The animator/illustrator from Ottawa creates grotesque and hilarious designs for creators across the internet.
Ottawa based full-time animator and part-time illustrator Brandon Lepine has garnered a strong online fanbase after gaining traction for his signature monstrous character drawings. His art style is striking, silly, and unapologetically gruesome- often times featuring characters with exposed guts, popping eyeballs, and slime covered skin. Lepine started procuring followers after producing designs for creators like Toronto band PUP, and YouTubers Cody Ko and Noel Miller, Kurtis Conner, and Elvis The Alien.
The visual artist drew from an early age, at first mimicking the cartoon characters he loved as a kid.
"I’ve been drawing for as long as I remember" said Lepine. "I always wanted to be able to replicate my favourite cartoon characters onto the page. I recall drawing looney tunes, specifically a tried and true classic, Bugs Bunny."
The cartoons Lepine watched as a child heavily influenced his art style as an adult. "I wouldn’t really say I was drawn to any particular style when I was younger," said Lepine. "I was really into cartoons though. Looking back at some of the shows I really liked it’s clear how much they’ve influenced my drawing style today. Shows like Ren and Stimpy, Cow and Chicken and Rocko’s Modern Life. Fun fact: I work full time as an animator, and the show I work on currently was created by Joe Murray (Rocko’s Modern Life). I sit in zoom meetings with him every other week, seven year-old me would absolutely lose his mind if he knew where I was today."
The illustrator discovered his sense of style at the end of his time at Seneca College, where he studied animation. "I spent so many years being told how to draw, that a part of me thought I had to draw a certain way to be successful," said Lepine. "It just never really felt “right”. I had come across the work of Alex Pardee a few years earlier, and was always so inspired by his work that one day I tried to draw in his style. It was just so fun. I began to take things from my childhood such as Pokémon and turn them into more grotesque monsters."
At first, Lepine's art received mixed reactions.
"I started to set up shop at conventions in the artist alleys and would be told several times that I "ruined" some of the attendees' childhoods," said Lepine. "It was through Alex I began to discover other artists like Skinner and Jordan Buckley. The style just took a life of its own at some point- but you can still see bits of those guys in there."
"Art just makes me happy," said Lepine. "I’m not really sure how to explain it. There’s something so fun about thinking of something cool or stupid and regurgitating it onto a page. It’s an incredible thing to be able to express myself in a visual form, even if it’s something like a farting butt."
Lepine intended to become an animator, stumbling into illustration along the way.
"I never really considered a career as an illustrator," said Lepine. "Not because I didn’t want to, I just never thought anyone would want to pay me for my weird drawings. If I recall correctly, Instagram was in its infancy when I was completing college. I always saw it as an app to post selfies and pictures of food. I can’t remember when exactly, but I decided to start posting my art on there. The hashtags helped me find some very talented and super cool artists- I stumbled across the lowbrow art community and began targeting the audience there, and that’s when I started to gain some traction. Lowbrow art really appealed to my tastes. Crude jokes mixed with cool aesthetics, things like tattoos, monsters, skateboarding, toys, the list goes on and on."
Lepine's first gig as an illustrator was for the frontman of Toronto metal band Protest The Hero. "Oh man, I’m pretty sure my first hired gig was for my pal, Rody Walker!" said Lepine. "I’m a huge Protest The Hero fan, and was following Rody on tumblr. He ran an art contest to draw his friend, Chris. I ended up winning and striking up a friendship with him. Some time after that, Rody reached out to me to draw Chris again, this time as a paid job. I was floored and just so stoked he came to me to do something like that. I’m not sure Rody knows this story, so if he happens to see this- you paved the way for my illustration career! Love ya bud!"
The artist began growing a notable following after working with YouTubers and musicians Cody Ko and Noel Miller.
"I had maybe a thousand followers, which is nothing to scoff at, when I found myself watching these YouTubers react to some “cringe” content- and these dudes were making me laugh out loud," said Lepine. "They had just released a new video featuring a brand new song “Stay Safe”, and the visuals inspired me to get sketching. I figured I’d send it to them on Twitter."
The artist was surprised when Miller and Ko responded.
"I wasn't expecting much, maybe a like or a retweet," said Lepine. "Next thing I know, Noel Miller is asking me to do art for his new twitch stream. Cody Ko would follow shortly after. Ever since I started working with them, the following really started to grow. I owe a lot to those guys, and we're still working together to this day. They are a couple of the greatest dudes I’ve ever met and glad to call my friends!"
Over time, Lepine learned to embrace what makes his art unique. "Growing up, I’d be so determined to be able to draw things as perfectly as I could," said Lepine. "Even in art school you’re encouraged to draw a specific way in the hopes it will lead to success. The more I’ve discovered about my drawing style, the more I’ve tried to learn to embrace my mistakes. The imperfections that would bother me before, now add some flavour or character to my art. Even though my art is very detailed I try to simplify it to challenge myself to learn how to draw with less. It will be interesting to see where my art is ten years in the future."
When asked about his favourite gigs, Lepine immediately thinks of two distinct projects.
"There are two that come to mind right away," said Lepine. "The first project I did with Cody and Noel for their Tiny Meat Gang merch was so exciting. I remember showing them a crude sketch of these rat fink inspired versions of them driving a hot rod and they just let me go crazy."
Lepine appreciated that Miller and Ko handed him the reigns.
"Here I was working with two of my favourite content creators and they basically gave me the keys," said Lepine. "They asked me after the illustration was done if I could also whip them up a text logo to go with the design. That little add on has gone on to basically become their logo! When they invited me to their Toronto live show, I watched as fans walked by wearing the designs and seeing the logo projected on the big screen. I will cherish that memory forever!" Creating the album cover for PUP's latest EP "This Place Sucks Ass" was a standout project for the illustrator.
"I was always so obsessed with album artwork growing up," said Lepine. "Sometimes I’d just go into CD stores to look at the different covers. Punk, rock and metal music were so important to me in my teenage years as I always viewed myself as the oddball or outcast. This music felt like my voice, so having the opportunity to work with a band as amazing as PUP was a dream come true."
One of his largest projects yet, the cover for "This Place Sucks Ass" allowed Lepine to create a twisted little world of his own.
"I’ve been so blessed to be working with such incredible people that, much like Cody and Noel, they trusted me and my vision for the job," said Lepine. "I had such a blast coming up with this crazy and weird world to put on the cover. It felt like I was creating a little story and I had never really gotten to do that in a project before. Also, seeing my art in a record store was surreal!"
Lepine has a second PUP-related project in the works.
"Not sure how much I can reveal, but I’m actually in the middle of a little project with Zack from PUP!" said Lepine. "Literally just settled on a concept and can’t wait to get started!"
Lepine is grateful to have worked with all the creators he has, and hopes to eventually work as an illustrator full-time. "I just hope I can continue to work with these amazing people!" said Lepine. "For now I’ll stick to being an animator full time and illustrator on the side, but it would be great to be able to do this illustration thing full time at some point! Hopefully once COVID calms down and things start to return to normal, I’d like to get into producing my own clothing. I’ve printed a small amount of shirts that I’d like to release, and depending on how that goes, hopefully release more!"
Check out the artist's platforms below, and visit his website to browse his available merch!