Interview By: Daniel Rolnik - daniel[at]fecalface.com
I was the creator, executive producer and production designer on “Teacher’s Pet.” During the series and the feature film, I was there every day working with my wonderful crew. Originally, I drew and painted the original characters, backgrounds, etc., to establish the look and feel of the series. Then I oversaw my amazing team of artists to follow and execute the episodes. I worked closely with my director Tim Bjorklund who wanted to make sure the series looked like my hand-painted work, so all the backgrounds were painted on canvas. Tim was an amazing animator. I am not an animator. Our storyboard artists, timing directors, etc. created a template and we sent them oversees to our talented animation studios, who would sent over rough animation. We edited, recorded, and produced music and dialogue here in the States. Does that answer your question?
When I started back in the ‘90s, Nickelodeon actually came to me asking if I had any interesting ideas for an animation series. I lied and said yes, then came up with a dozen ideas to pitch. We actually made two fully animated pilots for the same series “Louie n Louie,” but unfortunately, they weren’t picked up. Then I did decided at that point (after doing well in illustration) that I would concentrate on pitching for TV shows and moved back to LA from New York, where I got an agent who got me meetings with TV executives. How do you pitch a series? You sing and dance and put your heart on your sleeve. Cartwheels help too.
Does it have to have “weird” in the title? Is “Memento” weird? I love that movie. I love how it is set up and how it is played out. I often feel like the main character in Memento.
No. I don’t like to sketch things out. I need to feel spontaneous, vulnerable, and organic when I create. The last thing I want to do is work everything out and just follow through. That said, I draw in my sketchbook all the time. I work through my themes in my sketchbooks, but I only use them as an emotional template. So I put ideas down and see what stays with me. But I don’t usually paint those images directly on canvas. In fact, I have about 50 sketchbooks that have been archived recently, made since I moved back to LA in 1997.
Does it matter? It is the artist that creates and not the material. I use what works for me at the time. Of course, there are some brands I use more often that have the colors and material that work well with me. Are you offering me a corporate sponsorship or endorsement for the products I use?
Lets start off with your premise, are Americans so easily offended? Well, probably. I think any group of people who are isolated seem to develop a sense of closed-mindedness. We have a history of exporting our culture and selectively importing others into ours. America has gotten to be very conservative and puritan. It’s amazing that nudity is still an issue, and that certain politically-charged images can be censored when shown in public spaces. In theory, I still believe in the American Dream, and our melting pot. Maybe that is because I am first generation American, with parents that are Holocaust survivors. I like to believe I live with a very open mind. And very much, I like to live life to the fullest and travel the world and taste everything other cultures have to offer. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the rules and walls put up by society for my upcoming New York show “Walking through Walls.” In it I explore maturity, memory, and mortality. I know as a kid I thought truth was absolute and objective, but as an adult I’ve learned how much of it is subjective. For me personally, I feel like I’m a lot less conservative than I was when I was younger. I know that some of my images can be offensive to others. But I don’t mind, if it makes people think.
If I found myself in the world of my paintings, the first thing I would do would be to give my ChouChous and Wild Girls and Venison the biggest hug in the world. Then I would go off with them playing through the Forest. Maybe we’d come across a pool of water where we’d frolic for hours, and all the noise one would hear was laughter. But once the demons show up, that is when the drama would begin.
When was there a pivotal moment? I think I am still waiting for it. Or maybe it was when I was 12, I did a Christmas card for my sister’s company and received a hundred dollars. Or when I got my first drawing published in the LA Times when I was surviving on fish sticks. Or when I got to draw the cover of the New York Times Book Review Summer Issue. Or was it my first New Yorker cover. Or my first animation pilot. Or when the first episode of “Teacher’s Pet” aired. Or my first Emmy, or my first solo exhibition? Hmmmm. There isn’t one pivotal moment, there is a lifetime of moments.
Let me start off by saying I think this is a stupid question. I don’t know. I don’t create that way. It all depends on what projects I am working on and when I have an exhibition. Let’s just say I usually draw in my sketchbook everyday. I am always creating one way or another everyday. I have been fortunate to live my whole life as an artist. Right now, at this moment, I am finishing up for my exhibition for a Jonathan LeVine Gallery opening on March 5th, so I have many paintings around me.
I love all of my works in my personal art collection. It’s hard to say. Much of the work in my personal art collection has been painted by friends. I love to have my friends’ art surround me. I either trade or buy them. I have art from the Clayton Brothers, Mark Ryden, Camille Rose Garcia, James Jean, Gretchen Ryan and Natalia Fabia, to name a few. It feels like home. The other thrift store art I find I use as inspiration, just like the things I collect. Much of what I collect is from in the Thirties and Forties.
It depends on which era, so it’s hard to pick just one. When I was a child, I loved old comedians. The Marx Brothers from the 30s. Abbott and Costello from the 40s. Jerry Lewis from the 50s. Woody Allen and Monty Python from the 70s. Andy Kaufman in the 80s. Howard Stern in the 90s. But as an adult, when I look back, I feel the best comedians to me are not comedians at all. If you watch films by amazing directors like Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, or the Coen Brothers, the humor in telling their dramatic stories is the sweetest of all.
Develop your own voice as strongly as you can so that you can distinguish your work from everyone else’s. Be persistent, and learn from all the challenges that you come across. Go with what you really want to do, or at least try. Talk to people to share ideas, so you don’t operate in a vacuum and lose perspective.
The best cookie isn’t a cookie. I used to be obsessed with the cheese Danish when I lived in New York and I would have my mom FedEx it out to me. It tasted like childhood. But I also love the mini rugelach, which is a Jewish pastry. I think you know my mother worked at Canters for 35 years as the head bakery salesperson. I remember as a little child when I would visit my mom, I would be given a cookie with candy sprinkles. It made me happy.
No, why would you think I would know anything about running a deli or bakery, just because my mom worked in one. My dad was an electrician and used to take me out on some of his jobs. He would try to show me what he was doing, and even as an 8-year-old kid, I would look straight into his eye and tell him I was an artist. I know nothing of electrical work. So if you want deli food or electrical work, don’t come to me. If you want a painting or a visual answer to the human condition, I’m your man.
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