With the launch of season three, we revealed new website/banner art and team portraits created for us by friend of the show S.M. Noble – also known as Rem around the internet. Recently we had a chance to chat virtually with Rem about her art, her new space-horror PbtA game, and more.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
So Rem, you’ve been part of the CritCrew as both a fan artist and a commissioned artist, with your work showing up on social media banners, our Fan Art page, in our Discord community, and more. We’ve seen your art – tell us a little bit about yourself.
Sure! I’m a queer librarian, artist, Twitch streamer, and game dev. You can use she or they for pronouns, whichever you prefer. I like to draw things, and I love doing fanart for The Critshow.
Okay, important questions first: what’s your favorite piece of Critshow fan art you’ve done?
Does the Goblin King count?
Honestly though, I think it’s the animatic video I did last year. It was a lot of fun and it still makes me laugh. (Editor’s note: the animatic video contains mild spoilers from season 2, episode 9 of The Critshow.)
And while it’s not technically The Critshow, I’m still really proud of the faux comic cover I did for the Patreon show Hero Salad, because I loved that whole arc and was really happy with the way the piece turned out.
Tell us about your journey as a fan artist. How’d you get started? What was your very first piece of fan art?
I think I started doing fanart when I was like 9 or 10. I used to print out pictures from Sailor Moon and Card Captor Sakura, trace them lightbox-style, and then color them with markers or colored pencils. It took me a while to feel confident enough to start drawing characters from memory, and by then I’d moved on to doing a lot of Pokemon fanart.
I think my first real piece of fanart that was more than just a figure standing against a blank background was when I was like 10 or 11, and it was a picture of Naruto sitting on a roof with some trees – really inspired stuff lol. I also drew a lot of dragons. Not sure if that counts as fanart, but pretty much everything until I was like 14 or so was just anime and dragons, so I’m checking every box for being a very nerdy child!
Do you have formal artistic training?
I was really super serious about being a comic artist when I was in my teens. I entered literally every TokyoPop manga contest they had back when that was a thing, and I would email comic artists that I admired asking for advice on how to get into the industry (this was long before Twitter or Facebook were really a thing). I still have a copy of the very sweet reply I got from Chynna Clugston Flores somewhere in a document, she was very honest about the process but not in a discouraging way.
So I took every year of art I was allowed to in high school and when I ran out of those I took photography, and then about a year of formal art classes at community college. College is where I kind of realized I didn’t really have the energy that I think you need to succeed at art commercially, however. Art majors get a lot of flak from people who think it’s “easy”, but all the art majors I’ve known were constantly working, and I burned out pretty quickly after my first year. I switched career goals after that, but art has always been an important part of my personal life.
Everything you’ve done for us here at the show has been digital, though you’ve shared some pen/pencil sketches in the community now and then, too. How do you feel about working digitally versus on paper?
I was a die-hard paper person for the first half of my art practice. I still have a file-folder about 10 inches thick filled with watercolors, ink washes, lineart, and comic pages that I made, and my first iteration of my (now defunct) webcomic was done entirely on paper in pen and ink washes.
I love sketching on real paper because it forces you to commit, and I think when you’re just learning to draw that’s really important to help build line confidence. But honestly digital is just way easier, and you can do some really cool things with digital art that would be very difficult traditionally, so I’m pretty much exclusively digital these days.
What artist had the greatest impact on your style?
Oh man, this one’s tough. There’s a huge list of comics, webcomics, and artists that really contributed to my style over the years. Which is probably why I can’t ever seem to stick to one!
Really early on, I was very heavily influenced by an online artist named Rah/Melukilan. She did the later art for a webcomic called Metanoia, which I adored at the time. I’ve had a lot of other influences since then, but I can still see Rah in my linework.
Aside from that, I think the next biggest is probably Ghibli movies. I love how their character design is extremely expressive yet very simple, and the way they can create beautifully rendered locations with such detail and liveliness. It’s something I really aspire to in my own pieces.
So you’re not just a listener of actual play podcasts; you’re a TTRPG player, game master, and even streamer yourself (and you’ve recently added developer to that list, but we’ll talk about that in a bit). Tell us about your TTRPG journey.
I feel like my journey to TTRPGs was, like, reversed from normal. I started out with video games and didn’t ever really play tabletop games until college. I started playing board games around then, but it wasn’t until I was like 27 or 28 that I played a TTRPG.
The first one I ever played was Pathfinder. I am… not good at Pathfinder, lol. I’m not a fan of number crunching, and I hate keeping inventory. Critical Role got me interested in D&D and I ended up DMing a game, but it was still more rules-heavy than I liked.
Eventually I found Monster of the Week through TAZ: Amnesty, and I’ve been in love with PbtA games ever since. I ended up asking some friends if they wanted to do an 80’s movie inspired Halloween one-shot set on a fictional island off the coast of California called Shady Hollow, and we’ve been playing that game live on stream for nearly two years now.
I mentioned earlier that you’re about to add game developer to the list of TTRPG hat you wear. You’re publishing a TTRPG! Can you tell us a little about it?
Sure! Starhold is a scifi survival-horror Powered by the Apocalypse TTRPG game. I really wanted to create a game that helped recreate the claustrophobic feeling of living in space that things like Alien, The Expanse, Mass Effect, and other similar media really capture. I personally like to play up the horror aspect in the games I run, but it also works really well if you want to play something that’s a little more action-adventure too.
There are eight playbooks available at launch, and each base playbook also has three variants to choose from, so it’s really easy for players to customize their character to fit their playstyle right out the gate. I think if someone has played Apocalypse World or another PbtA game like Monster of the Week before, the mechanics will be pretty familiar and easy to pick up. But we had a few people in the playtest who had never played a TTRPG in their life that said they were able to understand it very quickly, so I think it works well for both veteran PbtA players and newcomers alike.
The game comes out on 10/10/2020 on my Gumroad store and DriveThruRPG.
And you worked with The Critshow cast on a Let’s Play for Starhold too, right?
Yes!! I am so excited for everyone to hear it. I was super nervous, but the cast are all amazing and such sweethearts, they made the whole experience so cool. There were so many great moments that my face literally hurt from smiling so much. I’m not sure if me grinning like an idiot made the horror aspect of the game better or worse for the players, though!
I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just say that you should absolutely go listen to the Let’s Play.
All right, so let’s wrap up by hearing just a bit more about Rem in Real Life. Are you a pet parent? Brag on your furbaby(ies)!
I have three! All cats. Fluffbutt is my old man cat, Rosie is the house darling, and Hank is the baby troublemaker, but I love him to pieces. Hank is the most loving cat I’ve ever had; he follows me around the house, wants to be on my lap constantly, always wants to play, etc. Fluffbutt and Rosie are super sweet but they’re much more your standard aloof-ish cats, unless it’s treat time.
And how about some of your favorites? Book? Video game? Movie? Music?
Ooof, that’s hard! You’re asking a librarian for their favorite book!
There can never be just one. To start, I’m always going to be in love with Sabriel by Garth Nix. It was a lifeline for me when I was a teen, and I still adore the world and setting so much. Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series is always a go-to for me, she’s been writing that series since the 90s and it’s still going, and every book is so very good. Or literally anything by Ursula K. Le Guin, she was a master storyteller and the fact that people aren’t touting her work on the daily is an honest-to-God travesty. Ray Bradbury’s short story “All Summer in a Day” made a very deep, lasting impression on me at a young age, and if you’ve never read anything by Bradbury you should at least read that.
For video games, my top five franchises are Portal 1 & 2, the Mass Effect trilogy, the Dragon Age series, Oxenfree, and Stardew Valley.
For movies, I have both Labyrinth and The Princess Bride memorized, and Laputa: Castle in the Sky just makes me happy. Classic scifi is also on the list, I adore movies like Alien, John Carpenter’s The Thing, and Star Wars.
Music-wise, I have really eclectic tastes and I’ll listen to just about anything, but my regular playlist always includes Purity Ring, Kimbra, Queen, Janelle Monae, Nothing But Thieves, OK Go, and MEUTE. Also an ungodly amount of Chillhop compilations.
All right, Rem, thanks so much for sharing so openly with us today. To close, where can folks find you and more of your work?
Right now I stream Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10pm to 1am Pacific, because I’m a night owl.
And you can also find out more about Starhold at StarholdRPG.com.