Ziggy the Beer Yeast: The Artist

Chris Tokunaga 01Ziggy the Beer Yeast is one of the first, if not THE first, craft beer games for mobile devices.  Plain and simple, it’s a video game for the craft beer lover. The art in the game is nothing short of whimsical.  Chris Tokunaga did an amazing job of capturing a of steam punkish style and giving Ziggy life.  I’m always interested in what makes artists like Chris tick so I do a short interview with him and this is what he said.

Bierkast: What is your art background? How did you get in to animation. Career history?

Chris: Back in the early 90s I’d dropped out of college and was couch surfing in SF while holding odd jobs. On a whim, I applied for a summer scholarship to Academy of Art and got in. I’d always loved to illustrate in pen and ink (cheapest art tool around) but never had any formal training until that summer.
After the summer program ended I moved down to LA,  went to Otis briefly, and soon ended up at a web design start up and ended up being an art director there for a few years. Most of the work I did there was kid-centric. I was able to incorporate illustration and design. I did that for six years and then went freelance.
It’s only been through the freedom of freelance that I’ve become a bit more comfortable in my abilities as an illustrator. As for animation, that’s been a seat of my pants make it up as I go kinda thing. I definitely know what I like, and what I’d like to see, but it takes me a bit longer to get there than someone who has been formally trained. Even then I think it falls short in the longer animations.
Chris Tokunaga SketchBierkast: Do you have any artists, illustrators, animators you look up to or particularly like?
Chris: Definitely – Al Hirschfeld, Robert Crumb, Berkeley Breathed, Ralph Steadman.
I always loved the pen and ink guys. I really dig the way they’re able to bring depth, gesture and emotion to black and white. Breathed and Steadman are the reason I try and pepper little dust particles around the character whenever I can.
Bierkast: What are you working on outside of tip tok? Any cool projects? Pictures or concept art?
Chris: I think I’m drawn to the freelance lifestyle because of the ability to work on a variety of projects with a variety of clients. Not sure if this is true of all creative stuff, but when my brain gets stuck on something, it’s much easier to switch gears and jump to a new project for a few hours and then come back.
Currently working on a print gig which has helped me to learn InDesign. Also doing ground up work on a retail site creating all the branding and figuring out the UI. And then there’s the occasional band poster, t-shirt, and online game. I’ve been fortunate to be keeping busy.
Bierkast: What was your inspiration for the ziggy character?  
Chris Tokunaga ArtChris: Originally I was going in a John Belushi – Animal House direction, but the yellow head felt too plain without some accessories. I threw on a hat and mustache and he became a bit more turn of the century. Although, It never really came to life for me until I heard Kip’s audio- that stuff is brilliant.
Bierkast: What is your next tip tok project?
Chris: Katie’s come up with some frakking brilliant ideas. Can’t say anything specific but there are two right now that are in the queue that are really exciting. It’ll be our first go at some really strong strategy based games. I’m very excited to have a go at these characters and animations. Should be fun.
Bierkast: Anything random you want people to know?
Chris: I feel incredibly fortunate to be working with Niilo and Katie. Our meetings and conversations are just as much about our lives as they are about our work and I think that’s really special.
Bierkast: Thank you Chris for taking the time.

Ziggy SketchTo learn more about Chris Tokunaga, head over to Tip Tok or Okunaga.com. If you haven’t tried Ziggy the Beer Yeast yet, get yout butt over to the app store or google play store and download it.  It’s only 99 cents!

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