Monday, December 26, 2005
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?
Nothing much to say, I was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1983 on a rainy July night to a large family where most of my brothers and sisters were into drawing and such. After the years passed some decided to continue with art and some didn't. I used to think I'd grow up to be a comic book artist for marvel or dc, so all through elementary school me and my companions would draw comics of our creations and sell them to kids. I always had a love for cartoons and feature animated films, but since I never knew how they made those movies I never thought I could do them. Once I got out of high school and I attended the college for creative studies for two years, but during those 2 years I had the pleasure of being taught by a illustrator/animator
named David Chai. He pretty much opened my eyes up to animation both to the common mainstream stuff and the really independent and underground stuff. Countless sleepless nights followed slaving away at animation till early 2003 when I departed, ever since I left c.c.s I bounced around took a class here and there just trying to do the best I could do teaching myself most of what I know today and I think that its helped me a lot.
How do you go about designing a character, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?
Usually I try to think of what world my character exists in, his/her personality. I may design one story in one style and then the next in another style; it just depends on the story. I would hate to design everything the same way; it would make the creative process boring and repetitive. Its all about forward progression, different stories require different looks in my own opinion, I'm always looking for new ways to do things, new styles to explore as well as keeping my core style that I love working in. There’s no denying influences, we're all influenced by someone so its ok to look at certain aspects of other designers/artists and take what you like and put them in your style. Try to keep things fresh, it will keep your viewer on their toes and have them coming back for more, thinking "what is he/she going to do next".
With that said, I usually blank out during the creation process and end up having something in front of me that I either like or don't like. Usually you can feel a good design when you see it, everything has to work visually, placement of eyes, colors, shape. It’s all about feeling for me, there’s no denying a interesting design, when you try to go and do variations and nothing looks as interesting as the one you liked. If I have a design that I feel uneasy about in the slightest way I know there’s something in there that I have to alter to get it to work.
I think that variety is key; having each of your characters completely unique from each other so the viewer doesn't get bored with one. I think the movie "The Incredibles" did this perfectly. Each character at different sizes/shapes and each really distinct personalities, visually not one character was boring. But if you have a group of characters that must look the same like the 7 dwarves of snow white, you should really make each one stand out with their own personalities. If you look at all the animations in past history they all show example of this. Either the characters are different physically and mentally, or are similar in size ratio but have really distinct personalities.
So sometimes the design travels below the surface of visual skin of the character. I think when you do that the viewer remembers each individual character more. But I don't think that’s the be-all end-all way, it all depends on the style your going for, how stylized your characters are going to be. Sometimes your job is to just create a shell, that someone else must fill with life. It quite a complicated process I think if you break it down and analyze it bit by bit, but its something you do without thinking so its never that serious....at least I think?
What do you think really helps you out in designing a character?
reference is the most important thing for me. whether its reference from every day life, books, or magazines, I tend to study life a lot when I'm out and about doing my things. How people react, talk, body language, little things that we do but don't notice doing what people are wearing, ect ,ect. I think that when we see things in a character that we see in ourselves we relate to them more. The trick is narrowing down those things to the core elements that we all recognize subconsciously, giving them as much believable life as possible. I think character design travels as far deep into a project as how he acts, talks, moves, and thinks. If you can really show off distinct personalities in a design then I think you've done your job.
From your own experience and maybe from some people that you know, what should we put in our portfolio and what should we not?
I think it depends on what field your going in, from what I've seen its a bit different for everyone. But the job descriptions should tell you what they want, I've heard on more than one occasion full your portfolio with the work you wanna do. If you want to do back grounds, you shouldn't fill it with tons of character designs and vice versa.
What are some of the things that you have worked on?
Freelance stuff here and there, contract work for a couple of companies, and personal projects with other artists.
Is there a character design you have done that you are most proud of?
It changes every day because your always progressing, changing and getting better. I can like something today and hate it tomorrow, but I have a couple of stories I created awhile back that still stand the test of time with my artistic development. So I guess I'm most proud of those and I hope to do something in animation or comics with them in the future.
What are you working on now? (If you can tell us)
right now I'm just freelancing, and doing contract work here and there while working on my stuff on the side. I'm working on a short story for "flight volume:4" as well as some other comics projects with other comrades.
Where is the place you would like to work if you had a choice?
Any place really that does interesting stories, no preference, I wouldn't mind working with every studio I admire since they all have different things that they bring to the table.
Who do you think are the top character designers out there?
So many to name, but I mostly look at people that are around my age coming up with not much professional work but really hungry to get into things. These are people to look out for in the coming year(s) seriously.
Peers(in no particular order): Shaz-lym Enrico, Tim Mcburnie, Edel Tripp, Alex Stodolnik, Aysha Shehim, Justin Cherry, Ken Wong, Gez Fry, Robin Chyo, Matt Rhodes.
Older seasoned artists I look up to(in no particular order): Koji Morimoto, Katsuhiro Otomo, Hayao Miyazaki , Massimiliano Frezzato, Glen keene, Peter De Seve, Juanjo Guarnido, Alessandro Barbucci, Gardino, Claire Wendling, Peter Chung, Jamie Hewlett, Robert Valley.
How do you go about coloring the character, what type of tools or media do you use?
I tend to use regular white copy paper 8x11 for starting things out or Bristol if I'm trying to be extra fancy or selling work. I ruff out the drawing pretty hard in red col-erase, go over it with pencil or ink, I knock out the red in Photoshop (this saves for lightboxing), then I use Photoshop to color mostly since it’s the fastest. But whenever I got the time I like to use prisma color markers, watercolors, and any other traditional medium that suits the mood. That’s where the real fun is at, sitting waiting for things to dry, smelling the paints, getting it on your hands, it really touches your inner child. I tend to now more than ever just color digitally using gradients, cuts, and the airbrush tool. Since my work is mostly 2-dimensional I think this way fits it the most.
Recently though I've found out that if I scribble my under drawing mindlessly it allows me to not only create really fluid poses, but if I'm designing a character it lets me create shapes that I normally wouldn't use. Instead of sitting down and painstakingly constructing out of boxes and circles, I'm able to jump around the drawing at 2 times the speed and create the silhouettes of the character with random lines. After I have a idea of what I want I just pick out lines and shapes that I find interesting in the details, its a really good exercise because at times I find myself intimidated by a blank sheet of paper. I become so worried about messing it
up, so just attacking it without care of proportions and clean lines I'm able to overcome this fear.
What part of designing a character is most fun and easy, and what is most hard?
Getting to know the character and creating them, how they move, giving them life, personality, a world to live in and interact with. I'd think the same thing that’s the most fun about designing a character is also the most hard. Sometimes it’s difficult coming up with all that stuff, and not having it be lame.
What are some of your favorite character designs and least favorite, which you have seen?
I love everything and anything that comes out of "Studio 4 c", Koji Morimoto and Tatsuyuki Tanaka are my idols. They do really weird, interesting work that most of the time doesn't make sense. I love that....heh
I don't think I have any least favorites I tend to find the things that "worked" instead of focusing on the negative aspects, I think every character can work given they are put in a decent story and written right they don't necessarily have to be visually super appealing. Most animated movies or shows I don't care for its the fault that the story didn't move me, look at some of the early designs for rugrats and the Beavis and Butthead cartoons, not very esthetically pleasing but popular in their own way. I think that’s why a lot of the recent animated movies have been getting some heat, I don't necessarily blame the artists. I would like to see everyone take a risk and make something really ambitious and unique; I think the masses would like that.
What is your most favorite subject to draw? And why?
Different cultures for sure, there are so many awesome stories being told around the world that aren't being heard. I just like to reflect the world we live in, we need more color and variety and not just the Politically correct (we need each of every race thing) or stereotypes. Make it interesting! Introduce us to your culture, your traditions, your music, your language. But it mostly fluctuates between, satisfying my inner child, pleasing my adult mind, and attending to my weird sense of humor.
What inspired you to become an Artist?
A teacher at the school (college for creative studies) I went to named David Chai, coolest guy I know thus far and the best animators I know. He taught me everything I know, I still go off some of his principles. He doesn't know the monster he created the two years he taught me! He's one of those guys that stressed finding your individual voice in your art, which is something I live and breathe now.
What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?
"You don't get something for nothing You can't have freedom for free You won't get wise With the sleep still in your eyes No matter what your dreams might be"
What wisdom could you give us, about being a character designer? Do you have any tips you could give?
I could stress some more technical aspects, but I'm sure others have and will point out and I wouldn't want to sound like a broken record. So have fun, rock out, do lots of good art, don't worry about the little things, draw a lot, and love life. Find a good mentor or teacher to give you a good push in the right direction, then keep at it like your life depends on it. Because for certain individuals it does, you don't work, you don't eat, you don't grind at it, you don't ever shine. Not to be serious, I just think your success depends majority on how much you want it and your willingness to get in there and get your hands dirty.
Educate yourself on everything going around you, one day that knowledge will come in handy. There aren't to many short cuts, its all about hard work and dedication to your craft.
That’s more of wisdom on being an artist in general...haha
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?
Nothing for sale, but I'm always available for any commissions and freelance work at the moment.