The Art and Animation of Glen Hanson
You can recognize his signature style anywhere – from the runways of Milan, to Animated TV shows, magazine racks, toy stores, book shelves and even the fragrance isle of your local drug store, Glen Hanson is everywhere!
His illustrations have appeared in a variety of publications around the world including BRITISH VOGUE and GQ, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, NEWSWEEK, THE WALL ST. JOURNAL, MAXIM, VARIETY and D.C. COMICS and on book covers for RANDOM HOUSE, KENSINGTON, HARLEQUIN, and most recently, the popular “GODDESS GIRLS” series for SIMON & SCHUSTER.
His roster of advertising clients includes TIMEX, GRAND MARNIER, McDonald’s, and SUNSILK shampoo. His development illustrations for MATTEL’S “MONSTER HIGH” dolls set the tone for the brand on packaging, design and the animated spin off. He has created poster images for the Off-Broadway hit musical “ALTAR BOYZ”, Seth Rudetsky’s “SETH’S BIG FAT BROADWAY SHOW” and the play “MISS ABIGAIL’S GUIDE TO DATING, MATING and MARRIAGE”, on CD covers for House Music Label PURPLE MUSIC and BLINK 182’s “THE MARK, TOM and TRAVIS SHOW” for which Glen was awarded a certificate of excellence from the AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF GRAPHIC ARTS.
Throughout North America, Glen’s images adorn gift set boxes and print ads for BOD men’s and women’s fragrance products. They have also appeared on the runways of Milan on a series of t-shirts as part of the spring and fall ’05 collections of European men’s wear designer, ANDREW MACKENZIE. Ads designed by Glen for those collections were featured in both L’UOMO VOGUE and FLAUNT magazines. REV JEANS Italy as well hired him to create a line of sexy t-shirt images and NYC based designer KARA ROSS has used his fashion illustrations to promote her line of high end accessories.
In Animation, Glen started out by designing characters for TV’s BABAR, BEETLEJUICE and DARIA cartoon shows. In 2000 he was nominated for an ANNIE AWARD for his art direction and design on MTV’s internationally syndicated SPY GROOVE series. He has since developed shows for NICKELODEON, FILM ROMAN, STUDIO B, and DISNEY. He co-wrote, designed and storyboarded a series of animated promo spots for SOAP NET entitled “CRESCENT HOLLOW” and in 2009 he combined all his talents to direct, design and storyboard the animated music video “GHOST TOWN” for UNIVERSAL MUSIC recording artists SHINY TOY GUNS.
I had the unique opportunity to meet the man behind the art and get to know him as a quiet sweetheart with a mighty pen. Insert mighty pen joke here, lol. Check out my one on one with him as he chatted about his growing up in a Seventh Day Adventist high school, racism in the US and how he cultivated his talent and became the self-powered marketing machine he is today.
Do you remember what your first drawings were of as a kid?
Not from memory but thank goodness my Father saved many of them, so I would say probably Disney characters.
Who were your earliest artistic influences growing up?
Without a doubt, Disney and Hanna-Barbera Animation.
What kind of kid were you? What high school group did you hang out with?
I was very shy and quiet and drew all the time through elementary school. Not at all athletic until I reached puberty and High School where I became much “cooler” and more popular. My High School friends were all very funny & talented and we used to exchange satiric drawings & comics we’d do of the uptight faculty and annoying classmates.
How did you develop your skills? Did you go to school for animation/art?
I was completely self-taught through observation of animation, comic books and the few books on art I was given until I went to College for Animation.
How did you start marketing your talent… for drawing that is?!
I was a very ballsy and ambitious young man who cold called magazines & Animation Studios and just set up appointments to show my portfolio. I usually got jobs immediately and was very lucky to be challenged and stretched by those who hired me.
What did it feel like the first time you saw your work in a major ad?
My first major ad was a national McDonald’s Summer Tumbler with my illustration on it. That was pretty cool and it really impressed my parents!
How long did it take to create and perfect your signature style?
I began working commercially right away but, often times, in many different styles depending on the job assignment. I used to color by hand before going digital but inked line was pretty recognizable from the outset.
You seem to have a deep connection with pop culture, much of your work has been inspired by it and now, your work is part of pop culture history. What fascinates you about pop culture?
I think Pop Culture reflects so much of where our society is now, or has been at the time. It’s our link to the thoughts and tone of the North America, The Western World, or now with Social Media, The Planet, and I think it’s important to stay current and informed on what’s new and what’s going on.
What is your creative process from idea to execution? What is your favorite medium?
Pencil sketch. Ink. Scan. Digital Color. My favorite part of the process is the initial pencil sketch that has all the original energy and inspiration. It’s almost an unfiltered connection between my mind and the paper.
When did you move to the US from Canada? What were the biggest things that took you by surprise about Americans that you discovered after making that move?
I first moved from Toronto to NYC in 1995. Of course, NYC can be overwhelming but I’m sorry to say that the biggest shock was the inherent racism and connection between race and class in the U.S. I hadn’t experienced that to anywhere the same degree in Canada.
How do you effectively mix your vision with what your collaborators want, from ad campaigns to TV shows?
Usually I’m hired for my style so the client wants my particular vision or input however, they’re still paying the bills so despite what I think, theirs is the final word.
I’m OBSESSED with Monster High – what a great project with Mattel. What was it like working with them?
I was brought in so early on Monster High and it was great but a little difficult because I had to create something cohesive from a lot of different directions and options. Plus, the staff literally changed while I was working on the project AND after I was done, I couldn’t show it to ANYONE for almost 3 years till the dolls finally came out.
Some of your work is very sexual, does this affect getting hired for mainstream campaigns?
It may have, and I made a concerted effort to move away from highly sexual male drawings for that reason as well as the fact I found it creatively unfulfilling and it didn’t pay anywhere near as well.
How has the animation industry changed the most over the years?
It’s expanded enormously… like, 1000% and of course, I was trained in 2D hand drawn animation and most animation is now digital and many projects are 3D.
Do you have to keep up with tech advances in creating art now that everything is digital?
I actually need to do more of that. I think it would expand the visual range of what I could do.
You’ve worked on some really great cartoons, my favorite being Beetlejuice. How did you go about creating your cartoon characters? How does this process differ from your other work?
I began in the early stages of development on Beetlejuice and we were faxing (giggle) over sketches to Tim Burton in London while he was directing Batman! The tricky part was finding the visual style and tone that adapted the PG Movie for a Saturday Morning Kid audience. The other issue with TV is you’re dealing with approvals from a LOT of people… creators, networks, sponsors and they ALL have say so that can be frustrating.
Your work has become a part of LGBT history, as well as pop culture history. Why do you think the LGBT community responds so strongly to your work?
That’s a huge compliment… thank you! I think I’m pretty tapped into “Gay Sensibilities”… whatever those are. I must admit however, that things are changing so quickly with the LGBTQ Community… their tastes and politics that it feels like light years from when I was a kid. It’s astounding how far we’ve come in 50 years since Stonewall and yet that’s really not that long ago and all those gains could be lost even more quickly.
What was your own coming out like?
Ugh. Well, I was sent to a Seventh Day Adventist High School so you can imagine it wasn’t easy or supported when I was a teen. Media showed me there was a thriving Gay Population in Urban Centers and I didn’t let anything curb my self-expression in terms of how I dressed but it was still a long road towards full self-acceptance in my early 20’s. Even then, it still took therapy in my late 20’s to shed most of the sexual shame I still had.
What do you think the LGBT community needs to do the most during this current social and political climate?
Maintain a “BIG PICTURE POV”. I think so many young people in the Community are so caught up in language and “PC Thinking” because they are living in bubbles with like-minded friends that they forget that their perspective is completely different from the majority of society. I also see the tendency to “eat our own” (the Bernie VS. Hillary supporters feud for example) and I think now we really need to STICK TOGETHER and focus on big issues to make sure the freedoms we enjoy are not lost. The other side might be completely deluded and unwilling to see reality but they will continue to support their side regardless of what heinous things are done or said by their leaders and that might give them the advantage unless we learn to do more of the same.
What is one of your favorite projects you’ve worked on?
OMG… SO MANY! In Animation I loved working on Beetlejuice, Spy Groove and directing the Shiny Toy Guns Video! In illustration I loved working for British Vogue, NY Times, the final Seinfeld issue of TV Guide, Fashion campaigns for Andrew Mackenzie and Fyodor Golan, my G-Man book, Monster High Dolls, Lady Gaga Tour Costumes, the early Goddess Girls books. Co-writing the Chelsea Boys comic strip and a “Wonder Woman” graphic novel for DC were pretty cool too! These are all career highlights but I could probably think of 100 more.
What’s up ahead for you?
More caricatures, more book covers, more merch, and more writing/creating! Stay tuned!
Celebrity crush: Sam Elliot in “Lifeguard”
Someone you would not create a caricature of: I don’t like to be cruel so… no Republicans!
Worst date: It’s a toss up between the guy who gave me crabs and wouldn’t return my phone calls and the guy who brought me home, said he wanted to cuddle and then woke me up at 3am and told me I had to get out.
Favorite cartoon: I like too many. I can’t pick just one.
What celebrity who has passed would you want to sit down and have dinner with? I think Writer Gore Vidal would be a fascinating dinner companion.