When did your passion for art first emerge?
“I’ve been drawing my entire life. I remember in the kindergarten, I would sit in front of the TV with a paper and a pencil and just draw what I would see. Typically, it was cartoons. I think it was because I liked what I saw and wanted to make it.”
What is your strength as an artist?
“I have a good sense of humor. I tend to look at things not in the traditional way but rather in my own. That is one of the aspects that they count on me at ABC Mouse. I’m also older than a lot of my colleagues and, thus, I introduce ideas that have a lot of old comedy influence. Sometimes I find a great joke from an old movie that I will use as an inspiration. I think it goes back to my desire to make people laugh.”
Do you sometimes incorporate real people’s personalities in your characters?
“Not by choice (laughs). When I worked for Warner Bros., there were a couple of times I had to draw real people. And that was completely out of my comfort zone. I could do it, I just didn’t want to. It’s easier for me to do cartoon characters than other things.”
Where do you see animation heading towards as an industry in the future?
“There is a huge desire for computer animation nowadays but I think a lot of people may get tired of that soon. There might be a return to traditional animation, hand-drawing style. Because when people see traditional animation they admire it very much. So I think in the near future there might be a step back.
How much freedom of expression do you get as an illustrator?
“At my first art job back in New Jersey, we were drawing a lot of old Nickelodeon characters. Even though we used a style guide as a reference, we were allowed to introduce our own changes in the existing standard looks of characters. That was what the retailers wanted - they wanted to see something different than a simple copy of the existing characters. And that was great. Because I started drawing those characters, I got in at Warner Bros. But as soon as I started working at WB, I was told to ‘Use these poses only’ for characters. For studio one had no control there, no say whatsoever. There are at least 50 people above you who will tell you ‘No, you’re not allowed to improvise.’ So, there was no creative control at Warner Bros. at all and that was the main reason that I left.”
But you were an art director at WB, right?
“Yes. In our group we made all the video games, books, and music for kids. I was hired to a brand new department to take charge of that. It was a lot of fun but like I said, you get to a certain point when you want to push the limit a little further but you are not allowed to. Here, at ABC mouse, I have freedom to create. They actually count on me to push the envelope.”
What would be your advice to the beginners in the fields of animation and graphic design? I see a lot of first year students at Woodbury who are struggling with their classes. And I know that it’s very hard in the beginning.
“It is. Everyone goes to school and they have a track that they’re on. They learn ‘A, B, C, D’. But when they get out of school and get into a job, they are not doing exactly what they learned but many other tasks instead. My main advice would be, and I wish somebody has told me this, to study everything you possibly can. Because you never know what is going to help you in your career. It could be something strange and completely out of your field of study that will end up feeding your future work as a professional. Apart from that, if you are an artist you have to constantly draw. I think experience is huge. And not just drawing on your own, but also finding ways to get experience from other people. Find an internship, for example, or work at a summer job site.