Christian ‘Bees’ McGowan is a major young American artistic talent who can go from sculpting a perfectly detailed dragon, to painting beautiful watercolours of animals, to drawing hilarious cartoons featuring vomit in a single day. She is a veritable Renaissance-woman!
We discovered Bees’ and her work through Mr. Chance Priest of ‘Victory Comics’ – as Bees has collaborated extensively with Chance on his art toys, painting figures, character art, display backgrounds and more.
Aside from her work with Chance, Bees has an interest in animation, runs her own comic brand – ‘Pigeon Comics’ – and works in almost every artistic medium known to man.
Whilst capable of being aesthetically varied as mentioned, all of Bees’ vast and varied catalogue of works are soft yet strong, feminine yet tenacious, full of movement and detail; and oh so damn funny. We fell in love immediately and know you will too!
Explaining what led her to become an artist, Bees states:
“When I was around 4 years old, I saw a behind the scenes clip of Disney’s “The Lion King” where a group of artists were sitting in front of a wall of tiny drawn out thumbnails and I was entranced.
How could thousands of these small drawings become one big movie?? I had to know!
I’ve been drawing ever since.“
(Some Overwatch inspired art by Bees below)
Wanting to know more about her work, we asked Bees some questions about working with Chance, growing up, love, sex, gaining a foothold in the art scene; and much much more! Read all about it, via the Art Talk Interview, below…
Basics/Getting to Know
Name + D.O.B?
I go by “Bees.” I’m always busy, whether it’s my hands or mind alone.
I was born the day after the day the Soviet Union ceased to exist.
City, State n Country you currently call home?
I currently reside between two cities nestled in north Texas, USA.
City, State n Country you’re from?
I was born in a cold small mountain town in Washington, USA.
(Some self portraits by Bees below)
What role did toys play in your childhood?
I was usually gifted Barbies and dolls as a child, but I would pick out the animal counterparts that came included with the dolls and played with those instead.
I also played with Beanie Babies and animal figures.
They were a constant in my life while people would come and go.
Describe a memory from some stages of your life ….basically trying to piece together some pivotal moments. Concerts, art, action-figures, romance, school, crime… ANYTHING really!:
* age 5 – beginnings:
As a child, I kept to myself. I loved exploring my backyard, watching small critters and picking them up. I loved watching cartoons, to some degree, moreso than other kids.
My elementary school memories aren’t too exciting…
I remember in preschool eating scrambled eggs colored with green dye right after listening to Dr. Suess’s Green and Eggs.
My mother told once I had thrown a fit about sitting with the other children during storytime. I had wanted to sit next to my desk and continue coloring. So my teacher proceeded to read a story (about a family of ducks). When she had walked to see what I was busy with, she saw I had drawn a family of ducks all over my papers. She praised to my mother how closely I had listened to her. I don’t remember doing this, but knowing me, it does not sound far-fetched at all.
I went to my mom for my brother’s speech therapy meetings, where I would sit in the waiting lobby. It was there I met another girl that had these tiny multicolored plastic toys (I later would discover the one I leaned towards was a Charizard). I had bitten into the Pokemon phenomenon that swept the late 90’s and I wouldn’t let go for the longest time. My mom said it was just a phase, she had only banned it because I was that obsessed with it. She had been through the Beanie Babie phase, she wasn’t about to spend money on a whole new wave.
School teachers noted how I sat by myself during recess or lunch. I never brought up how lonely it was to them, so their solution was to pair me with the girls that matched my interests the closest. It was MISERABLE! None of them wanted to stay on the swings the entire recess time. None of them wanted to pick at bugs within the moss on the stairs. No one wanted to make up fantastical worlds and creature on the same plane as myself. I tried interacting with some of the more quiet boys, but even they had refused to let me play with them.
I didn’t muddle on how lonely I was in school for too long, I would fill this gap with cartoons and playing on the computer.
(Photo below of Bees as a small child)
* age 10 – continuations:
I was always an empathetic and sensitive child. Throughout my childhood, my mother read to me all the time. I loved Chronicles of Narnia, Wizard of Oz, Tom Sawyer, To Kill A Mockingbird, and Watership Down.
I don’t remember this story, but she had read “Where The Red Fern Grows” to me while we were on a 4 hour plane ride. She got to the part where the dogs die (shocker) and I had cried long and hard. It was so disruptive, the flight attendant inquired what was making me so upset. She must have read the book too, because as soon as my mom told her, she was more sympathetic to my tears. Which was funny, I watched Old Yeller and Bambi previously and have never shed a tear over these characters’ plight with mortality. I’m sure if I went back to these again, now much older, I would probably feel differently.
In school, I’m about average. Library or lunch is my favorite time of the day there. I got into a few scuffles over playing with other kids toys, or liking a boy. The few girls I had talked to are now living with their boyfriends miles and miles away.
I got braces and had huge square glasses. I was the biggest example of the nerd stereotype as you could possibly imagine.
It wouldn’t be til a few years later I would find out what a crazy ride adolescence had set up for me.
* age 15 – getting serious:
My dad pulled me and my young brother and younger sister out of private school and started to homeschool us. It was great not having to wake up so early.
I started dating my highschool sweetheart, Mike, at 14. We met at our local swim team because I refused to play any sport that involved gyms, fields, balls, running, and any sweating. I had previously played basketball, because I was so tall, I was usually placed whichever group of girls needed more players, didn’t matter my age difference.
Having a boyfriend was wonderful. It felt very grown up and he wasn’t like the other boys in my hometown. As long as you weren’t loud and obnoxious, that was huge plus in my book.
A few months later, my family and I had moved abroad to New Zealand for a year. Being a teenager with a boyfriend on a different time zone (in a time where smart phones were still not as prevalent) was torture. But then again, I was in New Zealand! Lord of the Rings was huge in my tight knit tiny circle of homeschool theater geek friends. I would not trade that year for anything, it is implanted into my foundation and I treasured every day. Mike mailed me a letter once a month and emailed me everyday.
I attended school there, as well as my sister and brother, and it was awesome to see how a school outside the US operated. I went back again in 2016, and The Strawberry Patch in Havelock North is the only place I can happily enjoy a fresh strawberry ice cream cone.
(Photo below of Bees aged 18)
* age 20 – young adult:
I’ve getting deeper into comics. I’m really into Scott Pilgrim and Hellboy. I think it kicked off in 2003 with the Teen Titans premiere. It was the first time I felt very excited for a superhero television show? I loved animated Batman series, but that was gone by then.
Me and Mike broke up on a few months before we started college. We went to the same one, so it kind of made things a bit hard. I dated around the first two years of college. It was a whirlwind of meeting new people, finding some that shared your thoughts, ideas, and interests, and I loved it. I was majoring in Drawing and Painting at my school, because it was the closest I felt to anything regarding animation. Texas isn’t very well known for their animation schools. College outside of the academic stuff was fun. I met my best friend there (@princecurryy) and we both want to move to California to find work in the animation industry!
* age 25 – adult mode:
I’m now the local cryptid. I only come out for fast food and art house theater showings.
I still love cartoons, and exploring the world of comic books and toy art. I’m saving up to move to California.
I have no contact with anyone from my younger school days, in America or New Zealand. I’m still friends with Mike through Facebook. He had wished me a happy birthday last year, which I thought was very sweet, thank you, Mike.
“Don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya!”
When and why did you first start making art of any type!?
It’s honestly the one thing in which I am quite proficient.
I would say I’m pretty good at it, but I’m constantly learning new things everyday, for the past 20 years.
Any pivotal artistic moment(s) / influence(s)?
When I was around 4 years old, I saw a behind the scenes clip of Disney’s “The Lion King” where a group of artists were sitting in front of a wall of tiny drawn out thumbnails and I was entranced.
How could thousands of these small drawings become one big movie?? I had to know! I’ve been drawing ever since.
(Photos below of a commissioned sculpture and character concept art by Bees)
Do you consider what you are making to be art, design, re-hashed crap?
Nothing lasts forever. Pieces that are held as masterpieces will return to dust eventually, as well as the people who gave it those titles.
My stuff may be dismissed as childish or worthless, but I only made art to please others, I’d never be truly happy with your craft.
My biggest tips to younger artists would be 1. to love what you do first 2. Practice practice practice 3. Network network network
Best aspect of the contemporary art hustle?
We are in a time where we are the most connected.
I have made many friends through social media sites, fan group forums, and online drawing boards. No longer do I need to travel far or dig too deep in order to find others with similar interests as mine.
Worst aspect of the contemporary art hustle?
With this great gift that is world wide internet access, comes a leech on the belly. I believe it has also given people an excuse to become lazy.
People make excuses or leave nasty comments without further dialogue than what would need more context if we were talking in person.
If anything needs to be contradicted or enforced, it doesn’t take much more than a Google search to back up facts or false claims.
(Some pop-culture inspired art by Bees below)
Favorite other artist(s)?
My favorite artist list consists of: Claude Monet, Édouard Manet, Juanjo Guarnido, Vincent van Gogh, Beth Van Hoesen, Salvador Dali, Raymond Briggs, Richard Scarry, Theodor Geisel, Kate Beaton, Mel Shaw, Kurt Cobain, Ashton Kutcher, Danny Antonucci, Shia le Bouf, and Lyle Conway.
Describe the process of producing your art? – Dot point all o.k!
– your pigeon comics?
I have an idea or a thought process and draw birds along with a written form of my current thoughts. They don’t have to be groundbreaking or world changing. As long as it evokes an emotion or can reach to the very human need of being around others, that means I’ve accomplished my goal. Sometimes I also draw comics along with the lyrics of my favorite songs.
– your paintings?
Start with a drawing, then add paint on top of it.
I have only started seriously watercoloring since 2012. Before then, I was in the majority that was terrified of tackling it, but again, it takes practice, practice, practice.
– your sculpting?
I like sculpting from scratch and also with found objects. With the ones I start from scratch: 1. I start with a wire “skeleton”, 2. add tin foil as the guts. 3. Then I add the surrounding clay and finalize the shape and details.
– your digital art?
I start with a rough sketch which I drag into Photoshop and the rest is history.
Designer Toy + ‘Victory Comics LLC’ Questions
We discovered your work thanks to your contributions to the world of Mr. Chance Priest and his ‘Victory Comics LLC’ company and want to ask you about working with him…
* How did you and Chance come to connect – art wise?
My boss found a flyer Chance had posted around town and sent it to me, thinking it’d be right up my alley.
I called him that afternoon and met with him shortly afterwards.
I treated it like a regular job at first, fearful he wouldn’t think much of my work and pick someone else to work with him. He gave me a tour around his workshop and my confidence grew the longer we talked and I had gotten a better idea of his views and goals for his company.
* What work have you done for Chance, and what role do you play within ‘Victory Comics LLC’?
The first ZAPI he assigned me to paint was his French werewolf character, Jock Garu. You could say I was fur real excited to work with Chance’s toys.
I have painted a good chunk of his ZAPI figures.
Summer of 2016, we had a quick paced tag team schtick where I would pick the toys up soon as the plastic settled, paint them and return them within 2 days. In one week, I brought back 25 completed figures.
He was so impressed with my work, he dubbed me “Head Artist” of everyone else that was bringing back painted figures. If he didn’t have any plastic in storage, he had me watercolor character promo art for around 100 of his many, many characters. I have also painted all the backgrounds he uses for his toy profile photos (skies, forests, swamp, “horror movie”, space station, ice domain, mountains, wormhole).
(Photos below of some Jock Garu figures by Chance Priest – Except for the red shirt in the top right corner, and green shirt mid 2nd to left, Bees painted every rendition of Jock Garu in this photo.)
* What impact has Chance had on your life, and why?
Working with Chance has definitely opened the doors of learning to collab with other artists. I think that is very important skill to have if you’re wanting to work in any creative field. Communication (and being thorough) is key.
* Do you have any personal favourites of Chance’s creations?
There are a few creatures I had grown very attached to.
They are all vibrantly colored monsters so it goes without saying they’d be my automatic favorites.
* Do you work with other designer toy makers / brands? Or just Mr Priest?
Chance is the only local toymaker I know of that runs a project as big such as this.
I have yet to work with anyone outside of our partnership, let alone, hometown. If not him, I’m sculpting things for myself or close acquaintances.
I am totally open to collaborating. Doesn’t have to be just toys! I can draw, sketch, and paint too!
Odds n Ends
Please describe what you think the American Psyche/Zeitgeist is today?
The psyche is all over the place, and it keeps changing. There’s a never ending list of things going on (i.e. the judicial system, our school system, Puerto Rico relief efforts, our country’s gun control, our place amongst world powers). It gets tiresome, and it will definitely take a long time before things get better.
Lots of back and forth from people who may share more in common than they think.
I think the main problem is that people would rather listen to what they believe instead of the truth.
Who was your 1st crush and why?
Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors.
Same reasons I suppose people love the Phantom from Phantom of the Opera?
(Some watercolour animal based art by Bees below)
Does sex change everything?
Which cartoon character would you most like to see in a tribute sex toy, and why?
Y’know, I’ve seen many sex-toys based off of cartoons, but I have yet to find anything regarding Tamatoa from Disney’s 2016 film, “Moana.”
If Sally Hawkins can fall in love with a fish man, why is it so wrong for me to be attracted to a giant singing crab?
Who would win in a fight and why: The Lost in Space Robot Vs. Miss Piggy from ‘The Muppets’?
Miss Piggy, hands down.
She doesn’t take crap from anyone.
(Art by Bees below of the brutal battle!)
Please describe your latest dream in detail…
I had an interesting one last night, but my most memorable dream took place when I was about 6 or 7…
I loved the Disney classic, “Flight of the Navigator.” In my dream, Batman (from the 1993 animated series) flew around in a spaceship similar to the Flight’s. He and Pochahantas (again, Disney’s. I watched a LOT of 90’s cartoons) had a thing, but Batman didn’t want her getting involved with a case he was on, so he stopped on top of a building to drop her off.
Instead of getting off, she turned halfway on the walkway platform and ran back inside. Batman then scolded her, saying it was safer with her family, and I guess I woke up after that part, I sure don’t remember anything past that…
Of everything you have done, what would you most like to be remembered for and why?
I’m only a quarter through the average human life cycle. I’ve done many things, and traveled to many places in that short time span.
If anything, I would like to be remembered that I tried my best to be kind and understanding, even though I spent most of my time alone and making things.
(A mural by Bees below)
Drugs – waste of time or gateway to the universe?
Depends what kinds we’re talking about? In most cases, they can cause a lot of harm, hassle, and heartache. I know from personal experiences, but I’ve seen them do amazing things as well.
In moderation, I believe it can do good; however, as long as there’s greed, I don’t see them becoming a well-received worldwide concept soon.
What are your 3 most treasured possessions?
My vast collection of films, my pets, and my tools.
If people wanted to collaborate, work with you or just buy some art – how should they get in touch?
My social media, website or email:
- Site: www.christianmcgowanart.com
- Facebook: facebook.com/christianmcgowanart
- tumblr: pigeoncomics.tumblr.com
- Instagram: @ProfessorBees
- Twitter: @ProfessorBees
- Patreon: Patreon.com/professorbees
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org