As you know, we here at Utopia Playground love to pick the brains of artists when we notice them producing some really awesome, outrageous work. Imagine what it would look like if the artists from Comedy Centrals ‘Triptank’, and the artists from Cartoon Networks ‘Adult Swim’ had a baby, and fed that baby milk laced with acid. Well, I know for a fact you would get something along the lines of Mr Joey Souza.
We first came across Joey’s work whilst endlessly trawling through YouTube looking at indie cartoon shorts, as you do. We stumbled upon a comedy short titled “Dick To The Maxxx” and clicked it without even a second thought. From there i was instantly hooked and wanted to find out more about the production. I ended up on Joey’s website and found an almost endless catalog of character designs, 4 panel comics and i knew it was only right that i interview him. So here we go, without any further delay, lets jump right into it.
Where and how did your journey into drawing and animation begin?
I was really into cartoons when I was a kid and I always wanted to be drawing them. My parents seemed to be impressed by the drawings and I wanted nothing more than for them to love me, so I kept at it. My mom has boxes of all the drawings I did back then and some of them are getting to be 25 years old and older, so I’ve been at it for a while.
It was always a dream of mine to get into animation and making cartoons, but a lot of people (myself included for a while) said it was too much work and too difficult to get into, so I put off really trying it until about 4 or 5 years ago. But look at me now, I’ve worked on cartoons that have been on TV, so what do you think of that discouraging art teachers and friends? Never let anyone talk you out of your dreams, if someone else has made it happen, you can too.
What themes do you pursue in your illustrations?
The main theme I always try to go for in my work is trying to create something or someone who I’ve never seen before. It generally comes out in a cartoon-styled way because that’s what I’ve always enjoyed and that’s how I see things in my head. I also watch a lot of videos on the illuminati, ancient aliens, and flat and hollow earth, and while I don’t necessarily draw those things, the weirdness of those themes inspires a lot of what I do. I like to include a lot of guts and melty textures in my work because those lines are really fun to draw and are very visually appealing to me, for whatever reason. Someone asked me once if a have a fetish for slimy/drippy objects, but I don’t think I do. But I get why you would ask.
What artists if any, have influenced the way you developed your style?
I would say the two biggest influences that got me where I am today would be the 90’s Nickelodeon cartoon lineup that everyone is always raving about, and Ed Roth. My dad used to take me to tons of old car shows when I was a kid and I was never that interested in the cars, but seeing Ed Roth’s Rat Fink with his gross eyes and nasty tongue hanging out always held my attention and definitely pulled me towards that style of art. Today I am really inspired and influenced by anyone who is really good at what they do. My boy Marc M. of Sick Animation, my other animator boy Mat Brooks, and my three more boys in the band Steaksauce Mustache are always inspiring me to be better at what I do and push boundaries I wouldn’t normally think to push.
A common problem that a lot of artists are affected by is creative block, how do you overcome that?
I definitely deal with creative block a lot as well as feelings of not being good or creative enough even when I don’t have a creative block. I try to get over it by just keeping the thought in my head that there are no rules for life and there is no real deadline for your creativity. If you’re not feeling it right now, that’s okay, go do something else, have an experience for a little while and find something to be inspired by. If art is the way you choose to express yourself, then do it on your terms, don’t let a deadline or a little creative block get you down. If anyone can come up with an awesome idea, it’s you. I believe in you.
How did the collaboration between you and Sickanimation.com come about?
I’ve been a huge fan of Sick Animation ever since I saw the cartoon Cool Court Starring Nachos the Cross Eyed Cat around 10 years ago. I hit Marc up with a couple of fan art things I had made over the years, and gradually earned his trust. Then about 4 years ago I asked if he knew of any animation jobs open since he had just made the big boy move to Hollywood, and he told me I could help him do the lip syncing work on the cartoon Cowboy Halloween. At this point I had barely done any animation work at all, so I texted my girlfriend at the time and told her to download Flash so I could work on this cartoon. That’s pretty much how I learned how to animate, by pretending I already knew how to. And now Marc has been so kind as to let me work with him on a bunch of Sick Animation projects, and I could not be happier. Dreams do come true, sometimes you just have to lie to get them.
What are your thoughts on platforms like ‘Adult swim’ which thrive off of wacky and sometimes morbid animation?
I think Adult Swim is the best place on actual television for artists. They take a lot of chances on a lot of crazy ideas that no other networks would even consider thinking about, and that’s really awesome for encouraging new people to try making their new and wild ideas happen. I don’t always like or even know what’s going on in some of their shows, but the art is always incredible and unique, and it’s great that they provide those artists a platform with such a large built-in audience.
From idea to finished piece, How long does it take for you to complete a typical illustration?
If the piece is just for me to post online or try to sell, I’ll never spend more than 2 or 3 hours from the idea until the completed project. It’s hard for me to work longer than that on personal projects, and if I don’t finish a piece right away I usually don’t ever come back to it. If the piece is for someone else, like a band shirt or something, I’ll usually spend about 6 hours on it, usually using the extra time to over-analyze details and feel bad about the terrible job I did. I like to do a good job for anyone who thinks I’m cool enough to do work for them, they deserve that.
What memorable responses have people had to your work?
I think a lot of times people see that you do art and just assume that you can do all types of art, so I get hired from time to time to work for people who don’t at all want the style I work in, so that gets some good responses. Like I did a cover for a book about a pizza place that was just a drawing of pizza, and the publishers said it looked “ghoulish and unappetizing” and rejected it, I felt pretty good about that. One time Andrew WK called me a “party art genius”- that was really cool. But my favourite response I ever get is when I show my work to my mom and all she says is “okay…”
What can we expect from you in 2017?
A lot more goofy drawings and cartoon work. Hopefully many more collaborations with cool bands and businesses, and definitely some more collaborations with Sick Animation. I’m going to be working on animating and getting better with that and getting more content out there. I’ll to be doing a lot more with our band Steaksauce Mustache in a lot of new places, which is very exciting. And as with every year, I just try to make better and better work and keep moving forward.
If we had a peek into your iTunes library, what kind of music would we find?
It might be kind of surprising for someone who does the kind of art I do and is in a crazy hardcore band, but I mostly listen to a lot of mellow instrumental bands like Caspian, Russian Circles, and Red Sparowes. There is also a lot more Lana Del Rey than I’m proud to admit.
The dictionary defines ‘Utopia’ as an imaginary place or state in which everything is perfect. What is your own personal utopia?
My own personal utopia would be a world in which animals could talk and we were free to explore outer space freely. I want to learn all there is to know and maybe draw some pictures about it. And where Simpsons fan art doesn’t exist.
R.A Allman and Nicole Van Sant