Little Fictions: Interview with Teetering Bulb
The art of illustrative duo, Teetering Bulb, feels like a watercolor spiral that is just hinting at the beginning of a vaporous mystery. Kurt Huggins and Zelda Devon create provocative pieces of art that read like “little fictions” from their “pocket-sized apartment” in Brooklyn. They have worked for such clients as Realms of Fantasy, Scholastic, Inc., DC Comics and Wizards of the Coast and have been featured in Spectrum. Teetering Bulb are also the creators of webcomics; The Dreaded Question and King of an Endless Sky. Kurt and Zelda kindly took the time to share their thoughts on mandibles, serendipity and the nature of illustration.
1) Your website bio mentions that you collect ‘neat, weird things’. What was a recent weird thing(s) that you picked up?
It’s been a while since we’ve been able to add to the curiosity shop that is our house. We’ve been burdened with purchasing the practical. Although the practical does have it’s own charms: yellowed paper from hard to find art course books, the chipped paint of second-hand flat files, and the rich stain of an antique drafting table. Several months ago, while out acquiring some useful item, we ran into the carcass of a black lacquered whale. This piano appeared to have been thrown from the fourth floor of the adjacent brownstone. Luckily, the whale had suffered no fractures of the mandible, and with our house keys as screwdrivers, we freed the entire keyboard. Now our studio wall is adorned with a piano’s smile.
2) What and who inspires you?
Some of the books on the easy-to-reach shelf are a lot of the Golden Age Illustrators. Dead guys like J.C. Leyendecker, Dean Cornwell, Mead Schaeffer and N.C. Wyeth are a constant reminder of who we want to be when we grow up. We’re also big fans of Herbert Paus, Frank Brangwyn, Alphonse Mucha, Ivan Bilibin, Albert Dorne, and Austin Briggs. Then there’s a few of theamazing Japanese printmakers including Kawase Hasui and Yoshida Hiroshi. Hidden artists of the animation industry, including Paul Felix, Nicolas Marlet, and Nathan Fowkes. I really could type my fingers into a pulp.
3) How did you begin your studio? Describe an average work day for you. First you wake up and then…
…we go back to sleep. Honestly, there doesn’t seem to be an average workday, it all shifts based on the demands at the time. We start around 11 in the morning and can often work till 2 or 3 am. Sometimes later if a deadline looms. The studio began accidentally. We both worked as graphic designers, but kept a blog of drawings and stories to keep our spirits up. By serendipity, a couple of folks stumbled across our work and asked if we would draw something for them. Two years later, we’re consumed by illustration full time.
4) What sort of mediums do you use and what would you like to experiment with more?
Everything is drawn in pencil and then scanned in to be digitally painted. While the computer is wonderful, I think we’d both like for the work to be finished with traditional materials. There’s a certain joy that comes from having a physical piece at the end of an assignment.
5) How do you work as a couple (how do you coordinate illustrations, etc.)?
I’ll let you know when we’ve figured that out.
6) What are some current or upcoming projects that you’re working on?
Our big project right now is King of an Endless Sky for Tor.com. We’re also currently working on assignments for Godiva, Pearson Publishing, and DC/Vertigo comics.
7) What advice would you give illustrators who are just starting out professionally?
Make sure that you love what you do and be prepared to work very hard, and I mean coal miner hard. I’d also recommend moving to a city that is known for the type of work you want to do. Editorial, book covers, and advertising work seem to primarily happen in New York. Most Entertainment work happens in Los Angeles. While the internet supposedly allows you to work anywhere, I think you need to establish yourself at one of these hubs first. Most of our success probably hinges on us living in NYC. Also, it does seem to take anywhere between 3-5 years for an illustration career to fully blossom. Unless you’re lucky. If your auspicious days have yet to come, just keep going. Don’t give up. If you love what you do, chances are, other people will too.