Gromit Unleashed - Artist Interview, Gavin Strange

Monday, June 10, 2013
We don't think we could be any more excited about having Gavin Strange on the blog today.  Gavin (aka Jam Factory) is part of Aardman, so he kind of knows what he is talking about (or not talking about, his lips are sealed) when it comes to Gromit Unleashed.... 

Please can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your work? 
Hello there! My name is Gavin Strange and I’m a 30 year old human man living here in beautiful Bristol! Im a bit of a jack of all trades, I’m Senior Designer for Aardman by day and by night I go under the alias of Jam Factory, where I try my hand at a spot of everything, from filmmaking to toy design, illustration to photography. I guess my work tries to not take itself to seriously, I like making fun and silly stuff, so that kinda follows through with the colours I use and the language I employ I suppose. So, to summarise, I make silly things and I love it.

Why did you want to get involved with the Gromit Unleashed project? 
Well, I’m already an Aardmanite, working for Aardman for the last 5 years, so I’ve been aware and super excited about Gromit Unleashed for a little while. When it came to the submission process, I had the option of being involved behind the scenes but that would have meant I couldn’t have submitted my own design. I really, REALLY wanted the chance to paint a Gromit, so I opted for staying away from the organisation in favour of giving a design a shot. The gods looked down on me kindly and I was lucky enough to be picked to give Gromit a go! I wanted to be involved because it means painting a 5 FOOT TALL GROMIT!! It’s really as simple as that!? It’s a one-in-a-lifetime chance, to customise one of the most-loved canines in film history, that’s a real honour! Plus, I’m still a huge Aardman fanboy, despite working here, so I’m really excited to be involved in it all.

Where did inspiration for your design come from? 
Well, I don’t want to give too much away, but I love bright and fun colours. My bike is the same colour scheme, and I love having something that turns heads. As for the actual design itself, I wanted to play to my strengths; I’m not the greatest painter, but I can use a computer mouse, so I’ve managed to work some illustration style things into my Gromit.

Please describe how you designed your Gromit?
It’s been a bit of a 3 stage process. I had to paint the big fella his base colours first and because it was just 2 colours, I opted for spray paint, because the coverage was much bigger and neater. However, I underestimated just how big he was, and he took 11 cans to cover (but just half a can for the other colour on his nose, tail and collar!). The 2nd part was all computer based, but that took way longer than I expected. I had to do nearly triple the amount of work I estimated, and with working on it evenings and weekends, the pressure really was on! There was then a third stage, of getting the computer-designed stuff onto Gromit, which, thankfully, was handled by a friend of mine called Jamie Cross, who brought his decal application knowledge and did an incredible job, and it looks better than I could have ever imagined. Lastly, and most importantly, his eyes had to be painted on. That was a really nerve-wracking experience, it’s so important and so easy to get wrong! Luckily I asked my good friend Merlin Crossingham, who’s Creative Director of Wallace & Gromit, for his guiding eye and he helped me get them just right!

Where are/were you painting your Gromit? 
I was painting him right here at Aardman HQ. When I started spraying him, it got tricky because I needed to find a ventilated space but would also be ok with getting spray dust everywhere, but also needed to be shielded from the wind and be light. It was a seemingly impossible task until my friend Jodie had the idea of using the roof of the building, which was a genius idea! So in the end I made a make-shift spray booth using huge dust sheets taped to the walls, with the roof door open for ventilation. It wasn’t long until the whole room was covered in spray dust, but once it was all complete there wasn’t too much dust. There’s just a feint colouring of pink everywhere, which I think adds a certain something to the room… 

Has it been a challenge transferring your style of work to a 3D dog? 
It hasn’t been too bad, I’ve designed a few vinyl toys in my time and have customised quite a lot of toys, so I’m fairly used to translating designs into 3D but I’ve never ever done anything to this scale. The hardest part has definietely been taking the computer-designed stuff and imaginging that on a huge 3D dog, I found that you just have to be pretty loose and see how things progress, reassessing the design as you go. As a designer that likes to be pixel perfect, that’s been quite difficult!

What Bristol location would your Gromit feel at home? 
Well, I’m lucky enough to know where my Gromit is going… and I’m over the moon that it’s going right outside Aardman, right here on Gas Ferry Road. I can’t tell you how honoured I am at that, I still can’t quite believe it. I can’t wait to see it outside the office everyday, I’ve already got an excited buzz in my belly just thinking about it!

What is your favourite Wallace & Gromit film? 
It’s a tie-break for me… The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit never fails to make me laugh, especially the fight sequence with Phillip and Gromit on the aeroplane, but then my favourite character of all is Feathers McGraw, so The Wrong Trousers is also my favourite. I love Feathers so much that he has a secret cameo in my design actually…

We understand there are many amazing people involved in the Gromit Unleashed trail, which Gromit are you looking forward to seeing and why? 
Well, one of the perks of being here is that I know some of the gossip about what’s going on with Gromit Unleashed, and I fear if I really told you who I am most looking forward to seeing, that my head would be struck from my shoulders! There’s one so secret that I even had to remove any reference to it in this interview, as I did originally write a cryptic line right here but i had to take it out for fear of spoiling things! 

Can you tell us any behind the scenes Gromit secrets? 
Again, I fear for my own life if I let too much slip, but you’re in for a treat for the eyes and the ears, I assure you.

Oh wow, Gavin, we are loving your Gromit.  That pink.... amazing!  Thank you for such a great interview, we know it was difficult for you to tell us anything being one of the Aardman gang.  And congratulations on having your Gromit placed outside Aardman HQ!

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