Monday, June 11, 2007

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 was born and raised in the projects in South Bronx, New York City. I’m an 80s baby: The Crack epidemic, Reaganomics, and the birth of Hip Hop culture all blanketed my adolescent life and kept me warm at night. I got into drawing from copying my older brother as a toddler to get the same attention he got as a first-born. I’m second oldest of 5 so I got overlooked pretty quickly. My brother grew out of drawing and I stuck with it because it kept me out of trouble. I got turned onto animation at a very early age like most artists in my field. Countless Saturday mornings were the culprits.

I didn’t start taking this seriously as a source of income until much later in my teens. I was kind of a knucklehead growing up in the hood, toying around in school and focusing more on chasing girls. Also, there was very little encouragement in my community to be a professional artist. You either where a rap battle MC, played basketball, did graffiti or sold drugs if you weren’t a lawyer or doctor around my way. I was good at neither, so I stuck with drawing. After a couple of life-altering experiences in my late teens, I realized that I didn’t choose to be in this occupation, this occupation chose me. I got an opportunity and took it.

I didn’t go to art school because I’m self-taught. My portfolio wasn’t strong enough to get into an art college so I just learned from sketching from life, reading books, studying and sponging off of professionals I was lucky to meet during my path. I was pretty hungry for knowledge. I got one shot as an unpaid intern at a children accessory design company then proved I was worth hiring as an assistant designer and got the job. After that, I met various artists and producers in the field, landing some opportunities in comic book illustration and flash animation projects. I was lucky and am extremely grateful I don’t owe $50,000 to a college right now. Life throws you curveballs.

My hunger, drive, and first job as assistant designer really prepared me for the concept of sitting underneath a lamp and drafting table and getting paid to be creative with a pencil, not to mention dealing with office politics, pleasing all the cooks n the kitchen and meeting deadlines. I was 19 years old then.




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


The first thing I think about is the idea. What am I trying to say? What am I trying to get across? What do I want to communicate to the viewer with the character I’m about to design and most importantly, what purpose does it serve to the story and overall idea? I try my best to see it first before I draw it. Sometimes, I just have to search on the page until I find what it is I’m trying to say.

The next step is finding the character. This is explored through the notes either given to me, or what I want to accomplish myself. Shape and volume play a key role in this. I’ll bounce about with various shapes and sizes until I find something that best communicates the idea I’ve thought up.

I draw very small. It minimizes the amount of work in my development phase when I thumbnail. Once I find something I’m happy with, I enlarge and clean up on my light box. Finally, I spend my time figuring out the personalities based on clothing, environment and overall appeal dynamism and expressive personalities are my thing and play a big roll in my design process. Energy, attitude and appeal are key.



What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work with?

Get into work around 10-ish. Meet up with my Art Coordinator. Figure out where my team is and what they are working on and where they are quota-wise. Then we figure out what’s to be done for the day and get cracking on that.

Throughout my workday, I’m usually interrupted to approve a freelancer’s design, make a correction to a design that has been handed in for notes after being turned down for approval or sit in on character design approval meetings with the higher ups. My normal job is designing the entire initial cast of characters to be approved, corrected by me, then cleaned up and turned by my team of in-house designers.

I work as the Supervising Character Designer and a Co-Director for Aaron McGruder’s hit show, “The Boondocks” animated series currently airing on Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim” with my irreplaceable in-house character design team of Jeff Johnson and Brian Mainolfi

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

Kim Possible (Disney, Storyboards), The Batman: Animated (WB, Storyboards), The Lizzie McGuire Show (Disney, Assistant Animator), The Ron White Show (TBS, Lead Character Designer) , The Play Pen (Rocafella films, Art Director), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Animated (Dreamwave Productions, Comic book illustrator), Street Fighter (Udon entertainment, Comic book illustrator), WhirlGirl: The Flash Animated Series (Showtime.com, storyboard, Lead Character Designer, layout) BattleSeed: The Flash Animated series (Scifi.com, creator, writer, storyboard, lead design and key animation)


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

Nope.


What projects have you done in the past, and what are you working on now? (if you can tell us)

As mentioned above, I’ve worked with Disney, MTV, WB, Showtime, TBS and various independent comic book companies.

As mentioned above, I’m Currently Supervising Character Designer and a Co-Director on Aaron McGruder’s award-winning “The Boondocks: The Animated TV Series” based off the popular newspaper comic strip of the same name, currently airing on Cartoon network’s ‘Adult Swim’ primetime animation block. I’m also developing several animated projects and am currently storyboarding on “The Batman” animated series on Kids WB.

Who do you think are the top artists out there?

Man, there’s so many out there. But some of them that springs to mind right now are Kazuto Nakazawa, Tatsuyuki Tanaka, Koji Morimoto, Satoshi Kon, Katsuhiro Otomo, Takeshi Koike, Yasoumi Umetsu, Young Yoon, Claire Wendling, Justin Bua, Jeff Matsuda, Peter Chung, Eric Canete, Dave Johnson, Eric Canete, Sean Galloway, Seung Kim, David Colman, Jose Lopez, Ian McCaig… these guys I’ve had my eye on and tons more that I don’t have the room to list now.


Could you talk about your process in coloring your art, as well as the types of tools or media that you use?

I don’t color much, but when I do, I use Photoshop CS and a Wacom tablet.
I also keep a copy of ‘A book of Colors” near me to help me with color combinations and telling stories with color. I like to use filters too. Using the Layers set-up is what’s really great about PS.

What part of design is most fun and easy, and what is most hard?

The easy part about designing is the process of designing itself. The drawing process; It’s what you’re here there for. Creating characters and exploring through the various “could-haves” to get to the final look and seeing them alive and moving on the small or big screen is really a reward itself.

The hardest part about character designing sometimes to me is accepting the decision from above to throw out a design you fell in love with and poured your heart into. Also, being able to fulfill the requests, needs and wants of several others above you, be it the producers, the execs or the toy manufacturers or, usually, ALL of them and still make yourself happy with the work you’re doing as an artist. It’s extremely challenging. But it’s altogether a process I love deeply, ups and downs included.



What are some of the things that you do to keep yourself creative?


Have a life. Go out from time to time, Reading, discovering new music and experience new people and the world. Studying life gives me the creative ammo I need so that I’m always fresh on ideas. Everyday something new happens which adds fuel to the creative fire. The rest is just interpreting it in the most creative way I know.


What are some of your favorite designs which you have seen?


I always loved the GatchaMan’s character designs, The Thundercats, Astro Boy, Goofy, Mickey Mouse Stitch from ‘Lilo and Stitch’, Yoshiyuki Sadamoto’s designs from ‘Evangelion” and “FLCL” Peter Chung’s “Aeon Flux”, “Bart Simpson,” Rick Hunter from “Roboteck” …..the list can go on…


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


Hip Hop culture and adolescence. It’s what I grew up with. It’s what I honestly think we have the LEAST of in animation as far as content goes, especially here in the states and on primetime television. I try my best to portray that in my works and I push for it a lot in any project I’m involved in. It’s what I’m still constantly around and what I relate to the most. There’s so much that’s yet to be expressed within the subject and I think the industry is just scratching the surface in terms of its exposure.


What inspired you to become an Artist?


My Mom.


What are some of your favorite websites that you go to?


www.justinbua.com
www.deviantart.com
www.boondockstv.com
http://www.kojimorimoto.net
http://www.animationmeat.com


What wisdom could you give us, about being an Artist? Do you have any tips you could give?


Stay hungry and focused and try to surround yourself with like-minded individuals who also want what you want and can help you stay on your path to success.


If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted? (Email, Web page)



http://www.leseanthomas.com
http://leseanthomas.blogspot.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?



Yes, I have several art books for immediate purchase off of my website store:
http://www.leseanthomas.com/shop/store.html