-For Discover Parkland-
Nick Butler is a talented and innovative artist and animator who operates Turtledust Media, a digital art production studio located right here in Parkland. Butler has had a long and diverse artistic career in which he has merged technology and art in refreshing new ways. With every new project, Butler is always looking ahead, and both his past work and his future plans are full of surprises.
Turtledust Media started out as Turtledust back in 2003, when Butler was studying computer science at Colorado Technical University. Butler did the artwork, while his classmate Charles Gibson did the coding. Originally, the plan was to make video games.
Now, Turtledust Media has been involved in everything from Imago, a low-budget horror movie, to doing freelance work and storyboards for both Hollywood and independent productions. Oh, and its based out of the garage in Butler’s Parkland home, just a few blocks from Pacific Lutheran University.
Butler, working with former PLU students, converted his garage into a visual effects studio, complete with green walls to act as green screens for digital video production. Butler has high hopes for Turtledust Media, and its place in Parkland.
“I’m hoping to grow it into something that can eventually employ people here in Parkland as well as around the world,” Butler said.
The studio is focused on teaching and education as well as production. It’s all about learning, collaborating, and working together to create art in an open, social environment.
Turtledust Media works as an umbrella for Butler’s artistic projects, which encompass a wide variety of styles and mediums. Butler has had a life-long passion for art, which is now melding seamlessly with social media and digital technologies. Despite the digital tools Butler has come to rely upon, paper and pencil have been at the top of his list for a long time.
“Since I could pick up a pencil, I’ve been drawing. My parents were military, so we moved around a lot, and I drew. It was the one thing that kind of could follow me around wherever we went,” Butler said with regards to his artistic beginnings.
Since then, Butler has developed into a versatile and accomplished artist. His skills expanded especially during his time in Los Angeles in 2005, where he did various forms of freelance work including fashion, illustration, and even storyboards for NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.” He also took a number of life drawing classes before returning to Parkland, where he would be offered the opportunity to teach life drawing classes at Pacific Lutheran University. After that, he landed a position as a digital media developer for the university, which allowed him to combine both his art and his computer science background.
While Butler ranks traditional pencil and paper at the top of his list of artistic mediums, digital art is right behind them.
“My artistic career has been this constant journey between technology and the arts…I think with the use of social media and digital tools, I’ve found that happy medium,” Butler said.
Butler, with his background in computer science, is especially drawn to digital mediums and the doors they can open. Recently, Butler has acquired a digital drawing monitor that allows him to draw directly into the computer. It’s the closest digital art can get to traditional drawing. Butler also uses Google Hangouts, which allows him to screencast, or digitally record, his drawing.
“I can start drawing on my tablet and essentially share it with the world,” said Butler.
Another important aspect of Butler’s digital artwork is animation. According to Butler, “The goal has always been to put what I do into motion,” said Butler. “It’s been really exciting for me to get to a point where I feel like my characters are strong enough to put the time in to animate them.”
Animation is hugely time-consuming, and requires intense focus and direction on the part of the artist. For one second of animation, 24 different pictures must be drawn. According to Butler, in a company like Pixar, it takes an average of three or four people working for three or four months to produce a mere two seconds of animation.
The animation process has also forced Butler to be less of an individual, solo artist, because he needs to rely heavily on collaboration due to the time-consuming process.
One of Butler’s main focuses is his comic books. One of his current projects, titled Love and the Blade, is a Romeo and Juliet story set in feudal Japan. The storyline centers around two slaves, one from Africa and another from Europe, who were brought to Japan as assassins.
To create this comic, Butler has an idea of the entire story arc when he sits down to draw. He creates one page per week and posts the completed page to the internet. Love and the Blade won’t be released until after this year’s Emerald City Comic Convention, where Butler will have a booth of his own to pass out free books and materials to all sorts of fans. The Convention takes place from March 1–3 at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, Wash.
The other major comic book project Butler has been working on is titled Kat and Bunnie, sometimes referred to as The Legend of Broken Hearts. This comic focuses on two friends who start a punk rock band in the Pacific Northwest. According to Butler, the comic is a homage to the Riot grrrl scene, a feminist punk rock movement that began in this region in the early 1990s.
This comic also has a more personal inspiration.
“I have a niece who’s really into skateboarding and punk rock and all that stuff, so I kind of want to make a book that sort of shows her she can do this,” said Butler.
Butler, perhaps with his niece in mind, also has plans to pitch a version of Kat and Bunnie to Nickelodeon, in the hopes that it will get picked up as a cartoon for kids. Butler believes that cartoons should begin to tackle important issues.
“There are things that are happening in this world, like the recognition of same sex marriages, and the commonality of that, and I would really like to approach some of those things in kids’ cartoons,” said Butler.
Butler’s hopes for Turtledust Media, and the many projects in production, are also tied to his hopes for Parkland, Wash.
“I’m really excited about Parkland and its potential for developing,” said Butler. “There’s a lot going on here. I’m really hoping that I can start up something so that other people can collaborate with me, because the more Parkland/Spanaway collaboration, the better.”
Butler was also adamant that the studio will have no secret projects, and is focused on being open and letting people in on the ground floor. “If people are curious about projects that we’re doing email us, ask us, and, you know, we’ll let you see what we’re doing and share it all with you.”
Explore the links below to see more of Butler’s artwork, contact Turtledust Media, or find out more about Emerald City ComiCon: