Professor Soap, AKA Ryan Mauskopt is a digital artist/musician/fine artist/animator (inhale). He is a self-proclaimed “Purveyor of Audio Visual Candy”. If you love the Onion, you’ve probably seen his work there while he was the lead graphic designer. His VERY awesome animated short Spacetime Fabric Softener was recently featured prominently on io9, where Robert T. Gonzalez said it was so good, it was “almost therapeutic”. He is also the visual force behind BustedTees.
He is best know for his graphic art, but take a moment to look at his portraiture and paintings. They are absolutely sublime.
Joe Hubris is enormously honored that he agreed to this interview. In it, you will find the best quote about television ever.
Tell us a little about your background.
I grew up on Long Island near a supposedly famous Nathan's Hot Dog place (although I never could figure out why it was an important landmark, it's just hot dogs). I moved to New York City where I attended SVA when I was Eighteen. Although it was always frowned upon while growing up, I stuck with my passion for digital art.
Was there a moment when you decide you wanted to be an artist?
I think, as Picasso said, I just never stopped drawing. Everyone is an artist when they're young but few stick with it long enough to really love it.
So, I think I am on safe ground when I call you a big nerd. What fan-doms do you claim?
My parents forced me to play baseball when I was six years old. It was terrible. They knew what that meant and so they introduced me to Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and tons of music. 90's cartoons were super inspirational as well, and I would spend most of my free time watching Dexter's Lab and doodling on sketchpads. Typical nerd stuff.
What was some of the music they introduced you to? Who do you like now?
My parents were legit 80's wedding singers so there was a pretty eclectic mix of music. Celine Dion, Weird Al, and lots of John Williams' movie music were some of my favorites (and still are). Nowadays I jam out to Lemon Jelly, Zero 7, Electric Light Orchestra, and Daft Punk.
You're an artist, animator and musician, how do those connect? Do you have favorite?
I always wanted to find a way to reconcile all of my interests, and I think Professor Soap is that solution. I'm too creatively restless to do the same thing every day. In college I was told I would never get work if I didn't sit down and focus on just one thing. I couldn't be a jack of all trades, they said. That was the worst advice I was ever given.
Where do you get inspiration for your work in the different mediums?
Culture! I can't get enough of what they call mind-numbing entertainment. I never understood why Roald Dahl always expressed his hatred for TV when people like Jim Henson could take a trash can and some fuzzy foam and create something amazing for broadcast. TV, movies, Broadway… they all have a hand in shaping your brain. It won't melt after a few hours on the couch, trust me.
There's a certain optimism... a kind of edgy optimism in your work. Where does that come from?
I'm just a happy guy, I guess. If you're happy it will show in your work and whoever sees it, hopefully, will get those vibes too. I just want everyone to be happy!
How did you get involved with the Onion?
The Onion was like my second family. I started as a wee intern and met the most amazing people ever. We've stuck together, creatively and casually, even after their move to Chicago last year. Love those guys.
What about Bustedtees?
BustedTees was around loooong before I got the gig two years ago. They used to be paired with CollegeHumor until they went solo, although our monthly writer's meetings are still pizza-and-joke parties at their HQ. I'm the dude who makes those jokes into freaky fresh T-shirts.
Do you have a favorite one?
What role do you see art and your art in particular playing in society today?
Art is on your iPhone, your desk lamp, and sprayed onto the brick wall behind your apartment. It's that weird guy on the corner with newspapers glued to his shirt. It's Jurassic Park. Recently there's been a huge boom in refreshing, gorgeous artistic innovation that I'm very excited about, and it's everywhere. It's everything, you know?
The motto of this site is "Information vs. Injustice". Are you conscious of information and information technology when you're creating?
I suppose as a digital artist I really do have to keep up with information. It's very easy to get left behind when something new pops up every day. Information can also be inspiration, and ignoring inspiration isn't constructive
What can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?
More animation! I've been slowly developing a pilot that I've shelved and un-shelved a million times. Look for a legit cartoon with music and colors and fun in the near future. It's called Danger Planet, and it follows a space captain and his robot sidekick as they try to escape a planet once their ship is shot down by space pirates.
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