Interview: Ismael Alejandro Moreno Ozuna



Name: Ismael Alejandro Moreno Ozuna. IAMO are my initials.

Where do you live: Tijuana, Mexico

Known for: “Nerdmigos” webcomic.

Currently working as: Cartoonist and Character Designer

When did you realize that you were going to work with this/in this area?  
That’s something I discovered while making my comic. I’ve always loved drawing cartoons, but my love for character design came from a need of wanting to create more characters and tell more stories.

If you could choose one place only to live, where would that be and why?  
I have only visited places in Mexico and the US. I’m sure I will love Italy If I ever get the chance to visit. But of the places I know, I would say San Francisco. I just loved being there, surrounded by music and art. It has a very distinctive creative atmosphere. But I also love living in Tijuana, I don’t think there is any other place like it.

How would you describe your creativity?  
To me it’s all about communication. So, creativity becomes a playful process of generating ideas that can solve communication issues. With cartoon characters, some designs work better than others in communicating an idea. That’s the challenge. I always keep that goal in mind and I always try to have fun.

How and when did you start to work with this in a serious manner? 
The moment I realized I wanted to draw for a living. Sounds simple, but I didn’t always have a clear goal in mind. I just liked drawing and making comic strips. It took me a lot of time to figure out what my goal as an artist was. But that’s okay. I know what I’m building now and I know where I’m going.

What do you do at the moment?  
My comic “Nerdmigos” is an ongoing project and after 6 years I’m currently in the process of updating the character designs and writing new stories. Also, I’m developing a short story comic anthology written by a friend of mine. I’m open for commissions but I also have a marketing job during the day.

A recommendation for those who think about starting and running a creative business? 
Don’t give away your creative work for free. Know the value of your work. Stay away from businesses who offer exposition or experience as a form of payment, unless it’s a non-profit organization or a charity you support.

Tell us how it all started.  
I have been drawing for as long as I remember and I grew up in a very creative environment. My dad was an art teacher and I remember that he would take me with him to his classes. All the students were adults, but I had a lot of fun playing with paint and brushes or modeling clay. My mom is also very creative, she has done paintings and sculptures and has always been very crafty. So I absorbed all of that when I was growing up. In terms of art sensibility, I learned a lot from them and that was definitely a huge starting point.

What is the most important thing in a workplace/studio for you?  
A schedule. A physical calendar, actually. To keep track of time and tasks.

What is your favorite film?  
“Star Wars”. Among other things, because it sparked a sense of wonder, make-believe and storytelling when I was very young. But I would also mention “Amadeus”.  I was only about 9 years old when I first saw it, but it sparked a sensitivity and love of music that I didn’t have before. Also, “Ghostbusters”. A lot my sense of humor started developing from that movie.

Who would you like to invite for a dinner and why? 
George Lucas. I’ve watched a lot of interviews with him and it’s always great to listen to him talk about storytelling or all his struggles, both personal and creative. He seems like a very quiet guy like me, but his voice comes through loud and clear in his work.

How do you like to spoil yourself?  
I like having collectible figures. Action figures, vinyl figures, statues of stuff I like or inspires me. I don’t consider myself a collector and I’m not a compulsive buyer, but I can treat myself to something every now and then.

What is luxury for you? 
Short-term happiness and having a lot of money to try to replicate that feeling.

What is the nicest compliment you’ve received for your creative work, and from whom?  
It always feels great to know that I made someone laugh with my comic. One time, I put J. Scott Campbell in one of my comic strips and when I met him he said he got a kick out of it.

What do you fear most?  
Reaching a comfort zone and not being able to push myself out.

What is a happy life to you?  
Living a calm life and following my bliss.

What does a regular day look like for you?  
Well, I have a day job in marketing. So I wake up early for that. When I get back home I take my dogs for a walk. Then I have a schedule that I can use for personal projects or commissions.

Tell us about your dream project.  
I would love to do a feature-length animated “Nerdmigos”.

Who is your professional role model/inspiration?  
Stephen Silver. His character design work is brilliant and it has been a huge influence on my drawing ever since I watched “Clerks: The Animated Series”. I recently took a workshop at his school and I learned a lot from his approach to synthesize shapes. He has been an amazing teacher and mentor.

How would you describe your work style (academic field or fashion style, or both, or something entirely different)?  
I’m a learner. Maybe it’s because of my background in communication, but I am a researcher. When designing a character I tend to meticulously find ways to understand the nuances of the character’s story before drawing.

Which is the one thing you can’t live without?  
I want to believe that I have learned to not get attached to material things. But, I guess, the coffee maker. I dunno :p

What inspires you?  
I’m inspired by the work of other artists every day, because it challenges me to be better at my own and create something new. It makes me look at my own goals and skills so I can do my best.

A book that has changed/made the most impression in your life?  
There’s a book called “Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn. The title of the book is the same as my first name, but that is just a coincidence. That’s not how I found it. It was actually recommended through my favorite rock band of all time, Pearl Jam. Not personally, they recommended it to all their fans. This book had a big influence on the making of their 1998 album, ‘Yeild’. But, what really caught me was the opening of the book, which was an ad in the personals section of a newspaper that said: “Teacher seeks pupil. Must have an earnest desire to save the world”. I immediately related to those words because I always struggled to find direction for my life. I was a pupil seeking a teacher and it was hard to find a mentor. Not all artists are willing to share their knowledge, and only a few have a real calling to teach.

Check out Ismael’s website.

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