WELCOME BACK, everyone! We know it has been a while, but we are back with a brand new entry in our Creator Spotlight series! This week, we spent some time chatting with Cameron Jeffrey, also known to everyone in the artist realm as The Black Rabbit. At a young age, Cameron discovered that he had a knack for artistry, drawing, and storytelling, and decided to build on that knack and see what would happen from it. We're pretty sure he never expected to go from those humble beginnings, to becoming a well-known artist around the Southeast United States. Cameron has spent years developing his style and passion for his art, and it definitely shows in his pieces, so of course we were excited to get the chance to sit down with him and discuss how he got started and what drives him to continue his creative pursuits!
Rocket Punch: Hello Everyone! Welcome to another awesome edition of the Rocket Punch Creator Spotlight. I will be your host this evening, Cameron, I know I sound a little bit different. I'm not Seth this time. This is Cameron, and it is special because I am here talking to... Cameron. But a different Cameron. This is Cameron Jeffrey. Cameron, how are you doing?
Black Rabbit: I'm doing alright. How's it going?
RP: I'm not too bad, I cannot complain. A little warm down here in Huntsville, but definitely can't complain. But, Cameron Jeffrey goes by another name you guys may have heard called Black Rabbit. He is an artist down here in the Southeast, and in my opinion, an incredible artist. I have seen a lot of your work, Cameron, it's very, very awesome and very cool. I'm very impressed there, and we're so happy to have you on the next edition of our Rocket Punch Creator Spotlight.
BR: I appreciate you guys having me!
RP: Of course, of course, of course! So to start off with our questioning here, Question number 1: Tell us a little bit about this project you have or Black Rabbit, whether it's an alias or project, tell us more about it. What is it?
BR: The Black Rabbit is an illustrative alias I go by. I like the aspect of [...] So I design characters, and stories and illustrations, and they're always interesting, but what's fun about them is, I can have my way of crafting them, and you get that to certain extents of yourself, but you still have people in your past that are like, "I remember when you did this kind of thing." So, having a new venture and kind of starting from where I did, which i guess I'll get to that afterwards, I wanted to create an alias that I could kind of form and morph and give a certain aesthetic to, and the Black Rabbit allows me to do that. It allows me to create a character and to manage that character as an alias, so there can be a separation between myself and the work, so you don't just get absorbed into it.
RP: That's very cool, very deep, like very mysterious. I like that. I like that a lot.
BR: Thank you! That's part of the aesthetic, if you will. I used to part of a group by the name of Studio Fizzy. We were several guys that actually published a few of my first publishings together, and then, I guess that was two years ago now, we kinda went our separate ways. One guys does animation for an ACT/SAT prep course. Another guys still does comics with me. He has his own stuff that he's been working on, and then the other guy is a stunt actor who's recently worked on Captain America: Civil War
RP: Very good! You may not know this about me, Cameron, but I'm a big Marvel fan, so those are bonus points for me
BR: All the times you see Black Panther doing those cool little stunts? That was more than likely him.
RP: Wow, that's very cool. Very awesome! It's very cool seeing you come from that group and kinda doing your own thing now. What inspired you to start creating artwork?
BR: Oh wow! Gosh, I guess it's kind of several iterations. When I was younger, my dad was really into art. He actually drew maps and landscapes, worked with topography for the military. One of my early stuff was kind of things in that realm. Of course, at the time, I was super into Power Rangers that we knew in the 90s. So that kind of evolved into its' own thing, but it was more of a hobby back then. It wasnt until my sophomore/junior year of high school that the skill set was practiced a lot more, and kind of cultivated a bit more, so I would draw little, I guess you would say web comics, or just kinda fun little comic pages for me and my friends. I had a friend with the site, screamatus.com, a while back, and we did a couple of comics on that that were cool. Then, college was impending around the corner, so it was like "What are you going to do?", and so my senior project was "What goes into making a manga?" and in that process, I came up with a story that I actually felt like had more merit that anything else I had ever done and so, I slowly started practicing my art to get to a level where I felt like it would meet the same level as the concepts I thought I had going on in my head, and that story's evolved into what it is now and has kinda inadvertently pushed my heart along to where it is at the moment, in a weird side bit.
RP: That's very cool! It's always awesome to see a skill being taken like that and building on that to refine it. When you first start, it may not be what you like, it's a little rough around the edges, but then you get to that point, and you look back, and you say, "this is how far I've come."
BR: It is weird on that. I have sketchbooks all the way back until I was 17, so I have a little over a decade's worth of sketchbooks. It's ridiculous being like, "How much have I really progressed?", and going back into the early stuff it was like ," Why did I ever choose to go this route? What was driving me?" [laughs]. I was so horrible.
RP: Well, kinda speaking on that, morphing that into a question: When you were younger, did you ever think, or did you already know that you were going to be an artist and you wanted to do this when you grew up, or is this something that just, over time, learned to appreciate and decided,"Hey, this is what I want to do"?
BR: I'd say a little bit of both. Originally, I knew that I really enjoyed art, and I always thought that it would be super cool to find a way to work that into a living. My family originally tried to push me towards architecture, or design stuff in that aspect, or one direction was even oceanography, since I'm a huge ocean buff, and the more and more I went into drawing stuff with my friends and working on the project, I realized I had something that I could turn into a story, and continue doing for years to come. It kinda grew into this viable direction, out of this hobby/pastime passion, and then it grew into, "Well, I really want to do this", and "Is this something viable?", "If I do finish this story, what do I do past that?". That got me into writing more, and developing a story more, and then writing other short stories and, so it was like, "Hey! This is something I can totally do!", and people will pay me for, and I can have fun with from time to time when I'm not bogged down by millions of commissions [laughs].
RP: Yea, I think a lot of people have the same feelings of doing something, or when you grow up, to do something, especially something you love, when you look back, you kind of see that moment where it may not have been as huge in your heart as it is now, but you picked at it, and you saw what you could do with that, and you made that grow. You flourished and grew it into what it is now, and I think that's really cool, and it really adds a lot of passion into what you do, whether it's artistry or anything, and I think that's very invaluable, especially in skills like being an artist.
BR: I think with directions, like if, I don't mean to put words in your mouths, but kinda of like what you guys are doing as well, it's just these past times that people are like, "Well, what are you gonna do when you grow up?" and it's just like, " I want to continue childhood. Forget your idea of growing up." [laughs].
RP: Yea, it's definitely hard, but I know that if you follow that path and go through those adversities, you really grow from that. Speaking specifically about your art: What do you think is unique about your particular style of art? There are a lot of artists out there, and what sets your style apart from everyone else's?
BR: Oh man, that's a really good question! Hmmm... I guess right off the top of my head, it would be, I like to feel at least, that my stuff is pretty normal, in terms of what I develop and pose in it. However, I like to think there's this slight edge, be it ethereal, or slightly creepy, or dreamscape-ish, that seeps out of the original idea, and adds a different composition to whichever medium I've chosen to do, be it an illustration, be it a comic page, be it just a piece, or whatever it may be. I like to think that those aspects kind of add a style and flair to it.
RP: I can definitely agree with that. Look at some of the artwork that you have, especially on your Facebook and your Tumblr posts, there very cool. Even characters that I've seen normally, there's the way you draw them, there's something different to them, and I love it. I think everybody, if they see, they'll love it too.
BR: I appreciate that a lot. I really do. I enjoy getting an outside perspective on it, because sometimes it's really difficult to pull away from being really close to it without that necessity of time, so without being able to pull back, it's like, "I did this. What do you think? Feel feel to be as harsh as possible." If it's awesome, then cool. But, I guess the flip side is it's weird, wanting those critiques, and that's the place I think a lot of artists go for.
RP: Well that's one of the awesome things about critiquing is that, it's designed to help you grow, especially whether you are open to it, whether it's positive or constructive. It's there to help you grow and build your style. You can figure out what you can improve on.
RP: So, next question: What is the most surprising thing you've discovered about being an artist in the Southeast? I mean, an artist is not an uncommon profession, per se, and there are a lot of artists around not only in the US, but in the world. In the Southeast area, what kind of surprising things have you run into?
BR: Oh wow, there are a ton of those! I guess off the bat, and I know this comes through little stigmas and just conditioning to think of the Southeast in a certain light: being able to travel around and do conventions or just talk to people over different social media outlets, just how diverse, VASTLY diverse, those groups of people are, right in your backyard. Individuals that I felt like I never really came across as often in places like middle school, high school, or even college to certain extents, and then now it's like, "Man, these people are everywhere!", like maybe I was in the wrong groups, or whatnot, like what was happening where I was missing all these individuals, and why does the South have the perspectives that people have on it? Why is it perceived the way it is when there's so many of these other individuals that are not that at all? I guess the other aspect, not really a tangent but, whenever I started this, I kinda grew up on the traditional stuff: Dragonball Z, Robotech, Gundam Wing...
RP: The classics! [laughs]
Yeah! Like Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, like the full nine. So I was like ,"Oh yea! My stuff is gonna be super hard, and action packed and guys are gonna love this!", and then a majority of my fanbase is actually female, which is a direction I did not anticipate going.
RP: That may not be a bad thing.
BR: Oh that's really cool, but it just is like, "Huh, OK."
RP: Yea, it's surprising that, in your work, you may not even know, what comes of your work when you put something out. We do podcasting and videos and stuff, but we find out who actually listens to it, and we can get a shock of who listens to Rocket Punch, and I'm sure you're feeling that same way of, "Hey, I draw this artwork. Ok, wow, I didn't think that you would like my artwork, but cool!".
BR: Oh yea! I guess the other interesting aspect that pops up randomly, is I find that a lot of my sketchwork and sketchbook stuff, get more of an audience than some of my finished stuff a majority of the time. Especially my character work, and its really wild to see that happen. So, I'll sit here and I'll sketch something up, and it will be like an hour, or two hours, be like, "All right, that's cool.", post it up, just tons and tons of love, and then I'll do a finished piece that I spent like, on-again off-again, like 3 days, 4 days on, and it will get maybe half the reception. It will all be cool and whatnot, which is awesome, but it always like,"Huh. I have no idea what you all like! [laughs], so I'm gonna continue doing what I like, and if you guys like it, then awesome!".
RP: Honestly, that's the best way to figure out what everyone else likes, is you do what you want to do, and then they will let you know if they like it or not.
BR: Yea, true.
RP: So, next question here: What is the most challenging obstacle you have had to overcome in your career? I know especially in the time you've been drawing, I'm sure you've had high moments, maybe some bumps in the road. What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome in order to continue doing what you love?
BR: I actually have to say there are a couple of those. The first one, which I guess what harder than I anticipated it would be, is the fact that I started this off with a bunch of friends along the way, and slowly watching people kind of drift off into complacency in certain aspects, or find other venues that work for them in the moment, and they kinda just pursued it really hard. I found that very interesting, because the only certain routes, especially in the creative fields,in my opinion, you forget how rough that can be at times, and if you have a passion for it, if you generally don't enjoy it, or find some kind of fulfillment out of it, you can find yourself falling off really easily. So, starting off with all the individuals I was familiar with doing this and being like, "Hey, there's a large following of us. there are a lot of people that can be here for support, and I can be there for support.", and then being where I'm at now, and I can name like two or three people that are really hard into it, that I didn't meet at a convention, or on the road, or something, that was a little rough, dealing with that at the start. The other one is coming across support. A lot of people can enjoy, at least from my side of things, the artwork, like they can appreciate an image looking beautiful or cool or interesting, but there's this like, "Well, you know, I'll buy it later on, or I'll check it out later on.", and then "later on" never comes, some of those times. So that's a little bit difficult dealing with off the bat. I think a lot of artists get into it, and they're like, "I finally finished all this stuff, I put a ton of work into it..", and they're just waiting for it to sell out, just everybody comes and buys it, and the amount of work you put into something doesn't always equate to the public's perception or interpretation of it. So, coming across that in the early years is, I think difficult, and I've noticed that with a lot of friends who are artists as well, or individuals who are artists, that I've noticed, hits them very hard, and that wasn't as bad early on for me, just because of the individuals I was with, and the support structures I had setup then, but I can see where that trips up a lot of people and they end up getting out of the game because of it.
RP: Yea, I can definitely see that, and know that, especially when you start on projects like those, especially in the creative field, how usually the front end of that can be very difficult if you're putting all your work into something, and then it may seem people don't like it, or not very interested in it. It can be a little disheartening there. But, you're still here [laughs].
BR: Oh yea, the Black Rabbit has been a really cool venture. Switching over from Studio Fizzy stuff to the Black Rabbit, it was really heartwarming to see a lot of the people who were following, kind of jump over to that ship as well, and they're just like, "We really enjoyed your stuff. We enjoyed your story, your work, we wanna see what this venture turns into.", and that was just one of those moments where it's just like,"Thank you guys! I love you so much, you have no idea!"
RP: Oh yea, that can definitely be very heartwarming to see reactions like that, especially the positive ones where your fans come and talk to you like that. Speaking on that: What is the most fulfilling part of starting Black Rabbit that you've experienced yourself? One of those "heartwarming moments" like that?
BR: Hmm. I guess there are a ton of those. I guess the most recent one: there was a lady who just recently got married. She's been following me, i guess, for about 3 years now. But, she contacted me and asked me to do a piece of her and her husband as Superman and Batman, as their respective favorite characters, and that was one of the centerpieces for her wedding, where she got it framed, and had all the guests come up and sign it, and that was super cool that this really special moment in her life, and she wanted me to design a piece that some of that would be revolved around.
RP: See, that is very cool!
BR: That was very cool! I've visited Miami two years in a row, and then I had to take two years off from doing a convention down there, and I'll still have individuals from places like there and other conventions hit me up randomly and just be like, "Hey! Are you doing this convention again?", and I might not have seen or talked to them for like two years, and now they're just like, "Hey, are you coming back here? Are you doing this stuff again? Is your second book out?". That's awesome [laughs]
RP: Very cool, especially when you get that kind of reaction it kind of helps you out as well and lets you know the work you're doing isn't for naught and it gives you that drive to keep going and keep improving and keep drawing and keep being what you want to be.
RP: So, this will be a good question for you: What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own project, whether it be artist projects or something like that, or any type of geek project: podcasting, anything, what advice would you give them to kind of help them get started?
BR: I would say that no matter what happens with it, make sure that whatever you start off, it's small or large, that you do it for themselves. They don't do it for any fame or glory or aspects of that, which are cool if they come, and if they do: awesome, if they don't: don't worry about it. Make sure that at the end of the day, that you are creating or doing or developing what you want with what you're creative outlet is, and do it for yourself. As long as you enjoy it, that's really what matters off the bat, and you have to forget about money. A really odd place to get, either odd or really cliche: One of the earliest and best pieces of advice I got a while back was from a janitor at a library, and he enjoyed my work, and he was just like," Don't do it for the money. Follow your passion, because if you chase the money, you'll never get there.But if you chase your passion, well that's what the money is following, from the person who's chasing the money.", and so, sticking to the passion, the money will follow. Sticking to the money, or fame, it'll be just that goal that you'll never quite reach or achieve, because you're reaching for the wrong thing.
RP: Good words, I do not think truer words have been spoken on the Creator Spotlights yet, and I would definitely have to agree. I think that when you follow that passion, you will help grow that passion, and everything else will fall in after that, but that passion will show in your work, and I think that is very important. So, good words, good words. But, Cameron, that's about wrapped up our interview here in our Creator Spotlight. I definitely appreciate you coming to talk to us over the internets from Atlanta to Huntsville, AL. I appreciate you taking the time out from your schedule of drawing, and all the busy work that you have to do, to give us a few minutes of time to talk about you.
BR: Aw, thank you guys for having me! And, if you're ever in the are, there are a ton of places that you guys can mess around with, up here like Battle in Brew and such, I think you guys would really enjoy!
RP: That sounds like we'll have to put that in the books there! Before we let you go, how can people interact with you?
BR: I'm on Facebook: facebook.com/theblkrabbit, Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, and for the most part, that's pretty much where I post most of my stuff up.Twitter is still kind of an odd spot for me as an artist, so I more so use that as," Hey, I'm in this area. If you're in the area, feel free to drop by and draw with me!".
RP: That's cool! That's what social media is for: to make more friends! Well, Cameron, thank you very much! It was great sitting down and getting the chance to talk with you. Again, we thank you for the time you've taken out from your busy schedule to give a few words here.
BR: Oh, like I said, thank you guys for having me! You guys are awesome!
RP: And, of course, to our listeners here that are listening to the interview: thank you guys for listening! This has been our Rocket Punch Creator Spotlight. It is one of the awesome things that we at Rocket Punch love to do here. You can always continue to follow our content at rocketpunchgo.com, that's the one stop shop for all of our content: videos, podcasts, you may be listening to this on our Rocket Punch Cast feed as well, so you already know where the podcasts are at. Youtube, articles, everything like that, you're definitely going to find at rocketpunchgo.com. But, I am Cameron, I was joined by Cameron tonight! Again, thank you so much for coming on, Cameron, and we will talk to you guys next time!
BR: It was a pleasure! I'll catch you guys next turn!
Once again, Rocket Punch would like to thank Cameron for taking the time from his busy schedule to sit and talk to us about his artistic pursuits! Be sure to check out his Facebook page to stay up to date on all the latest announcements and events that The Black Rabbit will appear at next, which is linked at the top of the page! Plus, don't forget to keep your bookmarks saved onto Rocket Punch to catch not only all of the awesome creators like The Black Rabbit, but also all of the latest awesome geek and gaming original content!