Trash Talkin’ With GPK Sketch Artist GPK Nik

Interview is republished, by permission, from Sybil Ferro and the Garbage Pail Kids Misfits Facebook group, © 2020.

“Who is going to step into the hot seat this week?” I hear you scream! Well…we thought long and hard, searched far and wide, looked high and low, worked day and night, sailed the seven seas, weighed up all the possibilities and then messaged GPK Nik…and guess what… he said YES!

Sybil Ferro – How long did it take for you to decide on your name?

GPK Nik Castaneda – Y’know I’m not sure actually! I remember setting up a separate Instagram page for my GPK stuff when I was starting out. The engagement was super low in comparison to my other art I was posting at the time, so I thought to create an entirely separate page for this stuff and I’m certain I just thought of “GPKNIK/Garbage Pail Nik” on the spot hahh

SF – Do you have any aspirations to draw sketch cards for any other franchises? And if so would you be TMNT Nik? Etc…or have you not thought that far?

NC – I’d be happy to jump into most any franchise that does sketch cards! I think I saw Fright Rags doing wax packs recently and I think that’d be AWESOME to have sketch inserts in there. Considering there’s alot of crossover between GPK fans and horror fans, I think there’s alotta potential there, of course counting Mark Pingitore’s Horrorible-Kids, which I had the GREAT pleasure of doing 100 inserts for!!

As for having an adaptive name, I think I’d credit myself as just “Nik Castaneda” outside of GPK stuff hahahh. Or maybe just Nik!! I’ve actually considered on dropping my last name. Not for any dramatic family reasons but just because I think it’d be funny to be simply known as “Nik”

SF – You’re easily one of the most creative artists on the scene, and it seems to come so naturally to you – to try new things, experiment and set new trends. Have you tried any ideas that you’ve bailed on with GPK where you’ve thought you’ve gone too far?

NC – Bawwww, I’m fluttering my eyelashes at this one, I really appreciate you saying that, thank you!!

I LOVE toying around with new ideas and stuff. I love that element of surprise where someone may pull something and it just kinda catches them off-guard and that’s like my M.O. To just kinda give long-time collectors something they aren’t used to seeing (or smelling).

As for ‘going too far,’ I’d probably chalk that more up to ‘ideas that didn’t work out so well.’ There’s alot of trial and error with experimenting with different styles. I’ve got HEAPS of pages in my sketchbooks that are like chicken scratch for new ideas hahahh. So there’s definitely stuff that I haven’t managed to pull off or maybe it’s too much effort for too sloppy of a result.

But I’m always playing around with new stuff!

SF – When did you stumble across GPK and what got you in the deep end?

NC – Back when All New Series was starting up, my mom got me a pack while we were out shopping, saying “Ohhhh your aunt and I used to collect these nasty fuckin’ things” So that was when I first heard of them.

But it actually wasn’t until Fall of 2018 that I REALLY fell in hahahh. Some friends and I watch alotta movies together and we once watched the infamously bad Garbage Pail Kids Movie. And I’m naturally a really nitpicky kinda guy and I was SO mad that the movie went in the direction it did hahahh.

The whole time we were watching it, I was like “dude this does NOT have to suck like this” and in the following months, I was almost devising a plan to pitch an animated GPK film to Topps. And when I got a hold of them, they thought I was wanting a position as a sketch artist. So when I looked into what that was exactly, I was like “WAIT, THIS IS A JOB YOU CAN GET!!??”

So then I started practicing drawing the characters and got invited into these groups and started doing commissions, caught the attention of the sketch artists and collectors, who all started rooting for me to get an official position, which I’m SO thankful for, and now I’m blowin snot rockets on official Topps cardstock!!

SF – Life is rough and the struggle is real… What is some advice you can offer to other artists or aspiring artists when times are rough?

NC – Yeah, I feel that bigtime. Uhm, there’s this single panel comic strip done by one of my favorite artists (I can share the image for the comments section) and it usually pulls me up for air when my lungs are full of shitty energy or my batteries need recharging. I’ve got it nailed to my corkboard above my computer, actually.

The artist drew himself sitting with a monk, basically asking “My life is challenging and confusing, what should I do?”

And the monk responds, “I hear you are an artist.”

He attempt to respond, “Yes, but…”

The monk cuts him off and says “Please, make art.”

And that shit just FUELS me. And I wish that kind of positive energy just could infect everyone I know that is sad and depressed about whatever is going on in their lives or their loved ones’ lives, even their enemies’ lives. Like real talk, everyone’s tryin their best, whether you consider yourself a creative person or not. And I think everyone’s got a creative bone in their body.

This is kinda silly but whenever I show family members the stuff that I’m working on, they usually respond with stuff like “shit, I can only draw stick figures!” And I usually tell them that I actually WANT to see what that stick figure would look like.

An artist I admire had recently said something about how emotional and creative expression is far more valuable than technical skill and I couldn’t agree more.

So if you’re struggling, I’d honestly say, please make art. Art can be anything you give meaning to. You can draw, you can write, you can dance, audio mix, interior decorate, party plan, scrapbook, it doesn’t matter who you are or when you started. You’re creative. So create.

If it’s something you REALLY want, it’s impossible to let go of.

Also, TAKE A BREAAAAAAK. Like for real, TAKE. A. BREAK. So many of my friends and family members, peers, myself, we all overvalue “hard-work” and “dedication.” Take naps! Drink water! Watch something! Rest and relaxation are CRIMINALLY undervalued!! Recharge those batteries and don’t feel bad for needing to power down every once in a while!! Seriously. SERIOUSLY. TAKE. A. BREAK.

SF – You’ve crashed into the GPK scene at high speed with refreshing takes.. How would you explain your style?

NC – Thank you thank you very much!! I always like to practice with different styles, so lately, I’d say it’s a combination of newspaper comics, 70’s cartoons, and western-influenced 2000’s anime! I’m big on character design, so I kinda pull my influences from hundreds and hundreds of different places!

The way I’ve approached my artstyles for GPK is to essentially ghostwrite for some of my favorite artists and styles, like “how would my favorite director draw this character” or “if there were GPK greeting cards in that hallmark style,” stuff like that! And it’s always kinda changing with whatever I’m influenced by that week.

SF – Who would you say have been your biggest influences in the world of illustration?

NC – Ooooooh that is SO tough to narrow down!!

Someone that jumps to mind is Rodney Greenblat. He did that comic I mentioned and also created Parappa the Rapper! Love his character designs so much. So simple, eyecatching, cute, and funny!

Another that I’ve been OBSESSED WITH is Masaaki Yuasa. He’s done several films and series and it’s just so hard to explain just how magical this guy’s stuff is. After i grabbed some of his artbooks in maybe 2018, it practically showed me a whole new way to care about art and animation.

Like there’s so much I could say about that guy and the things he makes AND I’m making a recommendation RIGHT now.

He did this film called Mind Game. It’s this incredible BATSHIT animated movie that’s all about this young guy who’s let his life coast by. He meets up with his highschool fling and they both get into some trouble and have to find a way out. And if you look at the way it moves, it’s very well animated but the drawings themselves are really crummy, if that makes sense? I don’t think he’d be offended in me saying that by the way! He’s said “even though we had a big budget for it, we wanted it to look like we didn’t try very hard making it even though we did” Plus it hits you in the face with a new artstyle every couple of minutes. Right up my alley hahahh.

I did it no justice explaining it, his films are basically really sweet and positive life philosophies. The Night is Short, Walk On Girl is another one he did, I recommend that one as well. Walk on Girl and Mind Game are kind of more adult, I know there’s alot of parents in these groups so fair warning in case you check these out! BUT he did another called Lu Over The Wall, which is more family friendly. A really sweet one too!

And lastly, there’s this dude who I feel like alot of people in here would like, JJ Villard. His style is PUTRID and ugly and violent and I love it hahahh. The shit he’s been posting on his instagram is great. It’s like that facebook mom ‘live laugh love’ stuff but if it was done by some shitty kid drawing skeletons all over his in-class notes hahahh. It’s really aggressive self-help and I can safely say it’s given me tons of different perspectives on things I’m going through.

He’s also made 2 shows for adult swim! King Star King and JJ Villard’s Fairy Tales. Fairy Tales is cool because he got alot of horror icons to do the voices. He’s got Elvira in there, Robert Englund, Linda Blair, Finn Wolfhard, lots of horror stars, both new and old!!

SF – We saw your Nintendo World Theme Park concept work, (fucking beautiful!!!), did you ever submit that to them? What’s your favourite video game of all time?

NC – Hahh, thank you!! i did actually submit those in an attempt to get a job doing merchandising concepts but was rejected hahahh. I’d love doin stuff like that. Those get passed around some so i’m glad people think they’d be cool ideas!

My favorite game of all time is Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage!! Really nostalgic for that one. I run through it several times out of the year hahahh

Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze gets an honorable mention!! Playing that games feels amazing.

SF – I can see you as an award winning Creative Director at an Ad Agency, but what would be your dream job?

NC – Damn you with all these compliments! My eyelashes are getting worn out hahh!!

To be honest, GPK is kind of all-encompassing right now, it’s like the BIGGEST thing I care about. Doing sketches has been so much fun.

But I did notice Adam Goldberg saying that he was funding some GPK shorts with Joe Simko and I gotta say, I’d go crazy if I got to contribute to those in SOME kind of way. Like if I could contribute a character design, a joke, a plot idea, voice even the most minor of roles, just ANYTHING. I’ve always wanted to get into the animation world somehow.

I’ve been going crazy lately thinking of a full fledged GPK cartoon and have about a million and one ideas for it. But if I could just be some small part of the production process, I’d wet my metaphorical pants.

SF – You get abducted by aliens. They pass you coloring pens and paper… What would you draw for them?

NC – I’d probably draw them! Whenever I’m with friends or family, I usually doodle them a few times to warm up. Hopefully they’d laugh! And if I’m in a situation where I can understand them and they could understand me, I’d probably ask them what they’d want me to draw!

SF – You’ve mentioned in the past that you have a ton of ideas for a new GPK animation series. Pitch it to us in 50 words, you never know who’s listening!!!! Or if you can’t share that yet, tell us an obscure character you’d definitely bring back!

NC – SHIT OKAY!!!! Starting now!!

“A Garbage Pail Kids animated series that feels as though you’re ripping open a dirty pack and shuffling through the cards themselves, with each containing a 2 minute story or 5 second gag, with TONS of familiar faces in unique off-the-wall artstyles hitting you upside the head every minute!!”

If I had a few more words in there, I’d harken back to the MAD Magazine cartoon they made a few years ago. The transitions between cartoons were super cool in that show. It was like you were flipping through the magazine and tearing out pages and throwing them away.

A PERFECT way to do that with GPK would be throwing a card away after the short is over, or accidentally ripping a sticker while trying to peel it off. Maybe you tear the wax pack slightly and there’s a little character underneath doing something weird,

like Potty Scotty is bathing in the toilet before he notices the viewer and peels the wrapper back over hahah. Or maybe TV Stevie is in a trance and he eerily looks at the viewer. Neat little stuff like that! And you could have reverse card art characters get the animation treatment!

As for the story and gag ideas, I do have a couple in mind but I’ll keep those on hold for now!

SF – What is your favorite and least favorite thing about GPK? Tell us what you think GPK is missing.

NC – Well, my personal favorite thing is seeing so many different kinds of folks enjoying collecting these things for their own different reasons! I’ve spoken to so many different artists and collectors that have each explained to me why they collect or draw it in the first place and have been asked to draw so many characters and tributes for so many reasons that I’m so thankful for and touched by!

I think everyone can agree that we all miss card backs! And it’s great to see them making a return!! More certificates! More report cards! Bring back those little word scrambler games! Bring back the comics! Let me help, I’ve got time! Hahh!

SF – And finally the now our usual fight question to wrap things up…Nasty Nick Vs Lovesick Nick? Or what we really want to know is Markers Vs Colouring pencils?

NC – Hrmmm that’s a tough one! If the sun is shining, all Nasty Nick can do is delivery quippy insults. But if Lovesick Nick is TRULY lovesick (as we’ve all been), his admiration for his one true love would transcend his now withered, bloodless physical form. (as it always does). So, I’d say Lovesick Nick!

I like using both markers and colored pencils but I can say I’ve used markers much more often!

Interview was conducted by longtime GPK collectors Sybil Ferro, Will Marston, Slippa Chervascus, Roddy Francisco Fell, and Alicia Forrest in August 2020, and originally appeared on the Garbage Pail Kids Misfits Facebook group. Sybil can be contacted here.