1) What is your ethnicity?
I am a caucasian mix of mainly French and German; my ancestors came to the U.S. from a disputed territory that was constantly besieged by both the French and the Germans. The territory was known as Alsace-Lorraine. A lot of farmers somehow were able to flee and make their way to central Pennsylvania and set up farms there. They became known as the “Pennsylvania Dutch,” though they weren’t technically Dutch from Holland or Denmark. Most of the settlers spoke a German dialect. My family has an old Christian bible from the late 1800’s, around the time when they settled in PA, and the bible has the name “Patschet” [a French spelling of “Patches”] carved on it, though the inside is written in English. By the early 1900’s though, the family completely assimilated into the dominant Anglo culture; my parents tell me that both sets of their parents and grandparents spoke German—not French—amongst each other, but in front of the kids they always spoke English, so my parents learned neither German nor French.
2) What is your mediums(s) of choice?
I love drawing with pencil, charcoal, or pen on paper. Sketching outside of a studio is usually easier with a pen (less messy), but I like them all. Following that is working on the computer, where I’ve ended up doing a lot of my 2-D animation over the years. For technically demanding work, the computer gives you more freedom to get stuff “right” in your animation and drawing. But for sheer freedom and creativity, pencil and paper / pen rule the day.
3) What scale/ dimensions do you usually work in?
When I was younger I found that I liked to work big, like on sketch pads 24 x 36”, this was pre-college and in art school, but over time I’ve gotten smaller. These days an 8.5 x 11” sketchbook, or animation paper at 10.5” x 12.5,” or a 4” x 6” Wacom Tablet on a computer is fine.
4) How old were you when you began creating?
I remember starting to draw and sketch when I was about 5 or 6 years old. The drawings were basic of course, and I always liked drawing animals, outdoor scenery, and peculiarly, cars and trucks. I used a lot of crayons, colored pencils, #2 pencils, and any paper that I could find laying around the house. In school, art class was always my favorite time, from grades K through 12.
5) What were some of your earliest inspirations?
A silly as it sounds, I didn’t get out much, so my first inspirations were my dad’s old comic book collections from when he was a kid, from the 1940’s and 50’s. I was born in 1971, and the family didn’t get a TV until 1980, when my grandma moved in with us. So before 1980, I read lots of old comic books as my earliest inspirations. I liked Will Eisner’s “The Spirit,” sort of a gritty comic detective / film noir comic; then there were a lot of DC comics, like classic Superman, Batman, some science fiction titles that I’ve since forgotten. Lots of cool stories and visuals. After we got the TV set and shred with my grandma and her soap operas, I fell in love with the Disney and Warner Brothers
cartoon shows whenever they were on. Although I could tell that the Disney cartoons were technically superior and had better production values, the Warner Brothers stuff was much funnier and darker-humored, which I always like more than the cutesy-cuddly Disney stuff.
6) Who are some of your favorite visual artists?
I’m a big fan of old Impressionists, Degas, Daumier, and Rodin are among my faves. Those three in particular were really good at capturing the human form and conveying emotion, raw power, and the beauty and ugliness of humanity. They also told very dramatic stories with their art. Daumier went a bit further, IMHO, he was constantly going after the wealthy elite aristocrats, revealing them to be pompous bullshit empty suit hypocrites that they were, with lots of humor and he could really draw well. I think he was even jailed numerous times for pissing off the rich and powerful, so I really dig him as an artist and social commentator. 20th century artists include Max Ernst, Max Beckmann, and Edvard Munch, guys who got into the psychological state of the human mind in dealing with the awful legacy of the wars and fascist societies of the 20th century. (The more things change, the more they stay the same, right?) Animators include French Canadian Frederick Back, who recently passed away, he was a great artist and his work was always uncompromisingly, forcefully pro-environmental and pro-human rights. Richard Williams is one of the greatest animators alive at 82 years of age, and he’s still animating. He is never big on social commentary, but his humor and skill are quite inspirational. Other artists include the union members who did most of the Warner Brothers shorts, like Frank Tashlin, Chuck Jones, Tex Avery, Ken Harris, etc. Today there’s a mini-renaissance happening with 2-D animation, mainly online and on TV, and I’m a big fan of a couple of people leading the charge. South bronx native Lesean Thomas and Canadian Gyimah Gariba: these animation artists are amazing and design the most beautiful characters while also maintaining their unique personal styles. You can feel these artists’ humanity oozing out of their characters. And, the shows that Lesean works on usually feature great social commentary.
7) What are some of the consistent themes in your work and please describe them?
Basically anything that is anti-war, speaks truth to wealth and power, topics that are subversive to the status quo, things that try to get the viewer to see the world in a different way or to critically challenge what is going on around all of us—these are the types of themes I like to incorporate with the projects I am involved with.
8) Are there any other art forms such as music, dance, acting, culinary arts, or other creative domains you occupy that we should know about?
9) Name 3 of your biggest accomplishment in your artistic career?
1) Designing and animating some characters in Eminem’s Mosh video back in 2004.
2) Designing “the man” —3 old white men archetypes who signified U.S. power— for a 2012 Rock the Vote video that I think was called the “History of Voting” or something to that effect [I designed the old white men characters for that one].
3) Working on a short animation for a kids’ TV interstitial on a program called “Yo Gabba Gabba” in 2007. All the characters and music and voices were supplied to me; I worked on it with 2 other friends and just slogged through the animation production. 1 of the friends was the director, and who got all the credit, lol. But the short received some nice recognition and made it into a “Yo Gabba Gabba” retrospective at the Ottawa International Animation Festival of 2008, which I was able to attend.
10) What purpose does your art serve for the viewer?
I hope the viewer sees something that makes him/her examine where the project is coming from, where I was coming from when working on it, and hopefully the viewer can figure out my point of view and consider a new perspective about whatever the subject is, and how it may apply to him/her and the outside world.
11) Do you think it is important for (a) the viewer to have a subjective experience with your work or (b) to know and take the artist’s point of view into account to appreciate your work?
I think both a) and b) are important, but not always necessary. A viewer could like a piece of art they see and may not be able to articulate exactly what it is they like or dislike about it. If someone views my work and understands exactly what I was trying to accomplish, that’s all I can ask for. If someone else appreciates it for a reason that I may not have intended, or if they flat-out hate it, that’s fine with me, too. Some might say that a good artist makes their work universally relatable to a mass audience, and this makes them superior to others, but I don’t buy that idea.
12) would you consider yourself a relativist when it comes to art appreciation?
Yes. Art that reflects the time and place where it was created and that tells a definite story makes me appreciate it all the more.
13) is there any art you don’t like?
Art that tries to be “timeless” or that tries to show off how technically sophisticated it is, I don’t appreciate it as much as the first kind I mentioned. At the end of the day, some art “speaks” to me and some doesn’t; I try not to be too positive/negative about stuff, though. I try to find something worthwhile in any art I’m watching/listening to/experiencing. Even though I have my own tastes and preferences, it’s important to consider where other people are coming from, too. There’s usually something good to be found in things I don’t like, too.
14) please expand on your voice as an artist and explain why it is necessary to share?
I think it’s important for everybody to share their experiences and hopes and dreams and nightmares through the arts. Through this, I hope humans can reach better areas of understanding with each other as a result. Also, sharing is a two-way street: the more stuff I see from other artists, the more I can challenge myself and my own pre-conceived notions about things. It’s essential for personal and artistic growth IMHO.
15) would you consider yourself a socially conscious artist or art activist? Explain.
Yes. I’m not always out on the front lines at protests or at other civic engagements, so as an artist I damn well better do something to contribute moving the agenda forward! Meaning: Work on projects that aspire to raise social consciousness and awareness. Work on projects that challenge the status quo, don’t back down to police brutality. Socially, always be sure to aim the artistic cannon upwards, not downwards.
16) Please name 3 tangible goals you seek to accomplish in your artistic career
a) I hope to create a couple of online shorts, maybe a series over time, that articulate my unique views on the world, on violence, war, love, etc.
b) Would love to receive some sort of recognition I would love to see more adult animation— and there is definitely more of it these days—that deals with serious issues and isn’t designed to sell toys. If I can be one more artist working to do that, among others, then I’ll be happy.
c) I want people to remember or to have been inspired by at least one piece of art I created.
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