Where did you grow up and when did you decide to become an artist?
I grew up in California and lived there most of my life but I moved to Portland, Oregon in 2003. Like most kids I drew all the time and continued doing it into me teenage years when I realized I could make a living doing art.
Did you go to an art school or are you self taught? What helped you prepare to become the artist we know today?
Yes, I went to art school for two years but left early when WB animation offered me a character design job. That was back in 2000 and I was 19 years old.
Have you always been supported in your artistic path or has it been challenging to let your family and friends understand your choice?
My parents didn't really understand how I could make a living doing art at first and were kind of against it ( they meant well), but then realized there is an entire industry that needs artists to make books, film, games etc.
What was the strongest influence you had when you were growing up ( artists, movies, cartoons, comics etc.. ) ?
Probably comic book artists and american illustrators from the 50's.
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 all kinds of things but I suppose if I had to pick one it might be kids.
From the initial client idea to the final work: what goes through your mind when you're designing and what is the method you use when starting a project? Could you describe it?
It all comes down to STORY. First I try and find out why I’m drawing the character, so I look at the story/bio I’m given or write myself. I have to know who the character is, or how I like to call it “char-ACTOR”, before I can start putting stuff down on paper. You really have to become an actor and bring that design/character to life. Some character designers only focus on design, not character, or char-actor. It's really important to know the difference so the characters don’t become lifeless and flat. You have to know what the character is feeling and thinking when designing, and who the character is, his history, his motivations, his passions, fears, relationships, etc. Once you know that, it should pretty much solve all the design, gesture, attitude, and expression problems that should arise and all face as designers. Anyway, it sounds more complicated than it actually is. Just KNOW who the character is, that’s the key. That’s what makes it believable. The way I work is I read a script or a bio and then start putting down shapes based on a lot of research and what I feel will capture the character best. Each shape has its own emotional value and property so I try and use them accordingly. What I do is explore. That goes on for sometime, until I’m happy with the FEELING I get from the design, until it feels like I’ve captured the character in the shapes being used. Then I put that character into gesture or “attitude” drawings and just draw out a few model sheets that capture the essence and expression of the character. After that I go ahead and tone, shade, and color it.
What is your process in colouring your art and what type of tools and media do you use?
Today I mostly color my work digitally (mostly due to time and schedule/deadlines). I use photoshop and make my own custom brushes to mimic actual paint.
What part of the creation process is the most fun and easy and what part is the hardest?
The most fun is coloring, it feels like a coloring book. The hardest is coming up with an idea or design.
What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work/collaborate with?
Freelance right now, so my typical day right now is waking up early and warming up in my sketchbook and then get into my work.
What are some of the things you have learned from other artists who you have worked with or whose work you have seen?
What I have learned from some of my heroes is that I have a lot of work to do to catch up. some of the things Ive learned are learning to focus on story instead of just "design". The character design should support the story and personality of the character and not just be a cool looking design.
Is there something that you have designed that you are most proud of?
Mostly my own work from my books (Just like Daddy).
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 a lot of different things. Coraline, Boxtrolls, Kubo, and many others.
What is your longterm career goal and what would your dream project be?
My long term goal is to write and illustrate my own picture books. That is my dream project and goal in life.
Working for a company or freelancing: what suits you best? And why?
I enjoy both, but I think I like freelancing better. I get to set my own schedule and I also get to spend more time with my family. I like the collaboration aspect of studio work because you get inspired by everyone around you.
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?
Do something besides art to get your body and blood moving. I like to play basketball a plot and when I hit a wall, I go outside or to a gym and shoot hoops. Works great. another thing you can do is to read books WITHOUT PICTURES! Because that gets your imagination going.
Concept art, animation, illustration, comics, there’s so many options to choose from. 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?
That's a hard question to answer and everyone will have a different one and have to make their own path, but in general try and find what brings you the most joy and focus on that. if its books, then make books. If its animation, then animate etc. Along the way you might have a change of heart, but it all helps each other in the end anyway, so try and just focus on what brings you the most joy and do that and do it well and do it a lot. practice makes perfect.
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?
Yes and no. If you want to be famous, then focus on one style and do it well so that it becomes a part of you. But if you want to jump around and work on different projects and industries, then its good to be versatile. It all depends on what you want in life. Thats not to say that you shouldn't try and have a "style" and work on different projects, just know that your style will not always be the right style for certain projects. so then you will have to adapt. create your own personal projects in your style as an alternative.
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?
Drawn to Life by Walt Stanchfield.
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?
Try and learn as much as you can for free. There is so much information online that you almost don't need to go to art school and waste $120k for a 4 year program. Take online classes that specialize in your interest. work hard and practice all the time. work on your craft and get off Facebook! be professional about your training.
Who are the artists who inspire you the most today and what are some of your favourite designs out there?
Tom Oreb, Chuck Jones, Provensens, William Stieg, Brad Bird, Leo Lioni, Milt Kahl, Arilius Battaglia.
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?
It's a LOT of noise, and but also great exposure opportunities for up and coming artists.
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 my work on my website and on Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin
Thank you Ovi :)