Monday, June 4, 2007
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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 grew up on tacos and enchiladas in the outer mission/excelsior district of San Francisco. 'Futbol' was always on the TV and the jukebox competed with the mariachi musicians who played songs at your table. My family later moved north to a small town called Cotati, a town surrounded by farms, wineries, and huge redwoods...huge redwoods! There I frequented small comic book shops, cafés, and of course the small beach towns along the coast. I pretty much grew up in both urban and rural settings, learning to appreciate each setting for it's own unique flavor.
I don't remember when I started drawing, but I do remember getting in trouble for some 'inappropriate' drawings in 5th grade. My mom, appreciating the accuracy of the drawings, actually chuckled when she tried grounding me. Later in high school I met Mrs. Wolf, my english teacher and an amazing woman, who pointed me in the right direction. She basically said, "look, you can make a living doing this" and that pretty much sums up how I'm here today.
The thing that helped me get my job was attending the Academy of Art College in San Francisco. While I was there I was fortunate to have a job at a small video game company doing concept art. I figured taking traditional animation classes at school while drawing at work was a nice way to keep up drawing and learn new things. The idea of making a still drawing come to life…man that really blew my mind!
How do you go about designing, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?
Usually I'm inspired by other artwork I've seen (a movie I've watched, dreams I've had, or just stories I have in my head). I pick up a pencil and just start sketching and writing down notes. Anything goes at this point. If it's a story I'm working on, I'll think of important story points and try to capture those moments. Then I'll start playing with proportions, shapes, and composition. I'll begin to ask myself what the character likes to eat? Why are his or her nostrils so big? Is this guy good or evil? I'll ask myself the stereotypical questions when developing a character, but I really enjoy trying new things at this point. That's when I really start having fun. That's what it's all about. In the end I'll walk away hoping my drawings have created a conversation with the viewer and he sees why the character with the big nostrils has big nostrils.
What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work with?
I'll start my day off with a big bowl of cereal topped with red grapes! You've got to try it. It's an amazing texture. Anyways, I am currently working on Dr. Seuss' "Horton Hears a Who". My main focus at work is designing environments and sets in the Dr. Seuss style, which I underestimated at first. It has been a tremendous challenge. All the folds and wrinkles in his structures were hard to realize in 3D, but the modelers here at work are doing an amazing job.
It was intimidating when I first got to Blue Sky because everyone here is so talented. The guys in the design department are traditionally very good and they all come from a variety of backgrounds (comic books, children's books, oil painting, sculpture, and television). I really try and absorb their knowledge and experience. I also get to work and listen to the directors in design rounds. Those guys really know they're stuff, and they really know how to communicate with the artists about why certain things work better than others. It's the best learning environment I've been in.
What are some of the things that you have worked on?
I'm new in the 'biz' but I've been fortunate to work in video games, a few freelance gigs, and now feature animation. I'm also really excited about working on the next installment of 'Out of Picture', an eclectic compilation of short illustrated stories by the artists here at Blue Sky. It's a nice way to be able to work on your own personal style.
Is there a design you have done that you are most proud of?
I recently did a design of a deep sea diver that I liked because I pushed the amount of ink on the page. The more black ink in the piece the more it felt eery and deep under water. That one was fun. Oh, and I love doing 'Day of the Dead' stuff. You can't go wrong with skulls.
What projects have you done in the past, and what are you working on now?
'Horton Hears A Who' is what I'm working on now, a classic children's book by Dr. Seuss about an elephant that hears voices on a speck. Outside of the 9 to 5 I'm working on 'Out of Picture 2' which I explained earlier. There are also a few personal projects that I'm working on right now, so I'm keeping pretty busy.
Who do you think are the top artists out there?
Oh man there are so many! I get inspired by so many different kinds of artists. Ashley Wood, James Jean, Peter De Seve, Carter Goodrich, Jamie Hewlett, Nicolas Marlet, LeUyen Pham, Barry McGee, Doze Green, Larry MacDougall, Mike Mignola, Enrique Fernandez, Massimiliano
Frezzato, Nicolas De Crecy, Sergio Toppi, Phil Hale, just to name a few. The list can go on and on. They all contribute and produce absolutely beautiful work.
Could you talk about your process in coloring your art, as well as the types of tools or media that you use?
I'll start my drawing with an orange pencil, sometimes a marker, and finish it with a brush pen. I used to use blue pencils but the orange gives it a nice warmth. Most of the time I'll scan my drawings into Photoshop and add color there. It's very quick and convenient to manipulate color on the computer. If you want a background to be a little more red you adjust the slider and voila! Sometimes I'll try and traditionally paint which doesn't last to long. Other times I'll tone my drawings with markers, just to give the Photoshop process a head start. It feels like the more you put down on paper the quicker the Photoshop stage will go.
What part of designing is most fun and easy, and what is most hard?
The fun stuff is in the beginning. Brainstorming and coming up with ideas are limitless and lots of fun, which can also lead to the actual time you have to get something done...that could be the hard part I guess.
What are some of the things that you do to keep yourself creative?
I just walk around New York City. There are so many things happening in the city. Visual stimulation is everywhere! It can get overwhelming at times. The galleries and museums here are some of the best I've been to. Sitting in Central Park with my sketchbook is always fun. Hanging out with other designers, sketching at local cafes, and watching movies…man, who needs a job right? (chuckle)
What are some of your favorite designs which you have seen?
I just picked up the Art of Ratatouille and there is some awesome stuff in there. Carter Goodrich is amazing.
About a year ago I got the chance to see Nicolas Marlet's early concepts of Monsters Inc. at the Moma. There was one with Sullivan and Boo that changed my life. I have never seen something so heart felt and warm. I probably stood in front of the drawing for hours, I felt like giving the guy standing next to me a hug.
The Iron Giant is radical, the Gorillaz are awesome, Mignola's stuff, and the whole look and feel of The Triplets of Belleville was really fresh and inspiring. There's also a short called 'Le Building' which is wonderful stuff.
What is your most favorite subject to draw? And why?
I like drawing everything, but the two subjects I'm really fond of are bicycles and automobiles. They have so much character and they're pretty simple to draw. They're basically boxes on four wheels. I get excited when I see a big old ice cream truck with four little wheels holding it up bouncing and swerving down the road. It's a wonderful site! Old bicycles are so nice to look at and draw...they're crafted so well.
What inspired you to become an Artist?
Many things have inspired me to become an artist…movies, art, people, music, trips to the museum, everything. I think the most important thing is always having that support from my family and friends who are around me. When people believe in you, you feel like you can accomplish anything. Another is the desire to see someone's reaction to your art...it's a pretty cool feeling when you make someone smile.
What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?
They're approach to working, other artists way of living, the tips and tricks in photoshop, what materials artists use, what inspires them, what books they're reading, and especially the way they communicate with others about art. I remember when I would just draw and people would ask me why I did a certain drawing or why the composition was a certain way and I didn't know what to say. I would just say 'I don't know, because it looks cool I guess'. I'm still learning the language but at least now I can give a more explanatory answer....(chuckle) but sometimes I'll still give the 'cool' answer.
What are some of your favorite websites that you go to?
I always go to the links on my blog, to see what friends are up to. Cartoon Brew, Drawn, and of course the Character Design blog! I'll also follow links from those sites and eventually get lost in the 'web'.
What wisdom could you give us, about being an Artist? Do you have any tips you could give?
Just do your thing. Do what's fun for you and it will show in your work. Absorb as much as you can from the world around you. Go places. I just came back from a trip to Tulum, Mexico where there's these amazing Mayan ruins. Man the inspiration and ideas that start flowing in your brain when you see cool things are endless. Go to school and learn from good instructors. You can learn from the bad ones too! Watch films, listen to music, work hard and do your thing.
If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?
There's an old web page that a friend and I put together for my portfolio at www.williereal.com, the info on there is still current. There's also my blog where you can leave me comments at www.williereal.blogspot.com . But if clicking links isn't your thing here's my e-mail, email@example.com.
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 don't have a place to sell my work but if people are interested they can always e-mail me. I don't have any specific art work for sale so if you see something you like feel free to contact me. I'll have more originals in the near future that I will be framing so check back soon. I can do prints as well. Thanks very much!