Meet Nate Bear, the designer of our brand new Pals artist series, OPPOSOCKS! The concept for this super fun sock series is that two total opposites can be the PERFECT match.
Known for his fun, colorful and expressive characters, we were delighted for the stars to align for this opportunity to combine Nate’s colorful style with Pals for the perfectly mismatchy collab. Hannah initially met Nate while roaming the Five Points Festival in Brooklyn, and was totally enamored by his art.
Our new series perfectly portrays our manifeetso: that we don’t have to match to be besties. Learn all bout Nate Bear and what he’s diggin in our lil interview below!
NAME: Nate Bear
AGE: 38. Holy cow!
HOMETOWN: I never know how to answer this because I moved from Staten island to NJ when I was like 6 and nothing feels like my hometown hometown. Let’s just say New York City-sh/Jersey Shore.
CURRENT LOCATION: Red Bank NJ
How long have you been designing professionally?
About 11 years now.
Did you always want to be an artist? What was your first ever career choice?
Basically, I think i probably wanted to be an astronaut or inventor when I was little, but it was pretty clear early on that drawing was my stand-out skill. Like I was the only kid drawing Ninja Turtles out of sausage shapes instead of stick figures.
Even in high school, my guidance counselor tried to get me to apply to college for engineering or something because my math and science grades were strong, but I was like, “Nah, pretty sure I just want to do art school.” Like I literally couldn’t envision myself doing anything else besides art.
How would you describe your artistic style?
Jeez. Hmm. I just say derpy creepy retro cartoony.
What inspires you artistically?
Classic Looney Tunes and Fliescher cartoons. 90s cartoons from Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. The weirder and wackier, the better.
In school I admired DuChamp and Philip Guston. I think something about how they both went against the grain of what was the big thing in art going on at the time, yet they still created something that is remembered.
I always envy artists like Haring that seem to hone in on something simple that communicates so much. I feel like I always over complicate my art.
Can you tell us about your creative process?
If I have an actual project goal and I’m not just doodling, then I usually start with maybe a couple vague concepts that first come to mind when a project is discussed. I start drawing some really rough half formed drawings just to get that out of my system. Then lots of experimentation. Some random doodles to build up my drawing confidence. Cross pollinate a lot of ideas that may or may note be related. And then iterate on the least bad concepts until they turn into pretty cool concepts. Show some friends to make sure they’re not actually bad. Sleep on it. Have an epiphany for how the puzzle pieces should fit together. Then get to work on actually executing
What’s your workspace like? (Can we see?)
It’s basically the room that would have been the master bedroom in our house. Right now half of the room is a remote classroom for our 1st grader son. So basically I just have a messy desk and some storage shelves. I also use part of the garage for messier projects like sculpting, painting, and now 3D printing. But like 90% of my art is done on the iPad lately. So technically the living room couch is my real workspace.
Can you tell us where the name Bear Brains came from?
Well… it all started when i accidentally let an old domain expire. I used to draw comic strips on leftover scraps of paper: movie ticket stubs, receipts etc. I called them Cramped Comics and did that for a couple years on and off, but I guess I forgot to update my credit card or something and I accidentally lost the dot com URL i had for them. So I was like, “Well, I don’t even want to draw on scraps anymore, maybe I should just rebrand.” So I came up with a dozen possible names and put it to vote with my friends on Facebook.
Bearbrains just had a good ring to it compared to everything else. And it sorta made sense. My name is Bear, the wacky comic ideas come from my brain.
What’s your day-to-day look like?
Get up early, let the dogs out, pour a cold brew, and try to squeeze in some personal work time before everyone else gets up. Spend the rest of the day doing my dayjob from home, helping with school, cooking lunch and dinner etc over the course of a couple more cups of coffee. Wind down with some family time, maybe some Just Dance or a walk. Bedtime stories and some sort of herbal. Then maybe squeeze in some more drawing time or freelance before bed.
What’s been one of your favorite experiences in your career? Any super fun jobs you’ve taken on?
Over the past few months I’ve done some really fun GIF animations for some political messaging campaigns by IntoAction. They basically create social media content to help remote progressive causes and candidates. That was great because I’ve been trying to do more animation projects and it gave me a chance to stretch my skills.
Why’d you wanna collab with us at Pals? What do you like about our manifeetsto?
I thought your socks were fun and I got good vibes from y’all. And of course I love that Pals has a history of giving back to the community.
What is your fave pair you designed from your new Artist Series Opposocks?
Ahh! This is the hardest question. I can’t choose. They’re all my babies now. But I will say I think there is something extra interesting in the inherent tension between Pokey and Poppy. Like, can they even hug? Having to keep a distance from our loved ones is a totally relatable feeling right now.
You have a son! How old is he? Does he have a favorite pair of Pals?
Yes! He just turned 7. I’m pretty sure his favorite is the hamburger and fries. That’s the pair he picked out.
Besides designing expressive and wacky art , what are you into? Any funky hobbies we should know about?
Oh man I wish. I struggle to make time just for my art at the moment. Maybe if i retire I’ll try to get into something like… bird watching or carpentry or something. Mostly I’ve just been experimenting with different art forms like 3d modeling and animation.
I guess cooking kinda counts as a hobby. I’ve been slowly adding more recipes to my repertoire as the infinite quarantine progresses
Do you have any grand hopes and dreams for a better 2021?
That’s a good question. Seems like dreams have been on pause for a while now. Just hoping life will get back to “normal”. Though as the state of things seems to be inching toward better it gives me more mental space to think about the possibilities.
Personally, I just want to make bigger and better art, see my family blossom, and hopefully see more loved ones in person.
In the world I see more signs of hope from the impact of Black Lives Matter to the growing consensus about taking action on climate change.
Anything else you think we should ask you for this interview as it pertains to Pals? What are those qs and what are the answers?
Yes! Favorite non-Pals socks?
I had these neon rainbow toe socks back in art school. I think I just like them because I was into the odd sensation of something being in between all my toes at once.
Left or right foot?
Left, because i don’t know what would happen if I used my left foot in a game of kickball. Like I can picture myself running up to a rubber ball and following through with my right foot. But I can’t even picture what my left foot would do.
Thanks for looking! We’re beyond excited to bring these unlikely besties to your impatiently tapping toes. It might come as a surprise, but it takes many sketches, designs, and ideas to get to the completed versions that make it to your feet.. Scroll on down to see some of the unique besties that were possible ideas for our Nate Bear x Pals collab.
This was a concept for Heavy & Soft! Portrayed as rocks and clouds.
Cars & Trucks was another fun concept Nate created besties for!
Pals goes to the ballgame! These athletic themed socks feature different sports.
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