In Conversation: Malcolm Wope | The Rocketboi Identity

© Malcolm Wope

Malcolm is a Cape Town based illustrator and animator. His work has steadily evolved over the years as he refines his studies of different characters as products of their respective environments. We caught up with the Rocketboi himself and tried to get a bit of insight on the man behind the multiple characters he creates.

First, tell us a bit about Malcolm? What do you do and what inspires you?
I work in the gaming industry at the moment, as a concept artist and illustrator for Bla Bla Bla Studios. That title can mean many things however, it is predominantly my role to come up with and communicate ideas graphically to both the development team and the client during the undertaking of any project. That can come in the for of character concept drawings, character paint ups, mood boards, background sketches, UI design etc. My inspiration in several places but mostly other illustrators I look up to or end up stumbling across online. My biggest illustration inspiration has always been Tomer Hanuka and James Jean, but recently I have also been influenced by work from the likes of Sergi Brosa, Ilya Kuvshinov, Kim Jung Gi, Robert Valley and the list goes on. Each artist inspires a different area of illustration for me and ill look at them for inspiration or reference depending on what I am trying to tackle.

© Malcolm Wope
© Malcolm Wope

When did you start drawing and when did you know that you wanted to become an illustrator?
I’ve been drawing for a very long time, almost all my life. At the time I didn’t even know of the labels of being an illustrator or a concept artist etc. It was just drawing to me. I kept doing so throughout high school and university years and I kind of organically followed a path to where I am today.

© Malcolm Wope
© Malcolm Wope

You studied architecture; tell us about that journey and what brought about that change?
Architecture was never what I really wanted to pursue but it was the safer option, I thought; for doing something in relation to drawing which I loved. Over time however I felt my real aspirations did not lie in architecture but in comics, animation and gaming and so I decided to switch in order to further excel at what I really wanted to do.

Does architecture play any role in your current life?
Yes and no. Architecture itself plays quite a little role in what I research or look at for inspiration but the experience of studying it has stuck with me for life. Even though this is said often, I have to agree that the core design principles and approach learnt in architecture can be translated and applied into all other forms of art and design.

© Malcolm Wope
© Malcolm Wope

You’ve worked with Supa Strikas. Tell us a bit about that.
On graduating I decided to find a job in illustration and Supa Strikas was if not still is one of the biggest companies in the space of illustration and comics. It was a difficult experience having come from being a self taught artist, now having to conform to a certain style and work flow which has benefited me to this day. It also gave me perspective into what the role of an artist in the professional realm looks like.

© Malcolm Wope
© Malcolm Wope

Now, tell us about Rocketboi, where does it come from and what does it mean?
Rocketboi came from a clothing label I started in an attempt to monetise my illustrations by printing them on t-shirts. The brand aimed to be a sports apparel for the underground sport of tricking and “rocketboi” is a name of one of my favourite tricking moves at the time.

Rocketboi creates a lot of characters. Where does the inspiration for these characters come from?
A lot of the characters I come up with are often conjured up from an experimentation of style. I always like to try new styles of art as well as refining my own so often just that inspires me to come up with ideas for characters, plots etc… also watching or reading something really inspirational, whether it be a comic or movie or documentary; it might get the cogs in the brain moving.

© Malcolm Wope
© Malcolm Wope

Well, you must be hugely into anime then… Any favourites?
Its very hard to watch anime these days but I am actually a very big sports anime fan. I think it’s the best sub-genre. So titles like Slam Dunk, Kuroko No Basket, Initial D, Haikyu, Ping Pong,  Hajime No Ippo are all gold for me. I also enjoy anything with good story telling and plots like Death Note or Attack on Titan and some other obscure titles like Gantz. I also love western comics too, with titles from DC Comics or Vertigo – they also have some great stories in there.

© Malcolm Wope
© Malcolm Wope
© Malcolm Wope
© Malcolm Wope

We love these facial explorations. What were you searching for when you started out with these? Does this series [of faces] have a title?
Not really, I was just working on ways to really explore expression and different face styles through exaggerated proportions. When coming up with new designs especially for games or TV shows, the character really has to come out in shape and it’s best to exercise exaggerating ideas during the early stages of development before rearing back to something rational. So for example if a character is over weight, the exploration has to be pushed as far as possible to capture that feeling. So that is what I was trying here.

There is a classical Greek or Roman feel to the form and composition of these facial features. Was that a coincidence?
I think so, however, I did go through a stage of being inspired by Jun Cha, a tattoo artist who designs very beautiful Roman statue prints on skin.

© Malcolm Wope
© Malcolm Wope

You have started engaging in animation. What inspired that?
Animation has actually always been my biggest inspiration. Really good animation has always fascinated me and what in fact got me drawing. I guess everything up till now had been stepping stones or variations of what I actually really want to produce, so I am learning as much as possible. My aim is to become as all rounded as possible in illustration and animation to produce projects I have always dreamed of.

© Malcolm Wope
© Malcolm Wope

Where do you want to take your passion?
At the moment I really would like to produce some motion comics and get published as I have quite a lot of ideas in the works after hours. So hopefully something can become of those.

Take a look at Malcolm’s online portfolio on Behance and follow him on Instagram to see more of his characters come to life.

© Malcolm Wope
© Malcolm Wope