One of my first memories growing up in Oregon is waiting for my dad to come home from work. I was getting impatient, so my mom told me if I drew a picture, the time would pass quicker. It worked! Another incentive to draw came when I realized in first grade I could exchange a sketch of Bugs Bunny or Spiderman for a Fruit Roll-Up or bag of Cheetos. I’ve been drawing ever since.

I’ve been involved in animation and storytelling from a young age as well. I filmed a stop-motion video on my mom’s Hi-8 camera when I was 11. In middle school I wrote and illustrated a series of graphic novels about a vampire werewolf. In high school I made a music video for my senior project. At the last minute I realized I could make a career out of art, so I scrapped my plans to be a civil engineer and instead went to film school.

In Los Angeles I quickly found a way to merge my love of film and drawing: storyboards. I enjoyed drawing storyboards because I was close to the director and the origin of the creative process; building the vision with them from the very start. Because the story is still being shaped in that stage of production, I felt an incredible amount of creative freedom. A big part of the job was visualizing a space and knowing what things would look like through the camera at any angle and with any lens.

After graduating from film school I moved to New York City. I was visiting a lot of art galleries and museums to hone my drawing skills, and ended up getting more serious about painting. I was attracted to painting because it allowed me to tell my stories without waiting for funding or cast/crew availability. Using skills picked up from storyboarding, I could create any scene from my mind. I was deeply inspired by the surrealists and the futurists, and began to paint situations with multiple perspectives and strange juxtapositions.

I took part in several live painting events with Art Battles, a group that pits painters against each other onstage at a club. I appreciated that world because it brought my art out of a stale white gallery and into a more exciting scene. It also opened another door. I found that being forced to paint very quickly resulted in some of my favorite work. The magic born from spontaneity was impossible to reproduce in a controlled studio setting. I started leaving rough brushstrokes, splattered paint, and drips in the final work because it brought an energy that you couldn’t create on purpose.

At this point I felt limited by the ability of a single painting to tell a story, so I returned to my roots in animation. I made a hand drawn short animation using mostly India Ink on copy paper. Since a traditional animation is 12 frames per second, it was a requirement to work fast. There were many splatters and stray brush strokes, but it all added to the intensity of the piece.

My technique involved creating a digital animation as a guide, using Photo-shop, Flash, AfterEffects, Blender, and Flame. Then I printed out every frame on paper in light blue, along with a frame number and tracking markers. I drew or painted on each frame, then scanned it back in. The process dissolved the clean, stiff, “animatic” into an lively image. The dots created by the draft setting on a printer made a lovely grain-like surface. The process was very labor intensive, but the positive reception from the world’s film festivals have encouraged me to keep going. I’ve since made another short in the same style which is just wrapping up it’s festival circuit. My film “The Backward Astronomer” follows the stream of consciousness of a man who finds himself alone on the moon. It’ll be playing at Encounters Short Film Festival in Bristol, 24-29 September 2019.

I still return to painting, most recently completing a large-scale mural in London backyard. I’m not actively trying to sell my work any longer, but continue to explore my craft in an ongoing series of paintings that decorate my flat. It’s been refreshing to work on something personal without the pressure of public approval.

Besides painting and animation, I’ve directed many promos and commercials both animated and live action. Most recently, I worked on a video project for singer Dawn Richard using Z-brush, Blender, and a few photos I took around London. It’s since expanded into a project that replaces well-known statues with non-traditional, “everyday” heroes.

I feel very fortunate that the work I do for MPC runs a parallel course with my personal art. Painting and compositing are similar in many ways. Arranging nodes in a script is a lot like arranging paint on a palette. The texture of a can-vas works the same way as the grain in a film. It adds a surface that unifies an image. Whether creating at home or comping at MPC, the texture found in nature or created organically is always the base and the final layer of my work.

Collaboration is my philosophy. Whether it’s with writers, musical artists, commercial clients, or the community of international talented people that is MPC.

See more of Jake’s work on his Vimeo here, and his Instagram here.