This Profile article was first posted int he December 3013 CUAA Newsletter
Damien Lopez, A’02
Damien Lopez, A’02, is a storyboard artist with experience designing props, creating characters, and developing concepts for animation, video games, and comics. He is currently creating an interactive, animated, sci-fi experience that will be delivered via the internet, titled “Tell Me A Story…”He was interviewed via email, by Mary Lynch, ChE’82, about his current work which is being funded through KickStarter.
When did you decide you wanted to be an artist and why did you choose The Cooper Union?I’ve been drawing since I could hold a crayon; the act of drawing just feels like a natural thing for me. The closest I ever came to making the “decision” to be an artist was when my 3rd grade art teacher told me that art colleges existed. The idea of spending entire days drawing or painting at school was too awesome for my young mind to recover from.I heard about the Cooper Union through one of my art teachers at the Jersey City Visual and Performing Arts High School program. The free tuition and the freedom to arrange my own classes/curriculum were the biggest draws for me. Had it not been for those two factors, I probably would have gone to another school with a stronger focus on Commercial Art/Animation.
What did you enjoy most about your time at The Cooper Union?
The professors at Cooper during my time as an undergraduate were awesome! They were supportive, honest, and judged artistic intent over classical, artistic ability. I was mostly self-taught during my earlier development as an artist. I learned to draw by copying my favorite comics and receiving critiques from comic artists at conventions.
Which professors influenced you the most?
Several professors stand out for leaving a profound impact on my growth as an artist and as an person. First and foremost, my Calligraphy instructor, Prof. Koontz, who passed away a few years ago, was a tremendous influence on me. His passion for art, calligraphy, and Cooper Union was unparalleled, and his patience was welcoming.Prof. Bordo was one of my painting instructors and he gave me positive criticism and some fantastic life advice.Prof. Coates was my third and fourth year drawing instructor who opened my mind to the possibilities inherent in being an artist. He encouraged creativity, almost to an absurd level at times, which forever changed the way I think about the act of creation.
Many Cooper alumni are famous for their works in comics. Were any of them an influence for you? Who?
Bob Kane has influenced me through the creation of his famous character, Batman. Batman is a representation of the hero within us all. He is someone who struggled to do better, and continues to be a positive force in spite of overwhelming odds. When you can create something that is new, imaginative, and resonates with universal aspects of human experience, that’s when you create ART.
What is your favorite medium for creating art?
Pencil and paper were my first loves, and continued to be my default medium until about 7 yrs ago when I began working digitally more. Since then I work almost exclusively on my laptop, which I’ve found allows for greater speed and accessibility when working as a freelance commercial artist. My favorite programs to use right now are Flash for animation and Gimp for just about anything else.I keep my paper, pen and pencil drawing chops up by creating observational, gesture drawings of live events which can be found here: www.jerseyboypdx.blogspot.com
How did you end up in Portland?
In 2006, I left the east coast in search of the great American adventure. I bought a van, gave away most of my possessions, and left a burgeoning career in animation to hit the road and discover what else was out there. It was an amazing time that exposed me to a great deal about life, this country, and its people. I lived and worked in a number of states, eventually finding my way to Portland after visiting a few times prior.
What would your classmates be surprised to learn either about you or about Portland?
The pace of life is slower in Portland than in New York. I have yet to figure out why, but people here just don’t rush. And nothing ever happens on time! As a born and bred east coaster, I’ve found this characteristic of Portlanders to be welcoming and frustrating. They are happy to have a casual conversation with a stranger, and they wouldn’t cross the street on a yellow light if they were on fire.That being said, Portland is considered by many to be the Brooklyn of the West Coast and there are a lot of east coast transplants out here.
Please tell us a little bit about your KickStarter Project: Tell me a Story…
Tell Me A Story… :an interactive, animated, sci-fiexperience puts you in control of the central character while you explore your past through memories and interactions with others. You’re about to leave the only home you’ve ever known to explore what lies beyond, and those closest to you have shown up to say goodbye. You will experience the memories of past shared adventures with your loved ones. When you return to the present you will see others whom you encountered in the past and be able to share memories with them, exploring deeper and deeper into your own past to reveal the story of your life and what leads to you leaving your home.This project brings together many passions of mine and a main motivation for me has been to share those passions with others: I have loved animation and comics since I was a child; I have a profound interest in the paranormal and unexplained; I like stories and media that allow the audience to actively participate; and I love collaborating with other talented people. Developing this concept and putting together this Kickstarter project has allowed me to do all of these things.
Who is the audience for this interactive sci-fi experience?
Many of the creative decisions that have gone in to Tell Me a Story… were centered on the concept of creating a story that was accessible to a global audience. I’ve avoided cultural and racial biases by creating a cast of aliens who communicate without language. The reader will come to understand the meanings of the symbols used by the characters, thereby becoming a member of an international tribe of Tell Me A Story… fans.
I believe anyone who enjoys comics, animation, sci-fi, and video games will enjoy Tell Me A Story…
How many possible variations does the story have?
Right now I’ve planned 10 stories for this KickStarter. They are designed to introduce the reader to the bizarre universe and strange characters that make up your environment. The dynamics of the outcome depend on the relationships you have developed. All choices will ultimately lead to the present (to the point before you leave home) your actions in the past determine who is there to say goodbye when you leave, and how much you learn about your character’s past.
When the KickStarter is funded, I will introduce more characters and stories that go into your character’s past and present motivations. This is the first of 3 projects I’ve planned, and I eventually hope to create a community where other artists, creators and storytellers can contribute their own fan-fiction or art and become a part of the overall experience that is Tell Me A Story…
Can you tell us how much art work is necessary to illustrate that number of stories?
The project, when completed, will have traditional comic panels mixed with animated panels. It will bring together animators, illustrators, stop-motion artists, fractal artists, HTML5 programmers, and musicians. It takes a great deal, and a variety, of art to bring this project together.
What portions of this project are you doing?
I’m directing, producing, illustrating and possibly animating. Animation is my favorite artistic activity at the moment and it’s extremely time consuming, so I may have to let that one go for now.
Are you a writer?
No. I don’t consider myself a writer and I haven’t pursued it with any gusto. In fact, when creating this story I storyboarded the initial concepts because it was easier than forcing myself to write them down. I have several notebooks full of storyboards and comic pages that make-up the backbone of the story of Tell Me A Story… Once I got those ideas down visually, I was able to begin transcribing the concepts and editing the meta-story.
Tell us more about your partners.
I met both Temris Ridge and Morgan Sheffield while we were all working on a project at Bent Image Labs in Portland. Temris is a board member of ASIFA (Association International du Film d’Animation) Portland and she has screened her work at several festivals locally and internationally. Morgan is originally from NY and he moved to Portland about 8 or 9 yrs ago to work with the 2D animation studios out here. They are both extremely talented animator-illustrators with a passion for storytelling.
I met Taylor Libonati when I was getting ready to put together my pitch and launch the KickStarter. Taylor is a programmer and game designer who lives in Portland. His experience programming in HTML5 will help us bring the many elements within Tell Me A Story… together seamlessly.
Both Danny Homan and Arcane found me just before I launched the KickStarter and I was sharing some elements of the project with the public. They approached me individually about contributing to Tell Me A Story… and I was extremely impressed with their work. Arcane is an incredible visual artist with many years of experience creating fractal designs, and Danny is a fantastic writer who has assisted me with many aspects of the KickStarter campaign.
Links to everyone’s portfolios are available on the KickStarter page for Tell Me A Story…
What rewards will your backers receive?
Tell Me A Story…‘s Backers will get regular updates, have their names published on our Thank You pages, receive digital wallpapers and signed prints of concept art. Backers who give $30 or more, will be given a pencil drawing of themselves as an alien from Tell Me A Story…. Other Backers will get Tell Me A Story… sketchbooks and art books featuring never before seen concept art. Some Backers will get to create their own character to be featured in the first chapter of Tell Me A Story…
The funding period ends 1/5/2014.
Learn More aboutTell Me a Story…