So, here is the short interview:
As a child, do you recall a significant moment when you felt truly affected or inspired by any particular artwork or artist?
This is an often asked question and it is a tough one to answer at times. As a child, one is bombarded with images in the form of coloring books, children’s books, tv shows and the like. So, what sticks? What was a watershed moment in my burgeoning art life? As with most people my age, one of the artists that struck me upside the head was Maurice Sendak and the book was Where The Wild Things Are. The book stood out for me from all the rest with not only the artwork, but the imagination of it all. Having a forest growing in Max’s bedroom was bonkers to me. I think I went to bed with a canopy of branches and leaves after that. I think I still do. And the monsters we're all unique, not your standard disney fare (which I still loved). I think this book above all others kickstarted my imagination and was the first time I actually thought of things differently. Possibilities…
The other artist would have been Dr. Suess. Again, imagination overdrive. This was also my first experience with surrealism, without having known just what surrealism was. It obviously stuck with me throughout my life. When I discovered Salvador dali, I guess it was an obvious path for me. Dr. Suess had all these likable characters that maybe shouldn’t have been liked. There were trouble makers, for sure, as in the Cat in the Hat and the Grinch. It was conflicting and thrilling all at the same time. I often found myself devouring the backgrounds maybe more than the main characters themselves. And Dr, Suess taught without one even knowing that they had been schooled.
As a shy child I went to these worlds often because there was the kind of adventure I needed and wanted.
It’s all about the adventure.
As an artist, what do you hope to convey with your artwork?
It’s all about the adventure.
When I was in my early twenties, an artist friend asked me how I viewed my art, as a story, a narrative or as an expressed emotion or feeling. Although my work has always had an emotion of one kind or another i have always looked at myself as a storyteller, so yes, my work usually has a narrative to it. It was a great question and caused me to look at my work more attentively and ask similar questions. As Guillermo del Toro has said that he looks at his body of work as one big film, I feel as though I am trying to tell a certain story. It’s a struggle and express that story at times. Even though, most of my work is in illustration and a lot of that is with licensed properties, I still feel that there is a common thread underlying everything. I think most artists can say that with ease.
But, I do want to convey the adventure of it all.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
Most recently, we (my cartooning partner Kevin Minor) were told that our comic Stoopid Stuf was “both hilarious and horrifying at the same time.” I liked that.
At most times I feel that I am still struggling to find an audience, but what makes it all worthwhile is when you stick to your guns, your vision and someone from ‘your tribe’ finds you and the work resonates with them on some level. I usually have something specific in mind when I create a cartoon or a piece and when someone sees something almost completely different in it, yet still has the same impact, that excites me. Sometimes, it’s about layers.
What is your dream project?
It has been said that every cartoonist or illustrator has at least one graphic novel that they need to do in their lifetime. I have at least three that I have been kicking around in my head that need to be told. I suffer from graphic gridlock, among other things. One has been already written, well plotted out. It just needs to be drawn now.
But, having said that most days at the drawing table are my dream projects. It’s better than working in a factory. It’s a life worth living.
What artist’s, of any medium, do you admire? (Famous or not!)
Without me knowing it at the time, the adventure started with my grandfathers. One was a master craftsman and one of the best woodworkers I have ever known. This wasn’t my chosen form of expression, but I learned a lot from him. He had that childlike wonder with him until the day he dies and even though he barely left his workshop lair, I always thought of him as being on an adventure. Something always had his motor running. He found his passion and it served him well. Helping him with his model railroading, building furniture, making experimental molds for toy soldiers, castles, swords, all sorts of great stuff. I retell his stories often.
My other grandpa was an awesome artist, but not professionally. We differ there, because I wanted my life to be a combination of my passion and my income. He had a great illustrative quality to his work and I always marveled at how he made what I struggle with look easy. Even after having a stroke, his sketches were amazing.
Two creative guys that I learned a lot from.
The other artists that I have been inspired by seems endless, but here’s a few that have had an impact on my: Bill Waterson, Barry Windsor-Smith, Michael Golden, Berke Breathed, Maurice Sendak, Dr, Suess, Jim Henson, Salvador Dali, Thomas Hart Benton, Gustav Klimt, August Rodin, Michelangelo, Giancarlo Bernini, Arthur Rackham, N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, Gary Larson, Charles Shulz, and so many more. And throw in a bunch of writers and musicians, as well.
I also have many colleagues and artist friends that I continually find and draw inspiration from. It is a great thing to do comic conventions and have a built in friend/colleague ecosystem.