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We spoke to the Aussie illustrator behind The Pugemon Project (yes, Pokemon as PUGS!)

Aussie illustrator Sean Dowling had us falling in love with pugs and Pokemon last week, with his too-cute enterprise, The Pugemon Project (which is currently on Kickstarter).

He’s got us hooked with his talent and we’ve got our fingers crossed someone buys us a Pugemon print (with all 150 pugemons!) very soon.

We spoke to Sean about his background in illustration, The Pugemon Project, and what’s next for this talented Brisbane-based illustrator.

Tell us a little bit about your background in illustration — did you go to school for it? Has it always been a passion of yours?

‘From when I was little, I was always drawing. I wish that I had studied it. Instead, I ended up studying theatre and eventually found my way to graphic design. The overwhelming majority of my work is for artists and arts organisations. Posters for shows, films etc. The work I get to do is always fun and interesting and now involves a lot more illustration. But no, unfortunately I never studied and I often think that maybe I should figure out a way to juggle going back to school AND all my design clients… But then realise that I am already drawing for a living; I have already managed to make it work’.

How did you come up with the idea of combining pugs with Pokemon?

‘It is Bulbasaur’s fault. He was the first I drew and I always loved his big ridiculous mouth. The way when he would yawn or yell his whole face split open to reveal this huge pink smile. It always reminded me of pugs and Boston terriers because they have that same wide mouth that just screams “personality”. So it kinda just stuck that they were pugs.

‘Some of them are a bit difficult. Especially the bird Pokemon. I have got into deep philosophical discussions about “Are these dogs wearing costumes? IE: fake wings” or are they dogs that HAVE wings, and if so, are they like Pegasus, with wings sprouting out of their shoulders, or are they like bats so their front legs are the wings? Plus dogs’ front legs move precisely in the way that wings DON’T, so it was quite a struggle on some to get the poses right. Also their beaks – if they have a beak how on Earth are they a dog?

‘So I made a blanket decision to wherever possible, have the bird Pugemon be “in costume”. That way they were wearing little beaks tied on with string or had wings made out of feathers that were strapped on. That said, some of them do just have shaggy forelimbs. Plenty of them break the rules I set out and I guess I don’t mind that so much because at the end of they day they just need to look right, the simpler the better.

‘Strangely, the insect ones haven’t been hard at all’.

Tell us more about The Pugemon Project on Kickstarter.

‘It really isn’t any more sophisticated then me drawing some adorable dogs. I just want to get it out into into the world. I certainly am not trying to turn this into a huge money-making venture.

‘Years ago I learnt a valuable lesson about being an artist. Your gut will tell you to hold onto the things you make. To not put them out into the world because either they have some flaw (that is infinitesimal that only you would notice) or that you don’t want people to steal your idea. The thing is, if you lock your ideas up like that you limit your ability to come up with new and interesting ideas. You need to let your babies out into the world and if they succeed, great. If they don’t, then you learn something about your work. What is my dream for the project? I want to let my babies fly away, even if their wings are just shaggy add-ons… How could I lock up something so adorable?’

What are some of the perks we can look forward to by pledging to your Kickstarter campaign?

‘As mentioned, I come from a print background and there is one thing that is always true with print, the more units you order, the cheaper they become. So with the cards and book, having more people pledge means I can upgrade the publications. Adding things like custom display boxes, higher grade paper, more pages in the book… More pledges means more improvements to the products. The initial cost is the big limitation with anything print based’.

We bet The Pugemon Project is taking up a LOT of your time, but any idea what you might be working on next?

‘I have a few things that I have been considering putting out into the world of crowd funding. I have written a few children’s books that deal with subjects that traditional publisher generally stay away from but I think the crowd funding community might like.

‘I have already begun the early planning work for one later this year. It is called “The Owls of Unhappiness” and it is a children’s book about depression. It chronicles a cast of adorable owls and the different ways in which they are deeply unhappy. It isn’t one of those books that tells kids to “turn that frown upside down”. Anyone who has struggled with depression can tell you that sort of advice can actually make things worse. This book is about how it is okay to feel sad and it’s okay to feel like things won’t get better. That it is entirely normal to feel this way’.

Can’t wait to see that book! In the meantime, order your own Pugemon prints on Kickstarter and stay in touch with The Pugemon Project on Facebook.


About the author

Rachel Oakley is an Aussie writer based in NYC with an obsession for the creepy, cool and quirky side of life. She’ll remind you she’s a vegan every chance she gets. Her IG is filled with doggo pics: @patty_pottymouth