Wednesday, April 15, 2009
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?
I grew up in San Diego California. I knew I loved to draw at a young age. I came from a very creative and supportive family. My father is a professional guitarist/musician, my older sister Brooke is a very talented painter, and my mom is the type of mother who'd let her kids paint murals all over the walls in the house. Growing up I was surrounded by people who encouraged my passion for creativity. Like most little kids I loved animated Disney movies; these movies made me want to be an animator. I didn't really know what that meant, but I knew those movies were all moving drawings…and that was too cool. I had my first real taste of animation at Cal Arts' summer program for high school kids called CSSSA. That sealed the deal for me as far as my decision to go into the animation world. Then I decided to take the 3D route. I ended up moving out to Sarasota Florida to study computer animation at Ringling College of Art and Design, where I am currently finishing up my senior year.
How do you go about designing, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?
I try to think about the personality of the character. I've learned that there's more to just the shapes and drawing quality to character design…but how design relates to the character itself and who they are. So with that in mind, I always begin with some reference. Whether at the library or on Google, I'll spend a ton of time gathering different photos of that type of person/animal and also some images that show the right mood and emotion.
For example, when I was working on some "crying crocodiles" in addition to the animal pictures, I printed out a ton of images of small kids crying…to help capture that raw emotion you find in children. I guess, for me, it's about gathering both facts and feelings in order to get started. I usually stay rough and general when I start. I like working in painter, they have some really nice brushes for working loosely. I'll jot down basic shapes and silhouettes. I think it's important to have a strong foundation for the design. I think this starts in the shape, figuring out its raw iconic essence. Depending on what I'm designing for I try to think about the big picture. If there are several characters…I'll be thinking about how they relate to the others. I try to think about if the design works with the character and the story. A lot of the designs I've worked on have been designs for characters I've had to take into 3-D for my animation projects.
So for those I'd try to think about how they might move and if they're feasible in 3-D. But when designing for 3-D I think it's important to know the medium but also to not feel too restricted by it. I've noticed that often times we focus more on the restrictions of 3-D rather than how we can manipulate that medium to our advantage. When the design itself is more of a final illustration I think about getting all the pieces to work together. Getting the characters to all interact, show interesting expressions and show story moments. I try to create some rhythm throughout the piece with the composition, lines, and color. When I try to explain it, there's a lot to think about…so in a way I try not to worry about it all too much. Drawing is fun, and I like when my drawings have a carefree energy to them. When creating character designs or any art I think it is important to follow intuition and draw from the heart.
What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work with?
I'm still in school at Ringling studying computer animation…so I spend most my day working in the computer labs on my film. I'm lucky to work alongside a lot of great friends and talented artists. We've all become a pretty tight knit group and I'm always being inspired by the creativity I see with my classmates.
What are some of the things that you have worked on?
I'm still in school so I don't have much on the resume. Two summers ago I had the privilege of interning at Disney as a visual development intern. The art interns each chose a story to develop designs and art for. I designed an urban graffiti version of the Bible's creation story.
Is there a design you have done that you are most happy with?
It's so hard to finish a design and stay happy with it over the test of time…I think most artists can be pretty hard on themselves and see all the flaws and things we'd do differently now. Right now I'm working on a 2 minute short film for my senior year thesis. I started the story/design work last spring and I'm still happy to be working with these characters. The film is in 3d, so I had to model and translate everything into 3d. I'm actually happy with most my recent 3d designs. In a strange way I feel almost like I've had more bonding time with those characters. They went through several iterations in 2d before I came to a decision. Then I spent countless hours bringing them into 3d. When you model in 3d you really have to be aware of how every angle is designed and how to maintain the designs integrity. A design that looked nice in 2d needs to maintain its appeal from many different angels and through all its poses. Then finally after you've finished making and hooking up all of the facial expressions, building a skeleton and rigging it, there's that magical moment when you bend around their limbs and they finally feel alive again. For me, the process of bringing the designs to life myself, in a cheesy way, made me feel like I know them…like they're my babies. I guess I feel like I accomplish something with my designs anytime I can feel the personality.
What projects have you done in the past, and what are you working on now?
Right now I'm working on my senior thesis film which will be finished in a couple months. It's about a man lost at sea receiving letters that are folded and sent as origami cranes. I'm also working on a children's book about a Peruvian girl traveling around the world collecting colors, and an alphabet book. I'd like to send them off to publishers and see what happens. But I'm not working on any major projects. Hopefully in time I'll be fortunate to say that I'm designing for an awesome upcoming animated film.
Who do you think favorite artists out there?
When I was interning at Disney I gained such an appreciation for raw beautiful drawings. I was able to see collections of original animation drawings…they were incredible, I think some of the most amazing artists and draftsmen are the 9 old men and other Disney artists ranging from Mary Blair to Glen Keane. Some other designers and illustrators I enjoy are Charles Harper, Ronald Searle, Alice and Martin Provensen, Erich Sokol, Nico Marlet, Joe Moshier, Paul Felix, Tadahiro Uesugi, Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt, Sterling Hundley, Norman Rockwell, Dean Cornwell, Chris Ware, and so many more than I'm leaving out.
Could you talk about your process in coloring your art, as well as the types of tools or media that you use?
I really like using traditional media, but most of the time I end up working digitally. A lot of my recent work is drawn in prismacolor pencils then colored in Photoshop. I love the feeling of drawing with a real pencil on paper…there's a different energy than a digital mark. And I especially love the feel of prismacolor colored pencils. I discovered them in elementary school and was obsessed; I knew every color in the 120 box by name…I'm an art nerd. When I go out sketching, I usually carry around some sort of marker box or briefcase. I'm all about markers, I love how spontaneous they can be and there's something nice about having to commit to your marks since you can't erase. My favorite markers are Staedtler and Tombow watercolor brush bens, calligraphy pens, and miscellaneous Pentel markers.
What part of designing is most fun and easy, and what is most hard?
I like the exploration, I have fun doing research and coming up with ideas. I like all the potential in the beginning and that moment of inspiration when you get an idea that you can't wait to work with. The hardest part for me is committing to a design. I can be pretty indecisive at times, which makes it easy for me to explore the many different possibilities and directions. But once I've worked on so much exploration I find it difficult to decide on a final design.
What are some of the things that you do to keep yourself creative?
To stay creative I try to go out drawing. I like to go to malls, food courts, and cafes to people watch. Aside from drawing, I don't do a ton to go out of my way to be creative and get inspired. Inspiration seems to happen on accident when you're living life. It's hard to plan. I guess for me it's more about trying to see the artistic charm in our daily life experiences. My favorite ideas have come from personal experience, sometimes it's a character, memory, or story message that rings true to me. I love thinking in cars...driving around late at night, or as a passenger staring out the window. When I'm at school I'm surrounded by so many other artists; we share and inspire each other and keep the creativity flowing.
What are some of your favorite designs which you have seen?
From recent films, I love the Nico Marlet designs for Kung Fu Panda, I think his work is brilliant.
What is your most favorite subject to draw? And why?
I like drawing animals or funny looking people. Generally I don't like drawing kids and pretty people…I have more fun when things are chunky, droopy, wrinkly, aged, awkward, etc. It seems more real to me to draw unappealing things and try to give them appeal. Animals are fun because there's already a lot to work with when designing them. I think of God as the ultimate designer… he must have had a blast with the animal world creating so many interesting shapes, sizes, patterns and textures. Human shapes are more familiar but the animal world seems to have more unique elements to work with.
What inspired you to become an Artist?
If I had to pick an early source of inspiration…I'd say I was inspired by parrots. That's all I ever drew when I was young. I loved parrots. My Family had a "Bird Talk" magazine subscription that I'd draw from, we had two pet parrots, and we'd regularly attend bird club meetings. I drew parrots so much because I was fascinated by all their colors. I've always been a fan of colors and that hasn't wavered. I love how colors play into design and setting the right feeling or mood.
What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?
I grew so much as an artist after my sophomore year when I had the privilege of interning at Disney for visual development. I was mentored by Claire Keane. She taught me the importance of knowing who your character is. In the beginning I'd show her what I was working on and I was mostly thinking about shapes and facial features. She'd always ask what the character is like, who they are, what's the character's relationship, etc. I had only been thinking about the drawings and not who I was drawing. She had me work on little vignette studies where I'd try to develop my two main characters' relationship and interactions, the designs organically evolved out of those personality sketches.
I took away the importance of putting life and personality into my designs. The other visual development mentors that I worked closely with were Bill Schwab and Jean-Christophe Poulain. I learned a lot about appeal and being passionate about your work. I learned that specificity is important - to include all the details that make something true. I learned how it's important to research and know your subject in order to bring truth to it, and how you can almost hear and smell the best environments. I owe a lot of inspiration to the other brilliantly talented interns that I worked with that summer and "team vizdev" (Me, Mario Miranda, Paul Abadilla, Mael Gourmelen,) I learned so much from working alongside these guys. Currently I'm working on my senior year film with my faculty instructor Jamie Deruyter. Aside from being incredibly dedicated he's been really supportive of us exploring different styles/rendering possibilities for 3d animation, and how to use Maya/3d as a means to an end. He's taught us the importance of making a film and telling a good story. Collectively the Ringling faculty has helped me to develop so much as an artist. I owe so much to my education here; in class I've really learned how to develop my style and to apply that to short films and 3d.
What are some of your favorite websites that you go to?
I enjoy checking out Motionographer, Psyop, Passion Pictures, Studio AKA, and Coconino World is awesome.
What wisdom could you give us, about being an Artist? Do you have any tips you could give?
I would love more wisdom about being an artist myself. Then again maybe that's some advice…never think that you've figured it out and stop seeking advice. There's so much to soak up from the people around us. While I think hard work is important, it's important to keep it in perspective…try not to overstress to impress, get discouraged, and most importantly don't forget how blessed we are as artists to make a living out of something creative we love.
If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?
My email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
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?
If anyone is interested, I'd be happy to sell prints of my work…just send me a message!
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