For the second installment of our Artist Series, I speak to Adam Munoa, a 42-year-old rollerblader and Illustrator living in Lehi, Utah. Originally from Southern California, he relocated to Utah in 2001. Adam has worked on books, apps, interactive children’s educational software, and illustrated for brands such as Asics Shoes, Marvel Comics, and Amazon.
How did you end up in Utah from living and skating in Southern California?
It’s a little bit of a long story, but the short version is that my dad took on a new job and moved the family up to Utah in the fall of 1997. I had just graduated from high school and had absolutely no interest in moving to Utah. So, I decided to stay behind in California. Lucky for me, a friend had some rooms at his house that he was looking to rent cheap so, I moved in.
At the time I was living the dream, I was working at a local skate shop and was skating a ton. I was also doing a fair amount of snowboarding at Big Bear Mountain with my cousin Jared. All it took was one visit to Utah during the winter season, and I was hooked! The snow was incredible, especially when you compared it to the stuff we were riding in California. I had a blast being on my own but was needing a change of scenery. So, I made the move to Utah and have been here ever since.
Can you give us a brief backstory on your skating life in Southern, California?
I started skating right around the birth of aggressive skating in early 1993. I was 14 years old and had recently broken my ankle skateboarding. It was painful to even ollie, so I used my brother Brad’s Rollerblade Lightnings to help rehab my ankle. Soon I found myself jumping down stairs and off obstacles at the local schools. Then I saw Dare to Air and Chris Edwards grinding down rails for the first time. It was all over from there. I had no interest in skateboarding anymore. I remember taking my skates and modifying them with rollerblade wrenches and makeshift skateboard anti-rocker wheels for grinding.
I lived in Temecula as a teenager, which put us in the perfect position to skate in both the San Diego and Los Angeles areas. We would spend our weekends in both areas skating as much as we could but, we mostly stuck to the San Diego and North County areas.
I had a super rad group of guys to skate with. My crew consisted of my brothers, Brad and Dave, my cousin Jared, Justin Reigier, Tristan Feeney, Marlon Geller, Armond Marchand, and many other awesome guys. A bunch of them still skate, and it’s always fun when we can get together for some over-the-hill skate sessions when I’m in town.
How is the skate scene in Utah?
The Utah Blade scene is super Rad! The group has a thriving membership and has had many amazing people like Manuel Rodriguez, Kirill Braynin, and Goyk Samuth heading it up. They’ve all done a remarkable job promoting a fun, positive, and inclusive blade atmosphere. Pre-pandemic, we used to have Thursday night blade sessions, and tons of bladers would show up to a given skatepark and take it over. It’s so fun to see so many rollerbladers in one spot. Goyk organized a multiple-event contest series this summer called Shredfest that was great for the community. We’ve taken a break from Thursday Night Blade due to COVID-19. It’ll be fun to skate with everyone again as things are starting to calm down.
Who do you skate with there?
Over the past few years, I’ve been skating with a tight-knit group of guys. The TFTB (Tuesday is For the Boys) crew includes Nick Maneotis, Kenny Johnson, Saul Leininger, Marcus Chacon, Nick “Petey” Peterson, Andy Schoenfeld, Ian Paur, and few others have old man skate sessions every Tuesday and Saturdays. They are a blast to skate with and are always hyping me up, even at 42 years old!
What was your first exposure to art? Does art run in your family?
I come from an extremely creative family. My dad worked in TV and film as an editor and actually started his career as a cartoonist. My mom is a huge Disney fan. She had many Illustrated books that I would stare at for hours on top of watching an insane amount of Saturday morning cartoons.
What is the first drawing you remember creating? And do you still have it?
The first drawing that I can remember was in kindergarten in 1984. We had to decorate Christmas tree countdown chains. I remember taking some crayons and drawing He-Man on one of the rings and having an ah-ha moment. I remember being blown away at what I had just discovered. From then on, I can’t remember a time not drawing. I wish I still had the original. I painted a tribute painting in honor of that moment a few years ago for a charity book on artistic beginnings.
Your art focuses heavily on cartoonist and caricature styles. Did you struggle to find your style? When did you realize how and what you wanted to draw?
I would say yes and no. Like I mentioned before, as a kid, I loved watching cartoons; I still love it, and that heavily flavored my artistic tastes. As I grew older, I got heavily into comics. I would try and mimic my favorite artists like Jim Lee, Todd MacFarlane, and Frank Miller. My Attempts were okay but lacked movement and personality.
It wasn’t until I was in college that I discovered my “style.” I was studying illustration and exploring many different techniques and mediums. I took several studio figure drawing classes and learned how to see and interpret what I saw. When I got into the BFA Illustration program, I used what I had learned in the life drawing classes, combined it with my love of comic books and animation, and found my voice. I started to focus on visual development (concept art) for feature animation and continued to develop and hone my skills.
Are there any art styles you like doing but don’t have time to commit to?
I would love to do more Portrait painting. My work is so cartoony, and I love the technical challenge of working realistically.
Who were the major influences on you early on in your career?
Caricatures of Albert Einstein, Batman, Robin Williams, Christopher Walken, and James Dean
How much did an art education impact your career path?
I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Master of Fine Arts degree as well. Education played a huge part in my career path. My degrees haven’t gotten me any jobs other than teaching college, but the work to get them has. I don’t know if that makes sense or not.
Did you make any sacrifices along the way to get you to where you are today?
I had to make a few sacrifices to focus and dedicate myself to my craft. I’d say videogames were the biggest thing that I gave up, which is kind of ironic, seeing as I’ve worked on several throughout my career. I’d play them for hours but realized that time could be spent with my family or painting and creating something cool. I’ll play them occasionally, but it’s more fun to go skating instead.
From the sketchbook
After schooling, what was your first job in the art world?
My first job was at a small video game company called MURA Interactive. I was hired on as an environment artist. I was mainly responsible for painting backgrounds and other playable assets. Eventually, I moved on to concept and character design, which was super fun. It didn’t take long to start freelancing, maybe a year or so. From there, I’ve been mostly freelance, occasionally taking on few long-term contracts.
Now that you are freelance, what kind of clients do you do your primarily work for?
I’ve been able to work for a wide variety of clients over the years. I’ve had the fortune of working in video games, live-action movies, advertising, children’s education, and a few other random markets. I recently just finished up a fun job with Asics Shoes, a client I never thought I’d work for.
This was the working file for the shoes Adam was working with Asics on. All the artwork in the video is drawn by him.
What is your dream project?
Any project that they cut me loose on. I love it when clients hire me for me and allow me to really throw my own unique spin on the project. Also, I’ve had this children’s book that I’ve been working on since grad school, and I’d like to finish it and get it published finally.
Have you done any skating related work?
I’ve done a few projects here and there for the community. I have created some artwork for the Shredfest and the Gorilla Blade Jam contests here in Utah. I’ve also had the pleasure of working with one of my rollerblade hero’s from back in the day, The Airman himself, Mr. Chris Edwards. I’ve done some artwork for the relaunch of the Birth clothing brand. I’m also in the process of finalizing some art for my own line of blade clothing, which will launch soon.
Skating related illustrations
How many of your projects allow you to have free reign vs. clients who try and art direct you?
It really depends on the client. I have several repeat clients whom I work well with that let me do me. We’ve developed a good relationship where they trust me and let me off the chain, which is super fun. Then there are other clients that we go through the typical design process. My job, in that case, is to help them realize their vision visually and hopefully exceed it. Both are fun to work for.
How frustrating is it working with non-artistic people trying to art direct you?
It can be a challenge for sure, but it can also be rewarding. The main key is communication. I ask a lot of questions and don’t assume anything.
Batman versus Superman (top) Captain America (bottom left) Captain America versus Iron Man (bottom right)
What are your biggest pet peeves when working with clients?
Indecision. It’s all part of the job but, it’s frustrating to work on a project for any given period and have the client confess that they don’t really know what they want, ultimately putting the project back to square one. Regular and constant communication is vital to help avoid that scenario.
Do you feel like you have mastered your craft, or are you still learning along the way?
Have I mastered my craft? Not by a long shot. I’m continually studying and feel like I have so much more to learn. Once you stop learning, you essentially end your artistic progression.
Alice in Wonderland (left) Al E. Gator (center) Mario (right)
How long have you been teaching?
I’ve been teaching at Utah Valley University for the last 4-5 years. When I first started my illustration career, I never thought I’d end up teaching, but I’ve absolutely loved every moment of it.
How does it feel to share your knowledge with a new generation of artists?
It’s been so rewarding to work with these super creative students. Just as much as I may share my knowledge and skill with them, they constantly inspire me with their creativity and artistic aspirations.
A selection of work by Adam’s students: Hannah Buttler (left) Brooks Jones (center) Jessica Kaylor (right)
I’ve seen some of your student’s artwork, and it’s pretty incredible. Do you keep up with some of your student’s careers after they leave your class?
Oh yeah, after you take a class from me, you are family. Social media has made it super easy to keep up with them. It’s super rewarding to see hard-working, talented students finish school and find their dream job in a super competitive industry. It’s a lot like being a proud older brother watching them achieve their goals.
What medium and process are you using for your art?
Currently, most of my work is digital. I’ve been drawing on a Wacom Cintiq and using Photoshop for years. The introduction of the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil was a real game-changer. In addition to the increased mobility, the Apple Pencil is an amazing tool and behaves more like a traditional pencil. I still use a fair amount of photoshop, but most of my workflow now is on the iPad and the Procreate app.
However, I still prefer to work traditionally if time permits. In my sketchbook, I’m using a lot of markers and colored pencils. Also, I love to paint with acrylic and gouache.
As far as process goes, It’s pretty much the same across all mediums. I start with a super rough sketch, refine it, and solve any anatomy and other design problems. Then I tighten up the sketch and get it ready for the color render. Next, I block in all the flat colors, checking the values to make sure that they all read correctly before I move on to the first shadow pass. For the shadows, I establish a light source and quickly block in a lighting pattern. Once the shadows are done, I then turn my attention to the highlights. Once the rough render is done, I flatten all the layers and move on to the final painting, refining edges and adding all the fun little details.
Digital speed painting using Procreate on an iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil.
Outside of your art style, do you have any other styles of art you are a fan of?
I love the Dutch and Flemish Renaissance era of painting. Rembrandt and Jan van Eyck as among my “art heroes.” They were super innovative and discovered dynamic ways to add realism, depth, and vibrant lighting to their works that inspired many of us artists hundreds of years later.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
You recently went to North Carolina to work on a mural at the Balance Distribution Warehouse with Chris Piascik. How did that come together? Was this your first collaboration with Chris?
So, Chris Piascik and I met back in 2016. I was going to graduate school at the University of Hartford in Connecticut. Chris had finished the same program a few years prior. His wife Shayna was the program coordinator, and we met through her. Chris and I are big car and racing enthusiasts and hit it off immediately. At the time, we had no idea that either one skated.
Chris Piascik and Adam showing off the mural at the Balance Distribution warehouse.
As far as the mural goes, Chris and I contently text and share art, car, and skate-related stuff. He mentioned that he was going to North Carolina to paint a mural for Lawrence Ingraham at the Balance Distribution warehouse. I jokingly asked if he wanted an assistant, to which he replied yes. The flights were super cheap, and everything worked out perfectly. It was a super fun project, and Law was a great host.
Did you guys get to do any skating while out there?
We got one dry day to skate at the Apex skatepark, and it poured the rest of the week. Lucky for us Law built a mini skate park at the warehouse, and we could skate there every day.
Are there any other artists that inline skate that you would like to collaborate with in the future?
You have four children, have any of them inherited your love of art?
Most of them like to draw. They are all creative in their own ways; my daughter Ellie is an artist, actor, and singer, while my son Ben is a budding filmmaker. Dylan, my second son, is super tech-savvy, and my youngest Josh loves to draw cars and funny cartoons. We love to watch movies and nerd out on superhero, sci-fi, and other pop culture things.
Children’s Book Illustrations
Of all the projects you’ve worked on, from video games to children’s books, do any stand out as your favorites?
Sadly no, I’m super invested at the time, but once the project is over, it’s over, and I move on to the next gig. I will say that some of the personal private commissions are the ones that stand out the most. I love connecting with people and when they hire me to paint or illustrate something meaningful to them is an honor. I do have a few personal projects in the works that I’m super excited about, and I can’t wait to share them with everyone!
Do you have an all-time favorite drawing you’ve done?
I have a couple that are meaningful for sure, but if I had to pick one, it would be one I painted for my Grandpa Bailey. My mom’s dad was a gifted musician and had a fantastic career in Hollywood. He is largely responsible for encouraging me to pursue a career in the arts. At the ripe old age of 92, he produced his last album and asked if I would paint the cover. So, I painted a caricature of him sitting at his piano. He loved the painting so much that he had it proudly on display outside his door for everyone to see when he moved to a retirement home. He passed away a few years later, and that painting now hangs next to the piano in my house as a reminder to my family and me to chase your dreams and never settle.
What inspires you now?
My family inspires me the most. Having four kids, there’s never a dull moment in our house. This last year has been a rough one for so many, but I love my people, and they constantly inspire me and give me ideas for my artwork.
How would you describe “The Munoa Touch?”
I would say that my work is very shape-oriented. I enjoy capturing the essence of life, reinterpreting it, and exaggerating it through my cartoon lens filter. I feel like there is too much negativity in the world, and I’d rather make fun and humorous stuff that makes people laugh.
- Visit adammunoa.com to see more of Adam’s illustration work.
- Make sure to follow Adam on Instagram and Facebook to keep up with his latest drawings.
- Contact Big Wheel Blading for any questions, suggestions, story ideas or to contribute content.
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