Can you first tell us where you are working now and how you landed there?
Sure, right now I’m working on a few projects( I can’t really say what they are). Throughout the year I have been working on various projects for different companies like Laika, Dreamworks, DHX, Sony, and ReelFX.
I landed each of the jobs in different ways, but the majority of them have come through my website and relationships.
What was your path to Animation? Were you always interested in animation or fine arts growing up?
My path into animation was kind of an accident. I was an illustration major in college and wanted to illustrate picture books and comics for a living. I attended a comic-con back in 1999 and a friend of mine suggested I show my work to WB animation (which had a booth at the con) and so I did and from there I got my first job working for WB animation doing visual development, character design and story for a few of their projects.
Where did your path lead you from there?
After WB animation, I studio hopped and made my way around the animation circuit working for various studios like Disney, Sony, Cartoon Network, Laika, Dreamworks and many others. I have been working in animation for the past 15 years but in the meantime I have also been writing and illustrating picture books.
What were your artistic inspirations growing up and how did they change over time?
Most of my art heroes growing up were comicbook artists and American illustrators. It wasn’t until I started working in animation that I found artists like Milt Kahl, Provensens, Tom Oreb, Chuck Jones, Maurice Noble, Eyvind Earle, Mary Blair, and so many other amazing animation artists. Today I find myself coming full circle and influenced by both.
Do you mind sharing your artistic process a bit? What are your mediums of choice or tools artists might try?
Sure, my process is pretty much always the same. First thing I do when I get an assignment is to understand the story behind the design or the storyboard sequence.
I read over the script/bio and really try and understand what it is I’m trying to capture or convey to the audience.
Then I spend about a day gathering reference and looking/observing life and thinking about my own experiences that maybe I can bring to the table.
From there I start to do really rough small thumbnails with a ball point pen for the character design and try to really just focus on the basic shape/silhouette and feeling of the character and not worry about any other details.
After I have the basic shape I like, I go in and start to add form and details to the design. Once I have the character cleaned up a bit I start to add color and then finish it off depending on the level of finish any given director likes to see.
I usually start the process in my sketchbook with a pen or pencil and then scan in the rough thumbnail I like and from there bring it into Photoshop to finish it up.
How do you stay driven creatively in-between projects and on your own work in between studio projects?
I’m constantly creating and writing new ideas and stories I’d like to share. It can be a picture book or a film idea, but I’m always, always working on my own projects when I get some free time. Also, reading non-illustrated books gets my imagination going as well. Its’ good food for thought/creativity.
You have a new book you are publishing with CTN that is all sketches and rough drawings, what made you decide to show your early process?
Yes, CTN published my new book called “OVI: sketchbook”. In it I tried to display the raw sketchbook art from my sketchbooks. I took photos of the sketchbooks and tried to keep the look and feel of it as raw and rough as possible without scanning and cleaning up the images so that you really get to see the actual sketchbook page as if you were looking at the actual sketchbook.
Every artist I know (including myself) likes to see the process behind the finished work of art. It reveals how an artist “thinks” and informs early choices the artist makes on his/her way to the final piece.
It’s also nice to see some of the struggles and mistakes artists make in their rough work. Which confirms that we all struggle a bit and that only through practice, study and repetition can we grow and get better at our craft.
I wanted to show and capture a little bit of that process in my book.
What have you learned about your art and the life of an artist that you may want to share with people?
I think the most important thing I learned is to have a voice and my own personal view on things. Growing up it was all about “style” and the surface stuff, but as I have grown as an artist I have learned that the most important thing to focus on is your message or voice. Have something to say with your work and don’t be ashamed to be yourself regardless of what is hot or popular at the time. Trends and styles come and go, but a good, clear message will last the test of time. Just be yourself and don’t worry about what people think. You can never please everyone so you might as well please yourself first.
How did you get involved with CTN and what have you found CTN brings to you as an artist?
Tina Price Invited me to be part of the 2015 CTN expo and also asked if I was interested in printing a sketchbook based on my sketchbooks. It’s been a great experience and I’m very grateful for the opportunity and collaboration.
Are there things about the industry that CTN has helped open up?
I think CTN has helped open up relationships and opportunities for all artists and studio employees to share and communicate ideas, art and experiences with fans and students.
Interview by Heather M. Shepherd
Heather is an experienced artist, modeler, and CG designer. She has worked at Disney,Dreamworks, Jim Henson and Warner Bros. Recently shehas been writing, directing,and producing her own award winning films.