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An interview with artist bb tamagotchi

Nov. 3, 2017
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BB Tamagotchi is a totally rad illustrator and designer whom you need to be following on Instagram. Before she transplanted herself to Brooklyn, New York, she studied Fine Art with a concentration in Graphic Design at Eastern Michigan University. BB Tamagotchi creates in the physical world as well as the digital word, and oftentimes she combines the two. She has created promotional imagery for small businesses and bands and does portraits (including pet portraits!) on commission. Her art always has a signature hand-done feel, which feels personal and inviting. Enamored with her style and frequent use of the color pink, I sent her some questions about her artistic process, her goals for the future, and her favorite spots in NYC. 

Why do you go by the handle “bb tamagotchi”?

I wish it was a smart answer. I had been wanting an "artist name" since my actual last name is hard to say and spell, so that had been on my mind for awhile when I took an Ambien to try sleep one night. Woke up the next day, and all my social media had been changed to BB Tamagotchi. No idea why, but it sounded good, so I went with it. Now, I answer to BB as much as my real name and I do not take Ambien. 

What are three words that you would use to describe your artistic style?

Pleasant, accessible, and inoffensive. 

Your typography has such an endearing hand-drawn feel. In your opinion, why would small businesses be better off branding themselves in your style rather than with a more modern or contemporary design?

Great question! I have always been a huge advocate of all things hand-drawn (my professors in art school attempted push back on this but I was incredibly stubborn). Type speaks as much as the words it represents, and to me, hand-drawn type says, "I am personable, I am empathetic, I am real, I am cutting out the middleman, I am here, I am present, I am available." I think authenticity is hard to find in a digitally saturated 2017, and setting yourself apart might just be as simple as showing the really pretty imperfections that come with artwork that is hand-made. Also, it's rad.

Can you outline for us your typical artistic process? Do you draw most of your designs by hand and then scan them?

In the last 10+ years, I had drawn everything by hand, often on tracing paper (unless it was brush work), and then perfected my mistakes with new traces, just like how you would do an animation. I would even do different layers of tracing paper for different colors. Then I would scan the best traces, clean them up, rearrange, and color digitally. It took a long time and reworks were semi-devastating, but I refused to get a drawing tablet without a screen on it (something only more affordable recently), because I hated the disconnect from pad to screen. It didn't feel right to my fine art sensibilities, so I kept it old school. This changed in the last three months when I got an iPadPro with Pencil.

How is drawing on a computer different than drawing by hand? 

I’ve only been drawing digitally for the last 3 months (on the aforementioned iPad Pro), so it's been a learning curve, and daily I'm blown away at the huge amount of possibilities I now have. While I love it, I would never take back the years of doing everything analog, because it gave me a tremendous amount of skill and knowledge you don't get drawing digitally. I think I'm a better artist for having trained on physical materials, and having to learn how to correct mistakes that may take an hour versus the ease of CTRL+Z. I heard Michelangelo did it this way too, believe it or not. But really, the main difference is calibrating the pressure sensitivity you're used to having with paper versus a smooth screen. 

Your portfolio features several variations on a design you’ve called “hand portals”—they even adorn the back of your business card! How long have you been drawing hand portals?

Wow, I actually have no idea how long I've been drawing them. I think a year or two? They were just something I doodled for awhile and thought was a funny idea. In my head, the portals appear, but they are only big enough for your hand, which offers you very little excitement in terms of traveling. 

"I think my hand is in a cafe in France."

"Oh lovely, how does it feel?"

"It's a little colder and now my hands smell like bread." 

"Fantastic, let’s go home." 

I have a gallery show idea in my head that is all things Hand Portals, so let’s hope this running joke with myself continues.

Am I right in guessing that your favorite color is pink?

Yes! I'm bonkers for it (bonkers?!).

What inspired you to move from Michigan to Brooklyn?

To be extremely dramatic, I felt like the life force was slowly being sucked out of me. To be even more dramatic still, Michigan moved at a molasses pace that left me wholly uninspired and sad. To be summer-blockbuster dramatic, I planned for a year and a half to move to LA, and a month before, screamed to no one, “I'M NOT AN LA PERSON, I'M A BROOKLYN PERSON”, and here we are.

Where are some of your favorite places to go in NYC?

For food, Pietro Nolita in SoHo, which is an *~all pink~* Italian restaurant. Food is good, but the Instagram photos are better. For coffee / makeshift freelance offices: Three Seats in Manhattan and Bearcat in Brooklyn.

For a damn moment to yourself, any roof with a view of the city.    

On Instagram you posted this photo of your first attempt at embroidery! What prompted you to try your hand at embroidery, and have you made other attempts since then?

My Instagram explore page showed me a embroidered chain stitch, and for some reason I thought it looked cool and figured I could probably do it. I watched a quick YouTube tutorial, and gave it a go. I don't even know any other kind of stitch, I just keep experimenting with this one. After the BB monogram, I decided to try a snake a denim shirt with pink and white thread, and it ended up looking like a worm. It's so bad, it's kind of endearing. 

What is one dream you’re currently working towards?

To have a large, big, open, bright studio in Brooklyn that my good friend Cardi B drops by often. If you're not including Cardi B in your dream, I think you're doing it wrong.