Heroes on a Half Stick
size. 5460px x 4368px, 350 DPI
by. Brendan Albetski
location. Hartford, CT
Welcome to Ice Cream Social, the summer's socially distant group art show, featuring creators and makers from all walks of life, coming together to share their love of the greatest treat known to man. Each week through Labor Day, come chill with new artists as they discuss a wide range of topics spanning their personal journeys, art, pop culture, and, of course, ice cream! This week, we sit down for dessert with digital artist Brendan Albetski, pyrographer Michael O'Shields, and oil painter Maria Solias.
I couldn’t eat anything
with a face on it when I was a kid.
Brendan, thanks for contributing to the Ice Cream Social. You've got a very distinct look that is unmistakably your own. What influences your illustration style?
I try to suck in all the things I love about art and comics and then do them my way. Heavy blacks and strong lines were things that drew my interest really early on, and I became a big fan of very vibrant color palettes a few years ago. I’m very drawn to things that are big and moody and in your face. Subtlety is not a strength of mine.
It’s also pretty obvious that I take a lot of cues in my character design and posing from manga and anime (Gurren Lagann, REDLINE, and JoJo are some favorites). I enjoy it because the energy and dynamism is always palpable.
Being terrible also influenced my style a lot. I got a late start, and I desperately wanted to be good at drawing but I was really very bad at it. It put me into an endless cycle of trial and error, trying to find things that worked for me and looked good.
After 10 years of doing that it feels like I’ve created this big weird homunculus, and I just hope somebody enjoys that. I’ve put a lot of time and energy into trying to make these things my own, so I’m just happy to have somebody tell me I even have a style that’s recognizable.
As someone with a self-professed late start, what were doing before pursuing your artistic inclinations?
Writing. I wanted to write novels and comics. I was working with some artist friends trying to make a comic. I was really impatient and reached a point where I just decided I would learn to draw so I could cut out the middle man. I thought it would take like a year to get good, which was very foolish. It sparked a passion though. I was 21 and I realized I had finally found my thing, which was hilarious because I was really awful and I think a lot of the people in my life thought I was delusional when I said "yeah, this is what I'm gonna do with my life.
Wow! So are you illustrating in a professional capacity now, or just moonlighting while you pay the bills?
Still a moonlighter, but not forever! I'm much more patient these days.
Well, you've put together quite an impressive portfolio in your "downtime", which brings us to your contribution to Ice Cream Social, "Heroes on a Half Stick". I take it you're a 90s kid?
Oh my, yes. I was a kid through that whole decade. Had a pretty good time of it.
You're not the only one who looks backs fondly at Ninja Turtle ice cream bars. What was it about the Turtles that made them a marketing juggernaut that thrives to this day?
Attitude and shameless, aggressive, KISS-level branding. It’s hard to accuse a cartoon turtle of being a sellout, though. It’s not Raph’s fault that they plastered his face on thousands of pounds of cheap plastic. The Turtles had enough heart and soul that I can still feel genuine affection for the characters 20 years later, despite the machinations of the marketing machine.
The Turtles spent all day eating pizza, playing with weapons and fighting ninjas. That was awesome in the 90’s and it’s still awesome. They promoted the idea that you could be kind of a dopey fool and still be a good person with value. The marriage of that genuine goodwill and aggressive marketing tactics is what’s kept them around for so long. It’s a very adult feeling to have such nostalgia for a property and also realize that it was being used to make you buy things your whole life.
I know exactly what you mean, and think this feeling of nostalgia for the excesses of consumerism is exclusive to the 80s/90s generation of kids. Is it safe to say the Ninja Turtle pops were your go-to when you hear the ringing of the local ice cream truck?
Oddly enough, no! I couldn’t eat anything with a face on it when I was a kid. My mom couldn’t make me a pancake smiley or anything like that because I would refuse to eat it. I had a compulsion to preserve and protect anything I perceived as a character. If I got Mikey on a stick I probably would have tried to run home to stick him in the freezer and save him forever. The friends-not-food mentality kept my ice cream truck options fairly limited.
Ha! That's hilarious. So what was your favorite frozen treat growing up? And now?
Drumstick, hands down. Especially the one that had the fudge in the middle of the ice cream. I got a defective one once that hardly had any chocolate at the bottom of the cone and it was a betrayal that I remember to this day. I still go after those when I see them, but I probably eat more "regular" ice cream cones these days.
Drumsticks were a-may-zing. So if you're getting a sundae, what are your toppings?
Hot fudge and too much whipped cream are the essentials. Aside from that it depends on what's available and how adventurous I'm feeling. Chocolate and nuts are always a safe bet, though.
You're from New England, and supposedly there is a discrepancy up there in the name of this one topping, so what's your final answer: sprinkles or jimmies?
They were always Sprinkles to me. Jimmies are just for rustling.
Rainbow or chocolate?
Oh that's a tough one. I mean, depends on the mood, but today it's chocolate.
Bringing it back to the Turtle pops, the original packaging claims these are "water ice", but it's my theory they wanted to avoid getting mired in the "sherbet" vs "sherbert" debate. Where do you stand on this?
Wow, that's the kind of vague verbiage that lets me know this product is fit for human consumption!
I had to look this up, because my natural inclination is to say "Sherbert" complete with the hard R at the end. But it seems that the correct spelling of the word is "Sherbet" and it's pronounced "shur-but." I guess I've been wrong on this!
Cup or cone?
Cone for sure!
And that's a wrap. Thanks for riding in the truck, Brendan, here at the first ever Ice Cream Social.
"Turtle," "tortoise," and "terrapin" are terms used interchangeably, but there is a distinction. Turtles live mostly in water. Tortoises live only on land. Terrapins spend about half their time in either.
1986 was the year of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Knockoff, with the following comic books all debuting: Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters; Pre-teen Dirty-Gene Kung Fu Kangaroos; Naive Inter-Dimensional Commando Koalas; Cold Blooded Chameleon Commandos; Geriatric Gangrene Jujitsu Gerbils; Mildly Microwaved Pre-Pubescent
Kung Fu Gophers
"My favorite Turtle [as a kid] was Michelangelo because he's the funny one. He was my first crush."
Why couldn't the deer hunter buy more ice cream?
He only had two bucks.
Follow Brendan Albetski's vivid and surreal artwork on Instagram and Twitter. For commissions, reach out to him directly at HTBcomics@gmail.com, and watch his website, BrendanAlbetski.com, for a comic dropping later this year. In Brendan's own words, "it's a sword and sorcery tale about barbarians who want to blow up the moon."