Thursday, September 15, 2011

Chogrin Burns Brightly in Autumn

Like a forest set ablaze all the colors change, a flame dances across the land changing the sight of man. One man holds summer at bay and breathes new life in his stay.

That man would be Chogrin Munoz. He is the man behind the art force & art shows of the group known as The Autumn Society. Even his name has a story behind it, the alias that is. That will be later in the interview as will the society he helped create.
Finding yourself in Burbank is not an odd situation for anyone who lives in LA, but entering Cartoon Network Studios located in it, now that's different. I was greeted by a young man who let me in the child's programming subsidiary of Warner Bros. It was Chogrin. Wearing a Popeye shirt he was greeted by friends and security as I signed in.

We entered the Land of Ooo. For you see Chogrin works on Adventure Time. The Cartoon Network kid’s show that has gained a huge fan base even before it came out. Chogrin showed me around, the cubicles, the layout of the place, and all the wonderful artwork posted around. It wasn't a normal working environment. He offered me a seat and our own adventure began…

But my interview with Chogrin this night, would be cut short due to the premiere of Season 3.
Like I've reported before, everyone or a least some of the crew meet up at Moore's Delicatessen nearby. With fans and crew, we all watched the premiere and chuckled together.

After the premiere that night, Chogrin asked if I wanted to continue the interview the next day. The next day I was greeted by Chogrin saying "Want to get lunch? It's on me, actually there giving away free sandwiches at which wich!" We went to get free sandwiches and our interview was underway again at Cartoon Network Studios. He then explained his life, what he wants out of it, and how much of a fan and nerd he is.

We started with his name and his youth. To keep his name a secret, I"ll only say it's from a hybrid of two words and in a sense means "hybrid" in Spanish.  His real name and keep it secret is Joseph Game.

A kid of South America, Ecuador to be sure, he was influenced by south American folklore, and anime, which he says dubs are better in Spanish. His Grandfather was in the Ecuadorian Marines and was basically Popeye to him.Growing up with the Popeye cartoons, his grandfather and Popeye were the same in Chogrin’s eyes.

Chogrin interned for Cartoon Network in 2006. He flew out here on his own dime. Paid for his stay and had to take a bank loan out. Bob McNight and Ken Boyer were big influences on Chogrin as he worked on Class of 3000. Being a big Cartoon Network fan, he was glad to be in the same place as Genndy Tartakovsky and Craig McCracken of Dexter's Laboratory fame. Look around online for early videos of him being silly. After his internship he headed back to Philly to finish art school at the University of the Arts.

In 2007 Chogrin graduated from the University of Arts, Philadelphia then got a job at a design firm as an illustrator. If you look around you might be able to find his work featured on bubblegum wrappers, coloring books, etc.

Having an illustration position was very beneficial to Chogrin, it helped him learn to draw fast, sometimes having to finish a job in 5 hours, and making constant changes / revisions to multiples projects. In 2009 he was laid off,"But, it was a blessing in disguise", says Chogrin. With unemployment it gave Chogrin the time to do gallery shows and other projects he had wanted to pursue since graduating from college. Sparked by seeing all the Gallery 1988 and west coast shows, he was inspired. He questioned 'Why isn't anyone doing it out here? What's stopping us?"

Who’s us? Around this time Chogrin and his fellow U arts classmates had been associated under an artistic umbrella known as the Autumn Society, named by Sam Heimer (but more on that later). With his classmates and working with groups like the Philadelphia Cartoonist Society (PCS), Chogrin soon became involved with art shows.  You could say that The Autumn Society was born and inspired by groups like PCS, and other Philadelphia art groups. With Chogrin’s hunger for art shows the Autumn Society became a force to reckon with and soon rose to be one of  Philadelphia top art collectives in a matter of months.

An early vision for the Autumn Society, which started as a zine called Patchworx popped into Chogrin's noggin with the help of his colleague at the time, Matt Cavanaugh. The book couldn't work due to lack of funding, differences, and lack of material. However, hope came from an odd friend in Communism. A communist magazine called Political Affairs made a deal with Chogrin's friend & Autumn Society co-founder, Sam Heimer. Sam was placed as art director where he came up with the title & name The Autumn Society of Illustrators. He told the magazine, "I have an army of illustrators",and thus friends of Sam got work in the pages of Political Affairs, including Chogrin.

At this point Chogrin created a blog for the Autumn Society to stay in touch with his art school classmates and other local artists. Sam and he co-founded the group. Chogrin created the first logo, by scanning a maple leaf off the ground and finishing the rest on the computer. He wanted it to be a well-respected site and symbol. "I added the laurels to give it that sense of class and elegance" says Chogrin. Since then the logo has been through an evolution and become more circular.

From 2007 and to 2008, Chogrin spearheaded the society’s many appearances at comic conventions, events, early publications, promotional materials, and eventual gallery shows.

In 2009, Chogrin officially started the gallery shows for the society. These shows became a tour de force from April 2009 to November 2009, with a new show every month. April 2009, the Joker’s Wild Show happened featuring artwork of The Joker from Batman. 84 pieces went up, plastered all over the walls. A special deck of cards were created to set the show apart from any other kind of tribute show. Chogrin took the time to research, design, and print to get this down. He paid for most of the materials himself, along with the help of the artists that were participating in the deck themselves. All in all Chogrin was taking a risk while being unemployed.

Some slight debate of just doing pop culture shows arose within the group after doing so many tribute shows. Chogrin treated this debate with this saying, "Like a band starting out, you have to do covers if you want to grow a fan base and be noticed.”Once you’ve got everyone’s attention, then you can start doing your own original stuff."

One day near preparation for the Autumn Society’s first “Day of the Dead Show,” he was asked if he'd head back to LAfor a job opportunity at Cartoon Network. This job opportunity happened to be none other than Adventure Time. He was so excited for Adventure Time, even before working on it he already did a piece of Finn punching the Ice King. Two weeks later Chogrin was on his way back to Cartoon Network to work on Adventure Time.

Chogrin knew right away Adventure Time would be a hit. He was given the opportunity to put together an Adventure Time Art Show. Yes, two weeks prior before the show had even come out, it had an art show. I remember it quite well, as I didn't attend, as it wasn't even open to the public. Did I just blow you mind Adventure Time Fans? Yes, there was a special Adventure Time Art Show, well before the one held at Nucleus. It took place inside the Cartoon Network offices in Burbank. With Autumn Society members works hanging in the halls before the cartoon even graced television.

Chogrin keeps working on Adventure Time. His cubicle lined with posters from every Autumn Society Show. He enjoys working with various members on the show because a lot of them do his gallery shows and others have their own comic books, and other creative projects.

We nerded out throughout the interview and talked about Guillermo del Toro We talked about his room that constantly rains.  Then we nerded out about Pacific Rim.

We talked about animation and the work of Augenblick Studios. Being both cartoon and web nerds we had both scene Golden Age, parody versions to cartoon genres throughout time. Chogrin was such a fan he sent Aaron Augenblick, an e-mail when it just came out, asking where he could purchase a DVD. Aaron wrote back " What's your address?"Soon after DVD was in Chogrin's mailbox.

Chogrin's style has always been seen akin to the Fleischer brothers, Osamu Tezuka,and Ub Iwerks. When he's complemented as such it's a delight. He's a digital artist, but draws everything by hand in multiple layers of vellum paper, and then vectors it. Chogrin wants to eventually go into silk-screening.

I brought up some of the art shows he has curated & produced recently. The3 G show (Ghostbusters, Goonies, Gremlins) was a huge success, so much that 1988 wanted another. Playing with words Chogrin had 3B come about. That's BeetleJuice, Back to the Future, and Bill and Ted.

As we munched on our “free” sandwiches, Chogrin revealed how he got two DeLoreans for his 3B Show. You have to go back to a younger Chogrin who was on the Ghostbusters message boards circa 98. Through friends and simply asking the right people, he had a Ghostbusters group show up with an Ecto-1 replica. Yes, there are Ghostbuster sects. Fans of the movies that dress up for fun, around the US and world. The icing on the cake was Ernie Hudson joining them. This was all made possible by Bryan Fear and Sean Bishop.

There's nothing quite like hearing a nerd explain how cool a “nerd out”moment is. Chogrin with a big grin explained he was an hour late to the 3GShow, but who cares, he arrived in an Ecto-1, dressed as a Ghostbuster, and with Ernie Hudson to a show related to Ghostbusters art.

So same thing for next show, he simply asked in the forums and through friends if anyone could show up in a DeLorean. He got two.

After the success of all the California shows,something big had to be done at home and where it all started, Brave New Worlds, Philadelphia. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle  art Show, Shell Shock, came about.
After remembering how well the special edition Joker Cards came out for his first Autumn Show he decided to give the people what they wanted. Pizza, pizza boxes that is, with special prints and stickers. With a nicely imprinted turtle shell on top, featuring the Autumn Society logo as well.

He couldn't do it alone and very often spouts so many names of all his colleagues. He doesn't run the Autumn Society alone.  He has a vision, and with the help and volunteerism of others he gets a lot done. He tells other members of his group "Everybody can do anything if they organize it, curate it, promote it, and execute it.”

The Autumn Society is becoming more than an art group. Chogrin wants it to produce animation, film, music, and more. Chogrin plans to head back to South America and do films there. "There's so much talent there" he said. A documentary on all the art groups that have come about the last few years with the help of the Internet to gain popularity is in the works. Looking at what they’re trying to achieve and taking the time to interview the people behind it. With the Autumn Society the goal is not just showcasing art through galleries, but also book publishing. Look forward to a four book anthology (with possibly over 100 artists) coming soon.

Chogrin also mentioned to me his love of space. When I asked these two simple questions below he went off like a rocket. Has something as a sci-fi fan made you want to help out in anyway you can for space exploration? Why care about space and terraforming?

"I've always been a space-cadet. Between watching betamax versions of the first 3 Star Wars and having an Uncle that's a Trekkie, I've always had 50% of my mind in space. A lot of people fear space like they fear the ocean, and all other unknowns. But I see it as a whole new frontier of possibilities, advancement, and hope in the future of us.

I remember watching Apollo 13 and building and mini space-capsule out of cardboard, clay and old nintendo controllers. I would then line up the window of my capsule to the biggest window in my house at night and just look at the stars, so it would feel like I was in space.

It wasn't until I was in college that I realized the last moon mission was in 1972. This angered me and puzzled me at the same time. All my life I had thought that moon camps and other stations had already been built. To find out that the last 30 years of space exploration had taken place around our own backyard broke my heart. This is when I started researching future space missions, the works of Dr. Robert Zubrin, and the Terraformation of Mars. I was so inspired by the Mars Direct plan, that I did this quick animated video ( based off a sketch illustration I had done one night. Eventually my video was seen by Lucinda Land from the Mars Society and I began my journey taking part in the Mars movement.
Being a part of this I have fullfilled so many childhood ambitions and dreams. I have been able to meet personal heroes like Dr. Chris McKay and visited top secret places like SpaceX. The ultimate dream is to be one of the first illustrators in space, and hopefully see humans go to Mars.

All in all I think space & science in general have had a big profound impact on me. The questions, the exploration, and the research, leave a lot for the imagination & infinite possibilities."

"A lot of movies have had an affect on me. For example, when I saw Jurassic Park, I built my own Dinosaur bible (of sketches, stickers, and facts about African Frog DNA) and sat my parents down for a serious conversation on how I wanted to be a Paleontologist and not an artists anymore. This was when I was 8.
Movies that inspire me have always given me outlets and heavy inspiration. Ghostbusters and Goonies for example either made me want to build ghost-catching props or go on an adventure.
I had a very rich childhood (Bravestarr, He-man, Lucky Luke, Saint Seiya, Captain Tsubasa, Power Rangers, Ghostbusters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Jurassic Park, Dragonball, Lone Ranger, Thundercats), surrounded by many wonderful things and keeping those things close to one's heart is important. I think this is one of the reasons pop-culture for my generation is so important and drenching with awesomeness / epicness. Like every generation we take the things we love and eventually make our own to inspire others, and so on and on and on and on. I just hope to be able to leave a significant enough footprint for others to see and be inspired by."

So I guess space travel does affect him very much.

Illustrator, Curator, Director, Writer, Musician are all things Chogrin is and wants to achieve. Vinyl toys are another frontier to conquer. Vinyl toys inspire Chogrin from drawing and thinking about shapes.He's a toy collector too. He's really into vinyl toys right now, but he also said"I'm a nerd, I collect Ghostbusters toys, Hellboy toys, anything I have a huge nerd boner for, I will collect". "A comic book based after himself might be in the works as well, and also wants it to be animated in the future through Guillermo Del Toro’s Mirada studios.

Free time, if he has any would be catching a movie /documentaries, rollerblading, researching the paranormal  wikipedia, reading a graphic novel, and dabbling with music.

"I believe to be a succesful individual you must surround yourself with people you love and admire. Remember where you come from, and most of all never underestimate anyone. I believe everyone has the power to achieve anything. The power of "one" individual making a difference is real and with the helps of others it is legendary. Right now at my side I am very blessed and grateful to be working with German Orozco and Jorsh Pena. German and Jorsh have helped create a dream come true, an art show in Mexico, THE ICONOCLASTIC DEAD. Take sneak peek of our Mexico logo below!"

Chogrin is unique artist and fan, a fan that loves what he does,and there's nothing cooler to fellow nerds than that.

Now let me go through all the shows and events coming up, this dude is busy.

8-Bit Champions Sep 15- Video Game Show in France
The Iconoclastic Dead Oct 1-Muertos Style Show in Mexico

quite possibly a booth at comic-con
Chogrin official site
Autumn Society site

Autumn Society Show Time Line
Work still on sale at Nucleus
Additional links