Written by Ryan Hall
At the recent Ace Comic Con Arizona, Nerd Team 30 had the chance to sit down and talk with Clinton about his path to becoming an artist, how he got into Disney, and why it is important to go to parties
Ryan Hall: What inspired you to become an artist in the first place? What led to your career in art?
Clinton Hobart: I made no decision whatsoever. I couldn't do anything else, and by the age of 12 or 13 I was drawing all the time, and I said, "You know, I want to stick with this.” It just chose me.
RH: What did you start off drawing as a kid?
CH: Copying comic books actually. The first thing I really started drawing was copying Todd McFarlane and Rob Liefeld.
RH: What were your favorite super heroes at the time?
CH: I did a lot of Spider-Man drawings, I like Batman a lot, and then I moved into more cartoon Disney stuff as I got older. When I went into art school I got into figure drawing, people, and went from there.
RH: What drew you into wanting to become a licensed Disney artist?
CH: Pure luck. I had done a Disney internship when I was in art school, I did a mentorship, and I spent about ten years trying to get into Disney to be an animator, an illustrator, or consumer products. I got none of those jobs, so I went into fine art where I had a thriving gallery career. I was in five galleries, and I was winning awards for still-life and portraits. I had left the animation/illustration industry, and had a great career as a fine artist. Then, about four years ago, I decided to do some Disney themed still life. A friend of mine saw the paintings and said, "You should send those to Disney,” so I did. They liked them, released them as limited-edition prints, and I got into Disney in the weirdest way I ever would have imagined.
RH: Are there any other properties that you are really interested in working with that you haven't yet?
CH: I would love to do some Star Wars. I'm in talks with them right now doing fine art paintings.
RH: What other projects are you currently working on?
CH: I'm working on a lot of personal stuff doing some portraits and still-life. My favorite thing to do is just hire a model, and have them come to the [art] studio.
RH: I understand that you hold a degree in illustration. Do you feel like that has opened more doors where you can work or helped to increase business by holding your degree?
CH: I've got a bachelor in fine arts from The School of Visual Arts in New York City. Did it help me network? No. The only thing that helped me network was going to parties. I've done more for my career at the after-party for a convention than I've ever done on the show floor. I met Michael Rooker because we were hanging out at an after party and we were talking. He stopped by my table the next day, and he bought the Dorito painting because we were clowning around the night before. If I didn't go to the hotel bar I wouldn't have met him. Be social. That's my advice to any kid. Get out there, leave the house once in a while, go to the right parties, and make the right friends.
RH: What other advice would you give to an aspiring artist?
CH: I usually do a lot of stage demonstrations where I'll paint on stage, and I always say to the kids, "Kids in the audience, raise your hand if you want to be an artist," and about thirty people raise their hand. I say, "Okay, leave them up for a second, now put them down if you play video games," and there's usually one, maybe two, hands left. Then I say, "Well great, now none of the rest of you are going to get my job!" I've got a personal vendetta against the video game industry because you don't learn anything from playing video games! I always tell the kids, "Read! Draw! Draw, draw, draw! Get out there! Work! Read a book! Don't watch television! Don't play video games, and if you can, occasionally, do a sit-up and eat something healthy."
RH: What is your opinion of ACE so far? Have you done many conventions before?
CH: You know, I had a great opinion of ACE before I even got here because the show is made up of half of my friends. The only thing that I was questionable on was that I've never done a show before at an arena instead of a convention center, but look at the turn out! It's pretty amazing. There are a lot of people here, so you can’t really argue with the plan. The first show I ever did was Wizard World Cleveland in 2015. I was invited to that show by Stephen Shamus, so to be invited to this show three years later is still a compliment, and I'm so happy for them.
RH: I'd heard that you were the target of an art counterfeiting ring some years back?
CH: So that's part of what made me famous, for a lack of a better word. When I was first starting out before I got at Disney, there was a town in China that took images off a gallery that I was showing on my website, and putting them on eBay for $39.95. It got me on CBS news with Scott Pele and The Huffington Post. People ask, "How do you feel about getting ripped off by the Chinese?" Well let's see; it got me on the news, increased my revenue, and got me into Disney, but it's still not a good thing, you know. Nobody wants to get ripped off.
RH: What are some of the stranger requests that you've had for a commission or offer from a company?
CH: You know, some of the guys in Comic Con get a little non-Disney with their requests and you have to turn them down. You're like, "No, I can't have Belle doing that. That's going to get me fired. Like, no." Some of the Harley Quinn requests, you're like, "What's wrong with you? No! I'm not . . . a diaper?! No! I'm not doing that!" You know, if I don’t want to be tagged in it on Facebook, then I turn it down.
RH: What are some of the favorite requests that you've had?
CH: I like doing large paintings. I have a guy who liked one of my mask paintings, and has an imported Venetian mask that has been in his family for 100 years. He wants a still-life of it, so that kind of request is really cool. Anytime I can paint something I think no one's ever painted before I'm happy. I like being the first person to do something.
RH: Where can fans go to find you online?