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Home FEATURES Gary Baseman Interview

Gary Baseman Interview
Written by Daniel Rolnik   
Tuesday, 26 April 2011 10:32
Via Wiki: Gary Baseman (born 1960) is a contemporary artist who works in various creative fields, including illustration, fine art, toy design, and animation. He is the creator of the Emmy-winning ABC/Disney cartoon series, Teacher’s Pet, and the artistic designer of Cranium, a popular board game. Baseman’s aesthetic combines iconic pop art images, pre- and post-war vintage motifs, cross-cultural mythology and literary and psychological archetypes. He is noted for his playful, devious and cleverly named creatures, which recur throughout his body of work.

Interview By: Daniel Rolnik - daniel[at]fecalface.com

Gary Baseman

How hands on were you with the actual animation of “Teacher’s Pet?”

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?

How does an artist pitch a cartoon to a network?

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.

What’s your favorite weird movie?

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.

Do you often sketch out everything you are going to paint ahead of time or do you leave room for improvisation?

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.

What are your favorite paints and colored pencils to use?

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?

Why do you believe Americans in particular are so easily offended?

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.

What’s the first thing you would do if you could live in the worlds you create in your paintings?

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.

Was there a pivotal moment for you when you became confident that you could succeed as an artist?

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.

On average, how many pieces of art do you create per month?

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.

What piece in your personal art collection means the most to you and why?

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.

Who is your favorite comedian?

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.

What advice do you have for college art students who want to do it all like you?

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.

What’s the best cookie to get from Canters Deli bakery?

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.

I’m Jewish and as a Jew from LA it makes me frustrated that there isn’t one good deli in the whole Bay area. Any chance you’re ever going to open the coolest deli the world has ever seen with better rare roast beef than Greenblatts in San Francisco?

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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Kirk Maxson and Alexis Mackenzie at Eleanor Harwood Gallery

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The Albatross and the Shipping Container

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contact FF

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IMG_9585_sm

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a_m


 

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lead

Hard-working artisan, solitary genius, credentialed professional—the image of the artist has changed radically over the centuries. What if the latest model to emerge means the end of art as we have known it? --continue reading

 

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17_ms

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park_life

 

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Wednesday, 16 June 2010 17:39


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ABOUT HEADLANDS
Headlands Center for the Arts provides an unparalleled environment for the creative process and the development of new work and ideas. Through a range of programs for artists and the public, we offer opportunities for reflection, dialogue, and exchange that build understanding and appreciation for the role of art in society.

headlands

 

 

 


 

 

 

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Peter Gronquist @The Shooting Gallery

If you like guns and boobs, head on over to the Shooting Gallery; just don't expect the work to be all cheap ploys and hot chicks. With Make Stuff by Peter Gronquist (Portland) in the main space and Morgan Slade's Snake in the Eagle's Shadow in the project space, there is plenty spectacle to be had, but if you look just beyond it, you might actually get something out of the shows.


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Fifty24SF opened Street Anatomy, a new solo show by Austrian artist Nychos a week ago last Friday night. He's been steadily filling our city with murals over the last year, with one downtown on Geary St. last summer, and new ones both in the Haight and in Oakland within the last few weeks, but it was really great to see his work up close and in such detail.


Gator Skater +video

Nate Milton emailed over this great short Gator Skater which is a follow-up to his Dog Skateboard he emailed to us back in 2011... Any relation to this Gator Skater?


Ferris Plock Online Show Now Online as of April 25th

5 new wonderful large-scale paintings on wood panel are available. visit: www.ffdg.net


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In a filmmaker's thinking, we wish more videos were done in this style. Too much editing and music with a lacking in actual content. Just because you can doesn't mean you should.


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Matt Wagner recently emailed over some photos from The Hellion Gallery in Tokyo, who recently put together a show with AJ Fosik (Portland) called Beast From a Foreign Land. The gallery gave twelve of Fosik's sculptures to twelve Japanese artists (including Hiro Kurata who is currently showing in our group show Salt the Skies) to paint, burn, or build upon.


Ferris Plock - Online Show, April 25th

FFDG is pleased to announce an exclusive online show with San Francisco based Ferris Plock opening on Friday, April 25th (12pm Pacific Time) featuring 5 new medium sized acrylic paintings on wood.


GOLD BLOOD, MAGIC WEIRDOS

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Jeremy Fish at LA's Mark Moore Gallery

San Francisco based Fecal Pal Jeremy Fish opened his latest solo show Hunting Trophies at LA's Mark Moore Gallery last week to massive crowds and cabin walls lined with imagery pertaining to modern conquest and obsession.


John Felix Arnold III on the Road to NYC

Well, John Felix Arnold III is at it again. This time, he and Carolyn LeBourgios packed an entire show into the back of a Prius and drove across the country to install it at Superchief Gallery in NYC. I met with him last week as he told me about the trip over delicious burritos at Taqueria Cancun (which is right across the street from FFDG and serves what I think is the best burrito in the city) as the self proclaimed "Only overweight artist in the game" spilled all the details.


FRENCH in Melbourne

London based illustrator FRENCH recently held a show of new works at the Melbourne based Mild Manners


Henry Gunderson at Ever Gold, SF

Ever Gold opened a new solo show by NYC based Henry Gunderson a couple Saturday nights ago and it was literally packed. So packed I couldn't actually see most of the art - but a big crowd doesn't seem like a problem. I got a good laugh at what I would call the 'cock climbing wall' as it was one of the few pieces I could see over the crowd. I haven't gotten a chance to go back and check it all out again, but I'm definitely going to as the paintings that I could get a peek at were really high quality and intruiguing. You should do the same.


Mario Wagner @Hashimoto

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Serge Gay Jr. @Spoke Art

The paintings in the show are each influenced by a musician, ranging from Freddy Mercury, to Madonna, to A Tribe Called Quest and they are so stylistically consistent with each musician's persona that they read as a cohesive body of work with incredible variation. If you told me they were each painted by a different person, I would not hesitate to believe you and it's really great to see a solo show with so much variety. The show is fun, poppy, very well done, and absolutely worth a look and maybe even a listen.


NYCHOS Mural on Ashbury and Haight

NYCHOS completed this great new mural on the corner of Haight and Ashbury in San Francisco on Tuesday. Looks Amazing.


Sun Milk in Vienna

With rising rent in SF and knowing mostly other young artists without capitol, I desired a way to live rent free, have a space to do my craft, and get to see more of the world. Inspired by the many historical artists who have longed similar longings I discovered the beauty of artist residencies. Lilo runs Adhoc Collective in Vienna which not only has a fully equipped artists creative studio, but an indoor halfpipe, and private artist quarters. It was like a modern day castle or skate cathedral. It exists in almost a utopic state, totally free to those that apply and come with a real passion for both art and skateboarding


"How To Lose Yourself Completely" by Bryan Schnelle

I just wanted to share with you a piece I recently finished which took me 4 years to complete. Titled "How To Lose Yourself Completely (The September Issue)", it consists of a copy of the September 2007 issue of Vogue magazine (the issue they made the documentary about) with all faces masked with a sharpie, and everything else entirely whited out. 840 pages of fun. -Bryan Schnelle


Tyler Bewley ~ Recent Works

Some great work from San Francisco based Tyler Bewley.


Kirk Maxson and Alexis Mackenzie at Eleanor Harwood Gallery

While walking our way across San Francisco on Saturday we swung through the opening receptions for Kirk Maxson and Alexis Mackenzie at Eleanor Harwood Gallery in the Mission.


Jeremy Fish Solo Show in Los Angeles

Jeremy Fish opens Hunting Trophies tonight, Saturday April 5th, at the Los Angeles based Mark Moore Gallery. The show features new work from Fish inside the "hunting lodge" where viewers climb inside the head of the hunter and explore the history of all the animals he's killed.


The Albatross and the Shipping Container

Beautiful piece entitled "The Albatross and the Shipping Container", Ink on Paper, Mounted to Panel, 47" Diameter, by San Francisco based Martin Machado now on display at FFDG. Stop in Saturday (1-6pm) to view the group show "Salt the Skies" now running through April 19th. 2277 Mission St. at 19th.


The Marsh Barge - Traveling the Mississippi River from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico

For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to quit my job, move out of my house, leave everything and travel again. So on August 21, 2013 I pushed a canoe packed full of gear into the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Lake Itasca, Minnesota, along with four of my best friends. Exactly 100 days later, I arrived at a marina near the Gulf of Mexico in a sailboat.


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