Thursday, September 13, 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?
Ever since the age of three, I’ve always been drawing. I remember growing up I would constantly draw whenever I got the chance or got bored. My parents have always encouraged and supported me drawing. While I was still in tenth grade living in Massachusetts, my parents read a newspaper article about a certain “animation high school” in California. The articles wrote about how high school students were able to learn animation and after graduating high school were able to get jobs at Disney and Film Roman. Excited, my family moved to California in hopes for my future as an artist. The program I later discovered was Rowland R.O.P. Animation Program, one of the only two places that taught animation in California during that time. At Rowland, I had a terrific animation teacher by the name of Larry Kurnarsky. One of the first things that he stressed the most was the importance of story and how everything in an animated film supports it. Everything he looked at (storyboards, character design, layouts, animation, etc) was in terms of how it is either pushing the story or hindering it. He also told me that I needed life drawing classes, so I took some classes at a local junior college and at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.
Not surprisingly, I discovered that getting an entry level job as an animator straight out of high school was going to be difficult so I went to CalArts instead. I learned a great deal not just about animation, but about being a filmmaker as well. Learning the different stages of making a film helped me understand how closely connected each of the aspects of film making were. In the beginning I thought I just wanted to focus on character designs, but I learned I needed to be able to animate them in order for them to be truly solid character designs. Then in order to sell my characters believably I needed a strong story for them to live in. It soon became apparent that in order to truly understand one part of the process, I needed to learn everything else too. A lot of this learning happened from great teachers, making a short animated film a year, and just surrounding myself with awesome peers.
How do you go about designing a character, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?
When I’m designing my characters for my short films I try to have a solid understanding of my whole story and the relationship my characters have to it. I will ask myself who are these characters and what role do they play in my story? What is their personality? I’m constantly drawing sketches to explore the character while also thinking about who they are and how they will move and act. It also helps to go and do a lot of research on whatever character or thing you are designing. Through this process I’m trying to stay rough and loose because I know towards the end it will get tighter and tighter. Most of the time I’m just trying to find that drawing with the most appeal and character. A lot of times the difference between an appealing drawing and one that’s not as appealing is simply the subtle spacing between proportions. Sometimes I will do slight variations on the proportions or place them slightly in a different way in order to see which variation is more appealing. When I finally feel something is successful and there is a line that I like, I usually draw it in thicker or draw on top with a darker pencil or pen. This happens a lot when I’m chiseling out the face. I’ve often found that when I get a good feeling about the face, the body will flow out of it easier. It’s also important for me at this stage to play around with the proportions of things. Which could be anything! Like where the beltline is, the size of the head to the body, the space between the eyes..etc. Variation of proportions gives interest! Through all of this I’m constantly asking myself does that look good or not? Does it feel right? This helps on trying to maintain a sense of balance and flow between the different shapes and proportions.
Towards the end, I start tying down my character. I start asking myself what style of animation I am going for in my film? Since I’m probably going to do most of the animation of the characters myself, I will try and find the most economical way of drawing my characters without losing the “character” or appeal? At this point, the perfect situation would be to do experimental animation with my designs. Hopefully there will be some dialogue from the actual voice actors that are playing your characters so it solidifies a bit more who these characters are (A lot of my designs change dramatically because I find that the voice doesn’t seem to fit the design I drew). Then I’ll really be able to know about how these characters turn around in space, what the specific mouth shapes that come out naturally from the character with the dialogue are, and work out how much the body stretches and squashes in physical stunts. Working on my short films at CalArts taught me how strongly having good animation skills helps in being a good designer. Most of the designers I admire are also great animators. Milt Kahl is probably one of my favorite examples of this in that the studio would often use his poses from his animation tests to make the model sheets from.
What is a typical day for you?
Right now I’m between jobs so I’ve been mostly sketching around malls and coffee shops.
What are some of the things that you have worked on?
I recently worked at Rough Draft Studios on the new Futurama DVD sets that are coming out soon. At school, I made Leash Boy my third year and my fourth year I made The Fox and the Boy. I also interned at Pixar for Animation, and worked a bit with the Ratatouille models doing some animation tests, but none of that was for the movie.
Is there a character design you have done that you are most proud of?
Not really. There’s always something that could be done better.
What projects have you done in the past, and what are you working on now? (if you can tell us)
I worked on Futurama, but currently I’m waiting to start at Disney’s Apprentice Program for visual development.
Who do you think are the top artists out there?
Some of the top artists I really admire today are Tony Fucile, James Baxter, Teddy Newton, Glen Keane, Ronnie Del Carmen, Dean Wellings, Joe Moshier, Nico Marlet, Tadehiro Uesugi, Pete Sohn, Tom Gatley, Carter Goodrich, Claudio Acciari, Denis Bodart, Yaxin, Naoki Urasawa, Miyazaki, Bill Waterson, James Gurney, Hiroaki Samura, and Corny Cole.
Artists from the past I love are Milt Kahl, Marc Davis, Ken Anderson, Bill Peet, Sargent, Hank Ketcham, Howard Pyle, E.H. Shepard, Tom Oreb, T.S. Sullivant, and Toulouse Lautrec. There are probably a ton more I forgot but that’s just from the top of my head.
Could you talk about your process in coloring your art, as well as the types of tools or media that you use?
One of the things I like to do is to start drawing with a pencil on animation paper for exploration. Once I find the drawing that I like I put another piece of animation paper over it. (I usually use a animation lightbox for this). I then start making decisions on my drawings with an orange pencil. When I’m done, I’ll use tone copic markers to put tones over the drawings. (I like using orange pencil since when I draw over them with grey tones I’ll still be able to see the orange under-drawings slightly.) During this stage, I’ll squint my eye and try to balance the tones sort of abstractly. I try to find what I want to read clearly in terms of tonal silhouettes and even trying to give some direction to where I want the audience to look at and have their eye travel. Finally I’ll chisel out details with a fine pen or even a dark pencil (the pencil is good because one gets a wider range of lights and darks with the line and a more subtle touch). Sometimes I’ll even use chalk or pastels for spots of highlights.
But most of the time, I just enjoy drawing with paper and pencil. I really get pleasure from how just rough drawings look.
What part of designing is most fun and easy, and what is most hard?
I think the fun part comes with coming up with ideas and characters. The hardest part for me is still learning how to draw well. I don’t think there have been any easy parts of designing for me.
What are some of the things that you do to keep yourself creative?
Some of the things that I do to keep myself creative are reading books and watching old movies. I’ve been trying to watch as many Kurosawa movies I can get hold on, the most recent being High and Low. I also go to a lot of bookstores, libraries, and comic shops on my free time. Those places are also good places to bring your sketchbook and do research. O yea, I love going to bboy/popping competitions around Los Angeles. I always get inspired by watching some of these awesome dancers perform.
What are some of your favorite character designs which you have seen?
Probably one of my favorite character designs would have to be Shere Kahn from Jungle Book. The way Milt animated him is just amazing. Not only the performance is amazing but also the drawing and design are flawless in my opinion. The relationship between the shapes and how they flow and balance each other is awesome. The appealing way Milt handles Shere Kahn’s head turning in space would be almost impossible to do in computer animation. I just wish Disney would display the original drawings for Shere Kahn in some gallery, because a lot of the craftsmanship gets lost through coloring and reprints in books.
What is your most favorite subject to draw? And why?
My favorite subjects to draw are mostly people and animals because to me they are just much more fun to draw than cars, appliances, buildings and plants. It’s always been more fun drawing where the eyelids on a face would be then the handles on a door. (Not to say one shouldn’t draw cars, appliances, buildings and plants! It’s just been more enjoyable with people and animals).
What inspired you to become an Artist?
Growing up I think I always wanted to become an artist just because of the fact I had fun drawing. I wanted to do something that I enjoyed, so I realized being an artist was someone that drew so I decided to want to become that.
What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?
Some of the neat things I learned from my peers and teachers are:
- You can always draw on top of the same drawing by putting another piece of paper on top of it. You can keep doing it until you get sick of it. (It works better if you have a animation disc)
- Contrast is interesting and fun. Explore contrast with everything you do. (Dan Hansen).
- You can rub down your drawings with a kneaded eraser and go back and draw on top of them forever.
- You can always add another piece of paper underneath the one that your drawing on if you run out of room. You’re not limited to the borders of your paper. (Corny Cole).
- Know where your eye level is in the drawing and draw appropriately. (Jym Jeong).
What are some of your favorite websites that you go to if you have the time?
I love looking at what everyone else is drawing so I like browsing through people’s blogs. Then I look at all their links to other blogs .. then links to other blogs.. then to others.. till my head hurts… so check out my blog at shiyoonkim.blogspot.com and check out my links! I also love watching poplocking clips on the forum of www.mrwiggles.biz and www.westcoastpoppin.com.
What wisdom could you give us, about being an Artist? Do you have any tips you could give?
Some things people wiser and older have told me are: always keep a sketchbook with you and draw as much as you can, always think story first (Larry Kurnarsky), and don’t forget to have fun while your drawing! (Corny Cole).
If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?
People can contact me at my email: firstname.lastname@example.org or my blog at shiyoon.blogspot.com.
Finally, do you have any of your art work for sale (Books, sketchbook, prints, or anything) for people that like your work can know where and when to buy it?
No artwork out for sale yet, but I’m hoping I can make a sketchbook for next year.