Wednesday, June 30, 2010

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Aurore Damant 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?


First of all, I apologize in advance for my basic english, I’ll try to do my best to be pertinent in my answers. Originally I’m from a small town in north of France called Beauvais where nothing never happens. I moved to Paris 10 years ago. My parents always encouraged me to draw, even if none of them are in an artistic business. I remember watching lots of Disney’s bootleg videos when I was a kid (that's all we got at this time) and I guess my love for animation comes for the most part from this. I spent my whole teens cloistered in my bedroom drawing 24 hours a day. I didn't really do artistic studies, except one year of plastic art in the faculty, and I get really bored. I moved to Paris with a new plan : I gave myself (with the support of my parents, who started to loose patience) another year to try to do some internships in animation studios, but it didn't really work. I came from a little town, I didn't know anything about animation and for the professionals I was unknown. Fortunately one of them agreed to take me and the next year I joined Gobelins, l'├ęcole de l'image. I was 19. I studied 2D animation, design, storyboard and layout for 2 years and at the end of school I choose to specialize in character design. I learned a lot with my classmates and those 2 years have been decisive in the development of my art.



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


Actually I kind of have the writer's block. I need to have a purpose when I draw, whether it's for my blog or a commission. When I have an idea of a character, or when I'm working on some visual development, I like to think about what I'm going to draw, what kind of character I'm going to do. I like to immerse myself in its universe, if I need to I do some researches before I even touch a pencil. When I'm ready generally the design comes very quickly, because I spent a lot of time thinking about it.
For most designs I start with general shapes, mostly geometrical, and I add the details gradually. But sometimes, when the idea of the character is kind of blurred, it happens that I start with the details of the face and I built the rest of the design around that, I like to let the pencil decide of the final result.

When the rough of my character is done I need to see it in color right away, because otherwise I feel like it’s not finished. Generally when the rough is right the clean-up and the color are right too. Whether it's for a personal work or a production work I always do the colors of my characters myself, and most of the time they already are in my mind : I imagined the color of the skin, the hair, and the tonality of its clothes when I drew it on paper.

When my design is over and I'm happy with it I don't leave it on a white psd document, I look for the perfect way to emphasise it, finding the appropriate composition with the right size and the right font. For me the best thing in designing a character is to go with it from the first line on paper until the last touch on the final composition.


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


Actually there's no typical day in this job, not in France anyway. That's why I like it so much, you never get bored. I split my time with freelance at home and productions in studios. The longest time I stayed in a studio is one year, pretty much the time of a TV series production. Each production is different, and each studio has its own way of working. For example last year I worked in a very small studio, the design team (7 persons) was in an open space so everyone can talk with everyone (which is often the case in French studios). In some studios the work day starts pretty late, generally around 10.15 am, sometimes later (!). I'm a bit cranky when I arrive the morning so I don't talk too much, I wait maybe 15 min. and then you can't stop me for the rest of the day. Generally the morning is quite studious, I can concentrate easily even if I'm in a sort of blur from the past night. I enjoy having lunch with my colleagues, talking about the bad TV shows we saw last night, and discuss animation news or DIY (some people have other passion). I became really close with some of my colleagues, I like when I feel that I can continue to learn and have fun at their side. Some of the people I worked with didn't really care about their job, personally I need to work with people who are still passionate.

The afternoon I like to isolate myself with my headphones, I listen to the music and I hate to be disturbed : that's the time of the day when I feel connected with my characters, I kind of immerse myself in my work. At the end of the day, around 18.30 pm (!), I'm pretty exhausted. We don't have long days but we work a lot during one day. It's like we condense several days in one, and we get through a lot of work. I use to do freelance jobs the evenings and week-ends besides my regular job, now I alternate one year of TV productions with one year of home-freelance. I feel more productive that way, and I can (try to) have a life outside my work!


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


Right after school I started working on a TV series called The Pirate Family, I did the model sheets of the characters, then I did the same thing on the TV series Robotboy. At the same time I co-directed 2 short films, illustrated a book for children and worked on the visual development of another TV show called Eliot Kid (I was brimming for energy). Eliot Kid was the first show made with my designs, and during its production I worked on another development, still a TV series (called Commander Clark) which the production ended last January. I did the artistic direction and the character designs of this show, and I learned a lot of things. During the production of Commander Clark I worked for a few months on the TV show The Mighty B! with Nickelodeon US. Between each production I worked as a freelance artist and did some illustrations for French newspaper and children books, visual development and character designs for various studios, mostly english (The Illuminated Film Company, Disney Chanel UK, Cartoon Network UK).


Is there a design you have done that you are most happy with?


Not really. The real challenge for me is to be happy with all the designs I can do in a whole TV series. Still doing some good character designs after 35 episodes (in France one season for an 11’ show is 52 episodes), that’s quite tough. And generally I only have a couple of hours to create one, two or even three characters, whether I'm tired or not. I know that once I designed it and the director approved it, I can't go back, it's sent to the storyboarder in the next hour, so I'd better be happy with it!
In my personal work I'm happy with a design when I feel that I pushed my boundaries and came out with something new, something which I thought I wasn't able to do.


What projects are you working on now? (if you can tell us)


Right now I’m in a home-freelance phase so I work on many projects. I just finishing illustrate the novel of a magazine for children quite famous in France called J’aime Lire, and I’m working on a new TV series project with the producers of Commander Clark. I’ll start this summer the main model pack of another TV series which I designed 2 years ago (and I just finished the 6th season of Grey’s Anatomy).


Who are some of your favorite artists out there?


There are tons of people really talented that I like including my closest friends, but my favourite of all times are Mary Blair, Tom Oreb, Ward Kimball, M. Sasek, Milt Kahl, Jim Flora, Hanna & Barbera (that’s for the dead one), Craig McCraken, Genndy tartakovsky, Dan Krall, Craig Kellman, Marc Boutavant, Delphine Durand, Sempe…


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


I use Photoshop to coloring my drawings. My designs are sometimes pretty rough so I correct them using the pen tool, which makes clean and dynamic lines. I use this tool 80% of the time, but now I have a cintiq so I can use the brushes when I have some patience. I choose simplicity, but sometimes I wish I was less lazy to take some real paint and real brushes and do something without the help of my computer.


What part of designing is most fun and easy, and what is most difficult?


It depends whether it's a personal work or a commission work. There aren't real difficulties when I draw for myself, specially if I do something I'm used to. However I'm having a hard time each time I want to go off the beaten track, but the feeling I have if I succeed is really rewarding. It gets more complicated with a commission work. The real difficulty is to make everyone (artists, producers, broadcasters) happy with your design. First it's kind of intimidating because lots of people are judging your work (it feels like they're judging YOU), then when they don't agree with you, there is nothing much you can do except follow their directions. The challenge is still being happy with the design which has been approved by someone else than you. It's very important that you approved your own design before showing it to the producers and broadcasters.


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


Go to the movies, read some novels, watch TV series, listen to music… any kind of culture is good for the taking. I also try to stay informed about all the other animated shows and movies; I watch a lot of blogs, read a lot of illustrated books.


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


A couple years ago I went to the Disney art show in Paris, lots of amazing pieces where exhibited. I remember some pieces from Mary Blair and Eyvind Earl that look stunning. One day when I’ll make enough money I’ll by a piece from Mary Blair and throw a party to celebrate.


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


Any kind of people or animal looking a bit weird. Fat, ugly, over cute, character with huge thighs, animal with too much hair, anything that makes people different and hang-ups. I’m not really interested by smooth subject, I find the perfection quite boring. If I draw a pretty girl, at least she has to be sneaky.


What inspired you to become an Artist?


I don’t know. As far as I can remember I see myself with a pencil. When I was a kid and then a creepy teenager, I draw to escape a real boring world. My parents where a bit concern about my future job, they didn’t know the animation world very well and what kind of job you could get. I guess everything changed when I heard about Gobelins. There was this very rated school that teaches the kids all the different jobs in animation, then I didn’t need to stay in my bedroom and my fantasy world anymore. I went to this school and everything became real.


What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?


My favourite artists are the one working in a kind of good mood. They don’t take the things too seriously, they have fun doing their job. Regarding the technique, you just need to observe the work of the people you admire to learn a lot.


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


My dad said that the success recipe is 10% talent and 90% hard work. I found this sentence very boring when I was younger but now I have to admit that he’s right. And also, try to have fun when you work otherwise you will end as a bitter old apple.


If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?


My blog : auroredamant.blogspot.com
My email : auroredamant@gmail.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?


An online gallery recently opened with some of my art to sell : http://www.mizmiridis.com
Otherwise I illustrated some children books, you can find all the details on my blog.

Aurore Damant Gallery































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