Andrew Ferris is a an initially self-taught artist with a passion for tokusatsu from studio franchises to independent productions. He is active in the tokusatsu fan community on Facebook and his work can be found on Tumblr and Twitter.
Where did you grow up and how did you discover a passion for art?
I grew up in Georgia, mostly in suburbs on the outside of Atlanta. I started drawing around 3rd grade, taking all of my Sonic [the Hedgehog] game manuals and tracing whatever character art I could out of it.
Then I upgraded to tracing out of How to Draw Nintendo books, and around middle school, I broke off and started free-handing and drew a lot of fanart.
By high school, I’d discovered I had a slight sense of style and could draw things out of my head and realized this was totally what I wanted to be good at.
Are you self-taught or did you go through a formal arts program? What’s the most positive thing you can say about how you learned to hone your skills?
I was self-taught through middle school, but through high school I entered a fine arts program, in which an amazing teacher by the name of Jeremy LeMahieu taught me to refine my craft, and to appreciate the art world outside of fan art and the industry. He’s a fine artist himself and taught me just about everything I know about digital art, and got me started on using real programs.
The most positive aspect of the process was seeing my work improve. Having that temporary moment where you can say “Whoa! I drew this and it looks super rad” is really, really awesome. Of course, I still knew I had a very long way to go, but being able to stop for a moment and take in that I created something that looked cool was amazing.
How did you get into tokusatsu?
My buddy, and roommate at the time, Austin, approached me one night while we were getting ready to head home for the weekend, and he said, “Andrew, you have to watch Kamen Rider Drive with me. It’s getting so good.” I was like, “Kamen Rider, those are those weird Rower Ranger bugs, right?”
At the time, I had a bit of a problem with being too friendly, to a point where I had too many plans or friends wanting to do things, [then] Austin pitched Fourze at me. He hit me with “space, pompadours, drills and friendship,” and being the Gurren Lagann fan I am, I was absolutely sold.
Fourze kept me hooked and I normally wasn’t the type of guy to watch much. I’d do a few movies and maybe an anime if it interested me, but not much outside of that. I finished Fourze in about a week and craved more, and started moving on through other Riders that interested me.
It’s always been funny to me how much I’m into tokusatsu now compared to when I was a child and hated Power Rangers with a passion. I just thought it was the dumbest cheesiest thing and now adult me just did a 180 and decided these shows were the coolest thing.
Child Me didn’t know what he was talking about, clearly.
Can you walk us through the process of creating a piece?
Well, normally my creative hours are past 8 o’clock, because I have to spend 6 hours from when I usually wake up at 2:00 pm to hype myself up to work on anything.
Once I finally get the momentum, I whip out my tablet, wait 12 years for Photoshop to load, spend a few minutes angrily closing out other windows I left open in an attempt to get Photoshop to cooperate, and then I sit down and draw!
After scribbling away at the tablet for a few hours, I normally finish up whatever I’m working on and slap it onto all my social media accounts, and steadily await feedback. I also like streaming and taking requests there, just because it’s fun to see people excited about their request.
I do mostly digital work, but I’ll have periods where I hop back to traditional. Ink work is really where I have the most fun because nothing is more satisfying than getting a line exactly how you want it on the paper, and just watch as it becomes a crisp, beautiful stroke in some drawing.
I stick to digital for a lot of my work though because it’s consistent and fast. I use Kyle T Webster’s brush pack and it’s the best thing I’ve ever spent 13 bucks on. I can even sometimes fake traditional using his tools, even though the feeling doesn’t beat real traditional work.
I used to work in Illustrator a lot because my old computer wouldn’t run any Photoshop files at 300 dpi, so I had to settle for vector art. I’ve since learned Photoshop and have kind of abandoned Illustrator, but I know both programs like the back of both of my hands.
How has being an active on social media supported your work?
Taking my work to social media was probably the best thing I could have ever done. There’s a lot of things to love about it, for me. For starters, one of the biggest things I’ve always wanted to do with my work is inspire. Nothing fills me with more joy than hearing someone say my work inspired them to do something, and through social media, I can spread my work everywhere and let more and more people see it! It’s just so cool because I remember when I was in middle school, looking at work on social media and going, “this is so cool! I wanna draw like this one day!” I just hope that other artists can see my work and take something from it, and help make their own craft better, just like I did when I was young.
Also, I love meeting other artists on social media! I’ve met so many cool people that have inspired me in my work and pushed me to do better, and being able to share my work with them as they share with me feels amazing. Big shout outs to Emcee, Kris, Miles and Fang! They’re some of the coolest toku artists I know and I want my work to stand with theirs and be just as cool, so they keep me motivated in posting my art and sharing with the world!
Not to mention you just get to meet some really rad and hilarious folk outside of the art world too, GingaHerb and Gigabeetle are up there with two of the coolest guys I’ve met yet. I’d encourage lots of artists to look into Twitter. It’s one of my favorite places for my work and has a lot of cool people in the toku community there. Big thanks to my best bro in the whole world, Simon, for introducing me to it in the first place!
Do you have any projects you’re currently working on that you’d like to share?
Well, my aforementioned buddy Austin and I like to do a lot of projects together, our current one being a card game that we’re hoping to sell to fund our REAL project we want to do.
The real project being an independent tokusatsu with the working title of “Jobber.” For those who don’t know what a jobber is, it’s a character who exists for the sole purpose of getting the beat down. Kind of like shocker grunts and putties. The movie is about a Jobber that, by untold circumstances, ends up having to take the role of the hero, and bring an end to his former boss.
It’s gonna be a long time coming, but we’ve already got a lot planned and hope we can make it happen in the next few years.
On the non-tokusatsu side of things, I have a comic about a robot named Fistor that will hopefully be dropping soon, and I’m working on that with my buddy Cole, who is an insanely talented background and color artist. I couldn’t of asked for a better helping hand. It’ll be posted through Tapastic and if anyone is interested, definitely keep an eye on my accounts because I will be making a huge noise about it before it drops.
From your Tumblr, it looks you’ve taken on commissions. Do you have a favorite commission you’ve done so far you can share with us?
I think my favorite one would have to be from my friend Nitro. She loves Heart, from Kamen Rider Drive, a lot. It’s almost a little scary. She wanted a commission of Heart if he became a Kamen Rider, so I got to design this really awesome rider suit based off of an already awesome kaijin suit, and thought up this engine like driver that ran off of the Roidmude cores! It’s still one of my favorites and came out so cool in my opinion!