Lamont Hunt is the artist behind DakotaKid Creations, who moved out to California from South Dakota to pursue a career in animation. His “At the Playground” series imagines fan favorite characters from various franchises as young children playing in playground version of their iconic vehicles.
His work can be found on his website, DakotaKidCreations.com as well as on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. He is also in attendance at various conventions throughout California, including Designer Con in Pasadena this coming November, where fan can purchase original pieces, prints, and magnets of his various work.
“Dakota Kid” is a fun name for your work, can you tell us the story behind the name and how you became a professional artist?
I spent most of my later growing up years around South Dakota, where my parents are from. When I moved out to California to pursue my animation career, I decided to use “DakotaKid” as my studio name. I figured I was in a minority and it might help make me stand out, which I think it has.
I have been an artist for my whole adult life, but character animation was always at my core. I grew up aiming for traditional, hand-drawn animation as my path. But when I was finishing college, the animation world was in an identity crisis and people seemed to think CG was the next evolution of the genre instead of just another style to tell a story. So, I went back to school for more computer animation training.
I have always felt I have two parts of my professional career. One is my animation side, which mostly consisted of 2D/AfterEffects jobs in TV/commercials. Then after bulking up my skills and demo reel with some more school, I broke into CG animation with gigs for TV shows and feature films.
My illustration side of my career recently reached a more “professional” level. I’ve been selling my prints for a few years, but in 2016, I got the chance to create images for a kids chapter book. I’m currently illustrating my second children’s book.
Do you have any formal artist training and if so, how did formal study work for you?
I am a graduate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BFA in Drawing/Illustration/Graphic Design. I also have a certificate in Character Animation from the online school, Animation Mentor, and I have taken several master classes from AnimSquad.
I am one of those rare [people] who knew exactly what he wanted to do for a career since I was a kid. I just struggled to figure out how to get to my goal because, at the time, we didn’t have online options. So I decided to get a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drawing and Graphic Design at the University of Nebraska.
I planned on getting more focused training after. I tell students, “follow your passion”. If you love something, figure out how to make money doing that and pursue it with all your passion. If that means going to a four year college or getting a certificate online or just taking tons of classes at a community college, do whatever you need to. I’ve learned that everyone’s path is different, so just keep pushing towards those goals. But I will always recommend a four-year bachelors degree; that will make it easier to get future degrees and also much easier to work overseas (which I have also done).
Did you grow up watching any kind of kaiju shows or films (Ultraman, Godzilla) or Power Rangers?
I wasn’t a big fan growing up, but I did watch my share of Godzilla movies on late night TV. Actually, there was a Saturday morning cartoon in the late 70’s/early 80’s called Godzilla which I watched and enjoyed. I have to say, the Godzooky “sidekick” character was a favorite (and may just end up in a future illustration. Haha).
The original Power Rangers show started airing when I was in HS, but I still found myself curious about this series and watched a lot of the original [Mighty Morphin’] Rangers. I remember going to the first movie when I was in college with a friend.
How did you develop your specific art style? Any influences or inspirations that helped in honing it?
I’ve always been working on my style, and honestly, have felt I’ve struggled to find any style for most of my career. I am always looking and being inspired by other artists and seeing how they are drawing heads or eyes or hands or noses. Also, how artist choose and create their posing; as an animator, that’s a big draw for me.
So, I have been influenced by many artists. I have to say that Mike Kunkel and his “Herobear and the Kid” was a HUGE influence. Skottie Young, Sean “Cheeks” Galloway, Brittany Lee and Todd Nauck have been a huge influence through the years. I also have some animator friends who are amazing illustrators who are huge inspirations– Bobby Pontillas and Benson Shum.
Some #wip of #mightymorphinpowerrangers #illustration for #powermorphicon in a couple weeks. #dakotakidcreations #dakotakidart #dakotakid #theartoflamonthunt #artoflamonthunt #powermorphicon2016 #powerrangers #zords #tyranasaurusrexzord #dragonzord #attheplayground #illustrations #fanart #jasondavidfrank #tommygreenranger #austinstjohn #jasonredranger #tommyoliver #jasonleescott #greenranger #redranger
Can you walk us through creating a piece, such as the “At The Playground” series?
My process starts with the idea and character. Once I’ve figured out who I’m drawing and what the story is behind the piece, I start sketching it out in pencil. When I’m happy with design and I’ve gotten down all the “story details” in the piece, I ink the drawing. This stage is basically nailing down my lines and details.
I try to have everything clear in the pencil stage so I don’t risk messing up and missing something major. The next stage is coloring. I currently do all my coloring with Copic markers. I love the watercolor effect I can create without the mess of watercolors.
After I’m done coloring the piece, I add details such as highlights and effects with white gelly pens. (I have also added glow in the dark paint for one of my pieces.) At this point, I’m usually ready to sign the work and then get a high quality digital scan. Now it’s ready to make prints or to send off the original to new owners!
There’s two sections on your website now, DakotaKid Animation & DakotaKid Creations. Can you talk about how to started to work in animation and how that process is different from the “Creations” side?
Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve always had two sides of my career. One is illustration (aka “Creations”) and animation (aka “Animation”). Traditional hand drawn (both on paper and digitally) has always been my core passion. But as the years and jobs went, I found I loved CG animation almost as much. The biggest difference in my illustration and animation lives are animation takes a long time to create and illustrations are sometimes my creative outlet. I can create a drawing in a couple hours versus the hours and hours to simply make a character take a step in animation.
Both sides are creative, and both have their challenges and blessings! I’ve had friends ask why I don’t just do one or the other and I continue to say because the both complete my passions right now. I wouldn’t want to ONLY do one or the other at this point in my life.
We’ve happily run into each other at different conventions and events. What has been the most rewarding and most challenge experience tabling at such events?
The most rewarding thing is when people who have never seen me before start to pass by my booth, but then something they see or maybe something I’ve said piques their interest. When I’m given the opportunity to share my art and share my passion and they RESONATE with that– that’s what’s most rewarding.
Yeah, I love it when they want to take some of my art home with them. But seriously, when I have someone who was kinda “your stuff is kiddy and not my style” when they walked up, but then they see some character or design that really makes them laugh or chuckle. That’s when I’m glad I’m doing this.
The most challenging is probably fighting my desire to have something for everyone. I love and hate when people ask if I have something with a character that I don’t have. I love it because I can add that to my ever expanding list of characters to bring “to the playground” and I hate it because most of the time, I have the perfect idea for that character, but I haven’t had time to create it.
Vintage dictionary page #prints you can get this weekend at #powermorphicon!! All my #vintage prints relate to the image printed on them. No two prints will be alike! Find me in #Artistalley!! #attheplayground #zord #redpowerranger #pinkpowerranger #bluepowerranger #blackpowerranger #greenpowerranger #yellowpowerranger #whitepowerranger #dakotakidcreations #dakotakidart #dakotakid #theartoflamonthunt #artoflamonthunt #lamonthuntart #mightymorphinpowerrangers #powermorphicon2016 #powerrangers #zords #90s #90stvshow #childhood #imagination #innocence #fanart
Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to share?
I have a new book that should be out later this year, but I can’t share much about it at the moment. I also have my latest film releasing in August, The Nut Job 2.
And as for my illustrations, I know all you kaiju and Ranger fans are awesome and I have some new pieces in the works. So, for sure keep watching and following to see when those pieces get released.
Once again, Lamont Hunt is the artist behind DakotaKid studio and his website can be found at DakotaKidCreations.com.
Later this year, Lamont will be tabling at Power-Con, the official He-man and Masters of the Universe convention from September 9-10th in Torrance, CA. He will also be at Designer Con in Pasadena, CA in November.