Brent Engstrom is an illustrator and cartoonist who was born in Kansas in August of 1978. He grew up with his twin brother, Brandon, who is also an artist, and started drawing at a very early age. Like many kids of his generation, Brent was a big fan of the Garbage Pail Kids trading cards-collecting them and admiring the gross-out styled illustrations. Brent started drawing more and more and was influenced by the works of the 70’s underground cartoonists. In high school he created a character he called “Monkeyboy” and later, while studying art at Kansas State University, he drew a daily “Monkeyboy” strip for the college’s newspaper, K-State Collegian.
In 2002 his “Monkeyboy” character made two guest appearances in Erik Larsen’s (Cartoonist Survey #203) ‘Savage Dragon’ comic book. Those two “Monkeyboy” stories from ‘Savage Dragon’ issues 104 and 105 were Brent’s first professional comic work and the first printed appearances of “Monkeyboy.”
Nickelodeon Magazine started using spot illustrations created by Brent and eventually began regularly running “Monkeyboy” strips between its pages. These strips ran right up until the magazine stopped being printed in 2010. Brent also ran “Monkeyboy” as a weekly webcomic and would one day like to publish a monthly “Monkeyboy” comic book.
In November of 2006 MAD Kids magazine started running Brent’s full-page comic called “Billy Blevins: Boy Inventor”. Each one of the “Billy Blevins: Boy Inventor” comics included blueprints of the new invention and also illustrations depicting the ways in which the invention could be used.
Brent may be best known for his work on the Garbage Pail Kids trading cards series put out by Topps. His first two paintings to get into the card series were for 2006’s All New Series 5 set. Since then, Brent has been involved in all of the Garbage Pail Kids series and has painted cards for Wacky Packages and Hollywood Zombies trading cards.
He has also provided numerous sketch cards for other trading cards sets such as, DC Universe Legacy, Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones, Marvel Masterpieces, Star Wars, Justice League of America, Mars Attacks, Batman, Transformers and many others.
Another of Brent’s projects is the webcomic “The Rise” which he decided to create after finding someone’s diary from the early 1980’s in a discarded box of books. The man who wrote the diary gave himself five years to rise to fame. Brent read the diary several times and became infatuated with the man’s life. He took each daily entry and re-wrote it word for word, only changing the names and locations, and then drew an illustration for each entry.
Brent lives in downtown Kansas City with his girlfriend, April, and their two pups, Jackson & Pierre.
Visit Brent’s website and blog to see much more of his work. Want to wear some of Brent’s cool artwork? Then head over to his Monkeyboy Stuff cafepress store. And if you haven’t been lucky enough to pull one of Brent’s sketch cards from a pack or trading cards, don’t worry as he will draw anything you want, fully-colored, for only $70!
What is your favorite pen to use?
I usually ink with a brush. I use a Cotman series 222 size 0 brush when I ink and a series 111 size 0 when I paint.
Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?
Mechanical most of the time. I'll use whatever is handy though.
Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?
Most of my GPK and Wacky Packages work is hand painted, but I will color comic pages in Photoshop. I never ink in Photoshop though. I stick to the more traditional route, with paper and a brush.
If you do your coloring by hand, what do you use?
I use acrylic paint for my paintings and I usually use markers for sketch cards.
What type of paper do you use?
I draw and paint on Smooth Strathmore Bristol paper.
What thing(s) do you hate to draw?
I can't really think of much, although buildings and cityscapes can be a drag sometimes.
Do you buy your supplies from big chain art store catalogues/websites or a local one that you physically go to?
I get most of my art supplies from a local art store down the street.
Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?
For the most part, not really, although I do always have to have a cup of coffee before I start.
Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?
I don't listen to music, unless the TV is left on a music channel, then it would be rap. I usually listen to a movie I've seen or a movie commentary.
Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?
Definitely. Marvel Comics were my favorite. I loved Jack Kirby before I really knew who Kirby was.
What is or was your favorite comic strip?
As a kid I was pretty into Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side. I really like Dick Tracy, Pogo and anything by Charles Addams too. Now my favorite strip is "Blecky Yuckerella" by Johnny Ryan (Cartoonist Survey #214).
What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?
A comic book I remember loving and reading over and over was a Jack Kirby Captain America comic. It was Tales of Suspense #84 when he fought the Super Adaptoid. I still own it.
Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?
I did go to college for art, but I can't really say they trained me for much. I pretty much drew comics the whole time.
Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?
A blessing. I'm sure this interview wouldn't be happening if the Internet didn't exist.
Did either of your parents draw?
My dad can draw and my Grandpa could draw. My twin and older brother both draw as well. It sort of runs in the family.
Drawn by Brent's Grandpa age 15.
Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?
My family has always been supportive. My girlfriend and friends are really supportive too.
Do you keep a sketchbook?
I haven't in years, although I use to before sketch cards came into my life...
Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?
I've never taught a class before. I have a fear of public speaking, so I don't see that happening any time soon.
Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?
A little bit of both. You can be the most passionate person on the planet and still produce complete garbage or vice versa.
Do you collect anything and if so what?
I have a pretty large book collection. They're mostly art books and books about comics.
If you were an animated cartoon character who do you think you would be?
If I had a choice it would be Popeye; the original black and white Popeye from the 1930's.
Are you a righty or lefty?
Righty. Sometimes I practice with my left hand just in case.
If you weren't an artist what would you want to do for work?
I'd want to be a pro wrestler, for sure.
In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.
It's in my living room. I draw at a drafting table with the TV and books nearby.
Do you play any musical instruments?
Nope. I've never had any musical ability.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?
I think that it's really important to be able to evolve as an artist. Even if you're naturally talented, it's important to always improve and acknowledge that you can improve.
Who is your favorite artist?
I have a lot. A few of my top favorites would probably be Robert Crumb, Norm Saunders, John Pound (Cartoonist Survey #188), Jay Lynch (Cartoonist Survey #57), Johnny Ryan, Josh Bayer and Bill Wray.
Thank you again very much for taking the time to participate Brent!
Enjoy this short video of Brent drawing a Wacky Packages sketch card for series 9.