N8 Van Dyke

How’s it going N8?

It’s good, man. I’m in a good mood because I sent my taxes off to my tax lady this morning (late like usual) and I am sitting at a bar with a pitcher of beer, my laptop, and this interview. Things could be worse. That’ll happen when I find out how much of my slush fund Ole Uncle Sam wants.

Sounds like fun. (Laughs). Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in San Anselmo which is in Northern California. It’s right north of the Golden Gate Bridge. I now reside in San Francisco with my girlfriend and her four-legged old bitch.

How was the art scene there?

The art scene in Marin is a little different than it is in SF. In Marin, it is more of that crap like paintings of flowers and landscapes. The type of work you can hang above your couch. The scene in SF is pretty different. It’s a young crowd and it is aggressively growing. A greater variety of work and subjects fly here in the city. I started showing my work in Marin when I was younger but I got a lot more attention when I started showing in SF.

What’s the latest and greatest for N8?
A new pint of beer, for starters. I mean, I have answered three full questions already. Now to the question. As of now, I am taking a break of full-time video game concept art work. I’m focusing on my freelance, art shows and comic books; MY SHIT! It’s been a lot of fun. My focus has been the comic books.


I’m currently penciling and inking a five-issue comic book run of Jurassic Park for IDW Publishing. I can now add dinos to the list of things I tend to draw. Chimps, skulls, and dinos. It’s coming along really well. I should actually be working on it right now but decided to drink beer and do this interview. HA! I’ll get back to it. I’m more of a nighttime artist, anyway. All that and some art shows in the works.


Political, social, or aesthetic… which direction is your work focused in, and if it’s all or a few, why?
That’s a great question. I was talking to a friend the other day about how there are generally all these messages in art that other people most likely will never realize. I may draw a chimp with a chainsaw and the monster he just hacked up and all they see is the cool factor, which is fine. What they don’t realize is it could be my comment on the drag of society and the never ending line of shit you are dealt and then need to dispose of, only to move onto the next pile of shit. A vicious, never-ending cycle.


I’m not one of those political guys. I could care less. As long as I have the right of freedom of expression, I’m a happy motherfucker. That and the sale of beer being legal and I’m set. I’d say my work could be boiled down to social and aesthetic directions. I just happen to feel that a mad chimp is an awesome visual and social aesthetic. The whole idea behind the chimp is that he is the “every man”. So, there is the social aspect. He is you and I but more of a black and white version. Minus all of the grey that is in between.

Who were your major influences and what compelled you to go into illustration and painting?
My Mom was an artist, as well as her mother. My Mom did marble sculpture and her mom painted oil portraits. From what I know, I am at least a fourth generation artist so I was always around art. Naturally I drew with crayons and discovered comic books as a youth. All I ever wanted to do when I was younger was to draw comics. I never really pursued “illustration” as a vocation but when you can draw and draw just about anything you start getting jobs that may or may not be around comics. Comics, naturally don’t pay all that well but illustrating generally does. I actually started doing freelance illustration while I was still in high school. Before you know it, I’m making a living as an illustrator. I just kinda fell into it because… I happen to draw.


When I was a kid one of my earliest influences was John Pound who painted a lot of the Garbage Pail Kids cards. My head exploded when I discovered those. I didn’t think that you were allowed to draw like that, literally. That was one of my earliest and biggest influences on my art.

What inspires you?

I’m not one of those guys who scour the web for artists. There are those guys I like who continue to inspire. There are a lot of guys who do art on the computer and I draw almost no influence from those guys. I still get inspired by the same guys I admired 15 years ago. I can open a Calvin and Hobbes book and literally be humbled in three seconds. I’m inspired by a lot of my friends. I think I get more inspired by the art when I know the artist behind it all.

I can open a Calvin and Hobbes book and literally be humbled in three seconds.

When I grew up I was really inspired by Simon Bisley. Now that I am buds with him and have stories for days with that guy, I have grown an even deeper appreciation for his art. I guess I draw most of my inspiration from living and the own demons in my head. From life. Sounds cheesy but it’s true.

Are there any artists outside of your art realm that you admire?
I’ll give this answer to one main artist. I could list dozens but this answer belongs to Jean Leon Gerome. ‘Nuff said!

What message are you you trying to convey?
“Life sucks, drink whiskey”. Ha! Just kidding. I guess if I had to pare it down to one message, it’s that life is a constant struggle. You may get past one hurdle but there is always another one waiting for you. Life just ain’t all that easy.

How do you stay unique and stay true to yourself as an artist?

Another great question. I remember trying to FIND a style when I was young. Turns out that style happens when you try the least. There were a lot of artists I studied when I was younger and copied but when I stopped heavily looking at their stuff and looked on the inside is when I became who I am. I get a lot of people who marvel over my black and white work. A lot of that was learned by looking at comics but the extra bit of it that has made it my look is what came from inside.

What’s your favorite medium to work in and why?
Pen and ink. I love how stark it is. I love the challenge of creating the illusion of grey with a pen and brush. People may respond to a painting with blue in it because they like the color blue but I find that the people who like black and white the most are artists as well and that’s fine by me. I love detail. I’m a self-certified OCD pen and ink detail whore. I may take eight different pens and brushes to create on piece. Making a drawing with one ballpoint pen is a caveman way of thought. Viva la pen and ink!


Your work has a very strong, bold, and gritty feel to it, similar to graffiti. Do you derive any styles, mediums, or techniques from graffiti?

Yes, I do. I actually have a bit of history with wheatpasting. I know my way around a spray can but I like that you can put hours into a drawing and paste up a poster in seconds. I don’t go postering as often as I used to but I have gotten some fame from what little of that I have done. Really good graff artists are a rare breed. The color combinations and talent in the world of graff is something that deserves attention. I’m buddies with Saber and that guy has a beast of a brain. Great guy to know and talk art with. I love that kid and the times I’ve shared with him.

There are times when artists can lose their way or get a block on some creative processes, and need to get their juices flowing. What keeps you hungry, what keeps you going?
Man, I get blocked all of the time. For me, it’s not a lack of ideas as much as it can be a lack of drive. It’s all too easy to get burnt out. You can spend days busting nuts on a piece and then you wake up the next day and you are supposed to recreate that last piece, only better. What keeps me going is that I don’t know what else I would be doing. This is what I do. I draw. I think what keeps me really going is looking at older work I’ve done and knowing that I could do a better version of that piece today. It’s one of the same things that kept me drawing as a kid. Aside from drawing and enjoying it I noticed I was better than the rest of my class at it. You have to see some success at what you do no matter what it is. Be it drawing or be it that you bedazzle a jeans jacket like nobody else. You need some reward. Be it on the inside or from your peers. Aside from that… I feel like I’ve got people waiting to see what I may do next and I best be delivering it.

You have to see some success at what you do no matter what it is.

As far as being able to pick-up new and exciting freelance opportunities, what do you think is your greatest asset? Exposure? Self-promotion? Word-of-mouth?
Having a website. I’m not a great self promoter. I’ll tell you right now that 95% of my freelance gigs come to me through e-mail. I don’t go looking all that much. I turn down a lot more than I actually do. I get kids asking me how I landed clients like Levi Strauss.

Truth of it is that clients like that come after a long snowball of gigs. I drew a flier for a band which led to this and that and so on. You don’t just text Lev Strauss and ask for work. You earn it. If you want to get into this life start with a website (not a fucking deviant art site but a real fucking site) and it goes from there. If you get certain jobs, it’s because you have the chops. Simple. As. That.

Do you have any interests outside of illustrating that enable you to escape?
I have yet to find something that allows me to escape the way art does. I enjoy going out with friends and shooting pool. That has a way of taking my mind off of things. Sex can be a brief escape as well.

Any favorite quotes that might describe you or your style of work?
It’s a quote I read a long time ago which I am going to butcher. I’m not even going to credit the author of the quote because of how much I might mess this up. In any event, he said something along the lines that artists should draw what is inside of them and never compromise. If it’s a flower, go for it. If it’s something violent that you don’t think anybody would want to see but it’s still inside you, go for it. It went something like that. It came at a time when a lot of people were questioning me about the violent nature of a lot of my work. So, it was nice to read that and know I should stick with what is true for me.

What sort of projects do you have in the works?
I’ve got a couple things in the works. Time will tell what they are. Check the blog for the latest!



Thanks for taking the time out of your drinking schedule to answer some questions.
My pleasure! All out of beer. Gotta fix that. Cheers!


Brian Beavers

Hi, I'm Brian Beavers, a ui designer and creative writer from the nation's capital. I spend my free-time drawing, reading comic books, playing soccer, and at the park with Gia, Project Galvanize's mascot. I am always looking to get involved in creative projects or to just chat about design and other fun stuff. You can follow me on twitter, view our work at Galvanize Creative LLC, or reach me at brian@galvanizecreative.com

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