Tell us about your background! What led to your job at Funko?
I have an identical twin brother, Gary, and growing up we were obsessed with drawing. We used to trace images from coloring books or lay a Ben Cooper Halloween mask down on some paper and trace around the edges and the eyes holes, then fill in the details- silly stuff, but it kept us creative.
At age 12, we both entered a contest for a “Draw Me!” magazine advertisement where we had to draw a picture of a featured character for a chance to win a scholarship. What we won was a visit from a salesman who told us about the art school that ran the contest. By the end of the night, thanks to our very encouraging father, we were signed up for Art Instruction Schools' home correspondence courses. Charles Schultz had been a student of the school, as well as a teacher, which excited us even more.
My father once again played a pivotal role in our artistic path when we were 20. Sending two boys to art college is very expensive, especially CalArts where we had hoped to attend, so he suggested we send our portfolios to a new feature animation studio that was setting up in Phoenix instead. It was such a long shot that two young boys with no work experience beyond waiting tables were going to get noticed. After many in-house tests, we both somehow ended up working for Fox Animation Studios, which set us on our journey of working within the animation industry for 5 years on 3 animated films. The studio shut down to pursue 3D animated films which was gaining popularity thanks to a little smash hit called Toy Story. As much as I loved working in the animation industry, I decided to follow other interests.
Over the next 15 years, I worked for educational companies creating Flash animations but didn't feel fulfilled creatively; in my spare time, I pursued art further by creating fan art of all my favorite childhood properties. Then, last summer while I was in a transitional career period, I received a text message from my twin brother who was exhibiting his designer toys at San Diego Comic-Con: “Would you move to Washington?” I wasn't sure what he has asking exactly but I answered yes and followed up with "Why?" He told me that Funko's VP of Creative stopped by his booth and during their conversation he asked if they were hiring. I was already a huge fan of Funko- I visited their booth at SDCC every year, even before the Pop! explosion. I remember seeing the launch at SDCC 2010, and was just in awe because the figures were so cute and stylized, which was everything I loved to draw and have a passion for. I put my portfolio together and nervously submitted it to Funko. I knew they liked my twin brother's work but would they like mine too!? Not long after, I received an email stating they were really impressed and felt I was a good fit, but that there was not a position open at the moment. About a month later, I received another email asking if I would still be interested in moving to Washington and could I be available for a phone interview. Yes and yes! Before I knew it, I was selling my house in Arizona, packing up my family, and moving to the northwest to pursue my dream job.
What are your biggest artistic influences and/or who are your favorite artists?
Many years ago, I did an exercise called an Influence Map where I collected images from a variety of genres and artists that have influenced me the most throughout my career, and funny enough I just updated it a month or so ago. My map is filled with influences from animation, Sunday funnies and comic books, Saturday morning cartoons (for those old enough to remember them), pop culture, vintage/80's toys and children's book illustrators.
Coming up with a list of favorite artists is so daunting because I am bound to leave off someone that had a huge artistic impact on me. One of my favorite artists is my twin brother, Gary. Growing up as twins, both with an interest in art, meant we were always learning from or pushing one another further.
Some other of my favorite artists include Bruce Timm, Shane Glines, Darwyn Cooke, Mary Blair, Richard Scarry, Craig McCracken, Babs Tarr, Dan Hipp, Skottie Young, Chris Lee, Matt Kaufenberg, and so many more, aggghhhh.
What are some of your favorite projects you have worked on at Funko?
Since I have only been with Funko for 7 months, many of the projects I have worked have not been released yet. Of those announced, Kit Fisto and Plo Koon POPs will always hold a special place because they were my very first concepting assignment with Funko. Also, the forthcoming July release of Steven Universe Mystery Minis were a lot of fun because I was able to put a little dose of my own personal style into the designs.
I currently have some really awesome projects in the works and can't wait to share them! :)
What programs and/or tools do you use most often?
I am a traditionalist and prefer to sketch on paper with Prismacolor Col-Erase 20044 blue pencils and my Faber Castell Pitt pens. As for programs, my go to is Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.
What is your dream project?
Such a tough question because the hardest part of working at Funko is all the amazing licenses that I have a passion for, some of which had been done before I began such as Buffy, Adventure Time, Masters of the Universe and Thundercats. There are so many others that would be a dream project for me, some of which I am very fortunate enough to have currently in the works and can't speak about. Others would include nostalgia from my 80's childhood such as a “Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends” Pop! 3-pack with a cute little Ms. Lion for good measure, a Teen Wolf Pop! (the Michael J. Fox version wearing the Beavers basketball uniform), Dragon's Lair, Space Ace, Strawberry Shortcake and so many others. I could go on and on.
What do you collect?
I collect cute toys, art books, comic books, and Batman Animated action figures and maquettes.
What is your favorite medium?
Besides drawing in pencil or pen and ink, I also really enjoy wood burning. I just love the smell of the wood as the art gets engraved into the surface.
Any advice for aspiring toy designers?
Create and have fun! Always have the intended target audience in mind and create designs that are appealing. When creating characters don't forget to add a dash of personality to set them apart. Explore to find your own personal style but also adapt to working in other styles too. And lastly, surround yourself with other creative and talented people that will push you to improve and always be open to their suggestions and critiques.