to a permanent role? What sort of problems do you have to overcome specifically by freelancing?
Freelance is a really interesting field, for a number of reasons.
Variety and experimentation is a huge one. I never realised how much I enjoyed making tattoo art until I spent a month doing just tattoos for various people. And book covers are always fun; getting as much narrative structure into one image is awesome.
Also you get to live in your dressing gown for a few days at a time, which is phenomenal!!
However, you will also be learning a lot about how the world works. When you start out working odd jobs for friends and family, it’s the most simplest thing in the world; you make pretty pictures, and they flick you coin, or compliments, or chocolate.
You don’t wanna charge anywhere near what it’s worth, because you don’t know it’s worth – you’re new, so you can’t guarantee the quality a more experienced outfit could. Not to mention you personally know the people you’re creating art for, so while they can’t do what you do, you don’t want to ask for a lot, because you’ll be seeing them at Christmas again that year, and don’t wanna make things awkward.
And when you get some momentum, get some bigger jobs; friend of a friend’s band needs an album cover, a guy you met at church runs a power company and wants a logo, that sorta thing.
The return customers and polite people you encounter become a real delight to work for, and you start appreciating them more and more as time goes on. You learn about trusting people, because after getting stiffed a few times on the bill, you learn to take measures to ensure you’re getting your money, that your time is spent wisely, and people aren’t screwing you around.
And somehow, you’re still in this for the love of the art and your love of creating, despite the obligation to ‘factory a product’ for the fickle, paying consumer.
So while that all sounds kinda cynical, nothing in the ‘Freelancing Experience’ is necessarily bad. It’s just interesting to see who you become after rocking the game for a few years.
Working for less coin than you need, how you treat crappy clients, prioritising your own personal morals vs. jobs you’re uncomfortable with, and the compromises that follows. The maturity is all self-inflicted, because every time you skip a job, or let a client slide, you’re docking your own finance. The choices and consequences are a fascinating thing to witness.
With all that said, personally yes I would rather be working as a minion, in a games company, making 2D game art. Because I loved the sensation that came from giving someone an experience you directly played a part in creating, and them enjoying it, and laughing at the same bits you did, and swearing because the computer’s cheating (just enough for them to be angry and fun to watch, but not enough for them to rage-quit)!
While there’s nothing stopping me from working some personal gaming projects in my own time (which, believe me, I am), I know that, like most people, financial stability is a big thing.
Which project are you most proud of, and why?
It’s not technically a client project, but as part of a museum exhibition I animated a series of artworks I’d made in the past. That was a huge learning experience, because I had an idea of how to organise files and folders to make animating easier, but some of the artworks were really old before I had good habits. So some of the important layers were merged, meaning someone’s arm couldn’t move properly because it was part of the background, and some of the layer style effects in Photoshop wouldn’t carry over into After Effects, so I made to make workarounds.
It was a pretty meaty project, and I was proud of the final piece at the time, but now I look back on it and know I can improve.
A project that definitely was a client based was, after I’d made the logo for Dog’s Galore (It’s like a small dog training and daycare here in New Zealand), the client sent me a photo of the sign writing on the company car. And it was really cool; I’ve never seen artwork on a vehicle before. That was sort of the moment where you think “Wow, real life people like my work so much, they’re printing it on their car”. Like now it’s more than just doodling on a notepad; now it represents a business. My artwork is directly aiding someone’s livelihood. I’m making the world a better place, which is something I’ve always wanted to do.
So yeah, that’s pretty huge!
If you could work on anything, what would it be, and why?
Video games, because video games are incredible! But even if I wasn’t bias, I love the invented set of rules that go into making a video game; the atmosphere of the artwork, the communication of the user interface, crispness of the sound design, the joy of rag doll physics.
You can learn a lot from video games. More than just what the story provides, or morals the game is teaching. Even down to something like, cheating all the money you’ll ever need in game, and there’s an initial high of ‘I’m so powerful, I’ll buy ALL the things’, followed by ‘this game has no meaning anymore’ because progression has lost it’s meaning. And now you’re questioning the meaning of life, and the mundaneness of it all, it’s amazing.