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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 went to the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA where I also teach now. I studied Industrial design and Illustration which gave me a unique angle on drawing and design. This allows me to move freely between settings and characters when I'm designing or illustrating.
How do you go about designing a character, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?
First and foremost is SHAPE. I look for an interesting abstract shape. I also work from the broad to specific. Meaning I start off looking at the larger shapes and proportions and move on to more detailed aspects of the design making sure they are in harmony with the larger rhythms I've established already. I spend a lot of time moving shapes around and playing with proportion. I spend even more time trying to get a good expression so the character is a character and not merely a drawing. I will spend days subtly trying to get the expression to have some feeling of life to it.
What do you think really helps you out in designing a character?
Underneath all of the shapes is a pretty good understanding of form and perspective. Even though I may design something that seems flat and graphic I try to maintain a semblance of decent structure and gesture under it all.
From your own experience and maybe from some people that you know, what should we put in our portfolio and what should we not?
Show it to as many people as you can before you start sending it out, it’s probably better to have a few great things than a lot of ok things. Make sure it’s square with the edges of the page; it says a lot about you if it’s thrown together in a haphazard way. You will be judged on that. Don't make it an issue by being sloppy.
What are some of the things that you have worked on?
Movies-Misery (Book Illustrator) I was at TSR for 5 years working on Ravenloft, Planescape and other gaming worlds. Some of that can be seen at
Animated Films-Mulan, Emperor’s New Groove, Treasure Planet, Atlantis, Tarzan, Brother Bear and currently Meet the Robinsons.
Is there a character design you have done that you are most proud of?
The fine art prints I’m doing now.
What are you working on now?
Currently I am art directing “Meet the Robinsons” for Disney Feature Animation
Where is the place you would like to work if you had a choice?
Anyplace where quality and being the best in the field is as important to the company as it is to me.
Who do you think are the top character designers out there?
Steven Silver, Ben Caldwell, Brom, Tony Diterlizzi, Ragnar, Shag, Shane Glines, Bruce Timm, Joe Moshier, Sergio Pablos, Tony Fucile, Ricky Nierva, Teddy Newton, Carlos Grangel, Chen yi-Chang, Craig Kellman, Chris Sanders, Harald Siepermann, Hans Bacher and of course….Bill Waterson. Everything you ever wanted to know about ART can be learned by looking at Calvin and Hobbes!!
How do you go about coloring the character, what type of tools or media do you use?
Photoshop and recently Illustrator
What type of things do you love to draw, and why?
Gorgeous women because they are endless fascinating.
What part of designing a character is most fun and easy, and what is most hard?
Getting the gesture would be the answer to both. It’s the most fun because when you hit it, it’s something that other mediums (photography) don’t capture as well because it’s about interpreting the movement and leaving out what is unnecessary. It’s hard because it’s not about copying bumps and details; it’s about making the cleanest statement that captures the essence of the pose. It’s doing the most with the least.
What are some of your favorite character designs and least favorite, which you have seen?
I though the shapes in “Triplets of Bellville” were fantastic, I liked the characters in “Madagascar” equally well and I think “Chicken Little” has some very appealing design. “The Incredibles” did humans the way they should be done, stylized! The designs in “Corpse Bride” were unparallel and ours in “Meet the Robinsons” (Joe Moshier) stand up with the best of them.
What is your most favorite subject to draw?
See above statement about the fairer sex.
What inspired you to become a Character Designer?
I started really understanding the abstract quality behind art rather than merely rendering the surface.
What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?
Well, that’s my entire education, which still continues today! Everything!
What wisdom could you give us, about being a character designer? Do you have any tips you could give?
Here’s a story I pass on to my students. Lance Armstrong is out bicycling in the rain and someone asks him, “Why on earth are you out here in such miserable conditions” and his answer is “Because my competitors aren’t”. Which to me, means the best way to get better at drawing is to DRAW a lot! You wouldn’t dream of being a professional tennis player and practice once a week would you?
If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?
email@example.com works well.
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?
I sell high end Giclee prints on the site and will have a sketchbook at next years San Diego Comic Con. Thank you so much for including me on your blog!!!!!
You’re very welcome Robh. Thank you for the interview and letting us see your great designs.
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