Jeff Merghart

Where did you grow up and when did you say to yourself: ‘’I want to be an Artist’’?
I was born and raised in San Diego, CA. My Mom took me to see Jungle Book when I was barely walking and it just took over my brain! When Robin Hood came out, I stared at the ad so long that I could see the characters clearly in my head and realized if I could see it in my head clear enough, I could redraw what I saw in my head.

Have you always been supported in your artistic path or has it been challenging to let your family and friends understand your choice?
I've always been supported by my family and friends.

What was the strongest influence you had when you were growing up ( artists, movies, cartoons, comics etc.. ) ?
The biggest influence was Disney animation, specifically the art and animation of the Nine Old Men. I was also strong
influenced by European comics and Norman Rockwell.

Did you go to an art school or are you self taught? What helped you prepare to become the artist we know today?
I didn't go to school for art or animating. I was too young so I tried to figure it out on my own by studying every drawing and frame of animation I saw. 

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?
I enjoy drawing animals most! I've just always loved animals and was always at the zoo. I wanted to be a zoo keeper originally.

What is your process in coloring your art and what type of tools or media do you use?
Before I got Photoshop I used colored pencils and markers over xeroxes of my work.
Now I scan the drawings into Photoshop and color them (very simply ;P) in there.

What part of designing a character is most fun and easy and what part is the hardest to design for you?
I enjoy the initial pre-vis stages. Searching for the right combination of features and attributes and the appropriate
ratios of those elements to get that attitude and personality. For video games they tend to need alot of armor incorporated into the designs and many times the armor has nothing to do with the character's actual "character design". That can be sort of tedious for me. Designing things that take away from or have nothing to do with the character's actual personality or design.

What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work/collaborate with?
At Carbine Studios I'm the Lead Concept Artist so I seem to do more administrative work than art.
I try to get that kind of stuff done when I get in and then try to catch up with work that didn't get finished the day before. My other 2 concept artists and I collaborate alot. We work well together and know each other's strengths so that's helpful when I need to delegate certain art tasks. Then there are meetings, and in between those I try to do some concept art. lol!

What are some of the things you have learned from other artists who you have worked with or whose work you have seen?
I've learned so much form so many people! One of the most interesting things was learning to think out of my boxe's box. I would think I was design "out of the box", unusual, avant-garde, whatever, but always keep it appealing. One day my friend said just because we think it's appealing doesn't make it appealing to others. So I had to force myself to draw things and in ways I never have and never liked and eventually I learned to create whole other worlds and characters I otherwise never would have.

What projects have you worked on in the past and what are you working on at the moment (if you can tell us)?
I've worked on everything from drawings and layouts for 3-D comics, animating on feature animation and video games and visual development for T.V. and over seas projects. At the moment I'm working as lead concept artist on Wildstar Online, a free-to-play mmorpg for Carbine studios. Also doing visual development for internal projects in development.

What is your longterm career goal and what would your dream project be?
Man! I want to be doing everything I'm doing now when I'm 100 years old! I want to still be animating, drawing, designing and developing cool stuff for as long as I can, and it'd be nice if I make a few million dollars along the way. I always dream of designing and animating to great pieces of dialogue, music tracks and artists such as Vincent Price, the Cowardly Lion from Wizard of Oz, Scatman Crothers, Paul Frees, "When You're an Addams" from the Addam's Family Broadway show or Country Bear Jamboree.

Working for a company or freelancing: what suits you best? And why?
Both simultaneously. A "good" company for the benefits and "stability" and hopefully you're working on good stuff there. And freelance to keep yourself exposed and open to new opportunities while doing different projects for different people and making some extra money.

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?
I sometimes have to just step a way when I'm blocked creatively. It's good to step back after being deep in something and look at it from the outside without over analyzing it. Also getting a second opinion helps ;)

Concept art, animation, illustration, comics, there’s so many options to choose and when you’re young, sometimes the only thing you know is just that you love to draw: what should a young artist take into consideration to make the right decision when choosing an artistic path?
You've got to love what you're doing. But, what you love may not always be how you pay the bills. Not all my jobs have been in the industry or art field. But when they weren't I still did my craft on the side for fun and freelance. Just because you may not be employed as an artist doesn't you stop doing your art. 

What’s your point of view about the industry today: what are the expectation for someone who wants to make a living with an artistic career?
The industry gets more and more diverse every year! It's like the wild west now where anyone can see other artists work anytime anywhere but as they're all learning, many of them are just mimicking other artists style. Know what you do well and do it better than anyone else.
To be successful you'll be expected to be able to adapt and conform to clients' expectations as well as bring your own thing to the table. Hopefully your thing is what they want :)

Who are the artists who inspire you the most today and what are some of your favourite designs?
I'm still most inspired by the artists that inspired me when I was young: Milt Kahl, Marc Davis, Ken Anderson, Bill Peet, John Lounsbery, Albert Uderzo, Norman Rockwell. Some more contemporary artists that influence me are Bill Schwab, Sergio Pablos, Kevin Kidney, Marcelo Vignali and Paul Felix among so many others!

We have a soft spot for hand drawn animation, what is your opinion about the future of this art form?
The emotion, passion, tactile immediacy, intimacy, spontaneity and individuality of hand drawn animation will never be replaced. CG animation is fine and can accomplish a beautiful end product, but the animation will tend to feel formulaic and generic. A good 2D animator can animate any thing well in CG, subtle nuances and all. I enjoy animating in CG, but it's a different thing altogether. It's sort of like this: You can breathe life into your drawings, but if you breathe onto a model it just blows off of the surface ;)

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 opportunities to promote yourself and get connected to other artists. I personally love it. But like I said before, everyone has access to everyone's art now so be careful with what you put out there.

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 see my stuff and follow me on my blog  and on Tumblr
Thank you so much for your questions, I enjoyed sharing and I appreciate you taking the time and interest in letting me share.  Ours is a community that thrives on sharing and collaborating and encouraging and learning and I hope I was able to contribute a little to that ;)

Thank you Jeff :)