CHOGRIN Interview: Storyteller and Stylistic Illustrator of Everything We Love

CHOGRIN continues to tap into all the epic staples of my favorite inspirations from my childhood to today and when I heard he will be returning to DesignerCon this year, I had to interview him. He is an illustrator and storyteller from Guayaquil, Ecuador. His work is inspired by our favorite classic animated cartoons, comics, film, video games, and Latin-American folklore. Apart from working for Disney and Cartoon Network on shows such as Big City Greens, Regular Show, Uncle Grandpa, and more, he also somehow makes time to work on his own amazingly stylized artworks and products, and curates art exhibitions for various galleries. Additionally in this interview, CHOGRIN tells us first hand some of the NEW first look items he will be bringing to DesignerCon later this week!

Lindsay Garber: CHOGRIN, thank you so much for joining me today for Nerd News Social.

CHOGRIN: Thank you for having me, it’s a pleasure.

Lindsay: I know you are busy, so we’ll get right into it. I love a lot of your themes and shows that you’ve curated. I found something out that I feel is amazing, namely because I feel the same way. I read that the TMNT montage sequence, in the original movie, where April is drawing all the turtles….

CHOGRIN: Oh yeah, totally. I watched that scene at four or five.

Lindsay: You said it’s one of your first memories of feeling inspired to draw. When you were 8, Jurassic Park inspired you to build your own Dinosaur bible. Clearly you were meant to be an artist.

CHOGRIN: Oh my god, you’ve totally listened to me.

Lindsay: I know, you are speaking my language, before you were able to make a living from art, what were some of the first odd jobs you had to do before you broke into the art world and what your first official or unofficial art job?

CHOGRIN: As soon as you said unofficial, the first memory came to mind, and I can remember it very vividly. I painted a pizza logo, for a pizza truck in Philly. I basically did it for free pizza. This was definitely one of those things, where it was, “This is fun,” but it was not something I couldn’t wait to do for the rest of my life. It was one of those odd things, that I did on the side, like side projects when I was in art school in Philly. That was probably one of the most unprofessional ones that I did. Just because, I did it for free pizza, a quick buck, and I didn’t have creative freedom over it. It was something that was interesting though. I was fortunate enough, when I graduated art school, that I was unemployed for three months. It was like I had summer vacation, and I applied with my portfolio, and was able to get a job at a design company. Before that, I oriented my portfolio for things I liked, or things I wanted to work in. Even though I had a job lined up, I made myself goals, ideas, lists of things I wanted to draw. Which eventually ended up being the art shows. The art shows for me has been, “I want to draw this thing, lets see if a bunch of other people want to draw this thing, and make it an event.” That’s kind of been my life for the last ten years, since I graduated school, beefing up my portfolio. Things I can challenge myself with, and really wanted to draw. Through that, you are picking those different themes, like Pop Culture, Folklore, or different things. It’s allowed me to try different things, creatively, and make new connections.

Lindsay: I assume that’s how the Autumn Society got formed with your school mates, and I guess that’s how you started your love for curating galleries. You’ve had gallery experience in 1988 and Nucleus Gallery, what advice can you offer an artist new to the gallery scene looking to get involved in these experiences?

CHOGRIN: The best advice I can give artists in general is, I look for the artist to have five to six consistent pieces. That way I can tell they are consistent with all of their pieces, and that it is their voice, and the craftsmanship of the same work was put into each piece. The identity of the artist. Nowadays, if you want to make it out there, there is no excuse. There is the internet. You can plop yourself anywhere. Sometimes I feel like I am falling behind, I need to upload my stuff on all these other websites that are popular. It took me almost three years to put my stuff on Behance and Dribble. That’s what I recommend. Put your stuff out there as much as possible. All these media places where you can showcase your artwork and get critiques. Even DeviantArt, as old as it is, is helpful. That’s how I founded Autumn Society, I found a lot of artists that I wanted to work with, through DeviantArt. That’s the best advice I can give people. Make a list of the people of your dreams, people you want to work with, and the projects you want to do, and then go down the list little by little. There is nothing wrong with going big first, but if the big thing doesn’t work out, then backtrack and do what you want to do, but start smaller and then go from there.

Lindsay: Speaking of galleries, congratulations on the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at Corey Helford Gallery which you recently curated. Pretty huge milestone and amazing list of artists who participated. Do you have any ideas or dreams for your next gallery theme?

CHOGRIN: Thank you very much, the gallery thing, is something that I have to be super passionate about, and doing galleries for the last ten years, I am definitely not burned out, but now that I have gotten to a point where I have gotten most of it out of my system, and worked out my demons, through galleries. I really feel like I have done all the main things that I am passionate about with characters. It would have to be something that I am a super big fan of, or people could approach me from now on for me to do these big galleries. Now I am focusing my career on working on my own animated shows, short films, and movies. It’s the reason I moved out here in the first place, to be in the animation field. To get my voice out there, and share my stories with as many people as possible. For me animation and film is the best medium to get your stuff in front of people’s faces.

Lindsay: So true.

CHOGRIN: The Frankenstein work is from a list of things, my milestones in art shows didn’t really start till later on, when I branched out with the Autumn Society. The Autumn Society was a great way to kickstart and work with my friends. I fully realized that even though it was started by my friend Sam Heimer, who named the group, and a bunch of my other friends, I slowly realized that I was doing all the work on my own. It wasn’t that they weren’t doing anything, it was just that I was always go go go. Those guys had different ideas about what they wanted to do, and I was just more leaning towards Pop Culture. So I felt, that if I was doing everything, and doing all the work, I might as well just start labelling shows under my name. When I did that, I felt even more loose and free to do whatever I wanted, because I wasn’t under a group banner. Then I started reaching out to people I looked up to, like Mike Mignola, to do a Hellboy show. I did a Popeye show. That’s when it was like, theses are my favorite things: Hellboy, Popeye, and then Frankenstein came along. How could I not do Frankenstein. All the art show’s that I’ve done, have had a big impact on me as a kid. I’m sort of giving my five year old self a high five. The only thing, and I’ve said that in the Animation Success Stories, is that the only other show I could see myself doing was if Metallica approached me. I would love to do a Metallica show. There have been some inner workings on that, but I don’t know when it would be. That would be the ultimate show. However, if I didn’t do a show tomorrow I would still be pretty satisfied.

Lindsay: Lets talk about some of your personal projects. Not only are you a fantastic illustrator, you are also a storyteller. You had a book come out this year, “Kid del Toro”, which you wrote. You also have a pretty mysterious project in the works called “Lucky Brave’s Sunshine.” Can you tell us a bit about this project and are there any updates you can share with us?

CHOGRIN: Yeah, for Lucky Brave, it’s like going back to the childhood well. As a kid I grew up loving cowboys and space. Things like Toy Story and Brave Star, mixing western and space have been the start of my childhood. My first memory. I kind of wanted to make my first animated short related to that theme. I came up with this very simple story last year. I came across this group of animators from Ecuador. I always wanted to work with people from Ecuador, because I feel like there is so much talent from my home country. I saw them put out a short on their own, and I reached out. I knew it was the ripe time to collaborate. I reached out to them, without a solid idea. I just knew that I wanted to do something new with them, and I wanted to do something with a space cowboy. I didn’t really have a story set, per se, when I reached out to them. We got the wheels rolling, and they got excited about working with me, and then Lucky Brave came to me. I wrote it really quick, and potentially it’s a story about reaching for your dreams. The basic story is about a cowboy that reaches for the stars and lassos a shooting star and gets taken away with it. It becomes a basic space odyssey and a story of reaching out for your dreams. That’s what I am working on now. It’s going to be 7-10 minutes of CG animation. It’s a lot of work, and we hope to launch the Kickstarter for it soon. Maybe around DesignerCon time.

Lindsay: That’s such a beautiful story. I love how you are connecting where you are from, and reaching for your dreams. I can’t wait to see it all together.

CHOGRIN: It didn’t hit me until a year of working on it. It’s kind of a reflection of my story so far, and the things I’ve been striving for, where I am today. I hope it’s something a lot of people can relate to, and be inspired by.

Lindsay: I have a good feeling about it, and if it’s anything like it’s posters I will enjoy it.

CHOGRIN: Thank you very much.

Lindsay: I’m very excited about the official licenses you have worked with because they are from my childhood. You’ve worked with official licenses, such as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Hellboy, and Popeye to name a few. Can you tell us a bit about how you were able to get these opportunities and what its like designing for brands with such history?

CHOGRIN: With most licenses, as long as there is no phallic symbols or words, and the characters are not represented in a negative way, then the licenses have been open about my artist interpretation their characters. Their beloved characters in my own way. For Popeye, it was one of the ones I was more passionate about. In my childhood my grandfather was an Ecuadorian marine, and for me growing up he was Popeye. That show was a tribute to him. It’s also a tribute to that era of cartoons, and my grandfather, kind of a double whammy. It’s hilarious, because when I was still in Philly, I’d take the train, and had a lot of time to kill. I was getting to work and back home, and had time to kill, so I’d watch a lot of features on my little DVD player. One of the things I’d do when out of school, I’d practice and research the things I love. I was just dissecting the Popeye episodes left and right, and all the supplemental stuff. When I knew I wanted to do a Popeye show, I went to the DVDs because I knew the people in charge of Popeye were on those DVDs. So I wrote down their names, and I looked up their email addresses on the internet. If you want to get a hold of somebody, you do diligent research. That’s how I go a lot of the licenses I worked on. A lot of things in life, if you don’t ask, you don’t know. A lot of the things I’ve done, I’ve just asked and people have said sure. There are caveats, but most of the caveats haven’t been that terrible, and I’ve been able to do whatever they want. For the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show, that was just from working in the animation industry and knowing the guy who was running the Turtles show at the time. When you are in the animation industry, it’s such a small community. Everybody knows everybody and you just reach out. It also helped out that they guy running the Turtles show, went to the same school as me in Philly. Being from the same alma mater gave me the nudge. I got the Turtle license from him, and had a ball with that.

Lindsay: You also have another job working as an artist for a lot of shows at Disney and Cartoon Network such as Big City Greens, Regular Show, and Uncle Grandpa to name a few. These are obviously amazing experiences, can you tell us some of the enlightening things you have learned through your experiences working with these companies?

CHOGRIN: They pay the bills. It’s amazing to be able to work on hit TV shows. I’ve been fortunate to work on all these shows that have been popular and I’m proud of all of them. On top of that, the animation crews and families are super tight-knit. Every screening, every animatic, every storyboard presentation, they want the crew to be present and everybody to be part of the story. It’s just so cool to be, on top of all the things I am doing, getting my own visions out there. I know that some people are hustling, and don’t have the greatest job, but they do it to pay the bills. I’ve been fortunate to have a job that’s not only fun but it also allows me to use my skills, and art degree. They’ve all been fantastic. Every show I’ve worked on has progressively gotten better. Every crew I’ve worked with has been amazing, but this current show, Big City Greens at Disney, it’s crew is a super tight-nit family, and it’s a pleasure. I don’t wake up any day and grunt over having to go to work. It’s a joy. Cartoon Network will always be my alma mater because it’s where I started my first animation career on Adventure Time and Regular Show, almost ten years. Definitely being at Disney has been an eye opener and it’s fantastic.

Lindsay: You will be at DesignerCon coming up in booth #1825, what can we expect to see at your booth this year?

CHOGRIN: Literally before we talked I was sending something to a printer. I’m going to have a bunch of my prints that I’ve had over the years. Anything left over, I’m going to put on sale. I will have a new pin, and will be featuring a new toy line. My toy line is called “INani-MATES”. It started with grabbing something from Pop Culture inspired by Jurassic Park’s barbasol canister. Wouldn’t it be cool to have the Dino-DNA barbasol can with arms and legs? Like 90’s toys with rubber hose limbs, where everything is moving. I thought it would be fun to take specific objects from movies and make them action figures. That’s a toy line that I will be pitching, and premiering at DesignerCon this year.

Lindsay: So Prints, resin cast toys, I know you also have t-shirts from your Frankenstein show.

CHOGRIN: Yes, I will have the t-shirts at this show. The first viewing of the shirts will be at the show. I am currently working on having a limited run Frankenstein resin cast toy at the event, we will see if he makes it. The Inanimates first character will be there.

Lindsay: Any other events or projects coming up that we should keep an eye out for?

CHOGRIN: Besides my toy line, and animated short, I am packed to the gills. The only other things I can tease, is I’m working on my own version of Frankenstein, I’ll be doing a story book like I did with Kid Del-Toro. I hope to get that out by the end of the year, so it fits in with the 200 year anniversary. The other thing is that between this year and next year, I will be introducing my character thats actually named CHOGRIN. That’s going to be vinyl, next year is going to be the year of the CHOGRIN. It’s a character that I’ve drawn and kept hidden, for the last ten years. I just mustered the energy and confidence to go all out with toys, story books, and things. That will be all 2019, the year of the CHOGRIN.

If you are in the Anaheim area for DesignerCon November 16th through the 18th, I highly recommend you stop by booth #1825 to view first hand the amazing quality and subject matter of his work, including some of his newly debut items he mentioned in this interview. I would also like to add that there was so much more we talked about but couldn’t fit in this interview, if you are lucky enough to connect with him, don’t be shy, he is one of those amazing people who you can share your true nerd self with. Other ways you can connect with him is through his INSTAGRAM, you can also help support the artist through sharing this article or checking out his SHOP or WEBSITE, or even by checking out some of the amazing SHOWS he’s worked on. Thanks again CHOGRIN!

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