This is the english original-version of the interview with Nathan Jurevicius, the artist of the famous Scarygirl, made for Create or die in May 2009. You find the german parts here: Part 1 and Part 2. Here we go.
Hi Nathan, how are you? What are you working on at the moment?
Nathan: Im pretty well – as usual have a lot of projects in the works including Scarygirl game development, production design for a short live action film, new toys with Kidrobot and a planned tour for the upcoming book launch. I also have a side project with my partner Andrea Kang called ‘Harley + Boss’ and we have some lovely little things on the boil too that I’ll be able to reveal in a couple of months.
Can we see something about ‘Harley + Boss’ actually? What is it? A novella as well? Or a new toy-series?
Nathan: Harley and Boss is a collaboration between myself and illustrator/designer Andrea Kang. We wanted to develop projects that complimented our style but had a focus on softer designs and using mixed media (cut-out paper, material, plush toys etc). We recently produced a piece for a show in Los Angeles and have been commissioned to create an album cover for an Australian artist. There’s also a plush series in the works.
Your first novella will appear at the end of the year. Can you tell us more about it?
Nathan: It’s a 2 part, 128 page hardcover book based on Scarygirl’s journey from being found at an abandoned peninsula by a giant octopus and her adventure to find her father. There’s a middle section to the book that has production sketches, photos and an interview by Kidrobot. The book will be first published by Allen and Unwin in Australia and then different territories around the world will also publish their own version.
What is it about and how did the book come about?
Nathan: The Scarygirl story back many years ago was published weekly in a Hong Kong based magazine. It was very simple and was partly made to promote the limited edition vinyl figures I was making with Flying Cat. A number of years later I was approached by Allen and Unwin to make a three part story on her life…It’s taken a long time for me to finish it but finally will hit shelves in October.
Apart from you, who else worked on it?
Nathan: It was all me….probably why it took forever to make!
Is a sequel already planned?
Nathan: We have the 3rd part already in the sketching/development stage. This will be the conclusion to Scarygirl’s story but I do plan to make backstories of the different characters too.
Cool idea! With which character will you start? Bunnyguru?
Nathan: Most likely Bunniguru and how he comes across his sidekick egg.
Tell us a little bit about your roots. You were born and grew up in Australia. You are living now in Canada with your family, is that correct?
Nathan: I was born in Bordertown, South Australia and spent most of my life there (apart from a 1 year stay in London, UK). I moved with my family to Toronto, Canada in 2004 and have made this a good base to travel to various parts of the US/Europe.
Next year the winter Olympic Games will take place in Vancouver. Does this play a role for you? Are there any occupational enquiries? Will you travel there?
Nathan: I don’t plan on being anywhere near Vancouver during the games – unless I’m required too. I’m not really a sports fanatic (though don’t mind golf and tennis…which are summer sports).
Lets move to your probably most important work in the last few years: Scarygirl
Do you consider Scarygirl as work, or rather, fun for you?
Nathan: Scarygirl is my baby and like most babies there’s elements of fun and hard work to nurture them. At the moment there’s probably more work than fun but I can see the light dawning at the end of this year when many projects based on her will come to fruition.
I know this question has been asked a hundred times before but I just have to ask: How did Scarygirl come into being?
Nathan: I used to do a lot of editorial illustrations for various magazines and in one of them I created a crowd scene with various interesting characters (one being a very different looking Scarygirl)… I developed this character into a mini online concept and presented it to an Australian funding body – unfortunately their funding was cut and I shelved the idea but around the same time this happened a design firm in Hong Kong (Flying Cat) called me in the middle of the night and asked if I wanted to make toys with them. I agreed and we collaborated on a number of figures – the first ones being Scarygirl, Blister and Bunniguru.
In 2004 Sophie Byrne of Passion Pictures Australia optioned Scarygirl for a feature film/game and we have been working together closely since that time.
In the meantime lots and lots of Vinyl toys have been made from the Scarygirl world and are on many fans sideboards or work tables. I have some too! Can one actually live from this? Is it worth mass producing these Vinyl toys? How important to you is this part to Scarygirl?
Nathan: I think with vinyl toys it all depends on how popular they are and in what runs/price range you make them. Generally I get royalties from my toys and it brings in a nice amount now and then but not enough to support 3 kids. We most likely will look into the mass market closer to when the film has a release date – in the meantime we want to focus on beautiful, limited edition objects.
You really think about merchandising-stuff, when Scarygirl comes to the cinemas?
Nathan: I think we have to. We will try and still make beautiful merchandising and keep a feeling of specialness. The types of products though will be more diverse than in the past.
When your fans are asked why they love your work they enthuse in most cases about the complexity in the worlds you create. There are always many nuances, details that one only discovers on the fifth or sixth look. Nothing is obvious and simple, is that the intension? Or do these many layers of complexity evolve from the creative process?
Nathan: It’s important that my characters have individual personalities and complexities in order for fans to engage with them but also so I feel a bond with the characters. Generally I’m looking at themes of not judging a book by its cover and how none of us are truly all good or all bad – grey areas exist and make for interesting backstories.
Where does your inspiration come from? I often have the impression that nature, the past and stories from the Australian aborigines play a roll, is that correct?
Nathan: Both my Australian and Lithuanian/Latvian heritage plays an important part in my inspiration. Folk tales, the dreamtime, costumes, religious/family customs and daily rituals all come into my work.
Your parents was Lithuanian or Latvian?
Nathan: My father was born in a displaced persons camp in German during the late 1940′s. His parents were Lithuanian and Latvian. My mother is Irish/Scottish/Australian.
Many know you solely through the Vinyl toys and the Scarygirl world. You only see yourself partly as an illustrator, above all an artist as you explained to me in Berlin three years ago? Do you still find time to paint or illustrate? When will there be another exhibition of yours?
Nathan: The fine art is where I’m truly at home and would like to do more of it and in bigger venues. I’ve been asked to create a few commissions for various collectors and have a show planned in NYC next year (2010) with Andrea Kang.
I gather that you still work for normal clients. What was your last client project? Is the collaboration with MTV fauna still running?
Nathan: The MTV collaboration is still being promoted but they change up their tv spots seasonally. Apparently other countries are airing them though. My most recent projects include a window display/print advertising for Nike and some conceptual work for Hasbro Inc.
What are you doing for Hasbro? Do you have some pictures?
Nathan: I’ve did some conceptual work on 3 different lines for Hasbro. 2 of them for teens and a pre-school toy for Playskool but unfortunately they have not been released to the public yet so I can’t show anything.
When will we see a Music video with Art director: Nathan Jurevicius?
Nathan: I would actually love to do one. I’m very keen and would be open to doing something either in live action or animation (or a combo).
With the appearance of the online game, in spring 2009, the scarygirl world has now a wonderful extension. You have explained that there are already discussions that the game could be made for game-consoles. Can you tell us something more concrete about that?
Nathan: The online browser game has proved very successful for us and we have had a number of people approach Sophie (who is currently in active discussions with a few interested parties about translating the game to wii or xbox).
Normally with games the game-engine is written first, then the technical side and only then is the character put in place. How was it with the Scarygirl game? Was there first a game idea or was your illustrations the basis for this?
Nathan: It was a little bit of both – quite an organic process where I had a world and storyline setup but the programmers needed to somehow fit the game play around it. There was a lot of learning on the job and doing dummy mock-ups for me to re-skin with my Scarygirl world. The game also has 16 levels and many of these have different game play styles so it was like creating a bunch of mini games instead of one big one.
What is special about the game? What is close to your heart that the players should especially look out for? Can you give away any facts of the game? How many people in the meantime have played it? When will be the 2nd part of the scarygirl game.
Nathan: There’s a lot of investigation in the game and less about just getting from A – B. Players should journey around the worlds and look out for the way things connect and how characters are not always what they seem to be.
Since the launch in April we have had close to 500 000 plays of the game . People are keen to see part 2 which I feel would make sense if it was part of the console/handheld version.
The Trailer for the game is extremely detailed and well done. It seems almost like a film trailer. Do we already see an insight of how the scarygirl-movie would look like?
Nathan: This was really our first experiment on how Scarygirl might look animated. It was done with a lot of love and quite cheap and is just a taste of our direction. We aim to put a lot of research and development into how the film with look but it’s definitely heading in the direction of being a combo of 2D and 3D.
How is the movie coming along, when does it come out? How far are you?
Nathan: The script is being worked on and polished and there’s been visual development happening. We have a bunch of stuff later this year we will be doing on the visuals too.
You told me in an interview in 2005 that the secret with the eye patch from Scarygirl will be revealed in the film. Is it true?
Nathan: Hmmm…i think her eyepatch may remain a mystery as it’s not really something major except she has a deformity. What will be revealed though is details regarding her arms and Dr Maybee.
I was at the Pictopia in Berlin a few weeks ago, where I met Akinori Oishi, Steve and Rilla von den Rinzen and many others. Where was you? Why was you not in Berlin?
Nathan: I would have loved to been there but had some personal issues that needed dealing with.
The Pictopia was a great event. Akinori Oishi and Fons Schiedon were at the Webinale afterward, also in Berlin. The Webinale takes place next year, again in Berlin. Do you fancy maybe to show your first film or to show people the first preview of what is to come?
Nathan: I would love to show something there! (really enjoyed my time in Berlin and if invited would definitely go back).
At the end – lets look 10 years into the future. Which question would wish for in an interview? Preferably with a suitable answer.
Nathan: How do you keep so grounded and normal with all the success :)
Nathan, thank you very much for this interview. A lot of success with everything and with your projects in the next few months.