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?
Let´s see. First, I should point out that I am what you would call a "vocational" animator. In many cases, many of the animators who I went to school with would comment on how they never had considered Animation as a career choice until recently. That was not my case. My parents tell me I was five when I first decided I wanted to become an animator. Of course, they though that I would grow out of it, but seeing as how I was still bent on it at the age of eighteen, they started to take it seriously. They reluctantly sent me to Cal Arts. I say reluctantly, because they were convinced that Animation wasn´t the right choice. I guess they figured that I would become a starving artist eventually. Hey, they might still be right, who knows?
Cal Arts turned out to be the best choice I ever made. We have a broader choice today, but back then there weren´t many schools that would give proper training for Animation. I truly enjoyed my training there, and it was the first time in my life that I WANTED to go to class. I was fascinated by every aspect of Animation. I´ve never looked back.
How do you go about designing, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?
As I´m sure you´ve heard from most designers, I always start with character. Playing with shapes in fun, but the real design comes from making judgments on the character´s psychology. I have the hardest time when I star drawing without having figured out what the character is about, what his purpose is.
I´ll give you an example: recently I did a few designs of some porcelain dolls for a friend, to be used in a short animated film. He didn´t specify any particular personalities for the dolls. He basically just wanted to fill a shelf with them. So I got to work, and I had a very hard time with it. The reason being that IO was just playing with the physical aspect of design, all I was using was shapes, trying to get the appeal in there. Somehow, the first designs I did were not all that satisfactory to me. I mean, they were technically appealing, yes, but that was it. Then, on the last couple of designs, I tried to find something to aim for. I knew the short had to be somewhat scary, so I decided to try something in that sense. The very moment I wasn´t designing just dolls, but SCARY dolls, things got interesting. I wish I had thought of it earlier.
In any case, you get the point. Form and shape and appeal are important, but not as much as the message they serve.
What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work with?
At the moment, and for the last few years, I haven´t had a typical day in a while. Running your own place, you have to be ready for anything. I try to surround myself with amazing artists, people who aren´t specialized in a particular discipline in Animation, but are versatile enough to jump from design to Story-Boarding to Animation to whatever. That way, I can work with a small crew and keep that small studio atmosphere we like so much.
I do anything from Development on my own projects, Animation Supervision, Design, Treatments and even payroll. Not always fun, but we take the good and the bad.
What are some of the things that you have worked on?
I´m afraid my credit don´t expand too far outside of animation. That´s my passion, and every time I see something good in written form, I can´t help but thinking: "Huh, I wonder how that would translate into an animated film". Yes, I´m that big of a geek.
As an animator, my credits include: A Goofy Movie, Runaway Brain, Hunchback of Notre Dame (Frollo unit), and Hercules (Hades unit).
As a Supervising animator I was in charge of Tantor (Tarzan), and Dr. Doppler (Treasure Planet).
I also have design credit on several of these projects. Actually, I´ve also done a lot of design I wasn´t credited for. Oh well.
Is there a design you have done that you are most proud of?
Not really. I´m somewhat of a pathological perfectionist, you see. Therefore, there isn´t anything I have done that I wouldn´t go back and fix today. For example, Tantor is an Ok design, but I was trying so hard to stay away from the Jungle Book elephants, that I feel I did end up with something different, but not quite as appealing. On Doppler, I was never too sure about the whole "humanized dog" concept. I really wish he could have just been a human.
There you go. Never completely happy.
What projects have you done in the past, and what are you working on now? (if you can tell us)
No, I´m afraid I can´t. But I´ll tell you this: they´re all AWESOME. By the way, if you know someone who wants to throw a few million out the window, I´ll be happy to pitch him my feature ideas.
Seriously, we´re in negotiations with several projects at the moment. So I don´t want to jinx it by speaking too soon. And yes, Giacomo´s Secret is among them. Still fighting to get that one off the ground.
Who do you think are the top artists out there?
There are many. I´ll mention some of my favorites: James Baxter, Glen Keane, Kristoff Serrand, Paul and Gaetan Brizzi, Dean Wellins, Doug Sweetland, Pete Docter, Nicolas Marlet, Sylvain Deboissy. I could go on forever.
Could you talk about your process in coloring your art, as well as the types of tools or media that you use?
I´m afraid you´re talking to a pencil designer exclusively. I occasionally shade my stuff, then send it off to much more talented people in the color area. If I have to show some color, I´ll probably use good old Pastels. No computers involved.
What part of designing is most fun and easy, and what is most hard?
The most fun is the exploring, the trying out different things, pushing yourself to be creative. Unfortunately, that is also the most frustrating. You see, I get completely involved in my work, and it can become very absorbing. I always say that my work is 90% frustration, 10% satisfaction. There´s always that brief moment when you look at the finished product, and you allow yourself to be proud after all it took to get there. Then you get into the next job, and the frustration comes right back.
What are some of the things that you do to keep yourself creative?
Besides books and Museums, I´m and avid movie watcher. The thing is, the last few years my role has been more that of a story teller than an animator or designer, spending most of my time coming up with ideas for animated projects. I found out that i learn a lot more from watching bad movies than from the ggod ones, so I try to see it all. I actually enjoy bad movies quite a bit, as long as they are REALLY bad.
What are some of your favorite designs which you have seen?
Recently, I was truly inspired by Nicolas Marlet and Sylvain Deboissy. Those French know their design.
What is your most favorite subject to draw? And why?
I enjoy slightly caricatured characters. I don´t have anything against realism, but I figure it´s a lot more fun when you can take someone´s character traits, and interpret them with exageration. Nothing wild, but just enough to call attention towards the important stuff.
What inspired you to become an Artist?
What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?
From James Baxter, I learned tons of technical stuff. It has alwas amazed me how he´s capable of keeping track of the appeal, the acting, the character, and also wrap it all up with an impecable finish in technical terms.
From Glen Keane, I learned to work from the heart. It always amazed me to watch him work, to see how involved he gets in the matter at hand. I once was watching him working on Long John Silver, and he was INTENSE. He was thinking “Big guy, strong, overwhelming personality”, and you could actually see that in his face. The only thing that made him snap of it was when he realized he was drawing too large, and the paper wasn´t big enough to hold his idea. He made a comment regarding how that always happenned to him when he was animating a “big” character. I always though how cool it was that he would so easily forget about the restrictions of the paper because he was so involved in putting the idea down.
What are some of your favorite websites that you go to?
The same ones as everyone else here. I´m afraid I don´t know of any hidden gems.
What wisdom could you give us, about being an Artist? Do you have any tips you could give?
Make sure you´re always challenged in anything you do. Don´t ever think you´re going to get to a point where you know everything; the moment you believe that is the moment you stop evolving.
Look back at the work you did a couple of years ago or so. If you think it sucks, then be glad, because it means that you´ve evolved. If you think it´s actually pretty good, WORRY.
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?
Nope. As soon as we have a movie out, you´ll most definitely be welcome to purchase a ticket at the local Cineplex. Other than that, I can´t think of any way to legaly take your money. Sorry.