What would you say has been your primary job in animation?
Background painter and color stylist. I’m currently remote freelancing for Warner Bros. on Scooby-Doo Mystery Inc. and Looney Tunes Show. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and used to work at Wild Brain before they relocated to LA.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I was a bill collector for the credit card division of a big, unpopular bank in the early 90s. It was all done on an automatic dialer, the account would pop up on your screen and you’d have to quickly process what their situation was and try to get them to pay their bills. Sometimes it was depressing, sometimes it was fascinating and entertaining. People will tell you anything when they owe money. Mostly I just left a lot of messages and sketched in my book.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Scooby-Doo Mystery Incorporated is at the top of my list right now. It’s the coolest show I’ve gotten to work on, I’m a genuine fan.
How did you become interested in animation?
I’ve always been a fan of cartoons, of course, I wanted to do comic books, but never really thought of animation as a career.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from Las Cruces, New Mexico. I came to San Francisco to go to the SF Art Institute and be an avante garde artist, but it wasn’t for me. After some flailing around I got a degree in illustration at the Academy of Art, and after graduating I got some work doing multi-media CD Rom stuff. Connections I made there took me to WIld Brain where I found a niche doing color and background painting for commercials and TV series.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Right now, I am working from home and have a 3 1/2 year old son. So my day starts at 6am and involves a lot of books and food and getting dressed and delivered to child care before anything artistic happens, which is a pretty good deal all things considered. The job is pretty straight forward. They send me a layout drawing and I paint it in Photoshop and send it back. There’s some back and forth with the art director about what they want, sometimes they send a color comp, but not always. I check the storyboard to make sure the key I am painting will give enough information for overseas to paint the rest of the scene. I tend to work on a few paintings at once so I can switch off if I get stuck or need a break. Then I send it back and see if there are revisions. I’m always amazed–the revisions on a major TV series are never as bad as they were on a stupid cereal commercial.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Getting it right. Sometimes I start a painting or a project and it feels like I have forgotten everything I know. So when I break through that to the other side and it’s working I feel really good. I also love series work because there’s so much of it. It’s so satisfying to turn around after a couple of weeks and see 20 new paintings in your portfolio. Plus, getting to work with such a amazing and creative people. Working with a great art director is such a joy and an education.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Not having one. Reading your blog I’m heartened to know I’m not the only one who is faced with what to do when a project ends. People outside the industry don’t get it. I’m happy to have a job that will last a year, that’s not enough job security for most. But in this world today, who’s really secure anyway? Make hay while the sun shines….
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
I guess it’s coping with all of the usual artistic insecurities.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Photoshop on a Mac Pro with a Cintiq (the cintiq pays for itself quickley, best investment I ever made). Sometimes Flash or Illustrator.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I’m so grateful for all the people that I have learned from over the years. I guess the most “famous” name would be Cow and Chicken’s Dave Fiess, he directed some Cheetos commercials at Wild Brain and was such a great guy to work for. This story also entertains me: My very first job, a Coke commercial. I’m faking my way through Photoshop but we can’t figure out how to do this one embarrassingly simple thing. The director gets on the phone and calls his old ILM buddy for advice. The buddy was Thomas Knoll–one of the freaking inventors of Photoshop! That works if you don’t want to read the manual.
Any side projects you’re working on you’d like to share details of?
My life is plagued by side projects. I’m working on a Flash video game with a programmer friend. I run a toy collector website and have made a series of trading cards for that and now we are releasing our own action figures. I also make custom toy displays based on 70’s style illustrated playsets. I’ve recently been researching the history of the 1980’s Banana Republic catalog and talking to illustrators who worked there.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Stay away, I don’t need the competition. Just kidding….Make yourself useful. Be easy to work with, take direction well. Animation projects have all kinds of unpredictable ups and downs, so be someone people can count on and you will be remembered.