Kugali Spotlight: Carl Springer
Our guest today is a self-taught artist from the London, England. Inspired to delve into the fantasy genre by RPGs (such as Warcraft and Final Fantasy) and the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, Carl has endeavoured to create worlds and characters that incorporate elements of African culture and history. The result is something quite unique and serves his ultimate goal of creating content that provides the impetus for children of African descent to look into their history.
K: Thank you for participating in the Kugali Spotlight interview series. How are you today?
CS: Hey no problem, thanks for having me, I’m always good.
K: Great, let’s get right to it. What gave you the courage to pursue a career in art?
CS: Hmm, I wouldn’t say it’s courage, for me art has always been my voice since I was young. My Dad always drew and never really shunned me away from drawing so I guess I just continued with it. Most of the time it was my escape from being bored at school.
K: I assume that your family had a positive reaction when you told them you wanted to be a professional artist.
CS: Hahaha, the funny thing is that I’m not quite sure what their reaction was. Before art, I wanted to be a video game designer and a music producer but when I let them know that concept art is what I want to do they weren’t surprised. I think they realized that art was the path I was going to take before I did, I’m pretty certain my Dad knew from the beginning.
K: Now that you’re professional there’s a certain level of quality your fans have come to expect. Has this changed your creative process?
CS: My process, definitely, that’s probably something I try and refine the most. Especially with digital painting where you don’t have to have a strict process. For me, a process is more about way of thinking that allows the least amount of friction when you’re actually painting. Most of the time I struggle with a painting is because I’m skipping a step in my process so I forget the rules or fundamentals I should be thinking about. There is a reason the old masters had a very strict process it’s almost like Kata in Karate you learn the moves first and the understanding comes with practice but I think the biggest change in my process is trusting my artistic voice.
K: Describe your favourite job or project and why?
CS: I can’t say I’ve done the most amount of freelance work, but I’ve worked on a single cover for a rapper named Chris Matic, he found my work on Instagram, reached out to me and was like listen to this track and design what you feel from the music. That was awesome for me as I’m always trying to search for vibes to add to my art and that sweet spot where you feel something other than the hard work put into it. Brainstorming and designing from something as raw and organic as music is was perfect for me. I can’t paint without music so to paint to the feeling of music was a no-brainer and Chris was a dope rapper too so which made it better.
K: Have you ever encountered any projects that you’ve disliked? If so which is your worst and why?
CS: Yeah, for sure! The worst projects for me are tattoo designs. I’m proud of my art and what I do but being an artist is about constant evolution a tattoo just isn’t. It’s a permanent piece on someone’s skin, psychologically that’s something I can’t get over especially as I’m right at the beginning of my career. Luckily enough, it’s family who wants the designs for tattoos, and we already know how the family are with giving critiques so tattoos are a no.
K: Describe your creative process from the point of inspiration to completion
CS: 99% of my process starts with pencil sketches, but before that, I brainstorm keywords in a spider diagram. I like to keep it very RPGish and make a note of their job/class. This is the most important aspect for me as it defines your character. I then develop their backstory and answer questions like, why are they a rogue or thief? What clothing does their job require? What’s their personality?
After I’ve got those elements down I’ll start sketching. Most of my designs are heavily based on clothing for me a characters clothing IS their backstory it’s the only outfit you see them wearing in that very image. When I’m lost for ideas I’ll start a mood board on Pinterest and add ANYTHING that I think will enhance or look visually appealing for that character.
K: What do you think separates good art from great art?
CS: Hmmm, that’s very hard to say. Personally, I like to think of art as spiritual exercise consisting of three components; mind, body, and soul. Mind being reflected in an interesting idea or design, the body in the form of a solid drawing/painting and soul being the element which holds it all together. When properly integrated art becomes great.
Belief is also important. You as an artist, as a magician have to believe in your own magic and the story you’ve created. People can sense if you do. For instance, when you watch Akira or Ghost in the Shell you get the impression that the team believe in that world they created.
K: When you think of beautiful art what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
CS: The first things I thought of was the Magic the Gathering artist Jesper Ejsing (my all time favourite artist) and a living breathing world. I’m just not a story guy I’m a world/culture guy, when I’m watching an anime or a film I look at the world the background characters, the culture, where can I place my avatar in that world and still be badass. I think that’s why I loved Guardians of the Galaxy and Star Wars so much.
K: If you could go 5 years into the past talk to your younger self what would you say?
CS: 1) Yo! you need to start reading history books or you’ll never become an artist. 2) You’ll only be successful if you paint Black people. 3) Every day repeat these words: ‘I believe in myself’ and ‘I’m on the right path’.
K: Who are your top 5 favourite artists?
K: Describe your art in a sentence?
CS: You’re kidding me just one! OK….African Fantasy that would inspire 7-year-old Carl Springer.
K: What can we expect from you in the future?
CS: More Maat Dynasty (my African fantasy project) and more black characters that inspire black kids.
K: We look forward to seeing more from you. Thank you for your time.
CS: Thanks for having me. Appreciate you having me. Love