Rodney Pike is a caricature artist and a master of funny photo manipulated illustrations. He has worked for several important clients, such as FHM Magazine, Tennis Magazine, Bauer Media, Miller Publishing Group and Catchphrase Entertainment. Besides that, Rodney’s amazing works have become a worldwide internet sensation. Are you curious how he does it all? Find out more about his working process, his tools and resources, his life and how social media defines his business in the following interview we obtained exclusively for you, Freepik’s readers!
1. Thank you very much for this Freepik exclusive Interview! Let’s start from the top: how did you begin doing the hyper-expressive illustrations?
Art has been a part of my life as long as I can remember. All of my childhood from a very young age until I got out of the Military in 1988, I wanted to be an illustrator like my childhood idol Norman Rockwell. Reality hit when I got out into the real world and realized that the $16,000.00 I had saved in the Navy wasn’t going to get me into art school, so I started life and work in the car business. My art had taken a back seat to raising children and supporting a family for many years. I put my art aside for about 25 years and over those years lost my passion for creating art. It wasn’t until very recently that my passion and desire for creating art was rekindled. In April of 2010, I entered my first Photoshop contest at FreakingNews.com after stumbling across the site totally by accident. I entered a few more Photoshop contests and soon realized I had finally found my niche. Photoshop and photo-manipulation was the medium that I had been searching for all my life.
2. Can you reveal your working process? Can you share some techniques?
I could make something up but the honest truth is I have no specific work process. Every piece I do is experimental and I am learning with every job, so my techniques and approach to my work is different every time and are subject to change at any point. The majority of what I do is instinctive and the process is ever changing as I am but a student in this vast world of art and artists.
3. How do you create the humorous compositions all the way until they are finished? Where do you get your resources, like skin textures, animals and background elements?
Well, I have no training in Photoshop, caricatures, or art for that matter, so what I do is sort of instinctive. I actually have no set work process. Every piece is a new learning experience for me as I’m learning new techniques all of the time. I’m also just sort of backwards in the way I work in general. I seldom even start with a concept, much less a process. I always take a face that interests me and I just start, with no idea of where I’m headed and I let the piece lead me in whatever direction it takes me. Sometimes it’s a simple portrait and sometimes they develop into complex situational manipulations that take me several days to complete. I’m always completely surprised at the end result. I’m not sure how it happens, but somehow in the end, the piece ends up being recognizable as my work and my style, whatever that is. It’s a total mystery to me.
As far as resources, my clients provide all source material. If it’s not for a client and I’m just doing a practice piece, I have a library of images I have collected over the past couple of years. I sift through them and see who catches my attention at the time. I also generally have 6-8 (practice) caricatures in progress. If it’s not flowing for me, I close it out and move on to something new. I always end up coming back and sometimes I see things I didn’t see the first time, but the main thing is that I’m inspired to work on it. If the inspiration isn’t there, I’m wasting my time. That’s why I rotate works in progress. The rest, as far as texture, elements, and backgrounds, is “Top Secret.”
4. Have you ever thought about teaching a humorous photo-manipulation course online?
I would love to do more teaching videos, but I want to make sure I am comfortable and feel qualified to teach this form of art. I do have one Webinar out that was done through RetouchPROLive which is a 3 hour start to finish demonstration of photo-manipulated caricatures and can be found here:
5. How do you come up with the ideas for your funny creations?
90% of the time, and especially if it is a non-commission piece, I start with the subject and no concept in mind. I do my best work by using this method. I let the image lead me and the final product is usually a complete surprise to me. With clients, it’s a totally different process as they generally have a very specific concept and it’s my job to try and get into their heads and ultimately deliver what they have envisioned. Some of my clients get a bit frustrated with me because I ask dozens of questions trying to see what they see, but it’s vitally important to see your client’s vision and make it reality, and it pays to get it right the first time. That’s why I bombard them with questions.
6. What are your Top 3 Rodney Pike favorite artworks :) ?
That’s an interesting question. First of all, I am my own self critic and a very tough one at that. I don’t particularly favor any of my works because I know I am capable of so much more.
That being said, it’s interesting that my worst popular works to those who follow me are not the intense pieces that I spend an entire week on to perfect it. By far, the most popular images I have done are the silly quick photo manipulated pieces using Mr. Bean as the subject. Mr. Bean’s ones are iconic and everyone loves him which is fine by me as the Bean manipulations I do are fun, relaxing and therapeutic.
7. Which artists have inspired you?
Since finding my niche, I have been working 18 hours a day, 7 days a week. After caricature illustration caught my attention, I began studying other artists such as Norman Rockwell, Sebastian Kruger, Max Sauco, Jason Seiler, Dominic Philibert and others while learning photo-manipulation in Photoshop and now digital painting. It was in May of 2010 when I first discovered Sebastian Kruger and Jason Seiler and made my first caricature attempt. That started something totally new to me: photo manipulated caricatures and illustration. It has very quickly become my career although that was not my intent at all.
In fact, I received my first commission from Bauer Media for a 5 piece commission in FHM Magazine after only 8 months in Photoshop in 2011.
8. Your works are amazingly viral. What is the secret ingredient, in your opinion, that makes them so popular?
I have come to find that there is no magic ingredient, no shortcuts, no tricks, or hidden secrets. You simply have to have a passion for what you’re doing, and work your butt off to get the recognition you’re looking for. As hard as I have worked over the past couple of years learning my craft, I have put just as much time working social media, SEO, and whatever it takes to get my images in front of as many people as possible. Also, you mentioned popularity. I have no clue what makes my work popular. I think every day people relate to my work and accept it for what it is. No hidden agendas, political statements, deep meaning, or hidden messages. It’s just amusing and nothing more.
9. What part do social media play in your life?
I actually have many more profiles than the ones shown on my Google+ profile. I stopped adding them about 6 months ago because it locked up my profile page when I tried to add more. Maybe there’s a limit, not sure, but I have at least 300 profiles out there which can be seen at xeeme.com/rodneypike. Wow!
Social media… I really got a late start with social media. It actually took some arm twisting by some of my friends to get involved at first. I had a blog and that was it with maybe a dozen followers. I first joined Facebook and have been extremely fortunate to gain so many friends in such a short time. I integrated my blog with NetworkedBlogs which automatically posts feeds to my Facebook pages. I quickly saw that Facebook alone was increasing my blog traffic a good bit so I decided that I would just jump in and join every portfolio site, directory, and social media platform I could find. My blog stats really started to increase, so I started joining groups within all of my social networking sites, so when I make a post from my blog, I then share to all of my sites and groups within. As time has gone by, I have learned a lot about the capabilities of these sites and ways I could use them and not create more work for myself, so I started targeting the sites that allowed RSS feeds. I’ve set up many satellite blogs which run off my main blog and are totally self-sufficient, giving me traffic and even building followers on sites that I only rarely visit to make sure the feed is still working properly. So, I did a lot of social media / promotion in the beginning, building a web presence for myself and my work very quickly.
It’s gotten to the point now where the social media has taken control of my career. All of my profiles and sites are growing at an exponential rate. Year one, my blog had 710,000+ views from 207 nations, I have approximately 5,000 Facebook friends, 4,700 fan page likes, 16,000+ twitter followers, 3,600 LinkedIn connections and most recently approximately 1.5 million Google+ followers on my personal page and several thousand on my business page just to hit a few high points. Google+ alone is now generating at least 80% of my business income.
There are many more statistics than that and they are all growing rapidly. I really don’t know what my immediate reach is when I make a blog post but it’s considerable. I enjoy hitting the twitter button on my blog and seeing the globe widget light up with flags from all over the world in a matter of seconds. I have used social media to get me where I am now and it is social media that will take me where I want to go.
And to be honest, I really don’t have a choice. It’s sort of taking over. I really believe that social media is the future for successful businesses and obviously public figures. I’m on the beta testing list with Google and others so I jump on every opportunity to expand my network. It’s kind of hard to explain what social media is doing and what I believe it will do for business. You really have to experience it. It’s like a wave building its intensity and I’m just getting ready for that enormous surge that is coming.
web site: http://RodneyPike.cm/
my blog: http://rwpike.blogspot.com/