Friday, October 26, 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?
When I graduated high school I decided I wanted to be a comic book artist, a storyteller. So I decided to go to the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art to learn the fine craft of sequential storytelling. We learned a little bit of just about everything, from painting, illustration, penciling, inking, animation, graphic design, lettering, perspective, anatomy, paste ups and mechanicals. A real boot camp. They really prepared us for the rigors of the comic book industry.
Fortunately- or unfortunately, by the time I graduated in 1996 the comic book industry was all but decimated, so I went to where there was work (or at least comparatively)- the animation industry. I spent the summer of '95 working for a commercial house in NYC called Magnet pictures. My comic book inking skills made me a shoe-in as a clean-up artist. Being in a small company, I was fortunate enough to try a little of everything, including character design, storyboard and background layout. While I was there, an animator by the name of Igor Mitrovic took me under his wing and taught me how to animate too, so I got a lot of really good on the job training. I've been working in animation ever since.
How do you go about story boarding, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?
When I storyboard I usually work from either a script or an outline, or sometimes just an idea. I usually start the process with a lot of thinking. I just sit there and run the sequence through my head over and over again, visualizing as I do it. I let my instincts tell the story, base it on the mood or the drive of the scene. Once I have something I feel good about, I start boarding. I'll draw as rough and fast as I can, so I can get it out of my head before I lose it. Once it's down I can make changes, make the cuts stronger, improve the cinematography etc.
What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work with?
A typical day for me is to go to work, knuckle down on my sequence and shoot the breeze with my crew mates. Being in the story department at Pixar, we talk a lot about our movie that we're working on, about the story, what’s working and not working and why. And also what we want to see in it. It's pretty casual though, it's not like we "have" to talk about that stuff. Right now I'm working with Josh Cooley, Justin Hunt, Tony Rosenast, Enrico Casarosa, Nick Sung, Rob Gibbs, Bobby Rubio and Ronnie Del Carmen, who's our head of story. They're a great crew, we really feed off of each other.
What are some of the things that you have worked on?
After I left Magnet Pictures (where I worked on a few of the Rosie O'donnel Show animated title sequences) I went to Jumbo Pictures also in NYC. At Jumbo, I mostly illustrated books based on their properties- Mostly Disney's Doug. There are a ton of Doug chapter books I drew. During the time that we were at Jumbo, my friend Matt Peters and I started our Rex Steele: Nazi Smasher comic (which we created while attending the Kubert school). Rex was published in the first three volumes of Monkeysuit -a NY based comic book anthology made by people in the animation industry.
Next was Curious pictures, where I got my first official storyboarding job on a show called Sheep in the Big City spearheaded by Mo Willems. I left Curious a bit prematurely, unfortunately, to help start up a new animation company called Noodlesoup Productions. We mostly did web cartoons in the beginning. There were also gaps between jobs sometimes before the company got its legs, during one of these gaps I took a freelance gig at Tapehouse Toons where I did some storyboarding for the first few episodes of Lizzie McGuire. There I met an intern named Alex Woo, a talented young animation student attending NYU. We became friends and soon, Alex decided that he wanted to adapt Rex Steele into an animated short for his thesis film. He Directed and animated, and I was allowed to art direct. Took us three years to make it.
During that time at Noodlesoup I worked on two seasons of a web cartoon called Gotham Girls a Batman spin off with Harley and Ivy and the such. I supervised storyboard and character layout on it. After Gotham, we made a show called the Venture Bros. created by a friend and former coworker Jackson Publick. I worked on the pilot and the first season, which I was the storyboard supervisor.
As much as I loved Venture, I was getting tired of working in TV, and I really wanted to work in feature, so I tried my luck with Pixar. Luckily they hired me. There, I worked on Ratatouille for about two and a half years in the story department except for a short month where I did all the character drawings for Mr. Incredible and Pals - a short for the Incredibles DVD. Right now I'm working on a new Pixar feature to be released in the next couple years.
Who do you think are the top artists out there?
My god, I could list people forever. Jordi Bernet comes to mind, Henk Kuijpers, Ronnie Del Carmen of course, Didier Conrad, Can't forget Mike Mignola, Denis Bodart, Kerascoet, Joann Sfar are all really awesome. Akira Toriyama too- to name a few of the living ones.
Could you talk about your process in coloring your art, as well as the types of tools or media that you use?
When I do color work I like to work transparently in a water color kind of style mostly. I use a combination of acrylic (liquitex mostly) and brilliant concentrated watercolors (Luma or Dr. Martins). I first build up a value structure and the form with acrylic washes, a kind of monochrome underpainting. Since dry acrylic doesn't reactivate with water I can lay on top of that a flat tone of concentrated water color, which is very vibrant. So the acrylic underneath gives the piece its volume and value, and the watercolor is there only for the superficial color.
What part of story boarding is most fun and easy, and what is most hard?
A tough question. For me it's the easiest when I really have the sequence in my mind or if it's covering the kind of ground I've covered before. It's hardest when I just can't visualize. And it's the most challenging when it's something completely new to me that I don't have experience with.
What are some of the things that you do to keep yourself creative?
During the day, if I'm in a slump I take breaks. Take a walk, clear my mind. Keep myself in a calm, assertive state. For general inspiration, I look at movies by directors I admire or drawings or comics by artists I admire.
What is your most favorite subject to draw? And why?
Women. I can't deny it. I love to draw attractive women. They're a pretty typical subject, I know, but I get the most joy out of drawing them. Maybe it's because they're so abundantly full of life, or at least that's the way I see them. I like to draw life and energy, I don't know if I'm any good at it, but I like it. Women definitely represent both to me.
What inspired you to become an Artist?
Deep down I'd have to say it's my Mom. She used to paint when I was a kid (still does but more in an arts and crafts kind of way). I thought she was great. As a kid I couldn't understand why she wasn't famous. Typical kid thinking, but I think that’s what drove me to want to become an artist when I grew up. Maybe it sounds arrogant now, but I never really questioned that I couldn't do it. I was her son, so it seemed like I only needed to make the decision. Of course when I grew up the reality of it being a lot of hard work set in, but when I make up my mind I stick to it.
What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?
I've learned that no matter how good I think a fellow artist is, that artist herself or himself doesn't think they're that great, that they could be better. Which is exactly how I feel about my work. They inspire me to challenge myself and at the same time help me to think that I'm not so bad after all.
What are some of your favorite websites that you go to?
I'm not sure that I have too many regulars. I look at Cartoon Brew and Animated News semi regularly. Cartoon Retro is awesome, very inspiring. Mostly I like to surf around and discover blogs nowadays.
What wisdom could you give us, about being an Artist? Do you have any tips you could give?
I think you need to challenge yourself and to analyze your own work. When you look at great art, ask yourself why it's great and figure it out. Not just the "how’s" but more importantly the "whys" and apply it to your own work.
If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?
On my blog www.billpresing.blogspot.com or email email@example.com I try to return every email I get, unfortunately my schedule the way it is many fall through the cracks. But I do my best.
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 have a self published sketchbook out now, of cheesecake style pin up drawings and paintings called Belle du Jour. It’s available for purchase on my blog. There is also a collection of my Rex Steele comics as well as the short film DVD available on www.monkeysuit.com