Guru in a Half Shell: Q&A with TMNT Figure Artist CHOGRIN! 

posted in: Artists, Toys | 0

Need a little more Turtle Power in your life? Meet the artist behind the new TMNT GURU Art Figure: CHOGRIN! Like many kids in the ‘80s and ‘90s, CHOGRIN was mutated by the worldwide phenomenon known as Turtlemania. From the Eastman & Laird comics to the cartoon, toys, and live-action movies, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have inspired CHOGRIN as an artist and fueled his creativity over the years. We spoke to him in more detail about his art, influences, and favorite TMNT memories! 

Kidrobot: When did you first start working in vinyl? 

CHOGRIN: I had the opportunity to do my first vinyl toy (Guru del Toro) with Unruly Industries via Sideshow Collectibles in 2020. “Guru del Toro” is my tribute to one of my favorite filmmakers, Guillermo del Toro. I’ve been a toy collector since I was a kid, but it wasn’t until I was in college that I discovered and was inspired by the designer vinyl toy movement, when I got my copy of Paul Budnitz’ I AM PLASTIC. Since then, I’ve been inspired by artists like Frank Kozik, James Groman, Mark Nagata, Eric So, McBess, Tracy Tubera, KaNo, Urban Aztec, Tara McPherson, TOUMA, The Beast Brothers, David Igo, Klim Kozinevich, and many, many more. Back in 2014 I began experimenting with turning my artwork into 3D sculptures at art galleries, and it has been an addiction ever since. 

Guillermo del Toro with the original “Guru del Toro” prototype at the In Service of Monsters art show curated by CHOGRIN at G1988 in 2015. 

KR: What inspires you to create? 

C: It is always what I’m passionate about at the moment. I always like to pull inspiration from my personal life, my childhood, and the people around me. I’m also inspired by people who are passionate about what they do and are self-starters, like Kevin Eastman & Peter Laird. My biggest artistic influences would have to be Osamu Tezuka and Ub Iwerks. I also really enjoy all things Popeye and the works of Shotaro Ishinomori, Oswaldo Guayasamin, Al Columbia, Mike Mignola, Shigeru Mizuki, and Jorge R. Gutierrez. 

(CHOGRIN in his studio surrounded by his influences, which are like extensions of his brain)

KR: What does your artistic process look like?

C: I first surround myself with material and references for whatever project I’m working on for inspiration. I always start with a small thumbnail sketch and keep going over it until I’m satisfied with the final result. I always make sure to have a strong foundation before I finalize everything. When translating my work into 3D, I work closely with a sculptor to make sure the end result best matches my style and vision for the project. This too can require multiple revisions until completed.

KR: You’ve told us about your epic TMNT birthday party in 1990 where the Turtles showed up with pizza and cake! Do you have any other favorite TMNT memories? 

C: Too many! But here are four that come to mind: 

TMNT MEMORY 1: It was Halloween of 1990, and I dressed up as my favorite Turtle (Raphael). 

TMNT MEMORY 2: It was Christmas of 1990, and all of my gifts were TMNT-related. I was in TMNT heaven. 

TMNT MEMORY 3: My dad painted the turtles on my bedroom walls. My Turtle pajamas were pretty rad too. 

TMNT MEMORY 4: Perhaps one of my most memorable and influential TMNT memories was when I watched the 1990 (Jim Henson / Steve Barron) TMNT movie in the movie theater.  In the movie, after the turtles are defeated by The Foot and retreat to April’s farmhouse, there’s a montage sequence where April (Judith Hoag) draws the turtles. This part in the movie blew my mind and made me want to draw more. I wanted to be able to draw the turtles as good as her drawings in the movie. The actual drawings for the film were done by art director Karen Steward. For lack of better words, the turtles were key into mutating me into the artist I am today. Below is an example of one of those scenes from the movie, along with one of my first Turtle drawings. 

KR: What themes do you find yourself addressing in your work and have they changed over the years? 

C: As an illustrator, I like creating images that pop right away but also pull you in to look closer. All of my work is very character focused. Whether it is characters interacting with one another or focusing on just one character, I like designing images with strong silhouettes or that can be easily read from far away. Over the years my work has become more symmetrical and with more design elements surrounding the characters I illustrate.   

As a storyteller, I like to tell coming-of-age stories. Where a character must go through a journey of discovery and come out transformed by the end. This theme is inspired by my personal life and is part of my animated short film “Lucky Brave’s Sunshine.” 

KR: What are you working on right now? 

C: Currently I’m designing more toys that will be revealed later this year, including another one in my “Guru” series. I’m also writing more bilingual Children’s Books for Little Libros and showing my animated short film “Lucky Brave’s Sunshine” at multiple film festivals around the world. You can watch the trailer here. 

Check out the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TMNT GURU 8” Resin Art Figure by CHOGRIN, available now at! 

To keep up with CHOGRIN follow him Instagram @chogrin!