Hello. My name is Nicholas Tamraz and I am an Orthodox Christian. I am also a cartoonist and animator. On this page, you can learn more about my background and how I got into creating Orthodox Christian cartoons and comics for IKONiMATION.
I have always had a love for cartoons and comics. This was a very important part of my childhood. I also really loved to draw. Instead of doing my homework, I would spend just endless hours drawing. I remember I would create my own flipbook animations of my favorite cartoons characters like Godzilla, Spiderman, Bugs Bunny, Popeye and more. I absolutely loved creating flipbook animations because I could draw Godzilla breathing fire and destroying whole city! It was so much fun! Seeing my drawings come to life like that was just the greatest feeling. I also spent a lot of time creating my own comic books and graphic novels.
So growing up, I really wanted to become an animator. It was a real passion of mine. Entering college, I wanted to major in animation or even illustration, but sadly neither of these fields were available in the colleges in my area, so I ended up majoring in Fine Arts. I learned a lot about painting, sculpture, and art history, which was great and I really have no regrets. But my heart was always in animation and illustration. So I would always draw my own animations or comic books whenever I had the time.
After I graduated, I couldn’t find work as an animator or illustrator no matter how hard I tried. I sent in my portfolio to so many companies that I had a whole collection of rejection letters. The industry was very competitive and I just didn’t have the formal training or the experience that I needed. So my dream was put on hold.
In the meantime, I had to make a living so I became very successful in finding work as a graphic and web designer. I also started doing video editing and motion design. So I ended up doing this for most of my career.
But around 2012 or 2013, I suddenly had a deep yearning for animation. This may sound melodramatic, but it was as if my heart was hungry for animation for so long, that it just needed to be fed! So if I couldn’t do animation for a living, then maybe I can do it just for the love of it. I had been without practice for so long that I practically forgot how to draw. So I had to literally re-learn how to draw. Because if I can’t draw, how can I create animations…right?
My wife was really supportive of me, and if it wasn’t for her always encouraging me I don’t think I would’ve come as far as I have today. So I made a promise both to myself and my wife that I was going to re-learn to draw and create my own animated cartoons. I was going to do this no matter what and not give up. I was determined to make my dream come true.
It was also at this time that I began thinking about what kind of cartoons I wanted to create. Being Orthodox Christian, I knew for sure that I wanted to create cartoons that reflect Orthodox Christian themes, beliefs, and values. But in addition to that, I decided that I did not want to create cartoons about Orthodox Christian saints or feasts. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore cartoons from Russia or Greece about various saints and feasts. You can find plenty of these cartoons online, and I’ve probably seen them all. But I wanted to create something different. I wanted to create my own original characters and tell stories that I’ve always wanted to tell. To do that I had to create a central character, someone who will be the main focus and carry the story. I knew right off the bat that I wanted this character to be a priest-monk. I wanted this monk to have a very special look to him. I wanted his face to be full of humility and love. He also had to have a very special name. Immediately I settled on the name of Father Gabriel, after the Archangel Gabriel. The name Gabriel comes from the Hebrew word for “man of God.” It was the Archangel Gabriel who appeared more than once to the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, informing her of the birth of the Savior and guarding her until the end of her days.
In addition, my inspiration for Father Gabriel also came from my readings of the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church, such as Saint Nectarios of Pentapolis, Saint John Maximovitch the Wonderworker, Saint Seraphim of Sarov, the Optina Fathers, and many more.
So I next had to figure out what Father Gabriel was going to look like. For that I did a lot of research online for monks and priests. Then one day, I stumbled on this picture of a monk that just grabbed me. I don’t know who he is, but if Father Gabriel was a real person, he would look very much like this picture! The monk in this picture just radiates with the love of Christ. His eyes are full of joy and humility. This is what I want my character Father Gabriel to embody. I did a few sketches of Father Gabriel and decided on a design.
During this same time that I was designing Father Gabriel, I was researching and learning different animation software. I realized that I couldn’t do the traditional hand drawn animation that I originally wanted to do. This method of animation is very time consuming and I didn’t want to take years just to complete one cartoon. Eventually, I decided upon a software called Blender, a 3D animation software that’s available to anyone for free.
I spent a year learning Blender. During the learning process I did lot of test animations, including an animation of a very simple character that was sort of a portrait of myself.
I even did a couple Godzilla animations. I have to admit that I’m a big Godzilla fan. It’s just something about a giant mutated fire breathing pre-historic dinosaur that destroys buildings always fascinated me. I mean, what’s there not to like?! Right?!
So I finally decided that I was ready to create my first animated cartoon of Father Gabriel.
The first thing I did was create a model of Father Gabriel. I drew a character template of Father Gabriel to use as a reference to create the model. From there I started building the props and landscaping for the cartoon. I knew that I wanted to do something very simple, so the idea was that Father Gabriel is walking during the night praying the Jesus Prayer. Then he enters a small chapel and prays the litany. Sweet and simple.
So I did it! I finally did it! I created my first animated cartoon, Father Gabriel Goes to Church. This was literally years in the making but finally my dream of making my own animated cartoons came true!
After finishing my first cartoon, I had to decide where I wanted to publish Father Gabriel Goes to Church. The most logical place was to create a Youtube Channel and to also create my own website. After doing a lot of thinking and searching, I decided to name my website Ikonimation. Since I also have a love for Orthodox Christian iconography, I fused the words eikon (icon in Greek) and animation into one, and voila! Ikonimation was born! I created the IKONiMATION website as well as my Youtube channel.
On January 2016, I released Father Gabriel Goes to Church on IKONiMATION and to my YouTube channel. I had very good feedback both from Youtube and people around me, so I completed my next cartoon called Father Gabriel’s Prayer, a few months later.
I had people contacting me telling me how much they enjoyed both of my cartoons, which brought me a lot of joy and inspired me to work on more Father Gabriel projects.
Because I also had a love for comics and graphic novels, I decided to start working on my own Father Gabriel comics. I started out first creating weekly comic strips. Comic strips are very short comics that can range from one or several panels to tell a story. These strips use to appear in newspapers back in the day, and I really loved these as a kid and thought it would suit Father Gabriel very well. In addition to that, I also created Father Gabriel web comics. Web comics are comics specifically for the web, and are often longer with a lot more story to them. So I created a number of longer Father Gabriel web comics that involved other characters as well. All of my comics were based on my Orthodox Christian faith. So each comic had quotes from the Bible or from the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Christian church.
So after a year of creating comics, I finally decided to get back into animation, but I had to make a change. I was looking at my two previous Father Gabriel animated cartoons and felt that I really needed to improve my skills in Blender, as well as my animation skills. So I decided it was necessary for me to take time off from creating and devote more time in learning and improving my skills as 3D modeler and animator. So I spent the next two years doing so. Honestly I have to admit that learning 3D modeling and animation is the most difficult skill I’ve had to learn, and to this day I am still learning. It’s really an ongoing learning process.
So after two years, my skills were at a point where I felt I was ready to create a new Father Gabriel animated cartoon. I spent months creating a new Father Gabriel model, as well as sets and props. So on December 2021, I released Father Gabriel’s Chapel on my IKONiMaTION website, my Odysee channel and Vimeo.
I was very happy with this latest episode and received a lot of good feedback. I submitted Father Gabriel’s Chapel to ByzanFest 2022, and was nominated for best animated short. I was so honored and happy that my cartoon was actually nominated. Wow, it’s so hard for me to believe that! But I thank God that so many people enjoy my cartoons.
Well, I thank you for sticking around until the end of this page. I really hope you got the chance to know me better. I always love hearing from my viewers, so please feel free to leave comments on any of my cartoons or comics. I always read and respond to my comments. Also feel free to drop my a line on my Contacts page.
So finally, let me just say that it’s been a great joy creating content for IKONiMATIION. Even though I have to do this in my spare time, more content will be coming. So make sure to Subscribe to get notified when new content is posted.
Thank you for reading about me, and thank you for being a viewer of IKONiMATION.