Tommy Perez is a multi-disciplinary maker, with a heavy emphasis on the multi. Illustrator, designer, lettering artist, animator and paper-folding savant, there seems to be no limit to what he can do. What always stays the same, however, is the playful, colorful and endlessly impressive nature of everything he creates.
Tommy will be a keynote speaker at the Wemake Disrupt conference, and we are so excited to have him. We had the chance to ask Tommy a few questions about his inspiration, his process and of course, paper.
MB: Can you tell us a little about your creative journey so far?
TP: My creative journey has taken a bit of a turn from what I initially thought I was going to be doing. I'm super stoked with where I'm at right now, but coming out of art school I thought I'd be doing traditional graphic design; branding, publications, packaging and stuff like that. I got pretty burnt out in my first job out of college and started a little passion project for myself on the side. I wanted to stay creative and keep challenging myself and I knew I wanted to make things with my hands again. So I started a silly paper craft side project that eventually turned into the career I have now!
MB: What do you think the benefits are of using physical paper instead of digitally rendering something similar?
TP: I kinda struggle with this, the reason I got into making the stuff I make is because I was really inspired by 3D art. I loved it so much but I didn't (and still don't) know any of the programs, so I decided to try and make it out of the medium I knew, paper! I think you get so much from making the physical piece, the imperfections, the charm. All that character and love that gets transferred from your hands to the paper piece is something that's extremely difficult to translate in a rendering. However, I have been told numerous times that my stuff looks like renderings, so there's that haha!
MB: What is the most complicated piece you’ve worked on? Why?
TP: Every project has its own unique problems and solutions so it's hard to pick just one. But if I had to it would be this 'April Showers' piece. It's a full size umbrella with paper raindrops surrounding it. I'm not a photographer by any means and photographing shiny plastic objects is a pain in the ass to get right. Also at the time it was the largest piece I had created, I painted my entire wall blue because I didn't have a seamless big enough. There were just so many variables, the floating raindrops, the suspended umbrella, my daughter's hand coming in and holding it. It took some time to create the piece but I'm really happy with the challenge and how it turned out.
MB: What does your planning and process generally look like for an animation piece?
TP: I try to plan everything out before I make and shoot anything, especially if I'm doing an animation! I start out storyboarding how I want the animation to unfold, doesn't have to be 100% but it's usually pretty tight. Once that's all figure out and I've made everything it's shooting time. If I'm shooting with my friend, Patrick, we rehearse all the steps/movements multiple times before we begin shooting. The rehearsal helps to avoid multiple takes and just makes things easier overall. After everything is shot, I take the photos into Photoshop for editing and animating.
MB: What do you look for when you’re picking out paper for a project?
TP: It's usually a mess of paper spread out everywhere haha! I like to cut little swatches of different colors and create multiple color palettes. I know i have the ability to shift colors in post production, but I always try to get as close to the approved color as I can.
MB: You have such a playful, fun style - did that come naturally to you or did it evolve over time?
TP: Thank you! I think it's definitely a bit of both. It took a bit of time, experimenting and learning to let my voice come through in the work I make. I truly believe that if you're having fun and are passionate about your work that all of that comes out in the final piece. People will definitely pick up on that!
MB: I like to imagine that you have a library full of paper burgers and colorful props you’ve made for your work. What actually happens with all your paper creations at the end of a project?
TP: Haha I'd love to live in that world! A lot of the pieces end up in being stored in plastic bins. The stack is getting a bit out of hand, but I've moved a few times, so that has helped keep the amount down. I'm a big fan of reusing things whenever possible, gotta create that content. Some of the pieces also go to the client, which is awesome because they get this cool little keepsake from the project!
MB: What or who are you drawing inspiration from recently?
TP: I try to draw inspiration from everything around me. I like to follow artists outside of what I do; chefs, illustrators, writers. I don't really follow many other artists who make stuff out of paper, not because I'm not a fan (I am!), I just don't want to be "too inspired" by their work and created similar things.
MB: What can you be found doing when you’re not working?
TP: Spending time with family and friends, skateboarding, reading, and always making something even if it's not 'work' haha!
MB: Why do you make?
TP: I make because I have to.