Friday, June 16, 2006
Tell me a little bit about yourself, about your life? Where did you go to school, and what classes did you study? What helped prepare you to become the artist that you are today?
Well, let's see... I grew up just outside of Toronto and always thought I would be a fighter pilot. I used to sketch quite a bit as a kid (thank you G.I Joe, and ninjas for providing endless inspiration), but didn't seriously consider a career in art until after high school. I saw an article in the local paper about Sheridan College and computer animation, applied and was accepted. I thought I wanted to do 3-D, and work for a place like ILM, but when I was going through the classical animation program, being surrounded by so many talented artists I developed a real joy for sketching.
How do you go about designing a character, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?
The majority of character design work I have done has been for television animation, and their tends to be a few stages. In development, when you are working on a new show, or pitches, or demos, you have a wonderful freedom to explore style, character back story, who the character really is, does this contrast their outer appearance? play against expectation?, what best serves the story/idea?. This is the stage I find most enjoyable, thinking about who the characters are. Their is still a responsibility to address the wishes of the producers, but as the show progresses a style is locked, and their are more restrictions. When you're in production, you're given the script, with rough character descriptions, and certain things have to be in place. At this stage, when the style is set, and the main characters are done, you are responsible for secondary characters and alterations to primary characters (costume changes, does billy get some ice cream on his shirt?) and I tend to concentrate more on shapes, texture, playing with archetypes.
What do you think really helps you out in designing a character?
I tend to do a lot of research. Observation, and reference. I look for photos of costumes that might be applicable, If it's animals I'll grab a bunch of pics. Viualize people you think would be good as this character. I remember working on Undergrads; we spent the day at the local university just talking to students. When we went back to work the people seemed to jump off the page.
From your own experience and maybe from some people that you know, what should we put in our portfolio and what should we not?
From my experience, and the portfolio's I've looked at, we're usually looking to fill a specific position. If it's animation, we check the demos first, and then go through the pholio for drafting skills/design. If it's design, we check designs specific to the position (character/location/prop). So tailoring your pholio to the position is never a bad idea.
What are some of the things that you have worked on?
The first gig I had was a character designer on a show called "Bedtime Primetime Classics". That was the summer between second and third year at Sheridan. That same summer I was lucky enough to move on to "Gargoyle's" as a location designer. After graduation I moved to Ottawa for a few months doing some animation for Lacewood Productions, and then moved to the U.S. to work at Fox Feature Animation for a couple of years as a rough inbetweener. When the studio closed down, a friend from Fox asked me to come back to Ottawa, and I've worked as a designer and storyboard artist on shows such as "Woody Woodpecker", "Marvin the Tap Dancing Horse", "Undergrads", "Bob and Margaret", "Mischief City".
Is there a character design you have done that you are most proud of?
goodness no...I think the half life of most of my work is quite short. I have a few pieces in my portfolio that go back a bit, but I like to update often.
What are you working on now? (If you can tell us)
I just finished a job as an animation director for a company called Mercury Filmworks, and I'm organizing my stuff to look for work in L.A.
Where is the place you would like to work if you had a choice?
My fondest work memories are of the people I have worked with, not the place or the work. I think everyone wants to take pride in the show/movie they are on, but I've had an amazing time working on shows I wasn't crazy about. I like the studio environment versus working at home, so I guess my long winded response is at a studio with good people.
Who do you think are the top character designers out there?
Claire Wendling and Harald Siepermann. Also, while at Fox I was lucky enough to be in the room adjacent to Vis Dev. I would wander over there and got to know Tom Steisinger and Simon Virela whose work would blow me away. I learned a lot just from looking at their stuff.
How do you go about coloring the character, what type of tools or media do you use?
I use Photoshop to do most of my coloring. It's such a great tool for experimentation. You can shift hues and come up with something you may not have thought of. It's great!
What part of designing a character is most fun and easy, and what is most hard?
I enjoy taking a character and pushing the shapes/posing and expression. Just to see how far you can take it. In T.V. animation you can get trapped into the "3/4 front with one hand slightly away from the body" mentality and getting away from that is fun. I would have to say the hardest is appeal. Their are so many terms applied to design such as shape, contrast, texture, rhythm, balance. I think the combination of these elements leads to "appeal" and this is a really tough one to get.
What are some of your favorite character designs and least favorite, which you have seen?
I've always liked Jafar and Scar. Great designs brought to life so wonderfully by Andreas Deja.
What is your most favorite subject to draw? And why?
It's gotta be girls and monsters. Women have such great rythm in their body shapes (big and small), and monsters and creatures let the imagintion run wild..... I also like drawing characters in environments to try and tell a story.
What inspired you to become an Artist?
I can't think of a particular thing that inspired me to become an artist. Their was never a "Eureka!", I drew a lot as a kid, and really developed a love and appreciation for it while at Sheridan. Their is something about being around artists, seeing their passion, and just the way they look at the world. It's infectious.
What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?
One of the first things I learned is to be able to detach yourself from your work. You can love a drawing you're working on, but in a studio environment you have to be willing to let it go. Other people will comment on it, ask for changes (that you may disagree with) and you should fight tooth and nail when you believe in the idea, but pick your battles. Also, flip your drawing and re-draw it again on the back. It's a great way to look at something fresh and see mistakes.
What wisdom could you give us, about being an Artist? Do you have any tips you could give?
Well, I can't say it's wisdom but I think it's a good idea to study the work of other artists. The blog community is great for looking at people's work, and often they will post notes detailing the process, or materials. It's invaluable.
If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?
Finally, do you have any of your art work for sale (sketchbook, prints, or anything) for people that like your work can know where and when to buy it?
no, nothing for sale.
I wanted to take this opportunity to thank Randall for putting this site together and maintaining it. I'll be back on a regular basis!
Thanks Craig, it's nice of you to do the interview.