Jason McLean

Where did you grow up and when did you decide to become an artist?
I grew up in St. Catharines Ontario, it’s just a small city outside of Niagara Falls. Simple childhood, nothing out of the ordinary. I can't remember when I didn’t want to be an artist, I've had art in my life from an early age, often drawing ‘Dragon Ball’ characters, playing with clay and sculpting monsters, watching Fairly Odd Parents. There's nothing I would rather do than be an artist.

Did you go to an art school or are you self taught? How did you develop your skills?
I'm actually still in school, and will be for another month. I’m about to get my degree at Sheridan College, where I’ve been taught by many talented teachers over the last four years. I have also had a ton of help from my friends and peers. The thing that really helped me develop my skills was the constant critiques I would ask them for. I may not always agree with the feedback, but being open to different perspectives was a huge aid for me.

Have you always been supported in your artistic path or has it been challenging to let your family and friends understand your choice?
My mom is the reason I pursued art as a career. She was the one who signed me up for clubs, brought home movies to watch with me, and told me I should go to Sheridan after high school. She has always loved my passion for art and has supported me the entire time. I couldn’t have done any of this without her help. My dad also loves that I draw. 

What was the strongest influence you had when you were growing up (artists, movies, cartoons, comics etc...) ?
I feel like my constant watching of cartoons and movies, as well as playing video games didn’t really help my other academics, but it definitely influenced my art. The strongest though would have to be Disney. When I was 2 years old, my parents would leave me in my crib and put Bambi on repeat for the whole day. I guess I would just stand there for hours in silence as they went about their lives. I was a very well behaved child. If it wasn’t Bambi, it was The Fox and The Hound, or Robin Hood. Sometimes Tom and Jerry. I guess constantly having feature quality animation in front of me gave me a certain standard of what my drawings should look like.

Did you have a favourite subject to draw when you were a child and do you still have one today? If you do, what makes it so special?
My mom recently told me that I would draw people all the time when I was young, but always a with a weird amount of detail, like depicting the brand of cigarettes my dad would smoke. To this day my favorite thing to draw hasn't changed. I love drawing people, if I can get the likeness of someone in a drawing and people can tell who it is, there’s just something special about that. Capturing someone in nothing but a few strokes of a pen/pencil is a great feeling.

What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work/collaborate with?
My typical day right now is just going to school. My last year at Sheridan has been the easiest, but also the most stressful. I've got a very open schedule so free time isn't hard to find. But the work we are doing is all personal work. This is our last chance as students to make a statement about ourselves as full fledged artists. Everyone I’m working alongside at school are all in the same boat, each working hard to make their mark in this industry.

Is there something that you have designed that you are most proud of?
A drawing of me eating some delicious spaghetti.

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?
If I have a clear idea, something that I like and I've gotten good reactions to, it makes the designing process a lot easier. I find that if I'm designing a person and I know who that person is, or what they want, it helps me get a better idea of what they would look like. And from that point it’s just a matter of experimenting.

What projects have you worked on in the past and what are you working on at the moment (if you can tell us)?
I did an internship at a studio called Uken games in Toronto last summer, working on a phone game called Cloud Breakers. It was a lot of fun; all I did was design fighter jets. I am currently working on my thesis film at Sheridan. It’s called ‘Blue’, it’s a short film set in the deep ocean, and about the fish that live in it. It follows a shrimp that gets tired of where he is in life and looks to explore what the rest of the ocean has to offer. The film is largely a way for me to showcase my designs. I took the whole fluorescent glow that some deep sea fish have and went with that as a direction for the style. After watching the Disney short Lorenzo, I wanted to take a stab at the whole painterly look.

What is your longterm career goal and what would your dream project be?
My long-term career goal is to work as a visual development artist on feature length animated films. It seems like the best place to have the freedom to be yourself, but also contribute to something bigger than yourself. You are surrounded by the best in the business, and that’s the best place to be for someone trying to become a better artist. My dream project would have to be a lead character designer on a feature, but that’s a long way away.

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?
The best way I get rid of art-blocks is to look for inspiration. I like to look at my favourite artists or watch a movie while I’m drawing, and it’s always handy to have a good art book close by.

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 believe that having a personal style is important, it’s like a calling card. If you can have a style that screams your name it helps you stand out and hopefully be more sought after. That being said, flexibility with your style is also helpful, it presents more options for you as an artist. It you get brought onto a project and can produce vastly different styles of art, I’m confident your presence would be even more valuable.

We have a soft spot for hand drawn animation, what is your opinion about the future of this art form?
I’ve heard whispers about Laika wanting to do a 2d feature, but I have no idea if that’s true or not. I would love to see it come back. Hand drawn animation has a very personal, intimate feel to it.

Finally, where can we see your art online and get in touch with you? How can we buy your creations and support your work?
Thank you for reaching out to me! I haven't sold artwork yet, but If I did it would have to be through my e-mail or Tumblr. I plan on going to some art conventions soon though now that I’m finished school. You can see my work on my Tumblr ( jasonmclean.tumblr.com ) or my portfolio ( jasonmclean.carbonmade.com )

Thank you Jason :)