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  • Writer's pictureStand-Up Comedy Historian

An Interview with PharLap Cartoonist, the Queen of Bo Fanfic Art

Updated: Feb 27, 2023

Hi, everyone! Welcome to Fanart February with the Bo Burnham Historian! 🎨

To kick off this special month, I wanted to share an interview I had conducted recently with one of the most prolific Bo Burnham artists out there, PharLap Cartoonist.

Her real name is Renn, and she is best known for her stunning fanfic covers in collaboration with Pseudonympls (Warning: these stories are Alternate Universe Bo and definitely NSFW).

Renn is also my first international interviewee (hopefully not the last!), so there might be some translation errors as English is not her first language.

Here is my interview with Renn, which has been edited and condensed for clarity purposes.

Bo Burnham Historian: Hi, Renn! Can you please provide some details about yourself?

Renn: I'm 24 years old, and I'm a self-taught artist from Czech Republic (a little country in the middle of Europe). I've studied applied chemistry, and I work as a chemist in a pharmaceutical factory. My work is basically manufacturing the active ingredient of medicines. It's a rather hard and dirty job, contrasting to art :D

BBH: Yeah, that's a big contrast! So how did you get started with your art? Are you formally trained?

Renn: The only training I had were art lessons in elementary school :D

I'm completely self-taught. Art was my thing for as long as I can remember. But I've started taking it seriously after I've tried to draw a poster of my, at the time, favourite singer and it was really awful :D My mom told me that (she used to be an artist herself), and I was like "You know what? I will learn how to do this, and then you'll see!"

That was 10 years ago. I'm so glad she was honest with me, at the time. It really gave me a reason to take drawing seriously.

BBH: Wow, that is truly inspirational. You seem so professional to me!

What are your art influences? Any particular artists who inspire you?

Renn: There are so many! I try to take inspiration from every artist I admire. If I should pick some, it would be Alphonse Mucha (my collection of illustrations for fics by Pseudonympls aka Emma, is greatly influenced by his work), Navydream, Chiara Bautista and creative teams by Cartoon Saloon, Nix Hydra and Sandman comics.

Renn's cover for Moth to a Flame and one of Mucha's art pieces

BBH: I can definitely see the similarities! What mediums do you prefer to use for your art?

Renn: It depends on the piece really. For fanart, I prefer digital drawings. It's easier for me to change things as I go, so the illustration can be perfect.

My original art I prefer to do in the traditional way, altrough I love to experiment with media.

Renn's emotional cover for Part 8 of Love Blooms

BBH: That's cool. So when did you become a fan of Bo? Have you known about him for a long time or did you discover him through Inside?

Renn: Bo is absolutely unknown in my country, even now, so there weren't much ways to get to know him, back in the day. I think I discovered him through some animatics of the Left Brain/Right Brain song, back in 2018.

I've tried to watch what. because of it, but my English wasn't good enough to appreciate his humour at the time. I really liked the songs, though. So when I saw the trailer for Inside, I was kinda familiar with him, so I watched it as soon as I could.

BBH: I became a fan circa 2019 as well (and I must have watched the Inside teaser a hundred times before its release lol).

What inspired you to make art about Bo, and what is your general process from concept to the final product?

Renn: I just love to draw what (and who) I find beautiful and inspiring, so it wasn't that hard of a choice :D Art should be fun in the first place.

Talking about my general process, it always depends on the piece I'm working on.

When it's a fic illustration, I always read it at first, to get the general vibe of it. I love adding flower language and symbolism, so I check out some flowers to describe the general themes of the fic.

Then it's sketching some poses and concepts. I always send them to Emma to choose what's best. I also show her "day's progress" pics, so every illustration is a kind of collective work.

If we're talking about original ideas, it's always a vision, more or less complicated. Most of the time I work on them, sometimes I'm not :D

BBH: How did you connect with Emma (Pseudonympls)? Your works are so complementary that it seems like you've been together for decades haha.

Renn: Right? It feels like we've known each other for ages! But it's been quite a short time actually.

I had been reading her fics and checking her blog (I just love her tags!) for some time before I reached out to her. I was working on embroidery for All Eyes On Me, and I needed some, let's say "professional eye," to check if I have all the things right. I was staring at that piece of fleece for hours, and I knew if someone knows his features perfectly, it's gonna be Emma. And one thing led to another...

BBH: That's awesome to hear. Bo fans supporting each love to see it!

So what's your favorite piece of Bo fanart that you've made? Least favorite?

Renn: The most favourite is always the latest :D

But if I should pick an all-time favourite, it would propably be an embroidery for AEOM, acrylic painting for Problematic or an illustration for Rising from the Ashes.

Least favourites end up in trash before publishing because of my perfectionism. Only the best for you all.

BBH: Aww, that's so kind of you!

I’m glad to hear you’re as enthralled with your fanfic art as I am. How did you decide that the images for Rising From the Ashes would be her drawings? The naked Bo at the window is incredible by the way and a personal favorite ;)

Renn: Mine too! Very little hidden there.

It was a very easy choice, actually :D The main character of said fic draws in her free time, so we (Emma and me) thought it would be cute to attach some of "her" drawings.

Finding the style for them was a little bit more difficult. I care a lot about accuracy, so it needed to be done like fast drawings with very little tools, by someone who had very little training. That's why I've done them in what's for me a very unusual A5 scale using only two pencils.

That reminds me I should draw the ones for remaining chapters :D

I have them sketched out, but had forgotten about them.

BBH: Yes, please do! They look so realistic.

While I love those basic sketches, my favorite of your works is Bo in the striped shirt and sunglasses a la the Camera ad. How did you come up with that idea? Do you often take inspiration from Bo's clothes for your art (like Bo's striped shirt in Left Brain, Right Brain)? I am kinda obsessed with his clothing myself haha.

Renn: Oh, thank you! It wasn't that hard actually :D

I saw a post of Bo in the Jeans and Camera ads with the description "sun and moon" and Emma was asking "Bo as tarot cards when?" in tags, so I thought "why shouldn't I do it"? :D

I love adding his actual clothes into drawings. I think it adds something a little bit extra to it.

BBH: Absolutely! I'm always drawn to people's artistic representations of Bo's style, especially when it's based on his real clothes.

I also adore the piece that depicts Bo as a doting father. How did you conceptualize that one? It is SO sweet.

Renn: A very important part of the fic the drawing is for is motherhood and family, so showing Bo being a tender and loving father and partner was my first choice.

I just KNOW he would be an amazing father. And don't we all have a thing for good fathers? :D

BBH: For sure! It reminds me of my daughter and husband's relationship...she's definitely a daddy's girl haha.

Please tell me one fun fact about yourself. Do you have any specific hobbies or interests people don't know about?

Renn: I have so many hobbies it's hard to choose one :D I'm collecting LPs for example.

BBH: Nice! I've gotten into that hobby as well because of Bo and Inside (The Songs). That vinyl release was the push I needed to finally buy a record player, and I've now built up quite a collection!

What's your favorite Bo song/special? You can name more than one.

Renn: I love them all so much! And all for different reasons. But I would propably say what. It just has the right amount of weird stories, catchy songs, funny dances, and meta for me to love. Inside is a close second.

BBH: Great choices! Inside is my favorite.

Do you have any upcoming projects?

Renn: So many ideas, so little time! I want to finish my "Favourite parts of Inside" series. It's really time-consuming and challenging, but that won't stop me :D

I'm gonna do illustrations for some of Emma's older fics, and I'll make a tarot cards series a thing. You people seem to love it, so I'm gonna do what I can :)

BBH: We definitely do!

How can fans best support you? And do you have any social media that you'd like to plug?

Renn: Likes and reblogs on Tumblr always make my day. Especially the ones with people leaving notes in tags :D 

Beside Tumblr, I have a TikTok account with progress videos, if you'd like to see behind the curtains of my art.

BBH: I saw that you'd posted about tote bags on your Tumblr. Do you plan on selling them? Do you have any other items that fans can purchase?

Renn: I've actually made three versions of the bags so everyone can pick their favorite. I have that and some other Bo-related designs on my Redbubble page for anyone to buy.

I was flirting with the idea of making the tote bags as original linocut prints, but this is way more affordable for everyone.

If you're interested in owning originals of my drawings, however, I'm always open to giving them a new home :)

BBH: This has been so enlightening, Renn. Please be sure to continue to share your beautiful art with us!

Renn: It's no problem at all. Thanks!


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