Recently I had the chance to sit down with one of my favorite Redbubble designers, Killer Wolf. Killer Wolf is the username for the talented designer Cale Lobba. Cale has a background in industrial design and a huge amount of experience designing toys for The Walt Disney Company. We had a moment to sit down and talk about Cale’s love of drawing and vector, she also shared her advice for other designers just starting out.
"My illustrations are inspired primarily by tattoo art. I got my first tattoo when I was 17 years-old and since then I never stopped. It is a passion in my life."
Please tell us about your background, what you studied, and your time working as a production designer at Disney. What was the best part about these experiences?
I was born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil. I studied Industrial Design in São Paulo and worked in design agencies for 5 years until I had the urge to know more about the world. I went to London to study English and do a bit of traveling. That was when I applied for a job at The Walt Disney Company. Working at Disney was great! My role was very creative. I designed mostly toys and stationery products. Some of them had to be manufactured at least 1 year before the launch in the market so I had to foresee market trends, research on compelling products and new materials, and stay always ahead of the licensing industry releases. I did a lot of illustration work for style guides. A style guide is a design manual for using the characters in products. It is designed accordingly to product category, target audience and demographics. It was composed of backgrounds, icons, frames and borders, patterns, badges and etc. So I had to stay tuned on fashion and innovation trends to come up with different visuals for the many different licensees Disney partners with. Another cool side of my job was to watch new Disney films. As a part of the production team we had the opportunity to see films before they was released, while they were in initial phase or even still on storyboard, and give the directors ideas and insights of what would work well for toys products.
How did you find doing an MFA degree? Do you think it’s important for artists to have a higher education training?
While living in London I felt the need for a specialisation. So I enrolled in a Masters of Arts at the London College of Communication. The course encourages students to deconstruct design forms and to think creatively by unbinding from commercial trends. There was a lot of reading and analysing. The creative part was a consequence to all the studies exploration. It clashed with all that I had known before and opened my eyes to new possibilities. Since graduation I worked in adversing, packaging, and product design. All commercially-driven design fields. It pushed me forward to new challenges; not only in my career but also in my personal life, away from the ordinary choices. I do recommend an MFA to designers who want to broaden their horizons and step a level up on their career.
Which artists, books, films or genres have had a big impact upon your style?
My illustrations are inspired primarily by tattoo art. I got my first tattoo when I was 17 years-old and since then I never stopped. It is a passion in my life. I like traditional and neotradional styles in particular. I guess one can see a lot of its influence on my work. I am also very good with vector art. My favourite software to work with is Illustrator. The themes of my illustrations come from things I Iike such as classic literature, noir films, and nature. I also enjoy watching documentaries about wildlife and history. I also admire Byzantine art, which is my usual reference for character poses. I guess it all together contributes to my compositions and work.
How has your style developed and changed over time? Have you noticed any big shifts in tone, aesthetic, or look of your work?
It is notable that my style has changed since I started. I guess it shifts as my life changes. At the beginning my art was more childish and colourful as my references came from kids’ films and toys. Today, I can say that my art targets an adult audience. I am very critical about my art and that pushes me to develop further my skills and evolve my style. I am always trying different medias and techniques.
Your work is really incredible. Can you tell us about the hardest, biggest learning curve you had getting to where you are as an artist?
I am truly flattered by the compliment! The biggest challenge was to put graphic design aside temporarily and to focus on my illustrations. While working for agencies, I didn’t have much time to practise, so I decided to get less design work and dedicate myself more to drawing. As an artist I also find it challenging to get good exposure of my art.
How have you found working in professional roles at big businesses in a creative capacity? How do you “turn on” the creativity for work? Do you have any rituals or routines that aid this?
Working for big agencies and corporations can be stressful sometimes. Especially when the you need to deliver quality work in tight deadlines. I used to do yoga during my lunch break when I lived in São Paulo. It was good to have this moment for myself and scape from chaos. Today I am living in Vienna, Austria. The city itself is very inspiring. It is not big, and nature and art is everywhere. I usually exercise outdoors, it refreshes my ideas. I always go to exhibitions and museums on my free time. It brings more repertory to my work.
"At the beginning my art was more childish and colourful as my references came from kids' films and toys. Today, I can say that my art targets an adult audience. I am very critical about my art and that pushes me to develop further my skills and evolve my style. I am always trying different medias and techniques."
How has your background in being from South America influenced your artwork? Do you have a particular affinity or connection to the styles from this area?
Yes, it definitely has a South American touch to it although my design can not be classified as regional. I have a cross-cultural influence in my art. From Brazil, I like the movement, which has a lot of shapes and close-up prints. From the U.K., I was influenced by the underground culture that is more about dark hues and urban art. From Austria, I like the Secession artists such as Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. I also like traveling a lot and I try to absorb the local culture wherever I go.
And lastly, if you had to give one piece of advice to young artists who hadn’t gone through art school or done an MFA yet, what would you say? What do you wish you had known at the beginning of your artistic career?
My advice is to observe how other successful artists work. Try multiple possibilities before investing in specialised education. Practise and practise and practise! Don’t be afraid of trying new things.