Growing up in Massachusetts, Andy Ristaino spent his days with pen to paper drawing his way through childhood and his teenage years until he eventually left for Rhode Island School of Design. Majoring in illustration but taking animation courses on the side led him into the world we know him from, Pendelton Ward’s Adventure Time.
When I got out of school it was much easier to find work in the field of animation than illustration (or comic books which is what I really wanted to do.) So that ended up becoming my main source of income. After a long and circuitous route filled with ups and downs I ended up landing the job on Adventure Time.
Adventure Time isn’t the only thread to Andy’s work. His comic The Babysitter marks a big creative breakthrough as he merged complex storytelling and pushed boundaries with the medium of comics. With early influencers coming in the form of comic artists such as Geof Barrow, Ben Edlund and Zander Cannon Andy now looks towards his surroundings for inspiration with his work.
A lot of my design choices are based on what I see in the real world. Studying the natural way that things organize themselves. The way plants grow, or leaves fall, or time changes.
Andy started working at Adventure Time six years ago and a lot has changed in that time. Starting out in character design he’d furiously spend the hour-long bus ride into work sketching everything from robots to aliens. Later moving on to background art, his sketchbooks were filled to the edges with doodles of surreal landscapes but balancing the demanding work on the award winning animation with personal work can be challenging.
The trick I learned is to limit your independent work. Work at a smaller scale, something that is do-able in a spare moment or a lunch break. That’s why I started doing my character design zines like “123 creatures” or comic strips like “beau and boo” instead of working on something large scale like a graphic novel. Limiting the size of my independent projects lets me at least feel like you are still producing personal stuff.
Apart from living it up with Finn and Jake what can we expect to see next from Andy?
I’m in the process of working on several projects. I have a secret project in development with Cartoon Network right now that I can’t talk about, but I’m also working slowly on developing my next few graphic novels.