Vince Musacchia [vince2013]
What is your specialty in illustration?
If I had to point to an area or style of art that I specialize in it would probably be cartooning. But I can also work realistically, as well as in a comic book art style. I guess my decade-long career in advertising as a story board and comp artist afforded me the opportunity to work in every style imaginable. It wasn't unusual, for example to be asked to work in a Jack Davis style one day and an R.O. Blechman style the next, depending on who would be creating the final illustrations for the ad campaign.
For the past thirteen years I've worked primarily as a 'Character Artist', creating illustrations used in various ways by consumer products divisions of Warner Brothers, Disney, Dreamworks, Sony, etc...
What are your regular clients like? What do they expect from you?
I've been with Disney Consumer Products' Creative Division for the last five years (since '03), so my primary responsibilities there are creating character art, new product designs and concepts for licensees and product development from concept to pre-production.
Having freelanced for a number of years in advertising and licensing I can't pinpoint anything specific about clients, except to say that they all have different needs, strengths and weaknesses. Some are very strong creatively and strategically, while others need to be hand-held and walked through each project.
I guess the main things clients expect from me is that I'll have a clear understanding of the assignment and deliver artwork that makes sense, propels the message, meets the deadline and stays on budget.
Is there a web address where we can see some of your work?
Yes there is: vincemusacchia.blogspot.com is a blog I have that shows some of my personal work, old and new, as well as selected commercial projects. I hope to put up a website sometime in the future.
Have you completed formal art studies, or are you self-taught?
Largely self-taught before High School, always drawing, always keeping my head and hands busy with every cartoon and comic book character I favored. I was interested in architecture, so I took a lot of blueprint and carpentry classes in high school. After high school I enrolled in The Albert Pels School of Art for a year, learning production (paste-ups & mechanicals), drawing and typography. Studied later at The Art Students League, taking night classes in figure drawing for a year. But most of my education came from hands-on experience, creating story boards, comps and illustration for various ad agencies while working as a staff illustrator at GEM Studio in NYC.
How did you get your first full assignment? What did it involve?
My first full assignment was developing paint can labels for The Pintchik Paint Company in Brooklyn, NY. I worked directly with the owner, Nat Pintchik and learned all about package design during the course of the two months it took to produce the campaigns for their Imperial and Photo-White lines of product.
They were the samples that helped me get hired at GEM Studio, first as a production artist and a year later I was promoted to illustrator, the first staff illustrator ever at GEM. Before my hiring they would use freelancers.
What past or present day illustrators do you admire most?
I can usually find something I like in the work of every illustrator's work, but if I had to pick a few favorites, past and present I'd mention J.C. Leyendecker, Al Dorne, Robert Fawcett, James Montgomery Flagg, Norman Saunders, Rudolph Belarski, Edd Cartier, The Ashcan School of Artists; Sloan, Glackens, Bellows, Shinn, etc...
Comics & Animation: Bud Sagendorf, Chic Young, Al Capp, Jimmy Hatlo, Joe Musial, Harvey Kurtzman, Will Elder, Jack Davis, John Severin, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Jim Steranko, Don Heck, Alex Toth, Mort Drucker. And my all-time favorite Will Eisner.
That's the short list!
How similar are your current drawings to those you did as a child?
I still see some of my early leanings in my current work. I guess it's DNA.
What was your favorite comic book as a child?
"The Amazing Spider-Man" by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko.
"Batman" '40s reprints from the original early '60s Batman Annuals run a close second.
Do you have a particular style, or does it vary a lot?
I do have a particular style, especially in my personal work, but the medium I use at any given moment helps to bring something new to each piece I work on.
If I'm working on a commercial assignment I adapt to the needs of the situation and setting and try to avoid any reflexive stylistic tendencies I would use normally.
What is hardest to draw?
Everything, until I study it for a while.
What type of music do you listen to while you work?
Mile Davis, Charlie Parker, The Propellerheads, Classical music. Anything instrumental I can find, because I tend to follow vocals in my head and it wrecks my concentration.
If I'm on a tight deadline however I'll play my collection of The Abbott & Costello Show, it helps to keep me smiling as I zoom toward the finish line.
Do you have a favorite work of art?
Yes, the painting 'Cliff Dwellers' by George Bellows, 1913.
What do you do when a client simply says "I don't like it"?
I find out why the client doesn't like it and make the necessary adjustments to complete it to their satisfaction. Even if it means starting over. On very rare occasions I felt it was wiser to suggest another artist whose work falls more in line with the style and approach they were aiming for. I've kept many a client happy and loyal by steering them toward a more compatible artist for some projects. They just want it done, and done right.
What new techniques have you been experimenting with lately?
For a large part of my career I worked with felt pens and markers, producing animatics, story boards and print ad comps. In the last two years I've been taking baby steps in Photoshop, using a wacom tablet and a cintiq. I've also been trying my hand at watercolor and traditional brush, pen and inks. I also love to work in color pencil.
What part of your work do you do on paper and what part digitally?
If I'm sketching or doing thumbnails or brainstorming new concepts it's usually traditional- pencils, Tombow brush pens on layout bond or copy paper. Creating character art I usually work traditionally, but lately I've switched to Photoshop with a custom pencil brush.
If I'm working online, making overlay corrections to sculpts or visual art submitted by our licensees it's digital, on the Cintiq. I love working traditionally, but digital art helps me to communicate clearly and economically with my clients.
Personal work, i.e. Comic Book Pages, cartoons, etc... are almost always traditionally done, although lately I have been using Photoshop more, especially if I want to get some visual effects in the piece.
What research do you do for your illustrations?
I try to do as much research as the project needs, no more, no less. I can usually find what I need by pulling a few books off my shelves and a couple of quick Google searches.
Occasionally I'll have to run to the book store, but that happens a lot less thanks to the internet.
Do you have colleagues with whom you share techniques, tricks, ideas, etc.?
I've been working professionally for nearly three decades, so you can bet I've learned a lot from my fellow artists and continually collaborate with every one I can.
Do you have any specific goals as an illustrator?
My main goal is, and always has been to get the situation or story across clearly and economically. I can't always be there with a client to explain a visual or walk them through my intentions, so the work must stand on its own.
If I do have a specific goal it's to tell my own stories in graphic novel form.
What illustration web sites do you frequent?
I've been blessed to work with a bunch of talented and inspiring individuals at Disney, so I spend a lot of time on their blogs checking out their work, as well as sites like Leif Peng's 'Today's Inspiration' blog.
You can follow the links section on my blog for a better idea of the websites I frequent.
What are you working on now?
At Disney I'm working on a new stylistic take on 'Winnie the Pooh' character art, under the direction of Stephane Kardos, our creative director.
On the personal side I'm writing and drawing a comic book story for Juan Ortiz' 'Silver Comics' publications.
What advice do you have for someone who likes to draw and would like to make a living from it?
Get that first job. On staff preferably, you learn more from being in a bullpen than you can at home in a vacuum. And make sure it's a job you can do, and do well, one success will lead you to another.
Develop a mental visual library. Observe and remember everything.
Learn to draw from life. Especially if you want to be a cartoonist.
Don't be afraid to make mistakes.
Get used to being critiqued. It comes with the job.
Deal fairly and honestly with clients and colleagues, a bad reputation will follow you around for your whole career. I know a couple of great artists who can't get assignments because they are difficult to deal with.
Don't be afraid to try new things.
Ease your way in if you have to in related fields. My first jobs were for print shops and local newspapers. I also made a living, while in my early teens making signs for local shopkeepers and businesses.
Los Angeles, Ca.