What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Alex Schumacher and I am currently a comic book artist/writer and freelance illustrator/character designer.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I think any job you do that you don’t love is crazy. Having said that, I’ve mostly worked retail and/or customer service jobs. Anyone who has ever worked in those fields can tell you that describing it as “crazy” is putting it mildly.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
The most recent (and probably biggest) projects I’ve been a part of so far are a couple of graphic novels being released in the new year from Viper Comics and Arcana Studios. I’d say I’m proud of those but hopefully my best work is yet to come…
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from a small-ish town in California called Salinas. Most of us just say we’re from Monterey as A. People actually know where that is and B. We don’t want to say we’re from Salinas. I’ve always drawn from a very young age and growing up on Disney, Bakshi, Kricfalusi, Avery and the like I’ve always been interested in the animation industry. I dreamed of having a show on T.V. and creating my own worlds and characters. I’ve also always enjoyed making people laugh and entertaining so when you combine that with drawing there’s really only one logical career path. I chose animation though. I suppose the short answer is I’m just masochistic enough to try and make it a career.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Coffee, write, coffee, draw, coffee, draw, beer, draw worse, lather, rinse, repeat. Some days I don’t shower. I like to mix it up a bit.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Money and, since I work from my home studio, nudity in the workplace. In all seriousness, the best part is being able to do what I love and actually get paid for it. A tie for “best” would be that I will hopefully leave behind a body of work and in essence a piece of myself for generations to come to enjoy. If not there’s always taxidermy.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
The part I like the least is setting my own hours. Some might believe this is a wonderful part of the job. So why is it my least favorite part? Because I procrastinate more than anyone you know and I’m too old to change. My motto is: Why do tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow? If there’s anyone reading this looking to recruit for a project I want to add that I always hit my deadlines!
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis, how has technology changed in the last few years in your field and how has that impacted you in your job?
As far as the actual drawing is concerned I’m quite the traditionalist. I use non-photo blue pencils (a trick I picked up from some animation compadres), pens and ink on bristol board. I then scan the artwork into my computer and from there clean up, changes, etc. are all done using Photoshop. My skills with the tools needed for digital work, such as Photoshop, have progressed over the years out of necessity. That’s mainly how work is delivered and distributed these days and it definitely streamlines the process but I feel as though some of the quality and organic nature is lost in translation at times. I could also simply be crazy. Been accused of that a time or two.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Trying to stay gainfully employed. This career path is an uncertain one. Projects don’t last forever and some end abruptly. It’s a tough market but I could never see myself doing anything else and being happy. For me that makes the worry of not always knowing where my next paycheck is coming from worth it. Most people believe producing cartoons and comics is all fun and games and to an extent it is, but it is also hard work and fraught with disappointment, deadlines and stress. It is imperative that you love this industry if you plan to make it your livelihood.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I was a Cartoonist-In-Residence at the Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa and Robert Smigel happened to be visiting that weekend. I think he’s pretty great and really dig his sense of humor. I had the opportunity to meet and chat with Robert and his wife. She seemed a might bit chattier than he did. Poor fella was probably just nervous in my presence. For the time I lived in the Bay Area I was heavily involved with the Northern California Chapter of the National Cartoonist Society and Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco which allowed me to meet some of the amazing talents at Pixar including Jeff Pidgeon and Pete Docter.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Just one? I really do try to remain optimistic and jovial for the most part but I think life is full of tough situations. It’s how we react to and deal with them that really matters. One of the, if not the, most difficult situations I have ever dealt with is the death of my grandmother a few years ago. She was a significant part of my life since birth. Her beliefs, values and morals helped to shape the man I am today and as if that weren’t enough she was also an unparalleled storyteller. That is where I get my love of the medium of storytelling, in all forms, and entertaining others. Her passing was unexpected and my family had a very difficult time dealing with the loss but we stuck together and to this day still help each other cope. My grandmother instilled that in all of us and I believe she would be proud of how we have dealt with losing her and the fact that we are doing it together.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
There are a few but I can’t share too many details as they’re still in production. I will say that they are in the fields of comic books, children’s literature and animation. I’ve already said too much…
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I seem to have an unusual knack for making mountains out of molehills.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Work extremely hard, have patience, develop a thick skin and never stop learning/improving.