How did you first get into ‘art’, was there anything you feel triggered an interest in your childhood? I’ve loved drawing since as far as I could remember. It wasn’t until later in high school that I learned that it was even possible to make a career out of it. It was actually from watching the movie “Chasing Amy” where I first started considering the option of becoming an artist for a living.
Do you have any professional training in animation or in art as a whole (college/university/apprenticeship)? I studied at the University at Buffalo for illustration for a few years until they closed down that department, then decided to transfer to The College for Creative Studies in Detroit, MI where I graduated from. I learned a whole hell of a lot from that school and met some of the greatest artists and friends ever through there.
What do you class as your ‘break’ into the animation industry? I’d say the biggest break I had into the industry was through all the gallery shows I’ve been in. I’ve made some really great connections and met some genuinely incredible people that worked in the animation industry through gallery shows. At the time, I was working for Nickelodeon Virtual World’s Neopets when I was simultaneously trying to get into making my own line of toys. Having met Dave Pressler at a book signing we were in together, and knowing of his history in toy making, I gave him a call to see if he had any advice to give. In addition to his helpful advice on toy sculpting, he mentioned he had a show in development for Nickelodeon and wanted to know if I would like to take a test for it, and about 2 weeks after that call and having taken my test, I was in!
What is involved in your typical working day? Currently in my timeline, I no longer have to go into a studio on a daily basis, so I’m basically just working from home now. Trying to keep the same schedule that I did when I WAS going into a studio every day, I still make sure I get up early and get ready to “go to work” then after I make myself a large pot of coffee, I stroll up to my studio in our apartment and begin working on designs and boards for my short and any other freelance work until I finish a typical 9-10 hour work day. Then I begin my gallery work or other side work at night. I guess the good thing about working from home now is that I get to spend more time with my wife and dog. I don’t know if that’s a good thing for them though.
What equipment and software do you use on a regular basis, and what would you say is the essential kit for an animation student? I don’t know what I would say is an essential kit for an animation student as I’m not really an animator. But I work in Photoshop on a daily basis and I’m pretty adept at using Flash.
Do you have any tips for students on how to get themselves noticed by animation companies? I’d work on your own personal work when you can, as much as you can. The more of your own personal work you can get published, whether that be online or other, the more you’ll get noticed. That’s just from my own personal experience. I just think if you can show your OWN personality through the work you put out, the more you’ll stand out. There are millions of amazing artists out there who can draw in the same style as Disney/Warner bros/Anime why not show that you can do more than that?
Do you think it’s important to separate your private life with your work? I think it could be important. But I’d be a hypocrite if I said I did this. Unfortunately for my family, sometimes I can be somewhat of a workaholic and lose a lot of quality time with them. But they’re all very understanding and support what I do. My wife, Desiree Fessler who is also an artist, understands and supports me most of all. Which makes me super lucky.
Do you maintain any hobbies or side projects along side your professional work? I love playing survival horror games and first person shooters on my 360. Other side projects are what I’ve said before. I have another toy that I’m working on, more gallery shows, and my own animated short for Cartoon Network.
What would you say is your main influence and who’s work do you admire the most? I’d say that my main influence is from things that make me laugh and smile. That’s usually what I translate into my own personal work the most. The artists who I admire the most are way too many to list, I don’t even want to try to list them in fear of leaving any out! But I will say that the artists that I admire the ABSOLUTE most have also become some of my closest friends.
What is your favourite animation (if a series what episode), and why?Futurama has been one of my all time favorite shows…and to have worked on it was like a dream come true! my favorite episode is probably “The Problem with Popplers.” The whole concept of the episode where they end up accidentally selling and consuming the young of an alien species is genius.