Sotheby's sat down with Justin Roiland, artist, writer, voice actor, director and co-creator of renowned animated television series – including Rick and Morty and Solar Opposites – to discuss his inspirations and artistic experimentation.
A painting by Roiland, entitled mypeoplefriend, is on offer in Contemporary Art Online | New York, closing 21 July at 12:00 PM EDT.
Tell us more about your early career in media and how you landed where you are today. What has been your favorite project to work on thus far?
I started in reality TV as a production assistant and worked my way into producing. But I spent my nights and weekends writing, voicing and animating my own cartoons. Eventually, that became my day job, thank god. I worked on a lot of stuff before Rick and Morty took off. In the wake of R&M’s success, I was able to get a second show on the air (Solar Opposites) and start a game studio. I think my favorite project to work on of all time was my first full video game, Trover Saves the Universe.
Where do you draw inspiration for the characters you create?
Old science fiction shows like Farscape, weird books I’ve read – or sometimes I just pick and choose traits from people I’ve met or know in real life. Sometimes I watch ants, and that gets me everything I need.
What was your favorite animated show growing up, and what is your favorite animated show on television today?
Growing up, my all-time favorite show was Bevis and Butthead. It is absolutely brilliant, and the later episodes in that series are incredible to this day. My current favorite animated show is South Park. I am in awe of those guys.
“I am blown away by how therapeutic painting actually is. I’m going slow and playing with the medium.”
How long have you been practicing fine art outside of your experience with animation? Do you see a boundary between the two, or do you see them as a connected part of your artistic practice?
Fine art is very new to me. I started in mid-May of 2021. Before that, I hadn’t painted in my entire adult life. I see fine art and animation as very different from each other, although some of the paintings I am working on are of characters that could easily make their way into an animated series someday. Almost definitely.
What would you say is your favorite artistic media to experiment with?
Right now, it’s a tie between video games and painting, honestly. I am blown away by how therapeutic painting actually is. I’m going slow and playing with the medium.
Do you have a favorite contemporary artist or period of art history?
I’m a big fan of pulp art and the stuff seen in the old EC comics and alt comic art – Wally Wood, Johnny Craig, R. Crumb, Johnny Ryan, Simon Hanselmann and a ton of other artists I can’t remember because I’m an idiot.
Thinking historically of artists such as Roy Litchenstein, and of more contemporary artists such as KAWs, do you find that the line between fine art and cartoons or animation are becoming more blurred? Where do you see this line in 10 or 20 years?
Listen, I’m new to this. I don’t know anything. David Choe is doing some great stuff on The Choe Show that pushes fine art into the medium of tv/animations/cartoon. God. Now I’m thinking of a bunch of examples. Maybe it’s been there all along.