A Conversation with Dennis Salvatier – Tanoshiboy

Name: Dennis Salvatier
Location: California, USA
Designation: Illustrator & Graphic Designer
Associated with: Tanoshiboy Art, Disney, Coca-Cola

Dennis first caught my eye with his ultra adorable Lil BFFs series and I’ve been his humble follower ever since. Dennis is that kind of an artist whose work you see being featured on some of the cool sites that you follow and then you just can’t resist but go on Google to find out more about this artist.

Thor Ragnarok (Facebook Stickers) by Dennis Salvatier
Thor Ragnarok (Facebook Stickers) by Dennis Salvatier

I’m always blown away by his choice of color, depth of detailing and his unique style of making illustrations. Given a pen and paper, I bet, Dennis can even turn the scariest of a character into an adorable one.

Dennis believes that great and effective design is the product of creativity, knowledge and information. He has been putting that philosophy to the test for more than 15 years working for all size of companies.

Let’s learn more about Dennis and his way of making art.

Hey Dennis, how’re you doing? Let’s kickstart this conversation with a little intro.

Dennis: Hi, my name is Dennis Salvatier, I’m a designer and illustrator known online as Tanoshiboy. I live in Southern California in the town of Pasadena. By day I work as an Art Director and by night I illustrate for companies like Disney, NBC Universal and Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment. I’m married and have a 3 years old son, who I expose to everything that I love.

Wonder Woman Day by Dennis Salvatier
Wonder Woman Day by Dennis Salvatier

What got you into illustrations and making pop-culture art?

Dennis: Growing up, one of the things that instantly captured my imagination was animation – Looney Tunes, Popeye, Felix the Cat, etc. The idea of moving drawings amazed me and when I got older and discovered comic books, my imagination soared even more.

I’ve always been enamoured with storytelling in all its forms, so naturally I wanted to draw and eventually pay tribute to the things that I love.

Afternoon Well Spent by Dennis Salvatier
Afternoon Well Spent by Dennis Salvatier

What’s the story behind Tanoshiboy?

Dennis: About 8 years ago, I was looking to make the move from being a designer and becoming more of an illustrator. I had never heavily marketed my illustration skills, so now that I was out of a job and looking to go independent, I needed to set myself apart from everyone else.

I started to design and illustrate ‘fan art’. Really, they were personal projects that kept me busy and practicing while looking for work. They led to more work and offers to be in pop-art shows. I was hesitant at first because I didn’t like being in front of people, but I knew that if I wanted to succeed, I was going to have to deal with a healthy dose of discomfort.

It was during that time that I came up with the name ‘Tanoshiboy’. I’d always been interested in Japanese culture and pop culture and thought the word ‘tanoshii’ (meaning ‘fun and enjoyable’) was the perfect way to introduce myself. Many times the name led to the question “What does ‘tanoshi’ mean?” and that led to conversations that led to collaborations or paid projects.

Baby Groot by Dennis Salvatier
Baby Groot by Dennis Salvatier

You’ve an unique and adorable style of illustrations. How important is developing one’s own style according to you?

Dennis: As a working artist, I feel that having an aesthetic is more important than having a style. I know some would disagree with me, but I’ve gotten a lot of work because of my versatility. I can adapt my style, but the aesthetic remains the same, especially when it comes to the color palettes that I choose. Having a background in animation taught me that if you want to have a long career, you’ve to be able to adapt to any setting. If you can draw a puppy in a million different ways and not just one, you’ve a better chance of getting a job – at the puppy studio 😉

I feel that having an aesthetic is more important than having a style.
– Tweet this

The Lil BFFs series you came up with, has been a hit and my personal favorite as well. What inspired you to create it?

Dennis: Thank you! If I remember correctly, I was watching ‘Breaking Bad’ at the time and started to doodle a little Walter White and Jesse during a meeting. That led to the first series and I’ve been doing them ever since.

Lil BFFs – Po and Master Shifu by Dennis Salvatier
Lil BFFs – Po and Master Shifu by Dennis Salvatier

There has always been a debate about absolutely original and inspired artwork. What are your thoughts on this topic?

Dennis: Absolutely. I think a healthy balance of both is probably the best way to go. Fan art is art too, no matter what anyone says. But, if you only rely on the work that focuses on another company’s IPs, and never create anything original, then you don’t grow. Always create new characters and your own stories. That’s the work that fulfils me the most.

How do you keep yourself motivated and inspired to create such beautiful illustrations?

Dennis: Sometimes, it’s hard to be motivated and it’s almost always attributed to having to be an adult and deal with the everyday trials of life. But, what helps me is looking at the work of amazing artists that are long forgotten. For example, Winsor McCay, the creator of Little Nemo, is an amazing example of an incredible artist and draftsman who did mind-blowing work without the aid of a computer. Most creatives look at their contemporaries, but I tend to look back. Those kinds of creatives keep me inspired.

Lil BFFs – Up by Dennis Salvatier
Lil BFFs – Up by Dennis Salvatier

What do you think is important to master the art of making digital illustrations? Is there a catch here?

Dennis: Practice. Like anything in life, you just need to do it over and over again until you’ve found your groove and your voice. I think that’s what’s most important. One thing I would suggest is to learn to draw without the aid of digital tools. Sketch with pencil and paper. Get your hands dirty with ink. It makes for better work.

Spidey Churro Breal by Dennis Salvatier
Spidey Churro Breal by Dennis Salvatier

Commitment and tenacity. If you want to do great work you have to make the promise to yourself and be persistent. There will be days of frustration and that’s just the nature of being creative. We are our own worst critics, but know that, accept it and keep going. You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be better.

There are not many who opt to commission work and digital prints as a career path. What do you think could be the reason for that?

Dennis: Probably, the fear of failure. Fear can keep you from doing anything that can help you grow. And don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with someone who creates art and doesn’t put it up for sale. That person makes art simply to make art and that’s great too. That’s a life choice, but if you want to be commissioned and want to sell prints of your work, you have to put yourself out there. You’ve to be willing to be uncomfortable.

Bat Family Matters by Dennis Salvatier
Bat Family Matters by Dennis Salvatier

Your artwork is very neat and totally adorable, never fails to inspire. What would be your advice to budding Illustrators and Artists?

Dennis: Thank you! Like I mentioned before, learning to draw with traditional tools. Always have a sketchbook handy and at least a pencil. It will make all the difference for when you do digital work. Plus, when Skynet comes online and your Cintiq takes a crap, you’ll still be able to draw.

Always have a sketchbook handy and at least a pencil. It will make all the difference for when you do digital work.

– Tweet this

Dennis Salvatier's Workspace
Dennis Salvatier’s Workspace

Rapid Fire Round

Favorite Disney movie?

Favorite Marvel movie?
Captain America: Winter Soldier.

What if superheroes were real?
I would follow them like people follow athletes.

Best places to find inspiration?
It’s all around you if you’re open to it.

If Dennis isn’t designing, he can be found doing ___.
Silly things with his son.

World could be a better place if ____.
People learned to listen to one another.

Cuteness can be defined as _____.
Anything with a disproportionate head to body ratio and large eyes.

Children are amazing when ____.
They’re free to be children.

Darshan is ____.

The One-UP by Dennis Salvatier
The One-UP by Dennis Salvatier

I loved how Dennis keeps it simple and straight to the point. Thanks for inspiring, mate.

Dennis updates his Behance and Dribbble quite regularly and it’s flooded with cuteness. I would recommend you to follow him there. His prints are available for sale on Tanoshiboy Art and cool t-shirts on TeePublic.

You should also consider following him on Instagram for a peep at his design process and behind the scenes.

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