Last year, we posted this video from Tasso (speed portrait of superfox Ribith Leang) – a great friend to Vectorvault and an amazingly talented artist. Just recently, we had the awesome opportunity to dig a little deeper into his brilliant mind and take an up-close and personal look at the artist behind the designs.
VECTORVAULT: Tell us a bit more about your background. What did you want to be when you grew up?
TASSO: The earliest memory I have is wanting to be an animator. I grew up watching traditionally-animated Disney flicks (“Aladdin” is still is my fav) and I was always captivated by the creativity and group effort it took to make a movie. I interned for “The Animation House” in Toronto for 3 months through my high school program, where I got a first-hand look at the animation process. I assisted on projects for Cheerios and the music group Prozak, who used animated characters before Gorillaz made cartoons popular for music videos. It was great! I learned a lot about the business side of art very early on.
Give us a little more information about your work. Did you go to school to study? How did you get started as an artist/designer?
In college I studied Architecture while maintaining a broad Art Curriculum based in traditional media. I’ve always had an aptitude for spacial reasoning and computers (besides Art, Math was my favorite subject) so it was a natural fit to want to design homes. From my experience as an intern at “The Animation House” I learned that, when hiring, creative industries pay more attention to one’s portfolio than formal education. So, when my AA degree was conferred from Orange Coast College in 2005, I decided I’d rather get paid to build my portfolio through creative projects and industry instead of paying UC Berkeley (out-of-state fees, no less) to learn theory. I wasn’t a big fan of school, dropped out, and I have yet to regret it.
Out of school, I have come a long way as a freelance designer; most recently I worked for an advertising agency and now have multiple companies and projects in the pipeline. I learned how to use Adobe Illustrator & Photoshop, in that order, based on paid assignments I received. For someone who started with little experience with the Adobe Suite I talked a big game so when the time came I was forced to put my money where my mouth was and I learned through a lot of trial and error.
Ubiquitously I have always believed I can
What or who inspires you the most? Are there any particular websites that you frequent to find inspiration?
I’ve always been very inspired by movies and the boob-tube, which is why I’m beginning to produce more videos concerning my artwork. As far as artists I admire, there are multiple contemporary visual artists I follow regularly (but not limited to): Blaine Fontana, Shepard Fairey (aka OBEY), PAC23, Gabe Leonard, Zoso, Hussar, Blinky, Deseo, WES21, Jason Rudolph Pena, Juicy J and personal friends Jerrell Conner, JRivas, Ben Kwok, Mark Wasyl, Shon Kim, and Juan Baladran (aka Red Rooster), Sean Dietrich, Alex Julian and many more.
I keep in touch with most of these artists’s progress through MySpace, ModelMayhem, and staying active in the art show/event community. And of course, I frequent VectorVault.com for inspiration regularly.
What is your typical work day like?
The only consistent thing I do every day is breathe and eat. As a freelance artist with multiple tools at my disposal I can take on any project which entices me. Right now I’m involved with photography, art, marketing, architecture, networking with other creatives through meetings and events, constructing musical instruments (more on that later), and staying connected through the internet. I feel accomplished when I’ve learned and grown creatively so I would say that my computer typically has either Photoshop or Illustrator running all day.
What tools do you use to help the design process from start to finish? i.e. traditional art tools, digital art tools and anything in between.
Most people who have a basic grasp of conventional digital art guess that I use Adobe Illustrator to create my work and they are correct, but it isn’t the only tool in my belt. I start with a basic concept, usually drawn as a thumbnail in my sketchbook. Once I have a plan I book my model, makeup artist, and hair stylist and shoot at my studio or on location. I edit my favorite photos using Adobe Lightroom, then Photoshop, and I’ll import the photo(s) to Illustrator. I’ve recently been using Google Sketchup for creating 3D objects as well. Once I vectorize the photo in Illustrator I export layers back into Photoshop where I add more effects to add depth and glows. At this point I’m ready to create my prints and giclees, typically limited editions at 100 and 10 respectively.
The next challenge is creating the Original piece for museums and galleries, which is where I get more creative with presentation. For Verde I am currently creating a multi-layered presentation, where the foreground and background are printed on two different layers of archival metallic paper, separated by a 1″ thick clear polyurethane acrylic resin. This “sandwich” is then placed on top of a custom made wood panel, consisting of Monkeypod, Indonesian Rosewood, and Poplar. I’m also making a stand so that the back wood panel can be displayed (video), though it will have pre-made keyholes so it can be hung as well.
Yeah, it’s ridiculously complex. That’s why I’m only doing it once.
I’m filming the process right now and I should have some interesting 3D animation coming out soon to show a mockup version of the assembly. Verde is scheduled to be unveiled in Milan this May.
What are the most difficult challenges you face when marketing your work?
I’m sure it’s no secret that digital art still doesn’t receive the recognition it deserves. That’s possibly why I enjoy it so much. I’ve always been an early adopter and I think computer art is on the come-up. As optimistic as I am I also recognize that there isn’t a lot of money in my kind of art… yet. I only hope I have the opportunity to leave as much of an impact as other artists have had on me. To do that I’ve begun marketing my work through all the social networks I can get my hands on, my goal being to expose people to the entire process of my work so that they can appreciate the complexity of the process.
I could use an assistant.
What one mistake has taught you the most in your design career?
I haven’t made a mistake I couldn’t correct in design. I wish life had Ctrl-Z.
I won’t deny that it’s been rough sometimes being your own boss but for the most part every action has had a reaction and it has allowed me to fine tune both my design and my communication skills.
What advice would you give to an up and coming graphic artist?
You know they say the worst vice is ADvice. I like to soak up as much time as I can in Illustrator and Photoshop. I always get giddy when I sit with a fellow designer and he teaches me a new trick. I’ve always felt that if you enjoy what you do you’re rich. As far as advice, that really depends on the artist and his individual goals but I can tell you that the adage practice makes perfect isn’t off
What things do you enjoy doing on your off time?
What’s “off time?”
Looking forward, what kind of impact would you like to see as a result of your work?
I think it would be really cool to inspire a great artist; I’d like to pass on my knowledge to someone worthy of my kung-fu who will take it further.
Please continue to use your powers for good.