Greg Guler's career began at two years old with a rendition of a 1930s Popeye the sailor—and today spans more than 50 years of experience and a myriad of noteworthy projects, including several years with DC Comics and an impressive list of Disney TV series.
One of Greg’s earliest inspirations was watching Saturday morning cartoons as a child, following the adventures of classics like Mighty Mouse, Popeye, and the original Disney characters. Becoming enamored with cartoon and animated characters, Greg drew as many as he could.
“I’ve always loved creating a world where the rules didn't apply, a fantasy environment. My parents used to ask me why I wouldn’t just draw a normal horse—I prefer to make up my own renditions of characters," Greg says.
Today it seems Greg’s inspiration has come full circle—as one of the original character designers for Disney’s hit TV series Phineas & Ferb, (and an artist for Walter Foster's Learn to Draw Phineas & Ferb), Greg stays inspired through the response of the show's young audience. Although he leaves his home in Colorado one week per month to work in-house at the Disney studios, Greg is often able to visit local schools or bookstores and interact with Phineas fans—that is, when they don’t find him first.
Greg says the youngsters in his neighborhood have identified him as “the Phineas & Ferb guy”, and have been known to stop him while out on a neighborhood walk to make story requests.
“They may not realize that I don’t actually write theshow, but they often have pretty good ideas!” Greg laughs.
Greg also stays motivated knowing that he helps make something both kids and adults enjoy, especially in collaboration with a remarkable team like Disney. His list of projects for the company includes Buzz Lightyear of Star Command—Buzz’s prequel to the Toy Story series—Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Darkwing Duck, Gargoyles, Lilo & Stitch and A Goofy Movie.
Greg is especially proud of his involvement with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, remembering that it was no easy artistic task to convert the show's original 2D Mickey and friends characters into a design formatted for CG animation.
The advances of modern technology impressive as they are, Greg still values the tried-and-true method of drawing with a pencil and paper. Perhaps it helps remind him of the “less is more” approach he takes toward composition, being careful to stay concise and not add too much of what professionals call “line mileage” to a piece.
“As a character designer, your job is to communicate the design in a way that helps the animator keep things clear; it’s important to know what details to include and what not to. In the end, people should be focused on the character itself, rather than the drawing,” Greg says.
This finesse with simplicity is something Greg has developed with experience, learning to value the fun, playful spirit of his work. Greg says this progression is natural for most artists, remembering an obsession with overly-realistic details early on in his own career.
“As you get older you start to analyze things differently. Every drawing doesn't need to look like a photograph—though you always want levity in your drawings, you learn to appreciate the fun.”
Growing to cherish the fun in his work, like this year's holiday card above, has no doubt helped Greg to invest so much time in his craft over the years. In the rare moments when he’s not drawing, Greg enjoys spending time with his family—his wife, two children, and pair of beagles named Smudge and Trinket.
Overall, Greg is passionate about art and the process of developing creativity in the younger generation. He’d give any budding artist the same encouragement he passes on to elementary school students: if you enjoy drawing, keep doing it no matter what.
“Most people can draw if they really want to. It’s a matter of making the time and training your brain and hand to do what you see—just remember nobody in the universe but you can draw what’s inside your pen!” Greg says.