Born from DeviantArt fame, with an “by-artists-for-artists” mantra and unique “East meet West” approach in art creation, the Singapore based studio is well-celebrated by fans worldwide. IFS boasts a lean, mean, full time staff, have an amazing portfolio of projects for video games, animation and film, and are bringing some tasty concept artwork to the table at Sideshow for DC Comics and beyond!
The triforce of co-founders took some time out to chat with us about their studio and what’s in the works. Here’s the scoop:
Sideshow Collectibles: Hey guys, thanks for taking some time to talk with us. Let’s jump right in! So tell us about the IFS team and how you got started.
Stan: Sure! Ok, let me give a background story, and the other two can fill in…I met Kendrick when I was running an ad agency called Paprika Interactive. I co-founded it with a few friends, before Imaginary Friends Studios, and Kendrick was introduced to me by one of my designers.
Kendrick: I went to their offices for after hours gaming sessions.
Stan: Yup, and then Kendrick knew that we were looking for an intern, so he threw out Kai’s name, whose DeviantArt page he’d just discovered.
Kendrick: I was like, “look at this obnoxious kid. 18 years old and painting like a boss!”
Wait, back up. What games did you play in these after hours sessions?
Kendrick: Unreal Tournament ONE!!!
Kai: Unreal Tournament!!!
Kai: There used to be an unspoken trend, where a senior designer would walk up to the rest and go “let’s go for a walk,” that would signify end of day and start of Redeemers being shot everywhere…
Haha awesome. Ok continue
Stan: I was impressed with Kai’s work, and I called him in for an interview. I didn’t have any plans on how to make use of his talent, I just thought it would be interesting to observe this kid up close. Later on, Kai was the one who said I should join DA and upload my art there too. [Editor's Note: Stan has been on DeviantArt for over 8 years, with over 10 million page views. Check out his stuff here!] Anyway, eventually Kai and Kendrick’s schooling and contracts were ending and we were ready to part ways, but I was bored with my advertising life too so instead we quit the job and the three of us started IFS.
Where’d you go from there? What’s the journey been like since?
Stan: It was tough at first. We lived on grass and tap water for months as we gathered up all our savings, got a studio space and printed our first art book.
Kendrick: And we brought the book to SDCC ‘05, instead of a portfolio like a million other guys.
Stan: Then our first real projects came in, G.I. Joe comic coloring with Devil’s Due, followed by Dragonlance.
So at this time, just you three did all the art?
Stan: Yep, but soon we brought in many more. We met Sunny Gho on DA. He was our fan, and when he got to know about IFS Singapore he was very excited and wanted be a part of it, so he started IFS Jakarta. By 2008 the team grew to almost 50 guys, Singapore + Jakarta.
Kendrick: That was a crazy time. It was extremely hard to make sure every artist had projects to work on. We are now at 12, a small and strong team that’s much more manageable.
Kai: Right. IFS Jakarta and Sunny recently realigned their business, so while we work together on projects they are a standalone company called Stellar. They focus on talent management and act as a creative agency
Stan: And Sunny is now an A-list colorist for DC Comics, Marvel, and TopCow. Good to see our friends grow and find their path of destiny!
Love the “by-artists-for-artists” mantra. Can you go into detail about what that means?
Kendrick: Literally, IFS is owned and founded by artists – Stanley, Kai and me – for a group of talented full time artists. We see ourselves more like a collective rather than a company, and we treat everyone more like friends than employees or colleagues.
Kai: The work we put out is often value-added because there is a spirit of excellence and personal integrity behind it. It’s never about turning a profit by handing up the bare minimum. On occasion, we will even gladly take on lower-paying work, so long as it’s inspiring to work on.
Describe the part of collaboration where you get to see your art transformed by other artists – into a sculpture, game, film etc. Is it ever hard to “let go” of your art, or is it usually pretty exciting and fulfilling?
Kai: There’s a collaborative aspect that we strive for in our professional works. Be it between an artist and a sculptor, or writer, director, that balancing act has to be maintained. Sometimes in other parts of the industries when there’s a “factory pipeline” and its time to hand a project over we just close our eyes and offer a little prayer — but when it is truly collaborative it can be a fantastic sharing experience.
Kendrick: It’s a great feeling, knowing that you were part of something more.
Kai: We always, by virtue, share our sincerest perspective and give our input. After all, it’s our personal stamp we are putting on the work, and our time we are spending on it. It’s the least we can do. That aside, it’s about the project and the client’s interests, that’s why we provide a service and we never forget that. The ego never comes first, only the project.
What have been some of the highlights or the most rewarding parts of what you do? What are you looking forward to next?
Kai: Probably sounds like cheese but the truth is being able to work, every day, with others in order to actualise their visions and ideas is a reward in itself. I see us moving towards coming up with our own properties (some in the works!) as well as education.
Kendrick: The highlight is definitely working on the cool projects, especially those that I’m a fan of. Moving forward, we hope to grow artistically and technically as a collective and stay relevant in such a turbulent and rapidly growing industry.
One last question: What if someone wanted a kitten calendar, who would do that?
Stan: We would probably reject the job haha.
What if I had a $100,000 budget…?
Stan: …then all of us will do it!