Saturday, December 17, 2005
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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 was born and raised in Welland, Ontario just outside of Niagara Falls. I believe it was a Sunday…possibly snowing.
There were only a couple things I wanted to be when I grew up, it was a toss up, the New Six Million Dollar Man or a really cool architect like Mr. Brady of Brady Bunch fame.
Didn’t care much for achedemichs, School was a place to meet girls, draw funny pictures on my pencil case, and on occasion throw up on the gym floor.
After high school I worked around the city offering up all I had learned. Finally I had to make a decision, give up my lucrative career as the guy who takes your license plate number in the C.I.B.C parking lot or go to college and perfect my God given talent and become a professional pencil case artist.
To keep a short story about the same length, I went to Sheridan for animation and was hired out of second year by Phoenix Animation which worked out great for me seeing I wasn’t asked back for third year. I spent most of my professional career at Nelvana and most recently started my own company, Neptoon Studios.
Next I plan to take over the world – if that’s okay with everyone?
How do you go about designing a character, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?
I usually feel pretty anxious and a bit sick to my stomach as I try to carve something down that the client will like in the amount of time I’ve been given. My roughs are well…ROUGH, so I try to hide the solid blue piece of paper from everyone else’s eye line as I search for some shapes that I can force it into the style of the show.
I’ll throw a fresh sheet of paper on top and begin to trace out the stuff I like, feeling guilty for some reason. I guess I’m waiting for someone to lean over my shoulder and accuse me of tracing my own work.
When I’m done I flip it over on the light table to see what in the drawing isn’t working – I redraw and flip again…unfortunately I have to do this several times. TADA! The rough drawing is complete and if I’m lucky not a soul witnessed the disaster that got me there. Now I can pass this drawing off as my first attempt.
It’s magic time. I find that a clean line heals all wounds - enter my good friend FLASH. Flash helps me make my designs all pretty. I typically use the line tool and bend a nice clean line around my roughs. When that’s done Click and Phil come in and it’s all colored lickety split.
My design is complete. I snicker to myself thinking “ha, ha! I’ve fooled them once again!” (who ever them are)……and sadly that’s what goes through my mind when I design a character.
What do you think really helps you out in designing a character?
Experience is the only thing that helps me. I still go about the process today as I did ten years ago…the only difference is all the mistakes I’ve learned from.
From your own experience and maybe from some people that you know, what should we put in our portfolio and what should we not?
Nothing questionable, if you feel there’s something funky with your design there just may be. Color’s cool and it’s nice to see if the person you’re hiring is well rounded but typically in production it’s handled by the art director and is unnecessary for a character designers portfolio.
When I go through portfolio I’m looking for versatility. I want a person who can stick around for awhile, someone who can move from project to project. Hands are important to me as well. It’s hard to draw without them.
One more thing, and remember this is just me, most people would kill me for saying this but I don’t want to see life drawing unless you put an animated character in the pose of your model. I might change my mind if I decide to do the Saturday morning life drawing show.
What are some of the things that you have worked on?
When I first started I was doing cleanup work for features like Space Jam and Anastasia. I spent most of my career doing Saturday morning though – Bob and Margaret, Maggie and the Ferocious Beast, Moville Mysteries and a handful of other shows never seen outside of Canada.
I also created and directed “Sidekick” with Joey So and ”The 9th Life of Sherman Phelps” with partner (business) Mark Thornton. Both shows run Thursday nights on Canada’s YTV.
Is there a character design you have done that you are most proud of?
I think the characters I designed for SIDEKICK and 9TH LIFE would have to be my favorites. Not that they’re my best but they have the most sentimental value.
What are you working on now? (If you can tell us)
I am currently the assistant director for a new JETIX show (yet to be announced) created by Bob Boyle written by Steve Marmel and directed by Mark Ackland. I’ll also be directing a new series (from the creators of 6TEEN on TELETOON) in the new year with my NEPTOON STUDIOS partner Mark Thornton. I’m extra special excited about this one because I designed the show as well.
Mark Thornton and I are also gearing up to do a stop motion piece which you can find here ~ http://theirishballad.blogspot.com//
Thorny and I have been working together for 10 yrs or so and just finished doing a promo for HABBO along with 14 other studios around the world. If the Habbo online community chooses our promo we may have a series on our hands. Cross your fingers, if you have them.
Where is the place you would like to work if you had a choice?
I do have a choice and I choose to work for Neptoon Studios. I suppose it would be great to freelance for Frederator or Cartoon Network, Nick, Pixar…you know the regulars.
Who do you think are the top character designers out there?
In no particular order (so don’t email me saying “you like so and so more than me”)
David Gilson, Stef Choi, Amanda Visell, Clio Chiang, Anton Bogaty, Mark Ackland, Ben Balistreri, Mark Thornton (if he’d ever save anything), Pete Oswald, Deanna Marsigliese, Steve Lambe, Vera Brosgol, Mike Smukavic, Louis Gonzales, Miah, Drazen Kozjan, Eric Wight, Jason Groh, Jared Deal, Faruk Cemalovic, Brad Coombs, Ahmed Guerrouche, Michael Slack, Nick Cross, Anna Chambers, Brianne Drouhard, The Lefor-Openo team, Joel Trussle, Andrew Shek…and a million others that inspire me daily.
How do you go about coloring the character, what type of tools or media do you use?
I did love using those Tria, Prisma, Pantone alcohol based markers over my roughs – they truly were great – but nothing beats the ease of “Click and Phil”. Typically I draw, clean and color all my designs right in flash. The odd time I will draw on paper, those designs get imported into flash then colored. I prefer vector so I can zoom in without having that whole pixilation problem.
Next, I really want to learn how to do that great dry brush looking stuff. I think Steve Lambe does his in Flash…I’ll have to ask him how he does it.
What part of designing a character is most fun and easy, and what is most hard?
Actually, I find the most fun comes after I’ve designed the character. This is when I get to move it around, give it some personality even a voice if I feel ambitious enough.
On the flip side it can be overwhelmingly defeating to crumple up a whole ream of 81/2x11 worth of designs that just aren’t working and you don’t know why.
What are some of your favorite character designs and least favorite, which you have seen?
To me a good design is simply one I want to emulate. When I find some they are quickly saved to my favpics folder. A poor design is one that tries to be everything to everyone (usually design by committee). These get saved too…but to my notfavpics folder.
What is your most favorite subject to draw? And why?
I’d sound so cool if I said chicks. Maybe a few years ago that would’ve been true. Most recently I enjoy drawing more organic subjects…monsters, aliens, strange looking folk that aren’t from any particular world. It allows me to explore bizarre shapes that wouldn’t necessarily belong with one another.
What inspired you to become a Artist?
Quite seriously, it was my inability to do anything else that was the driving force there.
What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?
I can’t think of any one thing. If I come across an artist that I enjoy I’ll try to duplicate their work. You’ll learn a lot from copying another artist’s form.
What wisdom could you give us, about being a character designer? Do you have any tips you could give?
Good character designers are hard to find. So, if you are a good one, find a way to enjoy it, own it, cuz it’s all people will want you to do for the rest of you life…and if you’re a smart character designer you’ll get paid for it…and if you’re good looking you’ll get paid well.
If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?
Anyone interested in working with me personally can email me at email@example.com. Anyone interested in working with Neptoon Studios can send resumes and URL’s to 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?
As a matter of fact I do. So if you’re in the market for a creative new series for your network or you just happen to be the creative director of production for a major animation studio you can purchase my work here ~ www.neptoonstudios.com ~ We also have several other potential series ideas that are not on the site, so drop us a line.
You can find my newest work at ~ http://neptoonstudios.blogspot.com
Special thanks to Randall for finding me relevant enough to be part of his great blog.
You are very welcome.