Tell us about your background! What led to your job at Funko?
My first full-time design job came unexpectedly. I was drawing caricatures at SeaWorld San Diego where I was approached to come work for new a lifestyle apparel company in Phoenix. Unfortunately, the company was not able to overcome the many obstacles that new, small companies face so I decided to come back to San Diego. Luckily, I landed a job creating children's t-shirts and toys under the art direction of none other than the Chairman of Fun himself, Mike Becker!
After working together for over a year we realized that we share very similar taste in art and design. We decided to quit our jobs and together Mike and I created a new company, Flophouse. We focused on designing products featuring licenses with art styles that we were personally passionate about, which is mostly vintage stuff; a labor of love as they say. This afforded me the opportunity to learn the proverbial "ropes" of the t-shirt and licensing world, both creatively and business-wise, from the most qualified mentor I could ever ask for. A year or so after Flophouse’s birth, we had the honor of joining the Funko family as Funko South. Now, here I am, doing what I love all while working alongside the most creative and fun-loving people. Best of all, I work in my own hometown!
What are your biggest artistic influences and/or who are your favorite artists?
Packaging is where it’s at! It is an often overlooked art form, but if you think about it, packaging can be even more important than the product itself. Much like with poster and propaganda art, the challenge with packaging is to create something that is not only pleasing to the eye, but something that conveys a very specific feeling and sends a clear message to the viewer, all at a glance. One of my personal favorite artists is Shepard Fairey, who is a street artist and the creator of the "Obey" brand. Politics aside, I have always admired his ability to compose images with clear and powerful messages.
What are some of your favorite projects you have worked on at Funko?
One of my favorite projects was the very first set of Marvel Collector Corps t-shirts featuring characters from Age of Ultron. That happened right at the transition period of Flophouse to Funko South and I remember feeling very, very excited to see these t-shirts that I had designed go out to thousands of Marvel fans! It’s a very rewarding and humbling experience that never goes away. Among my other favorite projects are anything Ninja Turtles related, but that’s a given since I’m a HUGE turtle fan.
What programs and/or tools do you use most often?
Email. It sounds a little boring, but communication has definitely become an essential part of my job in the recent years and I do not mind it at all! When it comes down to actually creating art, all of my sketching and doodling is done with my Wacom tablet on Photoshop which is then carried over to Illustrator, where the final image is really constructed. I’m an Apple fanboy so I’m Mac all the way!
What is your dream project?
I would love to redesign the current NASA logo. As a kid, I dreamt of being an astronaut and traveling to outer space. Unless being some kind of astronaut/artist is an option, I’d settle for rebranding the look of such an awesome, iconic and historic space agency. I would love to bring back the retro-rad/ futuristic design feel that was lost after the red worm logo from the 1980's was retired.
What do you collect?
I collect anything that looks cool. That means anything from designer vinyl toys to cans of foreign energy drinks with awesome packaging. I don’t own an entire set of anything, come to think about it. I tend to acquire pieces that I think are cool even when I don’t know what they are. I will say that I gravitate towards items that are either Ninja Turtle related and/or solid colored; there’s something about a plain white or black figure that is really appealing to me. Test shots and prototype figures are the absolute coolest kind of collectible.
What is your favorite medium?
Definitely digital. I can’t deny that there’s a charm to the smell and feel of a freshly sharpened Ticonderoga, but "command-Z" is just something I can no longer live without. Since I began drawing primarily with Photoshop, my desk is a lot less cluttered and I feel a lot more organized. Digital art is really, really convenient. A common misconception about digital art (mostly from non-artists) is that using computers is cheating, but I guarantee you there is no “draw a Ninja Turtle" button on anybody’s keyboard. …If there is, please contact me.
Any advice for aspiring toy designers?
I am by no means an old wise veteran in my industry nor will I claim to know what’s best for someone else’s creative career, but I can certainly share a piece of advice that was given to me by others that is something I have witnessed as being absolutely true: Do twice as much as you think. I’ve heard this time and time again. Your ideas are worth absolutely nothing unless you put them into play. Shepard Fairey put it best saying, “I don’t have the cleanest brush stroke, or even the most original ideas, but I’m willing to put in the work.” If you have a passion for creating then don’t be scared to put in all the work and make all the mistakes necessary to see an idea through. Believe me, this is what will separate you from the majority.