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My Entire Life
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Steve's Story > Chapters > My Entire Life

"My Entire Life" 


Date Range: 1980 To 2013   Comments: 0   Views: 99
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I grew up in Southern Nevada, with my dad, who was a first-generation Mexican American and knew very little English. He was an outsider artist, and he got me started in art. He was also a hoarder, so our house was full of trash, art, comic books, novels, and thrift store finds. This was before the Internet, and my world was expanded by all of the stuff my dad collected, which informed me as an artist.

Growing up in Nevada meant that I had a ton of time to hang out and experiment. I did a lot of collage work and picked things from whatever my dad had lying around in order to create my own collection of art. I liked to collect items for their covers, not necessarily their content. I became very interested in design and art because I liked how people could refine what they were doing into one image to represent themselves. That was the start of everything.

After high school, I went to study art at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, but I didn’t like the environment. I liked learning about art, but I didn’t feel like people were taking it very seriously or pushing me to do anything different. I knew that I had it in me to push myself and learn the things I needed to on my own, so I dropped out of school. Then I met an illustrator named Nate Williams, who inspired me to start doing illustrations for publications. I started painted every night, creating very surreal, comic-like drawings. And that’s where my real art education came from: teaching myself and working freelance jobs.

At night, I did piecemeal illustration work for independent magazines and newspapers, but I paid my bills through day jobs—and I had the weirdest day jobs (laughing). I worked at Burger King as a line cook, and it was awful. I recall having to wear an oversized Pocahontas t-shirt for some kind of promotion and having to walk outside to use the pay phone on the side of the road; I was wearing thePocahontas shirt and my fingers were burned and covered in bandages—I think that job was the lowest point in my life. I have also tiled bathrooms, loaded trucks at UPS, and worked at a mortgage company. None of those jobs actually relate to what I do now, but that’s how I made money while I was building a portfolio.

In 1999, I married a Southern girl, and we moved to Atlanta. I started working for a temp agency that happened to have Cartoon Network as a client, and I decided to show my portfolio to Cartoon Network’s art director. I didn’t really know how to turn on a computer at the time, so my published work was just a stack of paintings and drawings, but the art director and I hit it off. My work fit with what they were looking for: it was cartoony, fun, colorful, and surreal. I started working there in 2000, and I was so stoked.

Adult Swim launched shortly after that. Cartoon Network and Adult Swim are basically two offices on different sides of a highway: Cartoon Network is a more corporate office building, and Adult Swim is like the step-child, housed inside an old Turner Broadcasting warehouse—I think it used to be a carpet warehouse, actually (laughing). I asked to work with Adult Swim while they were still forming, and in 2003, I moved my office across the highway to start art directing for them full-time. But when Cartoon Network started creating Adventure Time and Regular Show a few years ago, I became more interested in working with them again, so I came back across the street, and now I have two offices (laughing).

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