Steven Sugar is the Lead Background Designer on Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe and the inspiration for the main character.
Sugar studied at one of America’s most prestigious art schools, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Whilst studying, he had the opportunity to work as a summer intern at Cartoon Network on Ben 10: Ultimate Alien.
His tutor encouraged him to look at non-western aesthetics for inspiration, leading Sugar to pick up a handful of books on Mesopotamian artifacts. The results of this exploration has continued to inform his work, which demonstrates an array of cultural influence and purpose behind all design choices.
Though whenever I can, I try to make the patterns and symbols really mean something in relation to the character, even if it’s something terribly contrived.
— Steven Sugar
After graduating, Sugar moved to LA to work on Pendleton Ward’s Bravest Warriors. Marking his first time as a background designer for animation.
Now, Steven is Lead Background Designer on Steven Universe. He works with his older sister, and show creator, Rebecca Sugar. As children, they spent a lot of time together watching cartoons, playing video games and drawing. They ran ideas past each other and critiqued them. Essentially laying the groundwork for what they are doing today.
In his own time, Sugar paints as well as contributes to a number of projects, including The Adventure Zine, and 1001 Knights. He and some friends created and contribute to Friday Knight. In which, each week they illustrate a knight, sometimes with inventories, sometimes with their steeds, or castle. There’s no rules, anyone can join!