Friday, November 04, 2005
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Tell me a little bit about yourself, about your life? Where did you go to school, and what classes did you study? What helped prepare you to become the artist that you are today?
I’m from Detroit Michigan. I attended The Center For Creative Studies, College of Art and Design (C.C.S) for only 2 years, before dropping out. It was more of an Industrial Design school. At the time I was going there, there weren’t many classes focusing on Animation. They always told me, that there was no money in Cartooning. After I dropped out, I pretty much didn’t draw for a few years and just played music in bands. I’m also a bass player, and I figured out that girls were more interested in guys in rock bands, than in animation. So eventually I moved to L.A. to try to make it in music. My first job in L.A. was at Golden Apple Comics. It got me back into drawing a bit, and I started to pick up freelance gigs, here and there, thru people that came into the comic store, looking for artists. After that, I got a job, for a small company in the art department. We were basically, the owners, mid-life-crisis project. We were doing storyboards, for music videos of unsigned artists, developing animation projects that never saw the light of day, and we released a couple of comic books, thru the company. The pay was crap, but I learned a lot there. I was drawing all the time, and also learned Photoshop, and Illustrator. During the internet boom, I got a job at Disney Online where I learned Flash. I left Disney and started a start-up design company along with some other ex-Disney employees, which focused on extreme sports design, snowboard design and whatnot. That was short lived, due to the big Internet crash. I was a freelance artist for a few years, working on projects for Disney, Warner Bros, Sony, and Vivendi Universal among others, until I started at Nickelodeon, as a Background Painter due to my extensive use of Illustrator and love for color. I’m on a show, called the X’s, which is created by Carlos Ramos. The magnificent “Ragnar” did all the Backgrounds for the pilot. It was a great looking pilot, and I wanted to be a part of it, even though it was for backgrounds. I have since been promoted to Design Supervisor for the show, and I plan on getting my hands on designing some character stuff for the second season, along with continuing overseeing the Backgrounds. I really think this show is going to be a big hit. It premieres, November 25th on Nickelodeon.
How do you go about designing a character, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?
I initially just explore. I’ll fill up pages with scribbles, that no one gets to see. Just searching for proportions, gestures and shapes. Try to keep it simple at first. You can always add the extra bits later. Try to keep it readable. It should read easily in a silhouette. I also try to imagine what the personality is. Understand the story, behind the character. Be decisive with what style you want the character to be in.
What do you think really helps you out in designing a character?
Having an idea “who” the character is. If it’s for an existing style, for a show, understand the fundamentals of the show, find out what styles influenced the show, and what influenced the influences, and so on, and so on.
If you are designing from the development phase, do research. Don’t be afraid of using reference, be it stylistic, photo, or life. Especially life, because it will make your characters seem that much more real.
From your own experience and maybe from some people that you know, what should we put in our portfolio and what should we not?
Focus on what you are applying for. If you want to do character work, have varied styles of characters, rough sketches, to show your process. Show sketches from your sketchbook, a couple life drawings and animal drawings thrown in. Maybe draw Superman in a UPA style, or Bill Clinton in a Warner Bros style. Mix it up. Show you can tackle flat style, rounded, whatever. But make sure everything has a solid foundation.
What are some of the things that you have worked on?
I’ve done some development work for Warner Bros. They would get pitch ideas. Sometimes, the characters weren’t as nice as they could be, so I’d get to develop the characters. I’ve done storyboard work for a couple of small films. I love working on the X’s. Carlos Ramos is a great guy. Nickelodeon has been a fantastic place to work. I’ve designed box art for some Crash Bandicoot games. I’m doing some pin-ups for Image Comics. I released a comic book a number of years ago. It’s so terrible; that I wont tell you what it was called. I loved it when I did it though. I designed some characters for a concert t-shirt for my Bass Guitar hero Billy Sheehan, for his latest World Tour with Steve Vai. It was a thrill to go to the show, and see my t-shirt on all of the Steve Vai fans.
Is there a character design you have done that you are most proud of?
I’m probably most proud of my Character “Whaleboy” that I’ve been pitching with my partners Taesoo Kim and Ed Acosta. We are extremely hopeful, and positive that good things will happen with him. We have a company right now, doing some sculpts of him for a vinyl toy, that will be coming out. It’s gonna be really cool. I have a few other characters that I’m developing as well.
What are you working on now? (If you can tell us)
Pretty much, trying to get Whaleboy picked up, as well as working on the X’s at Nick. Working on another book too. Trying to update my Blog every couple of days, if I can.
Where is the place you would like to work if you had a choice?
I don’t know if I’d want to leave L.A. but I think Pixar would be a blast. I love Nickelodeon. Anywhere where there are cool, creative people to work with.
Who do you think are the top character designers out there?
In No particular Order Stephen Silver, Peter DeSeve, Ben Balistreri, Nicholas Marlet, Jose Lopez, Taesoo Kim, Shane Glines, Bruce Timm, John Kricfalusi, Thomas Perkins, John Neverez, Rik Maki, Miyazaki, Alberto Ruiz, Eric Robles, Uli Meyer, Chris Sanders, Lynn Naylor, Craig Kellman, Ben Caldwell, Sylvain Chomet, Glen Murakami, Mike Mignola, Claire Wendling, Harald Siepermann, man I like everybody. I keep finding all sorts of amazing talent, especially since this whole Blog thing has blown up. The list could go on and on…. Sorry if I forgot to mention you, cause I like your stuff too. I hope I spelled everyone’s name correctly too.
Other artists, who aren’t necessarily character designers but have been a big inspiration are John Watkiss, John Byrne (guilty pleasure, and nostalgic I guess), Moebius, Geoff Darrow, Dave Johnson, Jack Davis, Mort Drucker, Simon Letergie, Dave Cooper, Glenn Barr, JC Lyendecker, Norman Rockwell, Hirschfeld, Erich Sokol, Chuck Jones, Tex Avery, Bilal, Albert Uderzo, man, I could go on and on here too….
How do you go about coloring the character, what type of tools or media do you use?
Prismicolor Pencil, Marker, Illustrator, or Photoshop. I’ve been messing around with watercolor lately; I’ll post some stuff, as soon as I feel comfortable with it. It’s fun though. I also want to do more acrylic stuff.
What type of things do you love to draw, and why?
People. The variety is endless. I love drawing fat people, old people, people with “Flaws”. I generally enjoy, faces with character. I am always looking at people, to inspire my next character. Ugly can be beautiful.
What part of designing a character is most fun and easy, and what is most hard?
I think it’s all fun, especially, when you know, that you found the design that you were searching for. I prefer, designing people. Animals are harder I think. It takes a lifetime just to get down the human form, then, you’ve got all these animals to deal with too. Sometimes you are asked to do a style that you aren’t really fond of. That can make it a bit tedious. But, that’s your job.
What are some of your favorite character designs and least favorite, which you have seen?
I love the designs for the Corpse Bride. I didn’t particularly care for the story, but I thought it looked beautiful. Same goes for Madagascar, looked great, but story suffered. It just goes to show, Story is King. I LOVE Southpark, as a show, but it looks like crap (and it’s supposed to). But it’s well written, funny, and has great characters, so it works. I don’t think it would be as funny, with great design. I thought Mr. Incredible was great. I love Ren and Stimpy. I loved the design in the Triplettes of Belleville.
What is your most favorite subject to draw?
I’ve always had a fondness for drawing superheroes. I grew up collecting comic books. I still go every Wednesday at lunch to House of Secrets, in Burbank. I try to make my superheroes funny though. I like to find a new way of approaching them. I like when drawings make you laugh. I also, love life drawing.
What inspired you to become a Character Designer?
Comic Books and cartoons.
What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?
Stephen Silver has taught me a lot. One of the many things he stresses is to observe. I would go drawing with him every Tuesday and Thursday and would constantly be in awe of his observation abilities, to develop your memory. He is truly giving of his knowledge. Thanks Stephen!
I’ve also been taking life drawing classes from both Karl Gnass, and Mike Metesi. Karl is a Master of the figure, and just one of those guys, that I just “Get”. He doesn’t push a style on you. He encourages you to really know the human form, and boy does he know it. That guy can’t do a bad drawing.
I have also learned a lot from Mike Metesi. He is so passionate, about drawing, that it’s infectious. We would draw the figure without looking, and get some really great results. It really helps with observing, and keeping the mind, and hand in tune. I really enjoyed his approach on exaggerating the figure too. He’s got a school in Passedena called the Entertainment Art Academy. It’s fantastic.
What wisdom could you give us, about being a character designer? Do you have any tips you could give?
Draw, Draw, Draw! And do it, because you “love it”, and it will show in your work. Carry a sketchbook with you always.
If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?
You can contact me thru my webpage at
Or my blog at
Or e-mail me at
Finally, do you have any of your art work for sale (sketchbook, prints, or anything) for people that like your work can know where and when to buy it?
I have a 56 page full color hardcover sketchbook for sale, thru my website and thru Bud Plant, and Stuart Ng. If you get it thru me, I usually do a sketch on the inside for you. I am also going to have a vinyl toy of Whaleboy available soon. Keep checking my Blog and website for more info. Any pieces from my book, website or blog are for sale too. I do commissions as well, if I have the time.