Where did you grow up and when did you decide to become an artist?
I was born in Los Angeles and lived there for a couple of years before moving to Cleveland, Ohio. The move was mainly due to poverty and Ohio was the only state where we had a relative. Everyone else was in Mexico! I lived in Cleveland for the majority of my life and moved to Columbus two years ago. I wanted to become an artist at a very young age. I started off drawing Pokemon, South Park, and my pets!
Did you go to an art school or are you self taught? How did you develop your skills?
I could never afford art school due to living in a poor family. I tried my best to self teach myself, drawing inspiration from successful artists on the children's book and animation industry. Studying their work and breaking it down helped me figure out how they came to creating their beautiful pieces! Doodling my sleeping animals and creating a variety of characters helped as well. When I turned 21, I decided to take art more seriously and really work on life drawing. I saw a dramatic change in the life of my work! Life drawing and studies really helped me improve. Fundamentals came late in my life, due to the lack of guidance, but I couldn't be happier! Since I didn't go to art school, I didn't have the advantage of networking with peers and professors. I relied on networking online and at conventions in order to get to know people and get my name out there. I made amazing friends this way and it helped me get work! I was delighted knowing that I didn't need art school in order to get noticed.
Have you always been supported in your artistic path or has it been challenging to let your family and friends understand your choice?
My family loved my artwork but never saw it as a profitable or successful career. I can't blame them for it since we all grew up so poor and they only wanted a concrete future for me. They encourage me to go to college and just grab a degree that will help me stay afloat. They didn't support art school since it was too expense and they knew the art field was competitive. This destroyed me as a teenager! Now, I am happy to say they are extremely supportive of my career!
What was the strongest influence you had when you were growing up ( artists, movies, cartoons, comics etc.. ) ?
Saturday morning cartoons were always a huge influence in my work. I loved how the 90's loved using sharp shapes in their characters. It made them so fun and I always loved drawing my favorite characters. Balto was also a great influence since all the dogs had such a variety in design. It was so cool to me as a kid. The hero definitely didn't look like the antagonist! Stephen Hillenburg really helped me cope with not going to art school after high school. He was marine biologist first! I am a huge fan of his work and I will always call Spongebob my favorite cartoon character. Lastly, Jami Hewlett (artist of Gorillaz) helped me realize that you can have a fun style and follow the fundamentals. It always fascinates me how his characters looked so unique yet so real.
Did you have a favourite subject to draw when you were a child and do you still have one today? If you do, what makes it so special?
Animals, animals, animals! As a child, I didn't have many friends and I was always a huge animal lover. If I was invited to homes with my parents, I would always find myself gravitating to pets! To this day, they are still my favorite subjects to draw, especially dogs! You can't come across a more loyal, goofy, and cute thing on the planet! It shouldn't be a surprise when I say my favorite dog to draw is the corgi!
From the initial client idea to the final work: what goes through your mind when you are designing and what is the method you use when starting a project? Could you describe it?
For the clients I did work for, I always try to ensure I can get a good silhouette down. Does the character shape look unique? Personality? I try my best to create as much silhouettes as possible so my client can pick and choose features. This is my favorite part! After that, I try to get some poses in to test the design in movement. Color usually comes last!
What is your process in colouring your art and what type of tools and media do you use?
For digital pieces, I work exclusively in Photoshop. I can't seem to wrap my head around any other program.. yet! I use brushes that I've created myself, as well as a few from other brushes that are offered online. I love working with silhouettes and texture! I often use a textured brush to erase my shapes into I get the look I want, as well as adding some contrast to silhouette textures. I always try to ensure my values work! Less is more!
What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work/collaborate with?
The typical day involves me getting up, walking my dogs, relaxing, then working around 2PM. My apartment usually empties by then so I would work alone with the animals running about. I am a freelance artist so I don't have anyone to collaborate or work with in my home studio. I work directly for my clients, usually provided by my agent, Bright. I snack too often when I work! I usually play a lot of horror films or audio novels when I work. Believe it or not, they help a ton when I am working!
What are some of the things you have learned from other artists who you have worked with or whose work you have seen?
Never get too attached to your work or ideas when working with clients! Your favorite idea may be the least favorite for your director. Remember.. you are envisioning THEIR ideas, not yours! Also, life drawing is so essential! It is like water to artists!
Is there something that you have designed that you are most proud of?
I always enjoy my watercolor paintings! They are super relaxing to do and always come out so bright and happy. I can't help but smile when I am working on them. My favorite painting so far is a small painting of a corgi chasing BB-8 from Star Wars. I normally sell my paintings but I am having a hard time parting with this. I may let it go for the right price! I seem to always be proud of any of my corgi pieces. Those little dogs bring me so much joy so it is very easy for me to put the same love into the drawings of them. It makes it ten times easier when my own corgi is sitting at my feet as I work!
What projects have you worked on in the past and what are you working on at the moment (if you can tell us)?
I am currently working on a few cool book projects that Bright signed me up for. I can't say much but they're chapter books for kids with dozens of illustrations in each one. They should start being available in March or so. I've done cover art for BOOM! Studios, character design work for Floating Pear, and a lot of small freelance gigs. The most exciting project I've worked on was character design work for the upcoming animated film, 'Blazing Samurai'. It will be released in 2017! The directors were extremely easy to work with and very kind. I learned so much! I was recommended to them by one of their lead character designs (and one of my art heroes), Steph Laberis. I can't thank her enough!
What is your longterm career goal and what would your dream project be?
My long term career goal is to eventually find a nice studio to work at. Freelance is extremely rewarding but awfully lonely. I always hear amazing stories from friends who work for studios and are surrounded by so many talented and passionate artists. It must be incredible to be constantly inspired by your peers every day! I would love to work on another featured film or even a cartoon, but I am happy to just be apart of any dedicated art team.
Working for a company or freelancing: what suits you best? And why?
Freelance is a lot of fun since I can live anywhere and still get work! It is also nice knowing that I can sleep in and still work later. I don't have to leave my dogs.. how grand is that! Like I mentioned above, it does get very lonely and I need to count on myself to inspire and motivate my work. It suits me fine now but I would love to work for a studio some day.
What advise would you give to an artist who is dealing with an art-block? How do you boost your imagination and keep yourself creative?
Art block is something that I can't seem to shake off! When I am in an artistic slump, I try to just sit down and draw things I am familiar with. It helps boost up my moral and get my spirit working again, which helps me get back to work. Studying successful artist helps a ton! It doesn't take a lot of brain power and allows me to figure out how they are coming across something that I am having a hard time figuring out. Life drawing is very relaxing.
Concept art, animation, illustration, comics, there are lots of choices. When you’re young, sometimes you know only one thing: you love to draw. What should a young artist take into consideration to make the right decision when choosing an artistic path?
Life drawing, life drawing, life drawing! I wish someone drilled this into my head when I was younger. Yes, it is boring to draw a bowl of fruit.. but it is necessary! It helps you learn form, shape, values, and more. Figure drawing is extremely helpful. Don't be afraid to study from artists that you admire. It helps you figure out many styles! Everything doesn't need to look perfect. Feel free to put your own unique spin on life drawing.. it makes it a lot more fun! Try to draw things in many different ways. There isn't one way to draw a bird. You can draw a parakeet in at least one thousand ways. I am sure they are millions! Lastly, remember that there will be bad drawings. If you are experimenting, studying, or trying to improve, you will start off with drawings that aren't your best. This is okay! This is expected! Keep practicing and it will train your brain to see better and to put the pieces together. You will get to the good drawings soon! Date you drawings so you can see improvement.
Many art teachers and schools suggest to their students that a commercial artist should always work in one consistent style if they wish to have a healthy career. In your own experience, do you believe this to be true?
Nope! Although it is great to have a style that is very much you, it is important to draw in more than one style. If you were hired to be a concept artist for a show that already finished their character designs, you need to learn how to draw the characters in THAT style.
If you had to recommend only one art book (a comic book, graphic novel, children book, ''how to'' book) to a fellow artist, what would it be and why?
Rise of the Ogre (Gorillaz). Jamie Hewlett is an insanely good character designer and artist. It is extremely fascinating to look through his work.
Who are the artists who inspire you the most today and what are some of your favourite designs out there?
Jami Hewlett, Parker Jacobs, Scott Campbell, Cory Loftis, Steph Laberis, EliOli, Kiernan Sjursen-Lien.. it is hard to name them all! Anything that Parker Jacobs designs is pure gold. His work is so goofy and he has such a great sense of design. Scott Campbell has amazing painting skills and I love any piece from his Great Showdowns series.
We have a soft spot for hand drawn animation, what is your opinion about the future of this art form?
Me too! Although I have a huge appreciation for CGI, it is important that the industry doesn't forget about hand drawn animation. A lot of foreign companies still utilize hand drawn animation and I am always blown away by how professional and fluid their films turn out. We can certainly do it here! The industry is filled with so many talented animators who are itching to try hand drawn animation again or for the first time in featured films!
Social networks, crowd funding websites, print on demand online service, you name it. New media on the internet are connecting the artists directly with their fans like never before. In your opinion, how is this affecting the industry and what are the pros and cons?
There are so many pros! All of my gigs were presented to me thanks to social media. I can't thank everyone enough for taking the step to contact me. Social media allowed me to sell my work to fans online who can't make it to the conventions I go to. The main con I can think of is knowing that some artists let social media go to their heads. They're more focused on getting more followers than progressing their career, improving their work.etc etc. I don't run into many of these people, though. I mainly encounter so many dedicated artists who love their craft. I can't help but feel inspired by them all!
Finally, Where can we see your art online and get in touch with you? How can we buy your creations and support your work?
Thank you kindly! I sell my work on my online shop below. There, you can pick up some prints and such. I love going to conventions and meeting people so look at my social media outlets from time to time to see see my list.
Thank you Naomi :)