William Ross, also known as Billmund, is an award-winning artist originally from Sydney (Australia), living in Bristol (UK) since 2011. With animator Gobblynne, his wife, they run a little creative production company called Superdoodle. Having worked for many companies including Nestle, Samsung, or Cadbury’s, Billmund’s most remarkable furry-related work is Creatures of the Night (CotN), a 2014-2016 campaign for Jägermeister featuring their mascot stag and other animal friends in modern relatable scenarios, a campaign spread on social media. Billmund will be interacting with the furry community live for the first time at this year’s Sydney’s Harbour City Fur Con, July 27th to 29th, where he’s going to be a Guest of Honor. We interview him to find out about him and his work!
Mike: Hello Billmund! You’ve been now living in Bristol for a couple of years. Why did you move to the UK?
Billmund: I met a British backpacker called Katy in Sydney circa 2010, and after dating her for 3 months she ran out of money and visa and had to go home. So we called it a day and went our separate ways. But I couldn’t stop thinking that she was the one, so a month later I arrived in the UK and we’ve been together ever since. Now we’re married with a son and we operate a production company together.
M: Wao! What a story! So doing crazy stuff is compatible with a family life.
B: Crazy stuff?
M: Meeting backpackers & moving to the other side of the world for the love of your life.
B: Haha yeah I guess that would seem crazy to most people, I was just adamant that I had to do it, so it seemed pretty normal to me at the time.
M: So a little more than a year ago, I found your art and website on the internet. And I thought, this looks like something furries would really love! You have one of those AMA (Ask Me Anything) on the website, where I wrote ‘Are you a furry?’ And you answered! Later, you’re accepted as a Guest of Honor at Sydney. How did you get to know the fandom?
B: It was through Tumblr I think, if you look through my archive all the posts before June 2014 are pretty much non-furry content. Then I started posting my social content for Jägermeister and I started getting a lot more followers, and a lot more notes on posts that were furry related. Then my inbox started to fill up with furry related questions and I think when I was trying to answer your question was actually the first time I ever googled what a furry was!
M: What I like though, is that you were already a moderately successful artist before the whole furry thing, so it’s like, it’s a plus, you’re not limited to the niche market. Though I’m sure you feel the pressure now to draw more animal related stuff!
B: Oh yeah definitely. I have about 50 furry commissions I have to slog through, and then when I have free time (which is rare) I need to create content just to keep my followers around, and also get products ready for the upcoming fur con, and then a big job for our production company lands on my desk and I’ve got to prioritise that. There’s a lot of drawing to do and not enough hours in the day!
M: How did the process of drawing Creatures of the Night go. Would they tell you what to draw, or would you suggest to them, would you brainstorm together… How did it work?
B: It was super simple really. The client sent me a very short character profile for everyone, e.g. “The Stag: There’s only one thing on the Stag’s mind, and that’s the pursuit of a potential mate on any night out” or “The Wingman: He’s the dependable one, always there, always in support. Often to his detriment.” And based on these one liners I imagined the personality archetypes of each character and how each character would present themselves, how their level of extroversion or introversion would influence their fashion sense, and how they might pose for a group selfie. The original posts were all set at night in the woods so they were very dark and draped in shadows, so I looked at a lot of Mike Mignola’s work.
M: How would a furry go on to commission you? Is there some place where they can see your commission status?
B: I’ve only just entered this fandom so I haven’t come up with anything cool like that. I think next round when I open commissions again I’ll just do the same thing, just announce it on Tumblr and Twitter for 24 hours and then close it. But right now my status is Closed.
M: Have you done something comic-related or do you have plans of the sort? Some anthro work you’re gonna have in store you’d like to talk about?
B: I’ve got ideas but nothing concrete, like an ongoing CotN comic. I’ve got the first 5 pages in my head and some rough character arcs but I shouldn’t say watch out for the new comic until I’ve got it mapped out. I can say for definite that I am going to be at Harbour City Fur Con, I’ll be on an artist panel, and I’ll be in an exhibition and I’ll have art books to sell, and I’ll be hanging out if you just want to come along and say hello!
M: I’m gonna show this marvellous t-shirt design you did. How did the idea come about?
B: Haha, thanks! That was for a Threadless competition call the Big Prize or something. It was for $10K so I wanted to win really badly. I’d submitted a bunch of stuff to Threadless [clothing website] before with no luck and it was pretty disheartening, I’d actually sworn to never enter another competition ever again, but when I saw the $10,000 prize come around I broke the promise I’d made to myself. My strategy for a winning design was to pander as hard as possible to the folks at Threadless. Their best selling t-shirts all feature either cats or space or both so I knew I wanted to create some cats in space. There’s a load of pop culture garbage in my mind so when I thought of cats in space the iconic Voltron graphic floated straight to the top of my brain. I thought about what it might look like if Voltron was made of real cats rather than robot cats and so I started searching for photos of cats in jars on Google image search. I used these as photo refs to build my Voltron, but knew I had to come up with a tag for the image as I knew it would look great with some type treatment in the style of the Voltron logo. This was the height or the tail end of the cat meme stranglehold on the Internet, so much so that I thought this is basically the Internet right now, just a bunch of cats. And I just pushed the 80s vibe to the limit with the mullet and epic sword energy and old Mac, and it worked. I won the prize!
M: Aaaah! Strategy! Smart!
M: I have one last question, how did the guys at Harbour City Fur Con approach you?
B: One of the founders, Dave Cao, got in touch by email I think, and he was on a Euro trip, and happened to be in Bristol and so we met up for coffee at the Crazy Fox [Bristol coffee shop]. He explained how he’d recently created a furry convention in Sydney, their first con taking place just last year. And how he’d like to have me as a guest of honour and how much potential there was for my work in the furry space. I was so curious and flattered at the offer, not to mention being given the opportunity to have my flight paid for and see my family and friends for a few weeks sealed the deal for me. I’m really excited for it, I’ve got 3 weeks in Sydney before the con, and I’ll be making art the whole time for the exhibition so I’ll be knackered but it’ll be cool to have that build up and anticipation for the con. I’ve got high hopes for this being a great event.
M: I’m sure it’ll be! Thanks for the interview!
B: Cheers mate!