Daniel (DJ) Rubinstein is a freelance Illustrator and Cartoonist from Orlando, FL. He graduated from the Ringling School of Art and Design in 2006 with a BA in Illustration. Recently, he did the character portraits for the adventure game The Blackwell Deception. You may recognize some of his work – he designed our Geek Gala logos for 2011 and this year’s “Night of the Living Geeks.” I had a chance to catch up with DJ and ask him 5 questions.
So when did you first realize that art was what you wanted to do with your life?
I wish I could say there was a big epiphany moment, but it’s really something that’s always been there at the back of my mind. Most of my life, I’ve been drawing things. Somewhere, I still have the very first comic I ever drew. I was five years old and it was an eight page story about a rabbit who recruited a kangaroo bodyguard to beat up the wolf that was chasing him. The kangaroo wore boxing gloves, because that’s just the kinda story this was. It was the storytelling power of art that really drew me. Even as I grew up and flirted with other career options, I would always draw jokes and stories in my notebooks and textbooks. Finally, I just decided to go with it and apply to art school. I figured if they accepted me then I just might be good enough to make it a career. Thankfully they did or I’d probably be a starving writer instead of a starving artist today.
I was a huge fan of your strip “Drawing the Line” and am an equal fanatic of “Seaver the Wonder Dog” – what’s the hardest part about having a regular strip?
It’s definitely more difficult than it looks. For one, it’s hard to come up with a decent joke on even a weekly basis. I really feel for the guys who do daily strips! Luckily, I do have a lot of help. Most people are usually happy to suggest good joke set-ups. My girlfriend is particularly good at it so I just badger her for ideas whenever I’ve run dry. For me, the hardest part is just being motivated to do it. It can be tough to get excited about drawing a dog and a cat talking to each other for the 200th time. Now I know why superhero comics were invented – artists wanted to find an excuse to draw new, crazy stuff every month.
You’ve done some work on some cool video games – can you tell us a little about them, and your work on them?
It’s just the one, so far – The Blackwell Deception, the fourth game in a series of indie adventure games. The creator, Dave Gilbert, was looking for a portrait designer who could do something different from what was done in previous games. The earlier games had pixel art portraits, like you would see in Gabriel Knight or Broken Sword. Dave really liked my Firefly portrait series and wanted some portraits similar to that. It was fun and a LOT of work. I think there ended up being about 75 portraits created for the game. Some didn’t even make the final build of the game. I guess the world just wasn’t ready for sad-faced Joey Mallone, yet.
Who have been some of the biggest influences on your work?
Visual storytellers are my favorites, so it’s probably not surprising that the bulk of my influences come from comics. Hands down, my favorite artist and biggest influence is Will Eisner. I wish I was half the draftsman that he was and I’m still amazed to find that any challenge that I (or any other comic artist) come across now, he probably solved effortlessly 70 years ago. As for those working today, I’m also a big fan of artists like Darwynn Cooke and Craig Thompson. I’m not sure how much of that admiration I’m able to transfer into my pieces, but the work they put out is hugely inspiring.
You once did a story arc in Drawing the Line about zombies called Escape from Lakeland. With the recent story of the Florida man going zombie and eating the face of his alive victim – do you feel like life is starting to imitate sci fi?
I hope not! To be fair, the zombies of Lakeland were all old, retired and fairly benign. These news stories that keep coming out are just scary! The CDC may say we’re safe, but I think I’m going to be stocking up on canned goods and cricket bats, just in case.
For more information on Daniel (DJ) Rubinstein, visit his website at www.danielrubinstein.com