Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Tell me a little bit about yourself, about your life? What helped prepare you to become the artist that you are today?
I’m originally from Toronto, born and raised. I guess it’s redundant to say that I have been drawing since I was a kid, so I’ll tell you where my passion for designing began. Oddly enough, my love for creating didn’t come from drawing on a day to day basis. I developed a real respect for designing and creating characters through my obsession with Jim Henson and the Muppets – the man created an entire race! Then along came Michael Brunsfeld and the California Raisins followed shortly by the Noid, which pretty much sealed the deal. From that point on, not only did I want to create my own characters but bring them to life.
Luckily for me through my continued failures in clay modeling and puppet making attempts, I stuck with drawing cartoons and eventually got hooked on classical animation.
I discovered that my interests could become a career in grade 8, through some career survey. 5 years later I applied and was accepted to the classical animation program at Sheridan College. Guess what school was listed when the results of that survey came back years earlier?
How do you go about drawing, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?
Research, research, research…and a little inspiration. It really all depends what I’m working on at the time. If I have an idea for a pitch or a book I’ll try and gather as much information, visual or written, as possible. I think it’s very important to know your subject matter inside and out – if you don’t know then you won’t believe it and neither will the viewers or readers. As far as the visual reference, I always like to get as much cartoon reference as possible so I have an idea of what’s already been done. This way I can be confident that my design is unique. It’s also fun to take little bits of existing images or designs to pay homage.
I learned a long time ago that everything in character design is a derivative of an existing take, design or style. Evolution of the old is the way new styles are created i.e. Dexter’s Lab reviving Hanna Barbera.
After the research I start playing around with shapes and seeing how far I can push those shapes with some rough posing. Any character designer out there can do a classic ¾ pose, but when I’m able to push the character and tell a story through posing is when I know I have something. Though posing is normally one of the last steps (at least that’s what I was taught and teach myself), I usually have most of it roughed out before my final design. By that time I know which eyes to use, if things are working structurally, which hands are the funniest, etc.
From that point I’ll tighten up a few of my favorite poses with slicker line work and some rough detail, scan and (maybe)color. I’m not a huge fan of coloring, let alone cleaning drawings and I’ve only just recently started cleaning drawings digitally. Mostly just to try something new. But I’ll take a rough with good line quality and nice silhouette over a colored production image any day.
What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work with?
When freelancing my day is pretty simple and mostly boring. I get up, brush my teeth, download my two favorite podcasts for my dog walk, come home and eat some cereal. After that, anything can happen. Normally I’ll try and get a few cartoons in, be it old WBs stuff or newer stuff like The Mighty B for some laughs and inspiration. During which I’ll doodle for a bit and see what genius may be lurking in my col-erase pencils that day.
I’ve had a lot of ideas for my next books lately, so I’ve been writing a lot. Then of course I’ll log in to my doom tube (computer) and check out the blogs of some of my new favorite artists and inevitably remind myself of how far behind I am creatively and talent wise--but not in a self-pitying way. All of those amazing artists, like the cartoons, inspire me to draw more and push myself – it’s great!
I can’t really complain, I draw, I write then I draw some more and on occasion I get paid for it all.
What are some of the things that you have worked on?
The last show that I worked on Kid Vs. Kat is actually the first production I’ve worked on in a while, before that was on random shows like Mission Hill and Atomic Betty. In recent years I’ve done a lot of development for shows like Being Ian, Something Else, Class of the Titans and others in the works. My main focus of late has been on my books; Always Run Up The Stairs, Veggies Smeggies and Yellow Blues. GO GiT EM’!!
What are you working on now? (if you can tell us)
Can’t do it. All I can tell you is I expect to have two more books out this year(secretly hoping for three).
Who do you think are some of the top artists out there?
Through blogging I’ve discovered so many incredible artists that have become my favorites. The first three that come to mind are Shane Prigmore, Steve Lambe and Aurore Damant. I’d like to pay my respects the Chuck Jones, who’s no longer with us, Maurice Noble, Mary Blair, Sergio Aragones and Don Simpson as well.
Could you talk about your process in coloring your art, as well as the types of tools or media that you use?
I would if I had a process. As I said before I’m not big on coloring. I mainly do it for my books because I have to and admittedly it can add to a design, but I believe it can just as easily take away from one as well. When I do color, I work in Photoshop and on occasion I’ll do a pantone or pencil crayon color key. I have just recently started playing around with different brushes to add a little something and, for myself, make the coloring part of designing more fun.
What part of designing is most fun and easy, and what is most hard?
For myself the answer to this question, as far as what part I enjoy the most, is an easy one. Posing. The hardest and most tedious part of designing for me is the first rough and convincing myself that I’m done. Every once in a while I’ll throw down a design exactly how I envisioned it in my head. But the other 99.9% of my first roughs are hideous. Luckily I enjoy the challenge of bringing the idea to life.
What are some of the things that you do to keep yourself creative?
Like I mentioned before watching cartoons and blogging. Seeing the work of my peers and predecessors is what keeps me wanting to do what I do. I also, and have been doing so since high school, work with kids weekly. Children are the funniest, most honest (most of the time) people in the world. And who better to get ideas and inspiration from than the people we really work for?
What are some of your favorite pieces of artwork that you have seen?
It’s hard to name specific individual pieces because there are so many to choose from, not to mention different types of art. For example I own a print of a Jazz painting called Jelly Roll, but it’s the only Jazz painting I like. I enjoy groups of artwork like you might see in Children’s Book illustrations. I have a book of Norman Rockwell paintings that I could flip through for hours—same goes for Tim Biskup. I might even pick a model sheet like Chuck Jones’ Gossamer or Craig McKracken’s Mojo Jojo. Bill Wray’s Hellboy Jr. stuff is incredible.
What is your most favorite subject to draw? And why?
I like to draw kids and the things kids imagine because, again, I think they are the funniest beings on the planet.
What inspired you to become an Artist?
Well I touched on what got me into designing characters for animation earlier. But now inspiring minds like Maurice Sendak, Mary Blair, Ezra Keats, Roald Dahl, Oliver Jeffers and Dr. Seuss are responsible for me writing and illustrating Children's books.
What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?
The most important thing I’ve learned over the years is to keep an open mind. Though I might sound cliché, for me it carries a lot of weight in this industry. The more you limit yourself as a designer the further behind you fall. There will always be people with newer, fresher ideas. But if you use that to enhance your own skills and creativity the possibilities are endless. It can also work the other way, if you think there’s a lot of garbage out there, which there is, than do everything you can to make it better.
What are some of your favorite websites that you go to?
Blog-hopping is one of my new favorite past times. I find that the best way to find inspiring designs and artwork in general is to google an artist or a show, check the images, find a related blog(a legitimate one), and see who their favorites or friends are. Chances are you’ll discover some new favorites of your own. I’ll get you started with the first blog I started following, Gabe Swarr’s.
What wisdom could you give us, about being an Artist? Do you have any tips you could give?
Always find time to draw for yourself, even if you think you’ve landed the best gig in the world. I firmly believe if you’re not drawing or writing everyday for yourself, you’re not drawing or writing enough. Even it’s utter nonsense, put it down on a post-it.
If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?
Email - email@example.com
Blog - www.freshsmoores.blogspot.com
Finally, do you have any of your art work for sale (sketchbooks, prints, or anything) for people that like your work can know where and when to buy it?
The only stuff on sale is in the books, you can find all three of them on-line or order them from your local bookstore.
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