Welcome to the table.
Kennon James is a father, animator, and illustrator whose work ranges from the funny to the frightening. I recently had the chance to sit down with him and talk about his process, inspirations, and upcoming Kickstarter project The Funky Fish Book.
Anton: Hello Kennon and thanks for sitting down with me. Before we get too deep in, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
Kennon: Well, I’m a Texas artist. I grew up north of Houston but now reside in the suburbs of Austin. I’ve been an artist for around 25ish years and have done a variety of different jobs. Notably, I’ve animated on movies and TV shows, illustrated for board and table-top RPGs, and worked as concept and production artist for video game companies. Whatever it takes to pay the bills although I’m shifting my focus to personal projects and IPs.
Anton: Now how long have you been working as an illustrator professionally?
Kennon: Around 25 years.
Anton: Was this always something you wanted to do?
Kennon: Yeah, I’ve always been interested in art and something I’ve always done. It’s just been the natural progression of my life. I did get sidetracked in my 20s when I tried to be a rock star for a bit but finally realized that I was a way better artist than a musician, if you could even call me that, I was horrible. Fun times for sure but I feel like I delayed my art career about 10 years and I’ve been playing catch up since. But yes, art has always been important to me.
Anton: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Kennon: Other art mostly. I’m constantly looking at art. Old and new. Sometimes it’s demoralizing because there’s so much great art out there and a lot of great artists but often it’s greatly inspirational. Music too. I listen to a wide range of music.
Anton: Do you prefer to work more digital or analog?
Kennon: I prefer actually pen to paper but these days I’m working digitally 99% of the time. Working freelance it’s just easier to make changes and edits when working digitally.
Anton: I have seen quite a bit of your fantasy art that looks like it could be at home within the pages of a tabletop roleplaying rulebook. Can you talk to us a little bit about the work you have done in the TTRPG space?
Kennon: Recently I’ve been doing a lot of black and white interior work for old-school type RPG supplements. I grew up playing Dungeons & Dragons and poring over all the cool black & white artwork and that’s what I always wanted to do. So recently I’ve had some opportunities to do some similar work and it’s been great. If you would have told my 10-year-old self that one day I’d be getting paid to draw umber hulks and demogorgons he would be pretty stoked.
Anton: Do you have any projects coming up in the TTRPG space you can tell us about?
Kennon: I’m working on developing my own RPG with a friend of mine. It’s an old-school fantasy 1st edition D&D type ruleset. Something that will be compatible with all the old D&D stuff. We’re working on the rules together, he’s handling the writing and I’m doing all the artwork.
Anton: Switching gears a little bit, let’s talk about The Funky Fish Book. Where did you come up with this concept?
Kennon: It kind of happened organically actually. I just started drawing weird fish as a daily warm-up exercise and it gained some unexpected traction and all of the sudden I had 100+ fish drawings so a book seemed like a logical step.
Anton: From what I have seen these are a ton of fun, how are you presenting them in this upcoming Kickstarter project?
Kennon: It’s an illustration on one page and the name of the fish on the other.
Anton: How many fish are going to be in this fun little book?
Kennon: Right around 100.
Anton: Where can people follow you to keep up with your work and go back The Funky Fish Book?
Kennon: You can follow my art on Instagram @kennon9, the funky fish @thefunkyfishbook.
Or my website www.kennonjames.com or my LinkTree which connects to all my random stuff:
I appreciate the time and can’t wait to see what you come up with next!
Until next time, may your fish always be as funky as they can be.