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Rising Stars: Meet Josh McKenzie

Today we’d like to introduce you to Josh McKenzie.

Hi Josh, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I’m a gay kid from the suburbs of Flint, Michigan and I spent entirely too much time in front of the TV. This habit led to spending entirely too much time on the computer, on forums, and watching anime until 4 in the morning. After years of unhealthy projection onto fictional cartoon characters, I followed the logical path: drawing my own cartoon characters that I could project upon unhealthily.

I got my BFA in Illustration at Northern Michigan University which was great for meeting fellow artists-turned-friends which was great for broadening my nerd horizons. From there, I got my first taste of the Freelance Artist lifestyle living primarily off of very, very lean freelance projects in Chicago.

In 2015, I moved to LA. I began to try to learn the myriad skills required to be an effective storyboard artist, and then, I failed a lot! One time, I got so nervous at an interview at a studio that they outright didn’t hire me because I was a nervous wreck. I failed so many times, in fact, that it took me five years to even begin to get my foot in the door. Along the way, though, I’ve met a lot of excellent friends and peers, and I’ve even gotten to do cool things like be the Assistant Curator at Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra.

Now, I’m a storyboard artist at Nickelodeon, and I’m in the process of shopping around my first young adult-focused graphic novel. I’m beyond psyched to be able to spend my time drawing and making up stories, and it’s something I’ll keep doing forever.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Well, I failed a lot, but I think most people do. Besides that, I’m extremely lucky – I’ve got supportive parents who cheer me on, and I’ve always managed to find a part-time job and roommates to get by with here in LA. I’m also extremely fortunate that I’ve had friends and acquaintances in the comics/animation industries that I could rely on for advice and support along the way, and one of my main goals in life is to pay forward the kindness I’ve been shown.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I’d be remiss if I said I’m known for anything more than “gay monsters”. I’m interested in supernatural and monstrous creatures doing the human and the banal – dating, working at a horrible retail job, and playing in bands. Growing up with a steady diet of pop-punk and anime, my work is focused on a love of play, adventure, the intricacies of relationships and simply finding one’s place in the world.

Is there anyone you’d like to thank or give credit to?
Absolutely too many people to name. I owe many, many people the world for their help and their confidence in me over the last 12 years. I want to particularly say thank you to Anne Walker Farrell and Nicole Filiatrault, two wonderful animation professionals who always take the time to give me feedback and advice on my work. That said, if anyone who knows me happens to be reading, please know that I probably owe you a lot!

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