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My mom constantly reminds me of when I was a young and asked to sleep, she caught me under my covers with a flashlight and a sketch pad in order to keep drawing. I’ve always loved to draw. It’s been my passion. And like an old friend, drawing has always been by my side. We go through life’s journey together.

When I was a kid, my father was in the U.S. Navy so we traveled a lot. We finally settled down in Jacksonville, Florida when he retired. My parents wanted me to be an engineer. I wanted to be an artist. So, we compromised and I went to architecture school. After graduation, in pursuit of “the big city” and a passion for my artwork, I moved to San Francisco. There I found neighborhood street fairs, art museums, theater, and architecture that inspired me. That was nearly twenty-five years ago and I haven’t moved since. I have no regrets, although, I do miss my folks because it’s a long way from Jacksonville to San Francisco.

Since then, I’ve worked at several architectural firms. I draw buildings. The drawings are put together carefully and with great attention to detail. In the evenings, I draw my cartoons. The artwork here is quite different then what I produce during the day. I play with my art supplies like a child in a sandbox. The drawings are put together quickly and a lot of energy. Both worlds, as different as they are, contribute towards my artistic development.

Currently, I am a project manager for HDO Architects & Planners, Inc., a northern California architectural firm. I also draw my humorous illustrations and animation whenever I can. I live in Concord, California with my wife Lucille and daughter Genevieve. I hope my work inspires you!



When did you first decide to become a graphic designer/ illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?

The magic of drawing has always fascinated me because with the slight of hand … BLAM! I could move mountains. There really was never a pivotal moment to become an illustrator because I’ve always loved to draw. Like many of the illustrators interviewed on this blog, I’m the kid who never really excelled at sports or academics but put a pencil and piece of paper in front of me, well now, that is a different story. I could stay occupied for hours.

Who or what inspires you?

Of course, I have to start with my wife Lucille and daughter Gennie. They bring much joy and love to my life which I try to show in my drawings. We inspire each other as together we sketch in coffee shops and drawing groups.

Through the years, I’ve collected a great deal of art books that inspire me. San Francisco is known for its coffee shops and used book stores. I own probably enough books to last a lifetime but somehow I always find room for another. Among my favorite artists found in these books: Ronald Searle, Paul Hogarth, Ralph Steadman, Dave Cooper and Robert Crumb (to name a few).

Podcasts have also inspired me. I especially enjoy the podcast. Erik J. Olsen has created podcasts that in his words are “by, for, and about illustrators”. I’ve downloaded all of his interviews into my ipod and hook it up to my car stereo wherever I go. That’s all I ever listen to these days and if you’re like me, it’s a good excuse to finally go out and buy that expensive ipod.

Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?

For illustration: I’m pretty much self-taught. For design: I went to the University of Florida for my architecture degree and Diablo Valley College for my multimedia.

Through the years, I’ve tried to take at least one college course per semester. The courses keep my brain fresh and it feels good to know I improve with every year. My theory has always been: as tax payers, we contribute millions of dollars into the community college system each year. Why not get our moneys’ worth, right? I believe the system works. Whenever I’m curious about any topic at all, I take a college course. Sometimes, without knowing anything about a topic, by the end of the course, I become an expert. That’s priceless. Especially in this day and age, with the digital explosion, I’ve taken classes just to keep up. I realized no one could ever have the time, patience, or resources to sit down with me and teach me all this stuff (not even my best buddy at work). College teachers are so incredibly knowledgeable, dedicated, and teach in a structured way. They taught me the right way and in the tenth of the time then if I were to learn it on my own. They’re there for you. So, take a class!

How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?

I get most of my inspiration from art-blogs. About a year ago, I created artwork but never knew how to share it. Then I read a magazine article about blogging. After seeing how easy it was to start my blog account ( and upload to it, I was hooked! I was no longer an oyster and I no longer had the excuse to create unshared artwork. Overnight, I was communicating with artists from all over the world. We all speak a language that needs no words: our art. I’ve heard somewhere that we artists are the happiest people on earth. It’s a great time to be an artist!

Oh yeah, and did I mention blogging is all for free? Yep.

What are some of your current projects?

I continue to submit artwork to websites like and whenever I can. Also, I’ve been preparing gallery pieces for a local art show coming up in March. It will be my first show so I’m pretty excited about that. It’s been a lot of fun drawing for “me” for a change.

Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?

My biggest achievement is my Mad Magazine assignment. Here’s my submission for “Desmond the Bungling Bomber”. I was the artist. Duck Edwing was the writer. The magazine publisher put our styles together. Being a Mad Magazine artist fulfilled a lifelong dream. Here’s the link:

Here’s another. It’s a PSA that I drew for Project Open Hand I drew for a class. Check this one out:

Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?

I’m currently developing ideas for a comic strip revolving around my Filipino-American heritage. Many cartoonists have said to draw on a topic that you can be enthusiastic and knowledgeable about. I feel it is important to celebrating my culture and carry it on to the next generations. In order to know where we’re going, we have to know where we’ve been.

I’d also like to keep creating my web cartoons. The process of hand-drawn 2danimation takes a long time but seeing the end result makes all the efforts seem worthwhile!

For my favorite animation, here’s “Fido’s Revenge”:

Here’s the link to my cartoons that I’ve completed so far. They are all truly a labor of love. Enjoy:

Any advice to the novice designer/ illustrator?

Draw every day in your sketchbook and your drawings will inevitably become stronger. Take the knowledge that you’ve learned from one drawing and take it onto the next. Do what you love to do, be an individual and your style will inevitably shine. Be patient. When you finally find your individual style - run up to the tallest hill and sing at the top your lungs: “I did it my way! Yippeee!!”

What makes a designed piece or illustration successful?

“Being in the Zone” is when I go through my entire illustration process and not go backwards due to a dumb mistake. That is success. I try to always go forward. It’s taken some practice, but when it happens, I know. Hours just melt away because I become so focused. It’s sort of like a trance. Scary stuff but cool!

The true measure of a good illustration is how it makes me feel inside when I complete it. If it pleases “me”, then I know it will please my client and audience.

What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?

To keep motivated, I carry around my sketchbook and watercolor set wherever I go. My college art teacher taught me to always carry around a sketchbook and let it be an extension of my arm. Whether in a coffee shop, standing in a long line, or waiting for a show to begin, I draw! Whenever I get a paid illustration assignment, there have been several occasions that I’ve thumbed through my sketchbooks for a certain image I’ve drawn in the past. Each sketch brings up memories of a certain time or event. Sometimes, I get inspired in the middle of the night so I keep a sketchbook by my bedside. I get my best ideas through dreams which I later animate.

I join weekend sketch groups to keep me motivated. We meet on the weekends and sketch all day together. I’ve met many friends this way. Check out to see if a group meets near you. After sketching all day, I feel invigorated and a feeling similar to returning from a weekend retreat. Sometimes it’s hard to come back down to earth (reality).

And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?

I really enjoy reality shows. My schedule is quite busy but whenever I can, I try to watch some MTV in order to stay current. I think they do a pretty good job of them. For example: MTV’s “My Sweet Sixteen” show kids when they celebrate their debutantes (sixteenth year birthday parties). The main characters are from these super rich families that plan these outrageously huge parties - so huge that the price of the parties looks more like telephone numbers!

Bravo Network’s “Project Runway” is another family favorite. Clothing designers are assigned design challenges at the beginning of the show that must be completed and shown by the end. The cameras follow the designers from sketchpad to runway until the judges debate over the final designs. I like the show because I enjoy the design process. The show emphasizes the fundamental principles for all design: design starts with a pencil and you must be true to yourself in order to please others.

Thanks for visiting, it’s been fun. I hope you’ve enjoyed the interview.

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Choper Nawers! said...

i like your style very the mod you add to your drawings..congrats....

Unknown said...

Great interview Vern. It's nice to learn about your creative background and stories!! THanks for sharing your experience and story!

Anonymous said...

Great information...on your background, current plans and your inspirations... Scott-DVC

Escritos de improviso said...

very nice work, vern..looking forward to seeing more of your creations!

Joanie Larsen said...

Thank you for inspiring're very accomplished. I love your loose drawing style and the personality of your characters. I'm going to start taking classed again!

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