Saturday, September 6, 2008


Tell me a little bit about yourself, about your life? What helped prepare you to become the artist that you are today?

I was born and raised in the Philippines and moved to the U.S. in 1989. Even though I had an associate degree in Commercial Art, I didn’t think I was going to make a career out of it. Both my brothers both got Fine Arts degrees while I moved on to study Computers, which during the mid-eighties was poised to become the industry with the most demand. Plus it was all tech-ie and made cool by movies like TRON and WarGames.

We came from meager beginnings in the Philippines, which at an early age taught me the meaning of hard work and sacrifice in order to achieve my goals. I really couldn’t wait to come to the U.S. because I knew that if I put in the effort, anything was possible.

So when I arrived in Los Angeles I tried to start a career in the computer business. But because there was large disparity with the state of technology between the Philippines and the U.S., It was evident that I needed a lot more schooling just to get current. I was 21 and was really was done being a student at that point and just wanted to work and make money to get my life started. So I kind of floundered around for a few years. By then my brothers had thriving art careers specifically in animation, which probably gave me the impetus to start thinking about art once again.

I started drawing again. Something that I hadn’t done consistently for almost ten years at that point since ending art school. For a period of two years I took classes at the Animation Guild, drew nights and weekends while I kept my mundane day job, and tried to cobble together a portfolio that I hope would be good enough to get hired at any studio in town.

My first job in animation was in 1995 as a character designer at Klasky-Csupo, on the Nickelodeon show Aaah! Real Monsters. I was really excited especially of the fact that I was drawing and getting paid for it. Now, every time I feel that work gets to be a grind, I think about those times and it helps put things in perspective.

How do you go about drawing, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?

Overall it’s all a matter of instincts and trusting yourself. It all starts with a goal. What do I want to achieve with this sketch, illustration, design, etc.? Once I have a goal in mind, I try and break things down to a process but also allow myself room to improvise as I go. What’s the best technique to use? How will I execute? All this percolates in my mind for a while before I even start drawing. Some people like to draw while they think. I like to strategize and form the image in my head as clearly as I can. Once I feel good about it, I lay it down on paper. More often than not I end up liking the first few sketches and have something very solid to work from.

During the drawing process, the most important thing I think about is keeping within whatever logical boundaries I’ve set for that particular drawing. But not so much so that I don’t leave room for experimentation. Instincts and training go hand in hand. You spend years developing your craft so it can help you make better choices. Hopefully you can reach a point where that little voice that tells you whether or not to add another line or use a certain color is right most of the time.

What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work with?

Last year after spending most of 13 years in TV animation, I moved on to feature film storyboards, specifically for Dreamworks. A typical day is spent drawing panels that represent a sequence in whatever project you’ve been assigned to. It’s also a lot of pitching and re-pitching and making revisions. The objective is to make your drawings clearly emphasize the intent of the scene. And that means having to re-work things over and over until you do. There’s also a lot of meetings and brainstorming. It’s a very collaborative process and very challenging but, in the story process one is always trying to achieve that balance of pushing your personal ideas to work with the collective. As far as drawing is concerned, it’s a joy to be in features because often you are working off an empty canvas with only the story, the characters and your instincts to work from. It has definitely pushed me as an artist which I welcome because I know it can only help me get better.

I can’t go into a lot of detail as to personnel but I am working on a project that Chris Sanders is directing, which has been a tremendous experience so far.

What are some of the things that you have worked on?

I started in character design, and then moved on to storyboards. I also did quite a bit of directing. I have been blessed to have worked on a diverse number of shows and alongside some of the best talent in the business from which, I have learned so much. Shows like Invader Zim, Kim Possible, Lilo & Stitch and The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy are some of the notable ones.

Before I came to Dreamworks I was the storyboard supervisor on a series that I am very proud of. The Mighty B! was one of the best shows i’ve ever worked because creators Erik Weise, Cynthia True and Amy Poehler where just the coolest guys to work with. Bessie Higgenbottom is a truly unique character in the sense that she was cartoony crazy yet, she had a real sense of humanity about her. She’s unabashed yet vulnerable which made her a multi-dimensional character in a two-dimensional world.

Last year I also had the honor of doing some production design on a web-series commemorating the ten year anniversary of the Tomb Raider video game franchise. Produced by GameTap, The 9 part series Tomb Raider: Re/Visioned was an ambitious re-imagining of the world of Lara Croft and combined the talents of some of the best writers and artists working today like Peter Chung, Warren Ellis, Michael Stackpole, Gail Simone, Brian Pulido and Jim Lee. It was an artist’s dream come true and I had a great time working on it.

Aside from my work in animation, I’ve done quite a bit of self-publishing. In February 2006 I debuted my first book Random Anomalies, A collection of 15 editorial style vignettes about relativity, synchronicity and fate. Putting that book together was such a learning experience because it was the most complicated personal project I ever attempted. Later that summer I followed things up with a sci-fi themed sketchbook The Wayward Traveller: Snapshots from Alternate Worlds which was an homage to a genre that influenced me at a young age. Concurrently I was developing an idea for a graphic novel and the result was a 12-page test comic of sorts. So in 2007 I released Steel Noodles: A Slice of Heaven. This year while I continue work on the full graphic novel version of Noodles, I released Alternating Currents which is a loose-sequel to Wayward Traveller and so far like my other books, it’s been well-received.

Last year I also had the privilege of being included in the third edition of the Ashley Wood authored artbook called Swallow. To be included in a line-up of such amazing talent like Ash, Rian Hughes, Jeremy Geddes and my brother Ronnie was a tremendous honor.

I also contributed to the 2007 and 2008 editions of the comic anthology Hot Mexican Love Comics. The idea for this anthology series started way back in 1997 when a group of guys at Klasky-Csupo thought it would be a cool idea to self-publish our short stories. This was way back even before studio-born anthologies like Afterworks and even Flight where around it does have a unique distinction. Samurai Slug was a character I created back then which appeared in the first two issues. For the 2008 edition, I revamped and re-introduced Slug on the 7-page short titled Muerto Mambo, which featured a new look that I was quite excited about. For the 2007 issue I debuted a character called Cha-Cha El Salvador in a short called The Call. Cha-cha is a former game warden turned mercenary who originated in one of the shows I pitched around town in 2003.

What are you working on now?

Like I said above, I can’t go into specifics but I am storyboarding on a project being directed by Chris Sanders. I am also involved with other projects in the studio. Self-publishing wise I am busy writing the Steel Noodles graphic novel and having a great time crafting the script. At the same time I’m also sketching and painting and continuing to experiment in my home studio.

Who do you think are some of the top artists out there?

Man that’s a tough question because there are so many amazing people out there…. It’s hard to pick one without considering a few hundred others so maybe I’ll just leave it at that. The bottom line is that they are all an inspiration to me at one point or another. I just wished I had tons of cash and can spend all my days just looking and appreciating all these fine artists and their work!

Could you talk about your process in coloring your art, as well as the types of tools or media that you use?

It obviously depends on the project. I really try and compartmentalize my process where I conceptualize each phase as if I was the art director, color stylist, production designer, etc.

It all starts with a general concept, then I break it down into its parts. Emotion and meaning play a considerable part of what color concepts I apply. Text and/or subtext or interplay also comes into the fold. Lately I’ve been working a lot digitally especially with my acquisition of a tablet computer and a Wacom Cintiq. I just find that this is the most efficient way of working and getting the job done. But traditional media will never be replaced by digital so I still do a lot of coloring by hand with a brush. I still work primarily with Watercolors but I am branching out on to acrylics and perhaps Oils as I try and experiment more.

What part of designing is most fun and easy, and what is most hard?

I love the fact that you are playing god when you design. From a blank canvas you have the power to create something no one has seen before. You get to imagine a world or a character that only exists in your mind and breath life into them. It’s especially rewarding when you get a good reaction from your creations. It means that you where honest and clear about your intentions and the viewer is responding positively. Then there’s actual tinkering process. I liken it to being a scientist or an engineer, trying to put parts together and experimenting and concocting. This is where all the fun lies for me. When the product is finished and you’re satisfied with it. I tend to get back into crafting the next thing since I like the process so much.

The most challenging aspect is maintaining a balance between working within a logical parameter, and leaving room to experiment. There will be a tendency to be self-critical to the point where there is a danger of over designing. But at the same time you are concerned of not having pushed your ideas hard enough.

What are some of the things that you do to keep yourself creative?

I always try and have a keen sense of my surroundings and things that I encounter on a daily basis. I like to analyze and break things down to see how they work. As an artist all those developed and inherent traits help in shaping who you are. Of course, I love to draw and that passion is what has, and continues to be a driving force that keeps me growing as an artist. I read books, watch films and just observe and relate. It’s like a mental workout that keeps my mind warmed up and ready.

What are some of your favorite pieces of art work that you have seen?

This is in line with my answer regarding favorite artists. There’s just so many that it’s impossible to single out a few.

What is your most favorite subject to draw? And why?

I like sci-fi a lot so that’s what I end up sketching mostly. But going back to what I said about observing and being aware of my surroundings, I keep myself open to be inspired by whatever comes. So it changes constantly and I like it that way. That sort of capriciousness keeps things fresh.

What inspired you to become an Artist?

Having two talented, older brothers as artists certainly helped. Having an overactive imagination probably contributed to it as well. It really helped that I could attempt to draw what was brewing inside my head as a kid or I probably would have gone crazy I think.. I was very curious about things I saw and especially books that I read. From the fantastical worlds portrayed in science fiction book covers to the incredible images in comic books, I really thought to myself, “man those guys must have a great time imagining and drawing those images”. That fascination is still true for me today.

What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?

I’m a self-professed process junkie so I try and pick up techniques all the time. There are so many ways to work and of course, it’s different for every artist but part of being fresh and current means being able to be open to new ways of working. Digital is probably where I apply most of what I pick up from other guys especially in Photoshop. Recently I took Bobby Chiu’s digital painting class and I can tell you that it was a lot of fun and challenging at the same time. He really opened me up to new ideas and ways to improve my workflow in Photoshop. I’ve just begun to scratch the surface of what I can achieve digitally so there’s a lot more fun to be had there.

Having taken the initiative to shore up my digital skills has also paid off with my story work, being that so much of our story process especially in making reels is now done digitally and mostly in Photoshop. The possibilities there are also wide open.

Animation wise I think the man that really helped bridge my understanding of the process was Richard Williams. I took his four-day animation master class and that has, and keeps, paying dividends for me. The most important technique that I picked up from him is working modularly. When I was directing, it got me around figuring walk cycles rather easily while making it fun. Basically he took the frustration out of the process by breaking down movement into the parts, then building and connecting them as you got each movement to your liking.

The other amazing aspect to this is the fact that you can apply this modular approach to almost any process in animation. It’s a way of thinking that keeps things manageable.

What are some of your favorite websites that you go to?

I don’t want to sound boring but this goes with my answer regarding art and artists. There’s so many out there. Obviously I go through my personal blog roll from my own art blog. Once and a while I’ll spend an hour or so looking at new art… Well I guess I can mention and Drawing Board. Cartoon Brew is another site…

What wisdom could you give us, about being an Artist? Do you have any tips you could give?

This was something I mentioned on my Swallow 3 interview with Ashley Wood.. Being an artist is a FULL TIME proposition. There was a point after getting started in animation where I treated it more like a job. At the end of each work day I goofed around and stopped being an artist until I went back to work the next day. Then one day it dawned on me that other artists where moving forward and their art was getting better. Even though I was doing a good job designing characters, I was one-dimensional and my artistic range was limited.

So I embarked on an initiative to become the best artist I could be. That process still continues to this day and which, will probably never end. Being an artist is a twenty-four seven proposition which requires a personal commitment of education and practice. Instead of merely applying my love of drawing to my job, it has become all encompassing. There is so much to discover if one is willing to commit to it. This is the only way to know who you are as an artist and where you stand artistically in a universe of artists.

If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted? is my website. People can email me there anytime. I answer ALL my mail even if it takes a while. My blog is which I try and update at least once a week.

Finally, do you have any of your art work for sale (sketchbooks, prints, or anything) for people that like your work can know where and when to buy it?

If they go to my blog, I have a list of outlets that sell my books. One of these days I’ll get to selling directly but for now, I’ll let the outlets do it for me…. I also do commissions.