What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is John Jagusak and I am currently a freelance cartoonist. Some of the projects I’m working on now include comic strips for several publications and character design for a web series.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I would have to say that my previous job as a tattoo artist was the craziest job. One day I would be tattooing a group of teenage girls and the next I would be tattooing a group of 1%er bikers.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Around 2007 I had the opportunity to collaborate with a great cartoonist and writer on a syndicated comic strip. That was a pretty fun project. At around the same time I also landed a job at the newly reformed Cracked Magazine which had been a life-long goal of mine. However, Cracked magazine only lasted for a short 3 issue run before the presses once again came to screeching halt.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m originally from Cranford, NJ but I currently live in Long Island, NY. From 1999-2003 I attended the School of Visual Arts in NY for Cartooning. During my first 2 semesters at school I was working on the weekends as an airbrush artist at children’s parties. In the summer before my third semester I was hired as the art director for a children’s publishing company (basically cheap labor). Around this time I had also begun my tattoo apprenticeship. Upon graduating SVA I continued to work at the publishing company for about a year. At a certain point my duties of illustrating the books started to be farmed out to india (cheaper than college students I guess)….so that’s about the time I left that job for a job in licensed apparel design. Little did I know that this position entailed taking one of 2 poses of any given character and enlarging, shrinking, and twisting them in every way, shape and form for several months at a time. Eventually I decided that I needed a job that would allow me more time to draw in order to increase my skill set, to one day be able to pursue a career in animation. That is when I began to tattoo full time. I worked as a tattoo artist up until recently, when I decided it was time to put 110% effort into breaking into animation. I’m currently working freelance until that happens.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Typically I will wake up around 10 or 11am and start working around 12pm…I’ll work until 10 or 11pm before taking a short break to spend an hour or two with my wife before she goes to sleep…then I’ll continue to work on personal projects until 3 or 4am with the occasional all nighter. I’ll usually do this at least 5 days a week. I’ve been on this schedule for roughly 5 years now.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
As of right now the freedom of my freelance schedule is great. It allows me the time to go into lengthy answers for some of these questions. However, I would really like the opportunity to work in a professional environment and learn from other artists who are as dedicated and passionate about what they do as I am.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
With tattooing specifically the financial ups and downs were driving me crazy. One month you’ve got a line out the door and the next you can’t give away a tattoo. That, and trying to explain color theory to the general public on an everyday basis…not fun.
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?
Currently I work with my trusty col-erase pencils and I ink using a traditional brush and higgins black magic. I primarily color in photoshop utilizing the 3 inch track pad on my laptop. As you can imagine, that can get difficult so right now i’m looking into the cintiq.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
not being in the business.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
When I was a kid I was lucky enough to have been invited to a private gallery exhibition of Chuck Jones’ work at the Warner Bros. store in manhattan. If you purchased an animation cel at the gallery you could meet Chuck Jones and he would sign it. Unfortunately $700 for a cel might as well have been a million dollars for me at that time, so I didn’t actually get to meet him…but he did give me a thumbs up from beyond the ropes, which forever changed my life. More recently I attended the CTN animation expo and had the opportunity to meet a whole bunch of people I look up to including, Stephen Silver, Francisco Herrera, Florian Satzinger, Michel Gagne, Bobby Chiu, and many more. I also had the opportunity to watch Glen Keane give a speech, which was very cool.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Trying to break into the animation industry has been one of the most challenging things I’ve ever attempted.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I’m currently working on a few books that will ultimately become my portfolio as well as finishing up a book called Skull Reference for the Artist with my wife Jen. The latter consists of over 190 professional photographs of the human skull utilizing two light sources and will be available in app form as well as in print.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Covering myself in tattoos was an unusual hobby for a while, however that seems to be becoming much less taboo as of recently, so I’d have to say no…I don’t really have any unusual hobbies.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business? I’m not sure I’m qualified to give any advice at this time, but if anyone has any advice for me you can email me. Thanks!