How do you stand out at a comic con? It’s one of the most distracting environments to find yourself in. But walking through the aisles of artists and vendors at the Houston’s Comicpalooza, a print of a monster-like figure of a mashed-up Bob’s Burgers family caught my eye.
The artist of these fantastically sick creations? Dakota Cates AKA Wizard of Barge. We were so amused by his style of art and friendly demeanor that we reached out for some questions to get a better insight into the Wizard and his art. He discusses his creative process below and reveals why he thinks artists flock to places like Austin.
Interview questions by Corisa Smith and images courtesy of Dakota Cates
What lead you to your current style of art?
Wizard of Barge: Everything from cartoons and horror/comedy/sci-fi pop culture to skateboarding and punk rock. Just refusing to grow up, I guess.
What is your favorite piece of art that you have created so far? Do you have a favorite piece of art created by someone else?
Wizard: I don’t have a favorite of my own anymore I don’t think. I have been liking my work a lot more than I use to though. I’ve always been self-loathing with my art, as I think a lot of artists are. By someone else, there’s so many choices it’s impossible to choose just one: I look at so much awesome art every day.
Typically how long do you spend on average creating one piece?
Wizard: It all depends on what medium it is. For a painting, anywhere from 1-5 hours. It’s mostly the original drawing that takes the longest, just trying to get the concept out.
What is a misconception that people have about artists that you notice?
Wizard: That drawing or making art is a “talent.” So many people say “I wish I was that talented” and it’s not talent. We all sucked at drawing once: it’s practice and commitment and being a shut-in and drawing for hours and hours every day. Anyone can do it if you put in the time and work, your imagination is your limit, or something.
Who is your favorite cartoon character?
Wizard: Right now, I’d have to go with King Star King, I’ve been channeling him for awhile now and I tell people to go watch it anytime I get the opportunity. SO GO WATCH IT.
What is your creative process like? Which parts come easy to you and where do you encounter challenges?
Wizard: I think of a basic idea, try to sketch out shapes to get the basic idea out, then slowly refine things until it’s put together enough to start painting or outlining. Usually coloring isn’t too hard, for me the drawing is the hardest part, sometimes I get lucky and something instantly comes out and it’s perfect. Other times, I draw for hours and it all looks horrible.
Ideally, how do you want people to feel when they see your art?
Wizard: One of two things—depending on the person—either laughter and joy or disgust and offense. I encounter them both on a regular basis, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
How has your style of art evolved since you first started?
Wizard: Overall better artistically, it looks more finished and solid. I’ve always drawn monsters and cartoons with dumb humor. I’ve just gotten better at it and learned how to market it I guess.
Are you involved in your local art community? If so, do you find that art communities differ in different cities?
Wizard: I do tons of local shows, and art differs hugely from city to city. That’s why so many artists and creatives flock to the same places (Austin, Portland, San Francisco, etc.) Some places just have so much support for locals and small business where others could care less.
You are pretty popular on Instagram. How do you feel about the platform of social media to share your art?
Wizard: It’s amazing. It sounds so dorky but it’s literally changed my life and enabled me to be a full-time artist. In 2016, you almost have to be present online to “make it,” it’s a love/hate thing but I’m grateful for it.
What is up next for you with you and your art? Any events you would like to share?
Wizard: I have a big project I’ve been working on that I’m extremely excited to announce (hopefully) next week. All I can say for now is keep an eye out. Other than that, I do have new merch coming out (prints/shirts/buttons) and plan on traveling to other places for shows and conventions in the near future.