Interview w/ Illustrator Eric Gonzalez of Muertoons

Halloween isn't the only shindig where a fella can rattle his bones. There's also Día de los Muertos (November 2) where spooks and spirits can come alive and magic is in the air for those that honor their dearly departed. This year illustrator Eric Gonzalez and the crew over at the recently formed Muertoons have decided to spread the magic a bit with their new book, Rosita y Conchita.

No stranger to such fun-hearted fare Eric is an accomplished artist in his own right, having sharpened his skills on shows like Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends and El Tigre. He was kind enough to cop a squat with us here at the clubhouse to talk about his experiences and shed a little more light of little sisters Rosita and Conchita.
It's great to have you here at the clubhouse, Eric. Can you give us a bit of background info on yourself?

I graduated from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Animation/ Entertainment Arts in 2005. I was very lucky to start my career in animation as an intern in the shorts department at Cartoon Network. Later, I landed a job as a Production Assistant on the show Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends. It was such an amazing opportunity to be working with Powerpuff Girls creator Craig McCracken and his wife Lauren Faust as well as the amazingly talented crew of Foster’s. After that I was very fortunate to make the jump from Production Assistant to Props & Effects Artist on the show Class of 3000, which was created by the performing artist Andre 3000. Also later I had the absolute pleasure of working on the amazing show El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny River at Nickelodeon as a Background Painter with another unbelievably talented crew captained by two of my favorite artists, husband and wife team Jorge Gutierrez and Sandra Equihua. After that I worked at another great studio called Oddbot Inc. where we worked on many projects including shows for Playhouse Disney such as Tasty Time with ZeFronk and Can You Teach My Alligator Manners? We also produced one of my favorite projects I have ever worked on called Freaky Robots.

Artwork copyright © All rights reserved by Eric Gonzalez

How did you first become interested in the field of background and prop design?

To be fair to the talented crew of El Tigre, I was a background inker and painter on the show. The credit for the great design of the backgrounds goes to such talented folks as Roman Laney, Gerald de Jesus, Katrien Verbiest, Joseph Holt, and Kyle Neswald. I’ve always been interested in all aspects of animation but I think the first time I really became interested in being a BG artist is when the main BG designer on Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, a man by the name of Dave Dunnet, came in and showed us some of his BG designs from when he worked on He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. He had his original drawings of Castle Grayskull! They were so amazing and he gave us a little tutorial about his process on how to approach a BG design. What an inspirational day that was!

For the average viewer, the backgrounds are often taken for granted when juxtaposed to an animated character or object. How important of a role would you say your work plays?

The background is just as important as any other part of the animation process. The characters and props need a place to exist in, something to make them feel grounded. Not only that but the BG can be a beautiful work of art on its own.

Artwork copyright © All rights reserved by Eric Gonzalez

Who are some of your favorite background artists?

As I mentioned before, Dave Dunnet has been a huge inspiration for me as well as all of the BG designers that worked on El Tigre that I mentioned above, they are all my heroes. Also all the other BG designers I have ever worked with including our art director on Class of 3000, Valerio Ventura, and the Class of 3000 BG crew including his wife Gay Lawrence and Alex Campos. Also John Fisher who was another BG artist on Foster’s. As far as BG artists that I haven’t met, the work of Walt Peregoy has been a big influence on me, especially his BGs from 101 Dalmations. Also Samurai Jack BG artists Bill Wray and Scott Wills. I have spent many hours studying their work.

Your work seems to be heavily laden with influences of Latin culture, is that correct? Who or what else influences you?

My main inspiration/influence as far as Latin culture is concerned comes from my parents and my family in Mexico. Although I grew up here in California, my parents never really became American in regards to culture and lifestyle. We spoke Spanish
everyday at home, my mom cooked delicious Mexican food everyday and both her and my dad only watched Spanish TV. Also my dad was a huge fan of the Mexican singer Vicente Fernandez, so his music had a big impact on me. We used to visit my family in Guadalajara, Mexico almost every summer. My dad used to take me to cock fights and my
uncle took me to lucha libre matches. As far as Mexican artists that influence me, I would have to say Diego Rivera, Frida Khalo, Miguel Covarrubias and of course Jorge Gutierrez and Sandra Equihua.

Artwork copyright © All rights reserved by Eric Gonzalez

What's your affiliation to Oddbot, Inc. and how did you first become involved with them?

After Class of 3000 ended, I was looking for work and a buddy of mine had seen an ad for a prop design and color job at Oddbot. He applied for it himself but was unable to take it because of another commitment so he
recommended me. I came in and showed them my portfolio and got hired the same day. Since then I have worked with them on and off on various projects such as the ones I mentioned before and several others including concept art for various show pitches and even some iPhone games and apps.

What was your experience like on Class of 3000?

That experience was incredible at the time because it was my first real artist job and I was at an amazing studio and technically my boss was Andre 3000, although I only spoke to him about three times because he still resided in Atlanta while the show was being produced. Everyone on our crew was wonderful to work with and I made some great life-long friends there.

Artwork copyright © All rights reserved by Eric Gonzalez

What about your time on El Tigre, how did it feel to be creative with people whose art you respect so much?

It was pretty surreal. In the span of about a year I went from not knowing Jorge and Sandra and hanging their art on my cubical walls to working with them, being friends with them and having dinner at their house. Besides being amazing artists they are two of the nicest, most humble, and hardest working people I have ever met. It truly was a pleasure and an inspiration working with them.

You most recently co-founded a new production company called Muertoons, what does that name stand for and why was it important to become a co-founder of your own
studio as opposed to sticking with a pre-existing one?

The name Muertoons represents my love and respect for Mexican culture, specifically the holiday of Dia De Los Muertos. I also chose that name because it reflects the theme of our first project under that label, the storybook Rosita y Conchita. I haven’t abandoned working with pre-existing studios. Forming a separate studio was a way to market and distribute our book. So Muertoons is not really a fully functioning animation studio, it’s more of a name that we can attach to our personal projects.

Artwork copyright © All rights reserved by Eric Gonzalez

So what's the plot behind Rosita y Conchita?

Rosita y Conchita is a tale of twin sisters who are trying to reconnect with each other on Dia De Los Muertos. Conchita builds an altar for her sister Rosita in hopes that the clues will help her find the way to the world of the living to visit and celebrate with her. The book teaches the reader how to celebrate the Dia De Los Muertos holiday and helps them realize that although it is associated with scary images, it is not a time to be sad or scared but a time to celebrate and remember our friends and relatives who have passed. It is written in English and Spanish and rhymes in both languages.

That's pretty awesome! So how do you celebrate Día de los Muertos?

Only in the past several years have I become familiar with the holiday. For whatever reason it is one thing my parents did not really celebrate or teach us about. It is something that I became intrigued by and as I did more research I realized that it is one of the most interesting holidays in our culture. So far to celebrate I have attended Dia De Los Muertos events such as the one at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. It is a yearly event where people set up huge elaborate altars and there are parades, musicians and vendors. Muertoons will be there this year on October 30th with a booth
selling our Rosita y Conchita book. Also I hope to set up an altar at home this year for my father who has passed.

Artwork copyright © All rights reserved by Eric Gonzalez

Any plans for additional books to be set in this world or will your next project be something completely different?

Our next book will definitely be set in this world as we have several more characters to introduce and many more stories to tell.

Before you go, I have to know... what's the strangest thing you remember doing as a kid?

The strangest thing I remember doing as a kid was laying my head on the carpet, putting my hands behind my back and sliding myself forward with my feet. I remember that my hair would always come out really smooth afterwards.

Thanks again for stopping by, Eric. Good luck with your book!


Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails