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Recreating SpongeBob SquarePants: The Art of Natali Koromoto

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SPONGEBOB HEADER

We’ve been fortunate to have had one of our all-time favorite artists Natali Koromoto draw for us at Comic Con events. Whenever she sits down at the SketchBook booth and starts drawing, heads start turning and a mass of people who might otherwise walk by stop and take a look. Before you know it, a crowd starts forming.

It’s easy to see why. Her artwork is incredibly accessible. Her drawings are of characters all of us can recognize from middle school. The lines are clean, and her drawings have a free and easy feel to them. It’s clear she has devoted a lot of time perfecting her style of art. Pay attention to the details and you’ll find all kinds of identifying Koromoto bling like tiny lightning bolts and twinkly star eyes. She’s a master at drawing gap-toothed tomboy girls wearing pastel-hued sweaters and oversized nerdy glasses. Her work goes way beyond cute and into positively adorable territory.

We asked her to tell us about a special project she did for Nickelodeon that sounds like one of the best gigs around — being a guest artist. She was invited to create “emoji” art and to recreate existing Nickelodeon characters using her own particular style that could be animated and aired during commercial breaks as part of a new Nickelodeon look for 2016. It was a way for them to incorporate fan art into their wildly successful franchises. She was kind enough to share some of the art and details of the process for making this interstitial-based art.

natali koromoto art
Natali draws cool punk rock lite girls with a lot of style and personality.

Tell us a bit about yourself

Hi there! My name is Natali Koromoto Martinez. I’m a Venezuelan born and raised illustrator, but I’ve been living in New York for the past seven years. Before that I went to school in Florida where I received a Bachelors degree in Animation. Today I do freelance work as an illustrator and run my own online store.

Have you always drawn? 

Oh yes, before I can even remember. According to my mom, I started drawing around the age of two. I drew tons of fan art — a lot of Disney and The Simpsons. I decided I wanted to be an animator after watching The Little Mermaid. I would also make comics growing up, and I took oil painting classes. My mom’s house is covered with my framed paintings. I drew all of the time, and I still do.

What is your usual drawing process?

I love drawing with pencils and then using a light box to clean up the lines of my sketches. After that, I usually scan in my pencil drawings and trace them using a Cintiq 13HD tablet. Then I color it all digitally. Right now I’m using SketchBook Pro to do that work. I have also been making ceramics this past year. It’s really fun, and I find it relaxing. I really love it! I wish I could have my own little pottery studio at home.

emoji characters
Some of the emoji art she created for Nickelodeon to show include recreations of TMNT and Alvin & The Chipmunks.

How did you get started?

I’ve been doing freelance work since college. My school had a big binder full of clients who were looking for illustrators, and from there I met the writers of a children’s book who were looking for someone to bring their Nerdel character to life. Years later and after several well received books the concept and characters joined forces with members of the Sesame Street production team to develop a live action puppet television show. I went on to design all of the character puppets and the sets. After the pilot episode was filmed, I found time to work more on my own inspired illustrations, and I think this changed my professional course for the better. It freed my imagination up, and I started making up new characters everyday. Before long I was running my own online store and exploring new methods to realize my designs. 

Tell us about the Nickelodeon project

Assistant Director Stef Shank approached me with a list of Nick’s characters and some emoji inspired characters that they wanted me to recreate in my own style. They were going to animate the icons and play them during commercial breaks as part of Nick’s new look for 2016. Some of the characters were from cartoons like TMNT, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Sanjay and Craig, Harvey Beaks, and SpongeBob SquarePants. I also illustrated some icons for live action shows, such as ICarly, Game Shakers, The Thundermans, Bella and the Bulldogs, and others. Nelson Diaz and Jason Clarke did a great job animating everything! This was probably one of the most easy-going projects I have worked on. They gave me a lot of freedom to do what I wanted. The only character they needed me to keep as close to the original as possible was SpongeBob. 

spongebob and patrick
We love all the cute and whimsical details in Natali’s fan art like Patrick’s Mr. Krabs stuffed animal with pull string and Spongebob’s Krabby Patty baseball cap.

What works best for you in SketchBook?

I LOVE the Copic marker palette. It’s so pleasing to look at. I also really like playing and improvising with the symmetry tool, and I like how I can create quick backgrounds with the ruler, perspective guide, and French curve. The software is easy and intuitive to use. It feels very natural. 

Any advice for aspiring artists?

Draw everyday. It’s the best way to practice and to build a strong portfolio. And put your work out there. Social media is such an incredible tool. Use it. Let people look at your work. You never know who’s going to see it. It can also be inspiring when you get feedback from people out there, especially when you’re trying out new things.

sandy squirrel
We’re guessing part of the fun of a project like this is trying out different ideas like this Sandy with a giant Gary the snail as a Kiddie Ride. They don’t all make the final cut, but to us there’s a ton of fun in seeing alternate takes.

Where to find Natali online

You can follow her on Instagram, but we also encourage you to consider purchasing some of her art on her online store, which goes beyond art prints and includes some really lovely enamel pinst-shirts, and even stickers!

stickers
In addition to prints, Natalie offers stickers, cards, t-shirts, enamel pins — all kinds of fun stuff.