Sunday, December 11, 2005

THE INTERVIEW



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 live in Vancouver Canada, and studied art at The Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design. Their animation department was different than most other schools because they primarily focus on teaching their students

how to be an independent artist first and foremost. So, we learned how to do a film, and at that time they were still using animation stands and steenbeck machines so we learned how to do it the old school way which was

fun. It wasn’t until a few years after I left when everything started getting super digital. While I was at school, we were visited by a super cool lady by the name of Marlene Robinson May. She had worked in the animation industry for like fifty years, and showed us all this cool stuff like old animation and storyboards which was amazing. She had all these fantastic stories of working with pretty much every old big shot director like Chuck Jones, Tex Avery, and some of the old Disney guys too. At the time she was working at AKA Cartoons as a timing director on Ed, Edd, n Eddy. Through her I got my first gig at AKA doing boards. In pretty much one

way or another I've been working full time in the animation industry since. Although I do design, and its what primarily interests me, I've also done animation, boards, BGs, and development.


How do you go about designing a character, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?

1) When I design a character I first and foremost think, how can I make this interesting? What little nuances or idiosyncrasies can i put into it that can make it different in some way and stand out? Consideration of the character's history. What is the story behind the character? What is it about him/her that you can incorporate into the design?

2) If its a specific type of character, I will do some research – usually the internet, to get some generic images. The web is an indispensable tool for the designer as pretty much all topics are available at the click of a mouse.

3)I always consider the style of the show I'm working on and see how far I can go with the design. I think about where I want to go with the design and do some really fast rough work at first. Have fun playing with shapes and sizing. Personally, I usually tend to gear towards more angular shapes.

4) I always keep it simple. Bruce Timm had a wonderful way of simplifying his characters. I try and find creative ways of breaking down a character or a pose to its essence. When cleaning up the image , I think of line economy, and graphic simplicity.

I usually always follow a bold, streamlined design philosophy, but sometimes I disregard everything and just have fun doing it and hold no applicable rules.


What do you think really helps you out in designing a character?


I usually have a sketchbook handy that I constantly do stupid little drawings in. The sketchbook should be a good resource for material. I find that those drawings that I did super early in the morning when I'm almost drooling end up being the most interesting work. Drawing should never really be a chore, somehow always do it when you’re stoked to do it. If you feel that it’s a chore to draw, try and find a topic or a character that you think is ridiculous, or funny, or whatever stokes your imagination. Sometimes drawing is like forcing yourself to workout, you can always trick your mind into doing something you don’t want to do. Ask yourself where your interests lay. What is missing out there on the market that you would love to see? And draw that. Never be too invested in any of your artwork. It can always improve, and it can always be better. Get criticism from other artists, but be wary the source. Consider the advice you want to take, and the advice you don't. Never take anything personally.

I look for inspiration via the internet, magazines, books and looking at other artists websites or blogs. There is so much talent out there, its unbelievable. Books are great, but they are expensive. I know a lot of people that have an insane art book collection and so do I. But, never forget that huge building in the middle of the city with that nice courtyard where all the bums hang out. Its called the library. I learned how to use Flash by taking out a book at the Vancouver Library, and I've been working on Flash shows for the last three years. It cost me ten bucks for a library card, I didn’t have to take a five hundred dollar course. The library is a good resource and it can save you your hard earned cash.

Most importantly, I like looking at stuff that has been done a long time ago. Primarily work that has been overlooked and uncredited. I'm a huge fan of Bill Elder's work on those old Mad Magazine comics. Although he is quite famous, I believe he's primarily still an unsung artist as far as his talent. His ink work is amazing and the humor in his drawing is just hilarious. I like it that a lot of artists nowadays don't know him. It makes his work that much more special.


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've looked at a lot of portfolios at some of the previous places that I have worked and was amazed at how some of them looked exactly the same. They were all cookie cutter portfolios with the same design styles and look. The ones that ended up getting hired were of course the ones with the best draftsmanship, but we also hired people that had their own style. Just because they stood out. Throw in some of your best figure drawing and some other stuff that can show you can draw. Then, throw in the work that best defines you as an artist with a brain, one that doesn’t just rip off other peoples styles. There is a lot of that going on right now, people used to do it with Disney, and now there a few artists that are unfortunately having their work copied all over the place. Try and have some original stuff in there that is unlike anything out on the market or the industry right now.

What are some of the things that you have worked on?

I've worked primarily in animation, for TV. I've done assorted development character design for Kids WB, Disney, and Cartoon Network through studios here in Vancouver. One of my shows, Monster Mayhem was in

development with the WB as well, and I did a whole schwak of designs for that. I've also done storyboards for Ed, Edd, n Eddy at AKA Cartoons. At the moment I'm at Atomic Cartoons, where I'm doing storyboards and animating on Atomic Betty. I also do boards freelance and design on a whole bunch of other shows. So far Atomic has been great to me, and they just keep doing great stuff so I'm pretty happy. I also do development on other shows of my own that I am always constantly working on just for the love of the craft. They are all in the development phase, and in different stages of production.


Is there a character design you have done that you are most proud of?


My personal favorite is a hard boiled detective type-character named Frank Grimm for my show "Monster Mayhem". I loved those old radio shows like Sam Spade and Boston Blackie. The characters were rich and the stories were great. At the time, there wasn't much Detective stuff on the market since Dick Tracy. So it seemed like a great show to do especially since I loved the genre. I created a whole show around him and loved the process of making a series concept. It was great to dive into the character descriptions and the episodic storylines. I really enjoy imagining the history and story of the character. I love making pitch packs for show ideas, sometimes to sell to broadcasters, sometimes just for the fun of it.


What are you working on now? (If you can tell us)

I am currently animating at Atomic Cartoons, on Atomic Betty. I am also doing a storyboard for another production there called Captain Flamingo. On my spare time I am developing two new shows called "Trapped in Dimension X" and "The Stand Back Adventures of Dr. Ferocious", which are both still in the design stages.

Where is the place you would like to work if you had a choice?

I honestly love it here at Atomic Cartoons. I work with some super wicked people and I work with some good friends. Of course, if I could pick a dream scenario it would be to be working on my own production on one of my shows. Although, whenever I talk with someone who does have their own show they are usually super stressed out all the time and are always in a crazed manic state. But, hey! They have their own show!

If I did have a choice, I would go back in time and work on Sponge Bob Squarepants because that show was and always will be gold. I would have loved to work on Dexters Lab or Samarai Jack too. Right now I wish I could work on Jon Izen's Yam Roll show more, and if I make a clone of myself I will. Technology is getting super advanced lately so I'm betting on that happening in the new year.

Who do you think are the top character designers out there?

Wow, I could go on forever on this one, but I'll keep it short...
People I know:
Pat Pakula ( a visual genuis) http://patpaku.blogspot.com/

Jon Izen http://www.yamroll.com/

Garnet Syberg-Olsen http://www.carnivalcartoons.com/

Paul Watling http://paulyblogg.blogspot.com/

Ridd Sorensen http://dabeehive.blogspot.com/

Mauro Casalese www.atomiccartoons.com

Rob Davies www.atomiccartoons.com

Clio Chiang http://blog.cliochiang.com/

Gene Blakefield. http://geenpool.blogspot.com/

Other influences:

Steve Lambe, Mike Mignola, Jack Kirby, Bill Elder, Harvey Kurtzman, Ed Benedict, Jay Ward's stuff, Charles Schultz, Bill Wray ( Bill Wray's stuff is completely awe inspiring to me)

How do you go about coloring the character, what type of tools or media do you use?

Personally, I use a color pallette that’s usually a little washed down. I don’t really like bright colors unless I have to. Lately I've been using Flash for the clean up and coloring of my work, and am in the process of really learning Photoshop to try out all of those nifty brushes and layers. I do enjoy looking at straight up black ink work. So sometimes I just like it Black and white.

What part of designing a character is most fun and easy, and what is most hard?

The fun of not caring is what I like most. When you don’t care about the outcome and just enjoy the act of drawing. Unfortunately, like most artists I am plagued by self doubt and get wrapped into what the outcome should be and it can ruin my experience (single tear ). I try to keep on learning so the hard part is finding new cool ways of designs to incorporate into your characters, like new ways to draw noses, or totally designy stuff like little swirls on the elbows.

The initial design of a character can be a pleasurable experience, probably the most fun. But then when you have to break down the character into turnarounds, it can be not so much fun. But it’s funnier than digging ditches, so its all relative... Overall the hardest part is trying to come up with something that stands out

and that is original and is funny! Also I hate drawing toes and cheeks.

What are some of your favorite character designs and least favorite, which you have seen?

I loved Clone High, that show was funny and the designs rocked. I've seen every episode probably a hundred times, so I 'm kind of sick of it though. When Samarai Jack came out I loved it as well. Dexters was great. I also love the designs on Fosters Home for Imaginary friends, although I have a hard time watching a whole episode. My Life as a Teenage Robot has beautiful designs that show should win whatever award a show gets that looks great.

I absolutely love old Jay Ward cartoons like Rocky & Bullwinkle, and Sherman & Peabody. Roger Ramjet is up there too. These cartoons were done on horribly low budgets, just thinking of them makes me laugh.

My least favorite are the designs in cartoons that lack originality and are unfunny. That's probably about 80% of the shows that are out there right now. It is truly a sad, sad state of affairs.

What is your most favorite subject to draw? And why?

I love drawing Monsters based on old 50's movies or comic books. They are just really fun to draw and you can usually incorporate some kind of crazy history or story with the character.

What inspired you to become a Character Designer?

I've drawn stupid silly characters since I was kid so it's pretty much been just to escape boredom. Animation can be an industry filled with monotony. Especially when you’re doing animation or storyboards. Designing characters is one of the few cool areas where you don’t have to draw the same thing hundreds of times. So, it's

a breath of fresh air.

When I was younger and in school I also had jobs in construction and roofing which really, really sucked. I cant tell you how crappy those jobs were..haha... I was just inspired to get out of that type of work and having

the possibility of doing art for a living. My worst day in animation turns into my best day when I reflect on those jobs. All of us are really fortunate to be doing what we're doing for a living.....

What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?

I've been pretty fortunate to work with some people who have amazing talent. Just being around guys who are really into what they are doing is a plus. A of mine- Jon Izen has an awesome show that he's doing through March Entertainment called " The Very Good Adventures of Yam Roll in Happy Kingdom". He just started doing it and the designs are amazing because they are original and irreverant and they are FUNNY! His characters can make me laugh just buy looking at them. They don't even have to be moving or doing anything "wacky", they are just funny by nature. Izen enjoys doing his own stuff and it shows and I find that approach to be quite influential. When things seem to start becoming boring or you feel burnt out, remember why you

got into animation in the first place, and always remember that pleasing yourself is just as important as pleasing your boss or chasing the dollar. Never forget to do your own stuff.

Being an artist I find it extremely beneficial to be around good artists. Here at Atomic, there's an insane amount of talent. Some of the guys here are not only extremely good, but extremely fast as well. Some of the higher ups here like Mauro Casalese and Rob Davies just pump out great designs effortlessly and they are all great designs. When you get to that level its amazing because these guys are good, and they're prolific. They've

done literally hundreds of designs for several different shows we're working on. So from that standpoint and in terms of industry it really does pay to be fast AND good. When your working, speed is essential. What is great

quality work worth, if it took you hours to do when it should have taken ten minutes? It's just throwing away your time (and sometimes your health) if you end up having to do all nighters to keep up. So finding ways to be

quick and prolific are a must when your working. Although, if you’re doing your own stuff, just do it for the fun of it though and forget the clock.

I also learned to be versatile. Although I primarily love doing designs, sometime the industry can be quite unstable. Because of that nature, and how jobs can have a tendency to be scarce, I gathered experience on how to do storyboards and animation as well. Everything is universal in animation; you can learn something from everything. Early on I was advised to be capable of doing everything so if a studio only has one department hiring, you can get work when things go dry. So, if something opens up that isn’t necessarily what you want to get into, take the job and learn from it. Then you can use it as a stepping stone to do what you really want to do.

I've always thought "Networking" was a lame word, but its an important concept. I just think of it as being social and talking with new people in an honest way. If you're really into something, you'll get to talking with

people that do it. When I think of "networking" as term I just think of pushy producers who are being friendly because they want something. As an artist, if your really into one thing or another, meeting people will happen

and come naturally, and you shouldn't pressure yourself into "Networking" people. Just be friendly and social, and you'll naturally learn from other great artists. Everybody makes mistakes, but personally, I would rather talk with someone and learn through a mistake they made, than make the actual mistake myself.

What wisdom could you give us, about being a character designer? Do you have any tips you could give?

On the topic of Character design, I would advise originality. There is a lot of talent out there. Take for example, Shane Glines. The guy is an amazing prolific artist. He had his own unique look and became a pretty much a legend within animation circles. But a lot of people have tried to replicate that style. Over time that look has saturated the industry and so many people have ripped of his unique style. This has happened to quite a few artists out there that have their own great style that gets over saturated because of people ripping them off. It’s sad really. I think it comes from the idea of people being afraid to do crappy work. It’s much easier to rip off somebody's great style than to create their own original style and risking exposure. But what people don’t realize is that even a crappy style can be great. I love crappy drawings. Its like what John Kricfalusi said, sometimes the crappy drawings are just funny. Maybe "crappy" is a bad word. But I'm sure you get what I mean. Even though a drawing isn’t drafted perfectly it may still have wonderful charm. Never worry about your drawing being crappy. Let it be different. All that old UPA stuff or those old Jay Ward cartoons were wonderful because the drawings had charm, and they were funny. Try and do something that hasn’t been done before.

If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?

I've just jumped on the blog bandwagon, with new stuff and old stuff http://schmidderson.blogspot.com/ .... I have some work up there from all the shows that I'm currently pitching at the moment. Plus I post silly drawings and what-nots. Check it out! My email is keschmid@hotmail.com, any contact is welcome, as I'm a pretty lonely guy....

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?

Unfortunately, I have no work for sale at the moment. I am planning on selling posters that I've done through my blog, and hopefully I can get that all organized soon. I'm always in the process of selling my shows to the networks so put the word out!