Jarrod Gecek

Where did you grow up? At what age did you start thinking about pursuing an artistic career?
I grew up in Old Bridge, NJ. Pretty much as soon as I popped out I started drawing. I can't really pinpoint it so much because it's just something I've always done. I know I only watched animated television so that has had a huge impact in my path. My mom says that, when I was a kid, I use to say "I'm going to work at Disney" ... I'm still working towards that (hint hint)

Did you go to an art school or are you self taught? How did you develop your skills?
The television was my best teacher in the beginning. I would watch Disney or Don Bluth movies and pause them to draw the different types of eyes or mouths. I would also trace every single cartoon character I could get my hands on. But, there were definite people along the way like my old HS art teacher, Mr. Grace. Then, I got accepted into the Fashion Institute of Technology and that is where my small talent was give proper training and guidance. Specifically by two professors, Melanie Reim and Peter Emmerich. Melanie gave me projects specifically geared towards design and Peter would sit and talk design and critique my work honestly.

Have you always been supported in your artistic path or has it been challenging to let your family and friends understand your choice?
I could not have asked for a more supportive group around me. My mother and father for some wacky reason were completely behind their son drawing cartoons for the rest of his life :) Growing up, my friends and I would draw constantly. We had "Sketchbook Parties" where we would get a ton of junk food and draw for hours. (yea, we were not the coolest kids!)

From the initial client idea to the final work: What goes through your mind and what is the method you use when starting a project? Could you describe it?
When given the idea, the first thing to go through my mind is "Oh god, how do i do THAT?!" Once that thought has passed, I start doing research. A ton of research. I scour every corner of Pinterest (I live on Character Design References). I'm looking for ideas, styles, character traits, etc. After I've pulled a bunch of images, and have started to build the personality in my head, it's onto a page or so of silhouettes. The next step is sketching on top of the silos. Starting with each pass to tighten up the drawing and the idea. Once I send it off for review, I take the feedback and start the revision process.

What is your process in creating your art and what are your favourite tools?
Well, my process is more or less the process above. My tools are ONLY Photoshop and Cintiq. I have all sorts or tweaks and plugins that make my life super easy. The greatest plugin I have is one called COOLORUS which allows Gamut Masking. 

Is there something that you have designed that you are most proud of?
When I first joined Rovio, I was still working from the Bronx in NY. I worked on the Angry Birds / Star Wars crossover. They commissioned me to work on the comic scenes that went between the levels. I was blown away. This is the coolest thing I've ever worked on. Then, as I was working on that, they told me "Hey, we want you to create a scene that is going to be on the GIGANTIC billboard in Times Square over ToysRUs." It was INSANE. I came out of the subway with my buddy, Adam, and it was right there. Massive! I still think back to that and am still amazed that I got the opportunity to do that.

Do you have a longterm career goal? What would your dream project be?
My long term goal is to be the lead character designer on a series then move onto being an AD (but i really hate meetings, so I might have to rethink that one!) 

Working in-house for a company or freelancing: what suits you best? And why?
I've done both. I've worked for small and big companies and freelanced for 3 years. Each one has their pros and cons. Small companies allow you to have a stronger voice but usually the talent that you can pull knowledge and inspiration from is limited. In a bigger company it's usually the opposite. There is ALWAYS someone who can teach you something and though you are on a small team, there is always a big booming voice from above who has final word. And when you freelance, you are somewhat your own boss and you don't have to put on pants. That's a huge bonus! The downside is you never REALLY finish a work day because your computer and Cintiq is about 5 feet from you at all times.

Concept art, animation, illustration, comics, you name it. There are so many careers and when you are very young, sometimes you know only one thing: you simply love to draw. In your opinion, what should a young person take into consideration to make the right decision when choosing an artistic path?
I think it's important to be realistic and a delusional at the same time. You have to understand that you are not the best artist ever but your also not the worst. I go through each day thinking "Wow, I'm the shit, I'm a great artist" then i'll go online, look at other artists and think, "I am a huge pile of hot garbage!" Both of those thoughts should keep you continuing to grow and get better. As long as you apply those thoughts and follow something you actually like doing, you're going to get better and you're in a good spot.

In your own experience, what would you suggest to someone who is inspired by your work and wants to follows your footsteps: should they work in one consistent style, or work on different ones?
It's important to be adaptable, but ultimately, you're going to be hired for the style you put out there. People need to be able to look at your work and know what they are about to get when they bring you on board.

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?
I live with Cory Loftis' "Before I Forget" ... and if we're talking Cory Loftis, "The Art of Zootopia" is pretty much a bible for me at this point.

Who are the artists who inspire you the most today and what are some of your favourite designs out there?
I have a list: Cory Loftis, Justin Rodrigues, Niko Marlet, Ben Balistreri, Stephen Silver, Bobby Pontillas, Jin Kim, anything from Spa Studios and Headless Studios, and a ton of older things like Looney Tunes, UPA and Hanna Barbera. I think Looney Tunes designs don't get enough praise! One of my newest faves is a comic called "Forever Autumn" by Aisleen Romano. 

Finally, where can we see your art online and get in touch with you? How can we buy your creations and support your work?
You can find some of my work at ( jgecek.tumblr.com ) or just email me at ( jgecek (at) gmail.com ).

Thank you Jarrod :)