Hector Herrera is a creative director, animator and an OCAD instructor with an eye for the absurd and an unique creative pallette. I spoke to Hector to get an idea of his creative process, his background, and just what inspired him to reconsider the origins of that spectaculary teased, permed and moussed genre of the 1980’s: hair metal.
“Back then it was like, ‘Oh, they're doing a serious song,’ but now looking back, it’s ‘that guy was whistling!’
“Dada-ism and Constructivism and early Bauhaus influenced me when it came to designing.”
Well, sorry I might get long-winded, but… I actually, what happened was, I went to school for graphic design, I went to university for graphic design, and I started working on magazine layouts and just print stuff for a while, and then moved to advertising. And I was just looking for something new and it was, um, I went to the movies, and I saw the opening for Seven, which kind of reveals my age… But when that came up, I was like, you know, coming from graphic design, I was pretty much said “that's what I wanna do,” right? So I started looking for a job that would train me and teach me in that. So I started working at a post-production house as an art director for broadcast design and that's where I got the training in the basics of animation and just things like post-production and production and made every mistake that I could possibly make, you know, on someone else's coin [laughter] … And then from there, as I moved to Toronto, I started working on A Cup of Coffee, and, again doing mostly commercial stuff and broadcast design and working with stop-motion and doing that kind of thing – like work for hire.
But it wasn't until a couple of years ago when I decided to my own content that I started doing animated films after partnering up with a writer.
Well, yeah… It depends, right? If it's a commissioned work, there's always parameters that define the playing field, right? The first thing I do is just check where the limits are, check what the plainest reveal is, right? And then so that helps me focus a lot on what I need to do, and not necessarily exploring things that are not with the task at hand. They're not necessarily going to help you accomplish what the brief was.
When it's a personal project, I basically prepare a brief, right? I don't start with a blank page. First of all, I tell the story, what is the story I want to tell, and I think that comes first for me when I'm creating film. Whether that story, it's a vision that that's going to be an abstract story or it's going to be an exercise in form - that's the first thing that I do and it helps me define the boundaries of the project, and then from there you work within the boundaries and once you get to them, if you feel like pushing them out a little bit, that's the moment to do it… For me at least… Once you have, you filled up the field and you realize, “Oh, those boundaries are a little too small,” you expand them a little bit.
But I think the first thing I do is try to see how far and in which direction I can go.
Well, I think it partially was the brief, right? And I wanted to do something with art and it just felt like that – again, those boundaries or those lines… I hesitate to call them boundaries because I think it sounds like shackles, but let's just say the definition of what the project was called for some humour, and I think just, hair metal, as much as I enjoy it, it's pushing its excess. It became quite funny at the latter part. And I think the most fun point, the most fun parts of hair metal are what are gonna be remembered, rather than the more serious musicians. And also, the more serious musicians will have probably evolved a little after a while, right? So it happened in a decade that's close enough to mock – at least for me – and not far enough to be nostalgic about it yet, you know?
Well, yeah, I'm a fan of… Well, not necessarily now, I think I do have a soft spot for Def Leopard, because, you know, that's what I was listening to in junior high and in high school, and when that became big. You know, White Snake, obviously. But I think if I had to say something – they're quintessential but I think the excess of hair metal was represented a little bit more by bands like Cinderella and White Lion and, to a degree, latter-day Scorpions. But those where probably the bands…
And, you know, of course Motley Crue but the thing with Motley Crue is they had all the excess but they took the excess into probably darker places, as opposed to bands like Cinderella, who were a little bit more ridiculous and especially when they got into power ballads. That was a phase where, that was a jumping of the shark for hair metal.
Exactly… Extreme or just like when Scorpions started to “Winds of Change” and solo-ing in their songs, I think that's where the community was like, ‘oh, okay, we're past…’ I mean, in retrospect, right? Back then it was like, ‘Oh, they're doing a serious song,’ but now looking back, like ‘that guy was whistling!’
Exactly. Yeah. Again, speaking of limits of an art-form, I think they reached a point where how many more videos with wind machines can we do? How many more times can we play that solo? So probably they were trying to mature the genre, but I think that genre, like many others, this is all it can do, right? And the statement was made, and after that, you're rehashing or making something different like ballads.
Basically, and then that became, you know, after a while they started recycling their own things, as well. And you get stuff like Candlebox and, some of the stuff that Bush did.
Yeah, mainly coming from a graphic design background… Dada-ism and Constructivism and early Bauhaus influenced me when it came to designing. So when I started translating things into film, my first motion experiments were basically translating some layouts into film. And up to the point right now, I start to storyboard almost as if they were illustrations. Like print layouts. And for a long time, basically what I did for storyboarding was a series of print layouts, and then figure out how to get from one to the other. I think as I learn more, I now take those transitions into consideration a lot more. So I think I'm thinking more in film terms when it comes to that, right?
It's sort of like because I came about it from another point of view, even animation… I never went to school for animation, I've never taken an animation class, it's always self-taught, so it's exploiting what I know and trying to avoid what I don't know, right? It's in a sense, the style, the clash of styles, is a bit of – I don't want to call it a cop-out, but it's like the best results I can manage with the knowledge I have. And again, I don't want to be self-deprecating, but that's what we all do, right? We kind of say 'this is what I want to and can do, so I do this.'
And when it comes to an artist that defined me… Visually, I think, it's funny enough, William S. Burroughs, the writer - as more of an influence in my visual style, and when he started developing the cut-ups style of writing, and then audio. It actually came to influence punk graphics and punk aesthetic, so the entire idea of building an image or a message out of de-contextualized portions of other things, I think that approach really influenced me in how I do design and how I do image making. And obviously you know, it's one thing to do it free as just an artist, but because I started as a commercial artist, I had to focus that a little bit on to a concrete message to make sure that, there was a client involved, to make sure that their message got communicated clearly. So it's a little bit of refinement, but as an influence, I think he's [William S. Burroughs] been my biggest graphic influence. And it's funny enough that he's not necessarily a visual person, but his writing to me translated visually very easily.
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Article by Jay Watts for Stoli Canada