Monday, April 9, 2012

Bryan Ballinger on Termites and Teachers

Mowat and I have been wondering what OTHER illustrators did in Elementary school... did they like art? Did they get in trouble for doodling? Do they have messy rooms - and other important questions.

We also wanted to see what kinds of things THEY drew before they got paid to draw.

Today we have a very special featured guest.... Bryan Ballinger!

a young Bryan in his classroom

Bryan is an illustrator, animator, professor and author of all sorts of cool and kooky things... He's worked with NINTENDO, MICROSOFT and veggietales to name a few. He is also the co-author of The Great Cheese Squeeze, a children’s book he did with his buddy Keith Lango. to read Bryan's full bio - click here. Bryan has shared some of his doodles from grade 3 and 4 - and has graciously answered our questions...


MO: Your illustrations are really, I mean REALLY funny. I like the pigs a lot. The termites are very funny too. Have you always written stories?

BRYAN: I’ve been coming up with funny stories since, hmmm, probably 3rd or 4th grade I’d say. That’s about when I started making comics and drawing cartoon characters anyway. The termites were my first real cartoon/comic series. I used to do them with my best friend Heath, in elementary school.

MO: When you were in school did you ever take too long doing your work or did you get into trouble for drawing while your teacher was talking? 

BRYAN: YES! Here’s the thing though. When I am doodling and drawing, most of the time it actually helps me to concentrate on what the teacher or speaker is saying. It helps me focus. Otherwise my mind can wander. Here’s the funny thing. I am almost 44 years old, and I still sometimes get in trouble for drawing during meetings, etc. But it really does help me pay attention more, and many of my best drawings have been done while I’m in class or in a meeting.

MO: Did you LIKE art class?

BRYAN: Mostly yes. When I had a good art teacher, I LOVED art class. By the time I was in high school, I spent most of the day in the art room. I have an inner drive to always be making stuff. When I’m not making stuff, I get antsy and sometimes sad. And in art class, you get to make stuff!

MO & PEGGY: What grade did you figure out you were pretty good at this stuff?

BRYAN: That’s actually a very good, and very hard question. It’s only in the past few years that I’ve started to begin to think maybe sometimes I’m good at this stuff. I know it was in 4th grade that I really figured out how much I love doing this stuff though. And when I figured out that I could draw things that made people laugh, or made me feel like I was going on an adventure, or creating a new world, I knew I wanted to always be an artist.

MO: Is your studio messy? What kind of things do you use to make your illustrations (cause it looks like you use all sorts of things)?

BRYAN: My studio is very very messy. But I think that is partly because I am a very messy person. I have some artist friends who are really good and are really really neat. But for me, my art creating area looks like a creative bomb exploded and cartoon characters on scraps of paper are blown all over the room. I do almost all of my drawing with Sharpie pens. But then I usually color all my illustrations on the computer. However I like to create lots of textures to use when I’m coloring. I will scan almost anything into the computer for my illustrations.

For instance, if you look here, you can see what I mean!

MO: DO you like jokes? What is your favourite?

BRYAN: I do like jokes. And I love funny cartoons, like Peanuts, B.C., and Tumbleweeds.  Hmmmm, my favorite joke, let’s see. Here’s two of my favorites that kind of go together:

What happens when you run in front of a car? You get tired.
What happens when you run behind a car? You get exhausted.

PEGGY: Did you have one special teacher that nurtured your talent (in elementary school) - and what would you tell them today? 

BRYAN: To be honest, the teacher in elementary school who influenced me the most and inspired me the most was my advanced reading teacher Mr. Morton. He had us reading some amazing books, like Watership Down. Actually that book is still my favorite to this day. He challenged us with the best of the best stories. The coolest thing about him though was that he loved the stories he was having us read, and that came out in his teaching every day. His enthusiasm and respect for the stories was infectious and I feel indebted to him still.

PEGGY: If you had a parallel life and could be anything else - what would your OTHER dream job be?

BRYAN: Oooooooo, this is a great question! I wish I was a guitar player like Michael Hedges, who invented new ways to play the guitar for many of the songs he wrote.

Thank you so much Bryan!
If you would like to see more of Bryan's awesome work - please visit the links below. I would also HIGHLY recommend checking out this absurd food site KOOKY COOKERY.

art blog which is updated more regularly: 
Bryan also has a beautiful photography website (this guy is MULTI-TALENTED) :


  1. Thanks for the great interview, I love Bryans work and thought it was really fun to see some early sketches.

  2. That Bryan, he's really somethin'! I wanna be more like him.