My family would often go to this diner called ‘Farnesi’s’ when I was growing up. They had white paper placemats with a scalloped edge and the waitress would bring a jar of crayons to the table for kids to draw with. While we were waiting for our food to arrive my Dad would give my brother and I themes to illustrate such as “Shark Attack” or “Cats on an airplane ride”. We took these assignments very seriously and would get super into it. I think that game of being challenged to create an image around an idea has always been one of my favorite games and still is to this day!
I got my B.A. in Media Studies: Film / Video at the University of California, San Diego. While at UCSD I also studied as an exchange student for 1 year at La Trobe Uni north of Melbourne, Australia. I got an MFA in Experimental Animation at CalArts. I think my very first illustration job was for SLAP skateboarding magazine around 1997. My first animation job was to animate the concept sketches drawn by Spike Jonze for his DVD menu on his Director’s Label music video compilation. It was a magnificent opportunity that came to me through Andy Jenkins, a friend and long-time inspiration. Very exciting! All of my first jobs came from people I met through skateboarding.
I currently teach in the Animated Arts & Foundation departments at the Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) in Portland, Oregon. I have been working with PNCA for about 5 years and it has been really exciting to watch their relatively new Animated Arts program take shape during that time. I spend my summers at CalArts in Valencia, CA working as the Chair of the Animation Department for the California State Summer School for the Arts (CSSSA). I have been working with CSSSA for about 14 years. I started working there as a teachers assistant when I was a grad student at CalArts. It is a month-long intensive residency program for high school students. It’s one of the last standing state funded youth arts programs of its kind. It is a truly wondrous and rare treasure. I am so thankful it still exists and feel very fortunate to be a part of it.
For the last two years I have been working on a collaboration with a local CSA (Community Sustained Agriculture) farm called Full Plate Farm in Ridgefield, Washington. I proposed doing an Illustrated Farm Journal for their Farm Seeks Artist program and my project was selected. Farmer Danny Percich shares his farm journals with me which range from to-do lists to reflections on the day and I create an illustrated version of them. I hand-paint these with gouache and they post them on their website as a scrolling sort of comic. In exchange I have received a share of the CSA; a weekly box of the most delicious winter produce I have ever experienced! It has been one of my favorite projects I have ever been involved with. You can see all of the ones we have done so far collected on my site here.
Keep making the work that excites you and don’t try to anticipate what kind of work people are looking for based on what you already see out in the world. If you are true to your own creative vision, people will hire you to do what you already love to do! Also, don’t be afraid to share what you are doing. If you hide everything away because you don’t think it’s good enough yet, then nobody will think of you when opportunities arise because they won’t be familiar with what you make. Embrace the place you are at creatively and just keep making work and pushing further.
I have been working on a graphic narrative family memoir about my family’s farming history in California and hope to make lots of progress on that over the next 12 months. I’m hoping to make a second episode in a series of animated shorts called “Lady Secrets.” I also just booked a ticket to go watch a parade of 1500 sheep in Idaho next month and I’m pretty excited about that. Stay tuned for many sheep portraits to come… I probably can’t capture the likeable likeness of all 1500 of those guys though.