What is your name?
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I am very proud to have been a part of the first 4 years of The Simpsons TV series. I started out as a background cleanup artist working with Nancy Kruse and ended up doing background design & layout, assistant animation on the Butterfinger commercials, and color supervisor for 3 of the 4 years. It was a real learning experience working with Wes Archer, David Silverman, Brad Bird, Rich Moore, and many, many incredible animators! Klasky/Csupo was a crazy and fun place to be in the late 80s. Another project I am very proud of is Nightmare Ned for Disney. It was an incredible opportunity to design and paint in a very unique and fun style. I worked with immensely talented artists like Conrad Vernon, Mike Mitchell, Vince Waller, Mike Bell, Paul Tibbitt, Howy Parkins, Alan Smart, Miles Thompson, and Sue Mondt. We were definitely the Disney underdogs. I am very proud to have been a part of Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends on Cartoon Network and, most recently, The Ricky Gervais Show for HBO. Most projects I have worked on I am very proud of and the people I have met are the BEST!
How did you become interested in animation?
I loved cartoons growing up and was a huge fan of Bugs Bunny and Pink Panther cartoons, plus the little cartoons on Sesame Street. Cartoons were only on on Saturday mornings when I was a kid, so it was a really big deal when a new show like Scooby Doo aired. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I loved a good gag whether cartoon or live action. Some of my favorite live action shows were cartoony in many ways; The Dick Van Dyke Show, Bewitched, and Laugh In. Did I know I would end up in animation? Never would have dreamed it.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky and left to go to Otis/Parsons School of Design in Los Angeles. I was determined to make a living as a graphic designer. While in college, I found myself illustrating and painting all of my designs. My teachers were frustrated with me because I hated to have a stat made or go to a typesetter. It was much easier for me to do it all myself. Although I had a few design friends, I found myself hanging out with the illustrators. Everett Peck was in charge of the Illustration program at the time, and Robert Kopecky taught a few classes with him. They always made us laugh in our illustration classes, showing us how to do a Time Magazine cover in half an hour. One of my favorite teachers, Gorgeanne Deen, made me feel like I could draw and paint any way I liked. After going through a lot of typography classes (which I loved), I switched my major to Illustration in my Junior year. Everett prepared us for a life of struggle as an illustrator unless we moved to NY. After graduating I was content & broke in Los Angeles living from one small editorial job to the next. A friend from Otis called and asked if I wanted to paint cells on a show at DIC. “What’s a cell?” I asked. And that was my first job in animation. I quickly learned all of the different jobs an artist could do in animation; cleanup, design, ink & paint, layout, assistant animation, timing, lip synch, etc…. I took every commercial job that came up and worked full time during the day at various studios doing many different jobs. But, it wasn’t until I worked with David, Wes, Rich, and Brad on The Simpsons that I really LEARNED animation. They taught me A LOT! After working with them, I felt like I could do anything in animation.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
My last two jobs,The Ricky Gervais Show an Good Vibes, were very normal full time jobs with a lot of not normal notes and direction. I did a rendered painting of an old man’s balls hanging out of his too short shorts on The Ricky Gervais Show. And everything on Good Vibes was full of humorous body parts and noises. Rich Appell, co creator of The Cleveland Show, asked me the first time we went over color 2nd season, “Does the logo look too much like a penis?” These are normal discussions in prime time TV animation. Make things raunchier, uglier, and funnier… Always! It’s all about the joke…Make it work!
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
I used to really dislike the tedious nature of animation. It takes hours and sometimes days to get small amounts of work accomplished. As I’ve gotten older, I enjoy the medium a lot more. The pacing and expectations have doubled in the last 10 years, and that takes a toll. Plus the constant technological updates. But, the satisfaction and challenge comes in knowing you can get it done. Again, it’s the personalities that matter most. A bad supervisor or producer can ruin your experience on a project.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The constant hustle. You can never rest on your laurels no matter how good your portfolio is.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I work in Photoshop primarily, sometimes in Illustrator. I still paint with gouache on illustration board as often as I can.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
So many! I have been lucky enough to work with some of the greatest animators in the world. Brad Bird was so inspiring and fun on The Simpsons. He made me laugh so hard I was in tears. We worked on Krusty Got Busted together and he entrusted me with a few jobs on that particular episode. Plus we worked on the Itchy and Scratchy Show together. I did a lot of cleanup on drawings, designed some of the look of the cartoon within a cartoon, and was in charge of color. He had a great way of getting us revved up and inspired us to do great work. I miss him. Full of holes, I still have the first Itchy and Scratchy tee shirt we had silk screened at Klasky. While I was on The Cleveland Show we went to the weekly table reads. I almost fell over when Carl Reiner came in to read one day. I had no idea he was a recurring character and even co wrote a script. After the reading, I talked to him while we were filling up on coffee and snacks and he told me a story about Groucho Marx back in the day. I never would have believed it had someone told me when I was a kid watching The Dick Van Dyke Show (and Show of Shows… reruns of course) that I would meet Carl Reiner, and work on the same show! No way! That was a true highlight for me.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
My mother died when I was 11. Everything changed after that and I was lucky to have my Dad and Grandparents to raise me. What I have learned is that life is just life. You make the best of what you are given and try to move past the hurt. No one will rescue you, so you have to figure out a way to make your own life work as best as you can. I think part of that comes from not having a Mother. I have to watch out for self sabotage, especially as a creative/sensitive person.
Any side projects you’re working on you’d like to share details of?
Currently, I am freelancing on a friend’s independent film that he has spent 8 years working on. I hope I can do it justice! I founded PINK SLIP Animation in 2009 which has become a huge network for animators worldwide. Since the economy has been so rough on our community, I started this group for animation professionals to support one another on projects. It’s a positive group, rather than a collective of critics. The motivation is to keep your head up even if unemployed for years. We are artists and can endure just about anything… And then make fun of it! I promote projects, artists, theories, classes, art openings, events and connect like minded professionals. Lately I have been getting more emails from producers and recruiters looking for specific types of animators. Soon I will have to update the way we connect through PINK SLIP so that people can find each other more easily.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business? Animation is a crazy business. Get ready for a roller coaster. Keep drawing and learning new technology. Save every chance you get. Get involved in The Animation Guild. Do not work for FREE! It hurts every one of us. And exercise when not sitting at your computer.
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