Dane Romley

Where did you grow up and when did you decide to become an artist?
I was born and raised in Sun Valley, California which is right on the border of Burbank.  I knew I wanted to be an artist as soon as I could hold a pencil.  Ever since then I knew I wanted to work in animation and it's all I ever wanted to do.  

Did you go to an art school or are you self taught? How did you develop your skills?
I was lucky enough to have very supportive parents and they enrolled me in art classes as early as 7 years old.  I started out with pastels, doing mostly still lifes.  By the time I was 13 I enrolled in Saturday classes at the Pasadena Art Center of Design where I had my first live model sessions.  During this time I was also taking weekend classes in animation doing my first falling leaf and walk cycles.  After high school I applied to Cal Arts but didn't get accepted so I enrolled in the Animation program at Woodbury University in Burbank.  My time there was great and I made good friends who I am still close with today. By my second year my professors were encouraging me to try applying to Cal Arts again which I did and that time got accepted.  I decided, however, to stay at Woodbury because I wanted to prove to myself that I could get a good job without relying too much on the reputation of the school.  So for four years I focused on nothing but drawing and animation, and in the end it paid off.  I got my first job a month after graduating as a Character Layout Artist for The Simpsons. 

What was the strongest influence you had when you were growing up ( artists, movies, cartoons, comics etc.. ) ?
My strongest influences growing up were the classic Tex Avery and Looney Tunes shorts; the timing and drawing style was so appealing to me.  I would fill up my sketch books with drawings of Bugs Bunny and Wile E. Coyote.  I was also very influenced by the old Disney and Fleischer cartoons, I used to love "rubber hose" animation because it was just so wacky.  As far as comic books I would read Scud:The Disposable Assassin by Rob Schrab and Battle Chasers by Joe Madureira.  Both comics had a strong influence on my drawing style with their dynamic posing and line work.  

From the initial client idea to the final work: what goes through your mind when you are designing and what is the method you use when starting a project? Could you describe it?
When I first get the description of a character, I try to really imagine the personality more than the details.  I put myself in their shoes and imagine how I would act and wear, for me the personality always comes first.  This for me is the most fun part of the process. From there I do a couple rough thumbnail silhouette studies and try to flush out an appealing shape.  Once an overall look is picked I start going into the proportions to see what works best with the personality of the character, as well as the facial features.  After a face and body are chosen I then create a mannequin of the character and do some costume studies.  When all that is done I make the final line work and color.  I'm not the strongest when it comes to color design and I find that the hardest part of the creation process.

What is your process in colouring your art and what type of tools and media do you use?
I do all my coloring in Photoshop, as that is really the only program I know how to use.  If I have access to ToonBoom Haromony I will also draw and color in there but 95% of the time I used Photoshop.  I first make a line art layer making sure my lines and nice and crisp.  I will then make a layer for the flat colors, putting into consideration the time of day/location. When i'm happy with the flat colors I'll make another layer for the shadows and another layer for highlights.  I also personally like to color my lines because it adds a certain softness to the image.  I picked up a little trick in college where when i'm done I add just a slight "noise" filter to the image; it gives it just a nice bit of graininess to the image.

What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work/collaborate with? 
This all depends on weather I have full time or freelance work, but in a studio setting I work with a director in a small team of other artists.  A typical day would be coming into work by 9am, consulting with the director on the work that needs to be done that day, then staying at my desk and focusing on my work.  The only time I socialize is during lunch or if a fellow artist has a question.  I take a walking break at 4pm to stretch my legs for 15 minutes then back to work until 6pm.  If I have a tight deadline I will stay until the work is finished but usually I'm done by 6.  The people I work with are all amazing artists with different styles so it's nice being in a room with all this talent and picking up techniques from them.  I also find it very inspiring being around so much creativity, there really is nothing like it.

For my freelance work I start usually after lunch and I work closely with my wife.  Since she owns and operates her own business she can be at home the same time as me.  She loves art and animation and her advice is priceless because she can tell me how a design is looking as both an admirer and a regular viewer.  She has really helped make my drawings more appealing because she can be honest with me and tell me what is working and what is not; I like to think of her as my director and partner.  

Is there something that you have designed that you are most proud of?
My first freelance design work I got when I was in college was doing Dungeons and Dragons style designs for a table top role playing game.  The group I was working for were writing and developing their own game so all of the races, costumes, and weapons had to be designed from scratch.  This was a great first job for me because I really got to use my imagination and it taught me how to work with someone and ask questions.  I was very proud of the work I did for them and although the game eventually got shelved it was a wonderful first experience.  

During my time on The Simpsons I also got the opportunity to design a few characters, the ones i'm most proud of are a set of different Kang and Kodos style aliens all wearing different costumes and shapes for a Halloween episode.

What projects have you worked on in the past and what are you working on at the moment (if you can tell us)?
My first job out of college was on The Simpsons as a Character Layout Artist.  My job was to take a storyboard, flush out the perspective and field guides, then do the rough pose animation of the characters in that scene.  I was there for five years before moving to Manila, Philippines in 2010 to be with my now wife Maiko.  After moving I got a job at Topdraw Animation, which is the largest studio of its kind in Southeast Asia.  There I started as a rough poser, then a supervisor, then head of training.  The studio handled shows from all over the world including France, Germany, Spain, and the US.  In my free time I would do freelance design work for various small studios and clients. My most recent project was designing eight characters for the Masters of Anatomy: Character Design Master Class book.  This was a real honor to be a part of and will be the first time my personal artwork will be printed.

What is your longterm career goal and what would your dream project be?
My long term goal is to make my own show/short films.  Working in a studio is great but you're drawing someone else's ideas and I want to make my own. My dream is to one day be known for my own ideas and creations, hopefully creating a fun and memorable project.

What advise would you give to an artist who is dealing with an art-block? How do you boost your imagination and keep yourself creative?
Whenever I get art block I try and focus on something else for a day or two.  I'll play video games, read a book, clean my desk, etc.  I find that if you are having trouble creatively it only makes it worse to try and force yourself to come up with something rather than having it come to you naturally.  I also keep a small library of books around me for inspiration as well as a large collection of images on my computer.  Whenever I feel stuck I just look at those and it sparks my imagination.

Many art teachers and schools suggest to their students that a commercial artist should always work in one consistent style if they wish to have a healthy career. In your own experience, do you believe this to be true?
I have had a few years teaching experience in Manila and the States, and I tell my students to be versatile in terms of style.  Most of an animators career will be working on various shows and all have different styles so it's best to not limit themselves to just one.  As far as animation goes, an artists career will be more healthy if they can draw in any style and make it look good.  It's important to have their own style/voice of course but it's also very important to be able to adapt to any project.  One day you could be on a children's show and the next you could be on a horror movie so being versatile is key.

We have a soft spot for hand drawn animation, what is your opinion about the future of this art form?
I also have a soft spot of traditional hand drawn animation and it's an art form I will always stand behind.  The work that studios are doing now with 3d are amazing to be sure but my heart belongs to hand drawn.  You can really see and feel when a master craftsman is at work, there's a beauty to hand drawn that just can't be matched.  I hope it's a medium that won't go away because animation just isn't animation without it.

Social networks, crowd funding websites, print on demand online service, you name it. New media on the internet are connecting the artists directly with their fans like never before. In your opinion, how is this affecting the industry and what are the pros and cons?
With the help from my wife I have only recently gotten into the social media circles and to me it's a great way to connect with artists from around the world.  Being able to share ideas in an instant is an invaluable tool, however it does come with a downside.  The biggest problem is the ease in which an artists work can be copied or stolen since their work is out there in the open.  There really is nothing a person can do once their work has been stolen so posting their work comes with a risk.  The biggest upside is an artists work being so readily available for people to see that the exposure could lead to a job or even more.  Studios are always on the lookout for the next big thing and the next idea could come from anyone.  

Finally, Where can we see your art online and get in touch with you? How can we buy your creations and support your work?
You can see my work on Tumblr and on Instagram. You can buy and support my work by checking out the Masters of Anatomy page here,  my work is featured towards the bottom.

Thank you Dane :)