Instant Inspiration: John Masse

Instant Inspiration is a new feature where we showcase an established commercial designer and pick their brain in an effort to gain insights on the creative process and inspiration in general.

What’s the “method to your madness?”

Everything I do begins the old fashioned way with pencil and paper. I like to leave the “dirt” and rough edges in as often as I can to keep the “humanity” in my work. I’ve been using Photoshop since ’91. It is hands down the most amazing program ever made. There, I said it. Not a week goes by that I don’t discover something new about it, or a new way to approach a familiar problem.

I have tried to remain a “purist,” artistically speaking, so I rely heavily on customizing my brush palettes and avoiding plug-ins as much as possible. Needless to say, if I am not using a pressure-sensitive drawing tablet, I feel I am missing out on about 40% of Photoshop’s firepower.
For logo and graphic design, or for crisp vector-based artwork, I look no further than Illustrator.

What inspires you?

There’s nothing like a deadline to get my creative spirit moving. If I know where the finish line is, it makes the journey that much more fun. It’s go time!
A void is a wonderful discovery, professionally speaking. It is a hole in the creative and/or marketing world. It’s wonderful when you can find it, like a parking space up front or a spot to lay your blanket on a busy beach. Without reference or limitations, I get to explore an original concept without boundaries.

My artistic influences, in no particular order: Windsor McKay, Walt Disney, Franco Dragone, Beethoven, coffee, overseas travel, Japanese cartoons, and my father, Jean Charles Massé. He was a brilliant Renaissance man who thought “outside of the box” every day.

On Layers magazine:

I really enjoy the tutorials in Layers magazine. Each issue always opens my eyes to new methods, techniques, tips, and ways to approach my work. Plus, it’s just a great resource to have. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to slip my laptop, drawing tablet, and latest issue of Layers into a backpack and take my office with me around the world.

What are you working on now?

Currently I’m completing the next wave of animated commercials for Skechers. There’s lots of writing and storyboarding to do for some, and lots of hand-drawn cel frames to finish in Photoshop for others. I’m continuing stage and scenic design for theatrical productions in Japan and Dubai, and I’m also trying my hand as playwright for an upcoming musical. I want to do it all!

What has been your crowning achievement so far?

Doing what I love for a living and being my own boss… that is a crowning achievement that never ends!


To the surprise of most serious animators, I actually create, clean up and color all my animation cels in Photoshop. Here are some examples from my Kewl Breeze and Z-Strap 30-second commercials for Skechers, seen in over 15 countries in 10 languages.


The cover for a Skechers comic book that comes with the shoes.


Here is a piece for Necromancer Games.

Kewl Breeze

One of the characters I created for Skechers.

Beach Bully

My Dad always said, “Son, if you can draw beautiful women, you’ll never starve.” Thanks Dad!

RidingHood and the Big Bad

1. Rough pencil art – scanned at 300dpi and placed on layer 1 “multiplied.”
2. Gray tone brushwork roughed in with drawing tablet.
3. Laying in color with layers and brushwork. Starting to concentrate on detail. I frequently turn the pencil layer on and off. In the end, very little of the original pencil work will remain.
4. Most pencil art is erased. Just a few highlight touches left to do.

John Massé

Owner Massé Graphics, Inc. Las Vegas, Nevada

Current projects Aside from his work with Skechers and Franco Dragone, John currently is developing two animated television shows and a Broadway musical.