Artist Spotlight: Erin Filson
One of the mission statements here at ActionStudioWorks is to give a voice and exposure to artists, writers and projects that might not otherwise be able to get said exposure. So in keeping with that philosophy we would like to introduce you to Erin Filson. We came across Erin’s work and loved the innocent earnest fun.
Witty, charming, vulnerable, and imaginative are just a few of the words that come to mind when looking at her artwork. But what really makes her work stand out the most is her use of multiple forms of media. She doesn’t just do traditional 2D drawing, but she also uses photography to tell her story while remaining in the very same universe. This gives her her work a freshness that keeps you guessing from strip to strip.
In a very short time ActionStudioWorks will begin presenting Erin’s weekly strip in our comics section, but until then we took a few minutes to chat with her about her background, influences and a few other ridiculous things.
So, check out our interview and make sure you stay tuned for the debut of her weekly strip “The Adventures of Ranger Elf” right here!
Hi Erin, how are you doing?
I just got some coffee so I’m good. How are you?
Tell us about your background.
I have an Associate’s Degree in Graphic Design and a BFA in Animation. I’ve been working as a freelance artist in Philadelphia for the past couple of years. I began The Adventures of Ranger Elf about four years ago because my mom said, “Erin, your life is very strange. You should make a comic about it.” And so I did. Thanks, mom!
How did you get involved with ActionStudioWorks?
I believe Diallo contacted me after I posted my webcomic to a group on LinkedIn. So far, that’s the only thing LinkedIn has done for me. Heh.
Your medium choices for your comic strip are unique; live models, hand drawn and other stylized forms. What made you decide to create your strip this way?
Originally, because of my animation background, I did the comics all in Flash. Drawing directly into the computer seemed the most efficient way to make a weekly comic. Also, I didn’t have access to a scanner. However, I wasn’t really happy with how the Flash strips looked and I felt the computer program was making me a lazy artist. To remedy this, I decided to change things up for Ranger Elf’s second season. I love sketching and doodling more than I love a finished piece so I decided to play to my strengths instead of fighting against them. That was definitely a turning point. I feel a lot more connected to the characters and also free to make mistakes when I’m doodling on paper. Since the comic is based off my real life, I figured doing “live action” comics made sense. Plus they’re fun and incredibly easy to make! In my opinion, all of this variety in appearance from strip to strip works because the comic is about how the main character interprets life and her search for identity through the lens of her imagination. And the comic visually reflects that.
And what was the inspiration for this strip in particular?
In general, The Adventures of Ranger Elf is based off my life. I’m Erin Filson and the main character is Karen Wilson and we’re like 99% the same person. So most of the things that happen to her are just slightly more comedic or bizarre takes on things that have happened to me. But George and Mookie came first. They were just doodles I made when I was bored in math class one day and then I created this backstory for them and used them in a few art projects. They were supposed to be dead cats from another dimension who helped children when they were bored. They starred in my sophomore animation piece. For another class, I made a really short and simple animation called The Adventures of Ranger Elf. I always loved superheroes and I always loved elves and I always loved animals so making up this world where I was this elf superhero who rode around the city on a giant red panda named Clive made complete sense to me. After college, I struggled to find a job and ended up moving back home and was stuck in this sort of life-crisis stage. I think, for an art show that never happened, I decided to make an animation about Ranger Elf and her dealing with this sort of failure on her part to actually become a superhero or grow-up and she’s lonely and aimless and kinda losing her mind trying to figure out what to do with her life. Because that’s what I was going through. Like I said, the art show never happened and the idea to make an animation became an idea to make an ongoing webcomic, instead, because it was more immediate, both in my ability to create it and in getting it out and receiving feedback. Bringing George and Mookie into the Ranger Elf universe was natural. Karen was bored and in need of other characters to talk to and I thought it would be funny if she’s this twenty-something with imaginary friends. So conversations between Karen and George or Karen and Clive are usually conversations I’ve had with myself or a friend or family member in real life. And the character of Missy is entirely based off my real life roommate, Katy. But yeah, that’s the origin of The Adventures of Ranger Elf comic strip! Everything else has just grown from there! Having a comic that is about my real life is very cathartic. I tend to find myself in awkward or odd situations a lot but now, because of my comic, I’m just like, “Ah. That would totally happen to Karen Wilson. That’s going to be hilarious.” It’s great.
At what age did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I don’t know if it was ever a conscious decision because I’ve been drawing since birth, practically. Even so, after graduating high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I floundered around at a community college for a little while and then just fell back on art because it was something I enjoyed. What I struggle with is taking myself seriously as an artist and believing that I’m any good at it, to be honest. Probably because I always compare myself to other super successful artists. That’s a trap and I need to stop falling into it! But I’m really glad I’ve followed art up until this point and that I’m finally making a living off it and that Ranger Elf is starting to get some attention. It’s awesome.
What are your plans with this now that the world knows you’ve arrived?!
WHOA! Hahaha I never thought I would arrive so… I don’t know! Make more comics! Make better comics! Revel in the fact that I’m making comics and people are actually reading them! I have many great plans for Ranger Elf. And I’m working with a non-profit to make a comic book for them. Mostly, I’m gonna be networking, getting my work out there, and continue doing what I do.
Quick! What’s your favorite TV show, favorite movie, favorite comic character, favorite song?
Superman or the Hulk. Who would win?
Thanks Erin. Anything else you’d like to tell us?
I am eternally grateful for you reaching out to me!