Can you tell us a bit about you—where you come from and how you got here?
My name is Greg Kletsel, and I’m an illustrator, character designer, educator, sketchbook-filler, zine-maker… Basically, I like to draw, and that’s what I do most days whether for work or for fun. My drawing started in South Florida, where I was born and raised on lots of TV, pop culture, and video games—the usual things with which a kid in the 90s grew up. After studying graphic design at the University of Florida, I worked at a small design firm in Miami, called Doink, and then, I moved to New York City and worked for a few branding agencies.
I made the jump to illustration in 2011 and have been doing that ever since. That career change has led to lots of different opportunities, from working with The New York Times, The New Yorker, ESPN and Netflix, to creating an animated short for Nickelodeon and teaching a sketchbook class at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. I’m now based in Atlanta, where I continue to work as an illustrator.
How did you discover art? Was there a moment or event that set you on this path?
I’ve been drawing since I was a kid, copying all the comic book and TV characters of which I was a fan. I wanted to be a Disney animator when I was young. Disney was a big thing growing up in Florida! We’d go to the theme parks all the time. You could see the animators’ desks on the animation studio tour at MGM Studios, and I think that was pivotal.
The idea that I could be a grown up—who draws for a living—was mind-blowing to me. I sort of moved away from that idea as I got older, but I had a few friends in college who helped me find my way back to art as a career path. They saw me drawing all the time, instead of taking notes, and they helped me realize I was in the wrong major (Advertising with Pre-Med). Luckily, I found the graphic design department at The School of Art and Art History at UF. As a developing artist, it gave me structure, and it helped me understand commercial art.
Moving to New York was also an important event on the road to becoming an illustrator. In NYC, I was able to reconnect with a lot of my former design classmates, as well as a broader community of artists and creative people in the city. I also found my way into independent comics festivals, like MoCCA Fest and Comic Arts Brooklyn, exposing me to a whole new world of art. I think that helped me find my way on this roundabout journey of drawing for a living, which was the ultimate goal.