Monkey Doodle Dandy
Monkey Doodle Dandy is as fun as its name implies with a moniker that is reminiscent of a sugar-charged ten year old tearing through the yard with oblivion. The toy design duo () behind Monkey Doodle Dandy equally achieves the same level of exhilaration with their charming properties and illustrations. My interview with Kurt offered a taste of the cute and scary ingredient that makes up current toy appeal as well as the upcoming licensing of Monkey Doodle Dandy’s own cute creations, Squaredy Cats and Squarey Monsters. Congratulations, Kurt and Elaine!
1) How and when did you and Elaine first start Monkey Doodle Dandy?
Elaine went to FIT’s Toy Design program, and worked for The Idea Factory then Tara Toy after completing the program. I was working as the art director at a Brooklyn publishing group, and desperately needed to be more creative, and do something more rewarding. I sold some panel cartoons for several years, but never enough to make a living. I did some freelance work for some of the project managers at Tara Toy while Elaine was there, and finally left my job to freelance design for various companies. Elaine left Tara Toy, and took a temporary position at Fisher Price. I continued to freelance, and we discussed the possibilities of freelancing together once her position at Fisher Price was to end. At that point I was learning some of the necessary skills and specifics for toy design, andtaking freelance work from some project managers at Fisher Price as well. We decided it would be a good idea to incorporate, and brainstormed a company name we thought would be fun. Soon. We were both working from home, and through word of mouth we managed to get enough work to survive, and enjoy what we were doing.
2) What are your influences?
My favorite art to look at is usually something that mixes cute and frightening. Charles Addams is my favorite cartoonist, and I love Jhonen Vasquez’s work, and all he’s done to influence the direction that mainstream gothic art has taken. I love to look at anything that looks horror related, but manages to stay “safe” by being cute. It’s become more commercial, but I’m okay with that because my style has grown to incorporate the young style that exists in modern toys while what I am inspired by has done the same thing. We watched independent brands like Emily the Strange, Ruby Gloom, Teddy Scares, and Skelanimals grow each year at licensing events, and wished we’d done more to promote the GirlMonsters.
3)What would be an ideal project to work on?
Ideally I would want to collaborate. I feel like we work in a bubble sometimes. Mixing up with other creatives is really important to generate new ways of thinking. My favorite thing to do is when I get to illustrate with a solid direction and assignment, but no boundaries. When no license is involved, I get to draw what’s in my head instead of what’s in the style guide.
4) What advice do you have for artists/illustrators just starting out?
My best advice to artists just starting out is don’t be afraid. You probably have know for several years you want to be an artist. Don’t fall into the trap of getting stuck confusing your work ethic with your passion to be creative. If you don’t like the work you have move on. Put what you WANT to do in your portfolio, not necessarily what you CAN do or do best. The only way to be happy being an professional artist is if you are doing what you want to do, and finding a way to get paid for it.
I must say, I enjoyed finding the answers to your questions a liberating experience. Something all artists should consider is finding a group to discuss your work with. We all need critique, and the opportunity to spill our brains into words so we know what’s happening up there. We think so visually, we rarely get a chance to understand it in literal language.