Gennaro Morra Interview

Tell me a little bit about yourself, about your life? Where did you go to school, and what classes did you study? What helped prepare you to become the artist that you are today?

Born and bred in sunny Los Angeles. Growing up my folks were occupied with their first business, a rustic southern Italian Restaurant. While growing up in the restaurant, my parents would shower me with Nintendo video games and Disney VHS tapes. I’m a simpleton, and that kept me pretty much under wraps. I always liked drawing, in fact I would pause movies just to trace the characters. My brothers hated that by the way. The older I got, it was less about the pencil and more about basketball. It took over so much, that all I wanted to do was be a pro. Playing a lot at the local courts brought out my competitive nature. Unfortunately, it didn’t bring any height. On a good day with my shoes on I’m 5’7 and unless I can climb rooftops like Po, there was no chance of me making it to the NBA. Still stubborn and in my last year of community college I was forced to pick up the pencil again.

I simply didn’t know what to do. I was working full time at the restaurant, and contemplating dropping out of college all together. Then I took figure drawing. The only class I wouldn’t’ be caught tagging in a notebook or dozing off. I decided to make mom and pop happy and transfer to a University to earn a degree. I didn’t decide my major until the last second of orientation at Long Beach State. I circled Illustration on a whim. If I knew it took 3 years, I probably would have circled something else. Now looking back I’m glad I did. I had great teachers and great friends. At the graduating show there were two galleries, one for Illustration and one for animation. You had to pull me out of the animation gallery. I loved all the character line ups and backgrounds done by my fellow artists. The next day I, a BFA in Illustration graduate, trashed my illustration portfolio and decided to jump ship. So for the last year and a half I have been constantly upgrading to a character design portfolio, with a little vis dev on the side, because it’s just so fun.

How do you go about designing, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?

I rely on many tools, really depends on which wonderful color pencil haven’t I used yet. Recently I’ve been using an orange col-erase pencil and a toned Cache sketchbook that I picked off of Nico Marlet, you might have heard of him. Ha. I work outside in, drawing these funky sorta one stroke shapes to warm up, from there I start playing with everything from the eyes to the toes. Sometime it’s just a line and I can’t figure out what to do with it, so I look at it for a sec, and think of what it can become. I think of the world around the character, I try to put myself in his or her shoes.

Once I figure that out, I either ink it traditionally or go into photoshop right away. Im a stickler for details and patterns. In my opinion, it’s what sets a good character from a bad character, it’s all about the little extra you put into it. I have to contain myself sometimes, because I tend to overdo it sometimes. I always have my wife check the line work before I go into color. She isn’t like mom that loves everything you do. She’s brutally honest which hurts sometimes, but it only pushes me to do better.

What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work with?

First and foremost, an espresso. I’m Italian and I drink it like it’s water. Then, I roll onto my blog to pay a visit to all the amazing artists I follow. I have gotten this far because they motivate me to be better and push harder everyday to achieve my dream. After my inspiration bar reaches its max I unleash on the sketchbook. I’m freelancing, and when I don’t have a gig I just work on the portfolio during the day. At night I’m a waiter at my folks’ restaurant Da Pasquale in Beverly Hills, 22 years and strong. In fact, I get some of my best sketches done while I’m taking orders from people. We get lots of old-timers from 5 to 7, and I don’t want to sound mean, but I can stand there for 10 minutes before they give me their whole order. To me that’s wasted time, so I whip out the sketchbook and slide in a sketch in between orders. Just don’t tell my mom.

What are some of the things that you have worked on?

Well that list is short unfortunately. I really got to venture out and apply to more studios, I’m just a perfectionist with the whole portfolio. I really want to apply when I think it’s perfect. Although, I’ve done some backgrounds and characters for some Ipad games that never went through. I did storyboards for a couple short films and I get commissioned to do Illustrations on the side.

Is there a design you have done that you are most happy with?

If I have to choose something it will be whatever my most recent post is. Which in this case is : the drunken master I drew. Inspired after watching Jackie Chan’s Legend of the Drunken Master. Anything I’ve worked on from late 2011 to now I’m content with, the rest can really go in the trash. That’s just how I am. I feel I improve every year, and I know with lots and lots of pencil mileage, one can really go far in this industry, and I just started the engine.

What projects are you working on now? (if you can tell us)

Just finished some Illustration freelance inquiries, and now I’m constantly pushing the portfolio. Focused on getting it to par. Hopefully landing a studio to call my home.

Who are some of your favorite artists out there?

I started looking for inspiration around my latter years of college. I loved all genres from comics to surrealism. Skottie Young, CreatureBox guys Dave Guertin and Greg Baldwin, The nine old men, Milt Kahl by a hair, Pascal Campion, Nico Marlet whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. He showed me his stuff and I wanted to flee the scene like a thief in the night with all of his masterpieces. Tadahiro Uesugi, Robert Kondo, Carter Goodrich, Shane Prigmore, A lot of French people whose names I can’t spell and I really don’t want to embarrass myself,

I’m basically naming my faves that I can spell correctly. Robin Joseph, Peter de Seve, Chris Applehans, Toby Shelton, Rad Sechrist, Salvador Dali the detail master, Scott Wills, Kevin Dart, Denis Zilber, De’Von Stubblefield, at the tender age of 17 this kid is killing it, I mean it goes on and on. I know once I’m done with interview I’m gonna think of so many names I’m forgetting. Anyone who’s in the art world and doing what they love to do, I respect them and draw inspiration from there, no matter the style or skill. Look at my blog those guys on there are all mind boggling.

Could you talk about your process in coloring your art, as well as the types of tools or media that you use?

I rely on many tools, really depends on which wonderful color pencil haven’t I used yet. Recently I’ve been using an orange col-erase pencil and a toned Cache sketchbook that I picked off of Nico Marlet, you might have heard of him. Ha. When I was in college it was all about gouache and watercolor. I used color pencils for color roughs and used watercolor mostly for a final finish. I really love Eric Fortune’s Illustrations and started using Liquid acrylics on watercolor paper, which was working fine. I wanted a faster method for color roughs.

I started Photoshop a year and a half ago just for color roughs, mind you, and now it’s all I use. I usually sketch the rough of a character out traditionally and flesh him out in Photoshop. All using a handy dandy Bamboo tablet, I think it’s better than the Wac. Although, I have played with the cintiq, and as soon as I land a studio that’s going to be my medium of choice.

What part of designing is most fun and easy, and what is most difficult?

It’s all fun; unfortunately none of it is easy when you are a perfectionist. The most fun for me is the last minute details that really make the character pop, and also the shape exploration in the beginning is fun. I guess the most difficult is what the inside of the shape is going to be. I also wish I didn’t have to color anything. It’s my weakness, takes me forever to figure out the color. Which is why I wanted to be a inker in comics for a bit.

What are some of the things that you do to keep yourself creative?

My wife says that I’m cheating on her with my sketchbook. I always keep a sketchbook; fill them up to the bitter end. I observe the world around me; sometimes I look up and see a possible character in the clouds. You just never know.

What are some of your favorite designs which you have seen?

Im so appreciative of Andreas Deja and his amazing work. He displays his work and the work of the nine old men, and when he posted Milt Kahl’s Shere Khan, I ran and bought The Jungle Book on DVD. Anything Nico draws is ridiculous, especially Tai Lung. I like tigers, what could I say. Rafiki from Lion King, and I love Glean Kean’s stuff, particularly his work in Tarzan and Tangled. All the chefs from Ratatouille and Anton Ego. I could go on, but I’ll cut it here.

What is your most favorite subject to draw? And why?

Old people, definitely. You can get away with a lot more details. They have tons of features, wrinkles, moles, hairs out of ears, all the good stuff. Haha. Also gorillas, I’m working on now and the shapes are fun to manipulate.

What inspired you to become an Artist?

UP the Movie. My first 3d movie and my first tear shed for an animated movie. Usually when a movie is over I leave right away. I never would understand why all these people would stay to look at all the credits. After UP I stayed till the last name fell off the screen. I wanted to be a part of it. I made it my personal goal that one day my name would roll down the screen as well. It was perfect timing to be inspired, I was 22, engaged to my wife, and I wanted to be able to provide for my family doing what I love to do.

What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?

Character Design has been a learning curve. I was never instructed in the craft. I took what I got from portfolio reviews and pushed forward. I can tell you that looking at great work from other artists pushed me to get better. It’s just in my competitive nature. I see something great; I want to tackle it and try to make something better. Currently I’m learning a few things at the concept design academy in Pasadena. I’m taking a class this spring for visual development with Mike Yamada and his wife Victoria Ying. I already took storyboarding with Rad Sechrist and Jay Oliva, just to broaden my skills a bit.

What wisdom could you give us, about being an Artist? Do you have any tips you could give?

Keep at it. That’s all I can say. You got to have a strong will and desire. When I played basketball the only way I got better is if I played with people better than me. The same goes with art, find artists that inspire you and let them be your fuel to get better. Don’t forget to keep that sketchbook handy. Take it everywhere you go.

If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?

You could email me
And my site is .

Finally, do you have any of your art work for sale (sketchbook, prints, or anything) for people that like your work can know where and when to buy it?

Well if you ever swing by Da Pasquale Caffe in Beverly Hills, my art is or sale on the walls. I’m fortunate to work in a family owned business that allows me to display my art. I also have an account on society6 , and I got a sketchbook in the works...

Gennaro Morra Gallery