Wllnttz caught up with Rodger Beck, the artist behind the loveable character sticker slaps you see around Toronto. When one considers the series of excellent caricatures he’s depicted and the geographic territory Beck has covered in one year’s time it phenomenal. You may have noticed the CN Tower, Earl the Squirrel, Shock or the Ikea Monkey in your neighbourhood. If not, take another look.
Wllnttz: What was your motivation or inspiration to start all of this?
Beck: I got inspired by Lovebot. I didn’t know him then. I saw one of his stickers. It’s one of the things that inspires me about street art is that sometimes its hidden. Sometimes most of these people walking down the street won’t really notice it, but then these little things pop out at you. They said hey we’re actually here. That’s what Lovebot [stickers] did for me. It [Lovebot sticker] was on a light at a subway station. I stopped and I smiled. It inspired me. I wanted a piece of that. I wanted a taste of that. Anyone could walk by these cute little characters and get inspired.
Almost immediately Beck began drawing characters and posting them on Instagram. People responded quickly, asking if they could make trades. The result, an amazing sticker collection from other artists from around the world.
It’s important to note that Beck did not become a graphic artist over night. It started when he was young. He attended an art high school and went on to study film and television at Sheridan.
Unfortunately, like so many artists his self-expression was put aside for a period time. It was only a couple of years ago that Beck began to draw again. The positive feedback was reaffirming and added fuel to the flame of motivation.
Beck: I think the whole thing on how I got back into my art was… I was hanging out with some friends. My friends said, ‘You know I would really like to hang out with an orangutan’. I thought it would a cool illustration to make for him. It actually turned into a sculpture. I sculpted him a little cartoon monkey. Then from there I just started making cartoon sculptures because I loved it. It was so much fun.
From there came Earl the Angry Squirrel. It was based on an angry little squirrel that lived in his attic. The rest his of fun-loving, relatable and iconic caricatures soon followed.
Wllnttz: What keeps you going?
Beck: Sometimes I’ll go and find my stickers still up months later at a place. I know people must have seen them, but they just left it. That feels good. There’s a bit of a rush to it.
Wllnttz: You said earlier that you were inspired by the Lovebot. How did you meet him?
Beck: I didn’t even know he was local. It was through a mutual friend. This friend was working at the Comicon. At his table he had a bunch of Lovebot stickers.
Rodger asked his friend how he got them. It turned out his friend knew him. Shortly after that, Beck was introduced to Lovebot. Now closing the circle of inspiration with collaboration, Beck is a collaborator behind Lovebot’s Love Invasion Project.
Beck has a few other favourites in the city too. There is Cloudy with her red-framed stickers and there are the characters and personalities written by Poser, Elicser, Uber5000, and Spud.
Here are a few interesting facts about Beck.
- When Beck needs a creative push, listening to bouncy music with a good beat helps set the tone.
- He collects recordings of his friends conversations, always intending to listen to them again, but never does.
- Amongst his possessions he owns 1000s of Starburst wrappers, all sorted by colour.
- He likes to keep things visually organized.
- One of Beck’s favourite books is Illusions by Richard Bach.
Beck to the Future
What does the future of Beck characters look like? Rodger has some things in the works, but it’s a little too early to share. What we can tell you is to expect more great characters, and not just in the 2D form we’ve grown to love.
Check-in this Friday for Free Art Fridays Toronto and Beck.