Local cartoonist John-Marc Grob knew he wanted to be an artist when he was in first grade. “I was born with art in my blood,” says Grob. “Both my parents enjoyed art. My father did a lot of oil paintings, and my mom loved to do crafts. When I was young, I remember watching them and helping them.”
Always a fan of Disney, Warner Brothers and Hanna Barbera, animation caught Grob’s eye in high school. Doubting whether college was for him, Grob sought out an opportunity where he could pursue art full time. “Unknown to me, just four miles from my house in New Jersey was this school – The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Arts,” says Grob, who was wowed by the school’s international reputation and famous faculty like Milt Neil, a 13-year animator with Disney and creator of Howdy Doody. Only about 125 students are admitted to the exclusive three-year school each year, and many drop out in the first month, which Grob describes like boot camp. But Grob persevered, graduating with only 20 other young adults.
Grob’s animation work is what brought him to Mint Hill. Bruce Long, Matthews resident and consultant for Covenant Day School, contacted Grob through LinkedIn about doing the set design and art for the school’s production of The Little Mermaid after seeing Grob’s fish cartoons. Through Long, Grob’s wife connected with someone starting a new business that she was a good fit for, and the family decided to give North Carolina a try. “We moved down not knowing anyone, but knew it was the right thing,” says Grob. “My wife was commuting in and out of New York City, 5 hours a day. It was crazy!”
Grob’s artistic background is incredibly diverse. “I’ve been in all forms of the arts,” says Grob. “You name it, I’ve worked on it: animation for Super Bowl commercials, MTV, kids’ animated shorts, video games, book publishing, advertising, graphic design, branding and photography.” He has created designs for AT&T, GoldStar, M&M, Red Devil and Merck. Mint Hill residents may have seen Grob at festivals like Mint Hill Madness and Mint Hill’s Sunday Afternoon in the Park selling books, cartoons, prints, photography and more.
But his true love has always been cartoons and animation. “I love drawing cartoons,” says Grob. “The colors and the art are very friendly and fun. I enjoy seeing people smiling, and this form of art really puts the smile on some folks.”
Grob’s newest endeavor is an animated series called FriendFish, a play on the word “friendship.” The family-friendly, classic Saturday cartoon-style series tells the story of a group of orphan fish taken away from their home to an aquarium. “The idea came to me while I was walking out of the hospital while my father was passing away,” says Grob. “My father loved saltwater fish, and we great up with a saltwater tank.”
Grob has been working on FriendFish for six years now, and the future looks bright. He currently has two stations interested in the series and has a line of beach products that will hit stores in the spring of 2018. Grob also hopes to create an animation studio in Mint Hill, a longtime dream of his.
What Grob enjoys overall about being an artist is making people happy. “In this world, it’s full of negative images, and art, visual art, has a powerful message when used right,” says Grob. “My art I create is an extension of who I am. I love bringing happiness into this dark-filled world.”
Grob recently joined Mint Hill Arts, so Mint Hill residents will be able to enjoy his artwork there soon. You can learn more about Grob’s artwork at https://www.jmg-studio.biz/ and more about Friendfish at https://www.friendfish.biz/.