Tyler Reed is an ambitious local designer, illustrator, and podcaster who spends his days creating a world of cute and colorful characters, many of which are part of Rude Pets Club—a brand he created to facilitate escapism and bring joy to others. Originally an east-sider who's now living on the west side, Reed's art brightens the Instagram and Twitter feeds of those who follow him across Cincinnati and beyond through carefully crafted visual art and humor.
In a country drenched in divisive politics and deadly viruses, it's refreshing to enjoy a cute little Shiba Inu, a gleeful yeti, and a clowder of wise-cracking cats instead.
I spoke with Reed about his art, his influences, how he's navigating a pandemic as an artist-for-hire, and more.
Cincinnati Refined: First off, tell me a little bit about yourself.
Tyler Reed: Hey everyone! I’m Tyler Reed, or Rude Pets Club as I’m known on the internet. I’m a designer, illustrator, and podcaster originally from the east side of Cincinnati, now living on the west side.
Before the pandemic, I enjoyed going to local shows, hanging out at coffee shops, and playing board games with friends. Now I just alternate between listening to DJ sets of vintage Japanese vinyl on Youtube while drawing cats and playing the new Animal Crossing.
CR: How would you describe your art? What’s your preferred medium?
TR: I would describe my art as mid-century modern inspired using a contemporary perspective, with a limited but bold color palette, cute simple character designs, and a focus on humor or playfulness. My preferred medium is digital, specifically using iPad and Procreate. I like to print through a process called Risograph, which is kind of like combining a screen printing and a copier. It makes lots of prints quickly like a copier, but you can change out inks and have them overlay to create additional colors.
CR: How long have you been making art? Who are your influences?
TR: If you count the crude monster drawings I did as a kid? All my life. But I would say about halfway through college when I took a printmaking course and fell in love with the medium. That sort of ignited my passion for illustration and gave me a good outlet.
My earliest influences were Genndy Tartakovsky and Craig McCracken who made cartoons like Powerpuff Girls, Samurai Jack, and Dexter’s Lab. They led me to the mid-century modern style. Also, I don’t think you can be from Cincinnati and not be inspired by Charley Harper; amazing graphic reduction and style.
While I appreciate a lot of the old masters, I would say that contemporary illustrators working right now are some of my biggest inspirations. People such as Andrew Kolb, Pam Wishbow, PaperBeatsScissors, and Chris Lee are all doing amazing and varied work that really speaks to me.
Lastly, the character Rilakkuma. He’s a cute bear created by the stationary company San-X. If you remember Hello Kitty, Rilakkuma is like that. What immediately appealed to me was how simple he was to draw and could fit into a lot of different situations. They dress him up for all sorts of different occasions and then apply that to all their products. It’s a really smart way of branding and influenced how I think about Rude Pets Club as a brand.
CR: What do you think about when approaching a new piece? Do you have any rituals or common approaches you use?
TR: Almost all of my ideas come from my Field Notes that I keep in my back pocket. Sometimes I’ll scribble down a pose or a phrase and pull it back out when I want to start something new and work from there. If I’m creating a new character, I will draw and redraw the form until I find that it’s easy for me to draw without thinking too much. The original fun of Rude Pets was that I could draw the cat quickly and just make them say something silly and give it to someone.
In regards to final compositions, my work is designed to transition easily into the Risograph process. What’s interesting about the medium is that there isn’t a lot of color mixing like in screen printing, so you have a limited range of colors. There’s probably about 6-8 colors I use in rotation, but try not to go too far above three in any given piece. Considering color economy is probably one of my most common approaches.
CR: What do you enjoy most about creating?
TR: The smart answer is that I have a very design-centric approach to creating art. There’s a certain joy in the symmetry or harmony when I feel like everything is coming together. Getting that curve right or adjusting the face just a little to make it more engaging is the thrill.
The real silly answer is that I love to see how people react. A lot of my work has an element of humor or intended to be cute, so getting to see people getting what I was going for makes it all worth it. I try my best to personally thank everyone that shares my work and through that, I’ve made lots of local and internet friends.
CR: What do you want others to take away from your work when they experience it?
TR: My goal is to give people a sense of escapism. Something cute to bring joy to their day. To make them laugh and feel part of the joke. Initially, the humor was much more direct and a little mean spirited. I’ve since moved away from that, and adapted the McElroy family mentality of harmless cheerfulness.
CR: Do you have a goal for your work in the future?
TR: The short term answer is to be creatively employed. I would love to be working for a studio that can use an illustrative touch to their work. My professional end goal would be creative directing.
In regards to Rude Pets Club, I would love to have it be a self-sustaining career path focusing on creating merchandise like pins, patches, hats, prints, shirts, stickers, plushies, etc., but I’m well aware building a brand doesn’t happen overnight.
CR: Has the pandemic impacted your motivation or the quality of your work? How are you managing the world’s current situation?
TR: Well, I had a bit of a head start. I had quit my full-time position in November to give myself some time to creatively level up and focus on what I want to do. I was gearing up to start applying for work at the beginning of March. Once I realized this pandemic wasn’t really going away any time soon, I decided to double down and just kept working. I made three fan art illustrations per week for the release of the videogame, Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
I would say the only thing that’s really changed about my work is that without as much in-person conversation there are fewer ideas flowing in that way. I’m focusing a little more on the technical side and stretching my creativity that way. I did a one-off still life and that ended up being one of my best posts this year.
The biggest thing for me was setting a schedule, even a loose one. I have an alarm set to go off every two hours for a regular workday schedule to remind me to get up and stretch. That’s really helped me at least stay aware of the passage of time. I know a lot of people have admitted time feels like an illusion right now.
CR: Any words for aspiring artists?
TR: This has to be the most important: be kind to yourself. You’re allowed to be frustrated or mad when something isn’t coming out just right. Sleep it off, or if you don’t have time, just breathing and allowing yourself a few minutes to recompose is incredible.
Additionally, everyone has their own path to success, and measuring yourself to others is only going to make you feel worse. Critique and perspective are important, but other artists are not your enemies.
CR: Where can people enjoy your work/contact you?
TR: You can find my design and illustration work at Rudepets.club, and you can find me on the socials as @rudepetsclub on Instagram and Twitter. If you have any business inquiries, send them to email@example.com.