Where did you grow up and when did you decide to become an artist?
I grew up in Eugene, Oregon! My family and I lived in the country and had a sort of "hobby farm," as my dad called it. We had chickens, horses, and pigs. It was a fun time growing up. It's a cliche thing to say, but I've been drawing since I was able to hold a pencil and smart enough to put that pencil on paper and not in my mouth. I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful supportive family that always believed in me and never made me feel that I couldn't do something with my art. Art and drawing has always been my passion and I could never see myself doing anything else.
Did you go to an art school or are you self taught? How did you develop your skills?
I went to the University of Oregon for two years as a Fine Arts major, realized that wasn't the right fit for me and the education I needed to succeed in a career in animation design, then transferred to Art Center College of Design. I was there at Art Center for two years as an Entertainment Design major before getting my job at Dreamworks TV. I didn't graduate from either college. That was a tough decision to make because growing up I was always told you needed a degree to get a good job, but that isn't necessary in the world of animation. Everything is based on your portfolio, which was encouraging to hear. So I decided to drop out and actually make some money instead of taking on more student loans. Although I did go to an art school, I feel like a lot of my own growth came from my own learning and exploration. I put together my own Visual Development projects for my portfolio during my summer breaks, and just made sure to always be drawing and practicing.
Have you always been supported in your artistic path or has it been challenging to let your family and friends understand your choice?
I've always been supported by my family throughout all my artistic endeavors. However, it was hard to explain to them what I wanted to do within the art world. Visual Development/Character Design for animation wasn't really a widely known thing at the time so it was hard to explain that and also figure out how to get into that field. I had to do a lot of my own research and after my parents spoke to a few animation designers themselves, they finally understood.
What was the strongest influence you had when you were growing up ( artists, movies, cartoons, comics etc.. ) ?
Growing up my strongest influences were Disney/Pixar movies, Studio Ghibli movies, anime/manga, cartoon series (Specifically Powerpuff Girls, Samurai Jack, and Dexter's Lab), theater, and fairy tales.
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?
I've always loved drawing people, even when I was a kid. I drew Disney characters, family members, anybody! I tend to draw girls more often then guys, they've always been more fun for me to draw. I love how different women's fashion is (guy's fashion can be so limiting...) and the unique things they can do with their hair. I've always loved books and movies with female leading characters, so that's always been what I center my artistic projects around.
What part of the creation process is the most fun and easy and what part is the hardest?
I'll start with the hardest part for me. That's in the beginning when I'm trying to think of a character design because there are so many possibilities and sometimes I don't even have an initial idea of what I want this character to look like. The beginning of the process can be frustrating, but once that spark hits and I get an idea that I really like, that's when it gets fun. From there I can do variations off that idea and can really explore who this character is, how they live their life, and how they act as a person. That's always the most fun part for me.
What projects have you worked on in the past and what are you working on at the moment (if you can tell us)?
I've been a student up until almost two years ago when I started my job at Dreamworks TV as a color stylist on The Mr. Peabody & Sherman Show, which is what I'm working on right now!
What is your longterm career goal and what would your dream project be?
My long term goal is to move into character designing and eventually art directing. My dream project would be working on a series or feature film of my own idea.
Working for a company or freelancing: what suits you best? And why?
Working for a company in a studio suits me best because I need that social interaction in my daily life. If I'm working from home by myself for too long I get cabin fever, and feel like I'm going a bit crazy. I'm too much of a social person and need to be around people! Also, I get a lot of my inspiration from my co-workers and have learned so much just by working alongside them.
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?
Art-block is the worst and you never know how long its gonna last. My advice is to use this time to just do a lot of crappy studies. Practice drawing something you need work on, like hands or feet, or turning a head at different angles. Watch movies, listen to music, read books, look at photography, find something to re-inspire yourself. Another great thing to do is to just stop drawing for a while. Give yourself a break, sometimes you really need that step away from the sketchbook to get that hunger for drawing back.
Concept art, animation, illustration, comics, there are lots of choices. When you’re young, sometimes you know only one thing: you love to draw. What should a young artist take into consideration to make the right decision when choosing an artistic path?
I'd say just try everything, see what you like! Growing up I went through so many different career ideas I'd like to pursue, illustration, animation, costume designer for theater, and it all came back to wanting to do design for animation. Try everything and eventually you'll figure out what you like and you'll be on the right path you should be on.
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 think this may help an artist become more recognizable. Their work will be able to be spotted right away, which can be very helpful when you're against so many other artists in the field. However, I think it can become a bit boring drawing in one way. For me, I try to explore and try different styles depending on the project. I may draw one way for one piece, but entirely different for another piece because the feel and mood I'm going for is different then the last piece I did. Drawing in different styles makes you more versatile as an artist I find. You can adapt to the style of the project you're placed on. I will say, you should never let go of your voice whether you stay in one style or move in and out of different styles. Make sure you're true to you and your unique voice.
Who are the artists who inspire you the most today and what are some of your favourite designs out there?
There are too many for me to list, but some of the artists I always seem to go to for inspiration are Shiyoon Kim, Clio Chiang, Cory Loftis, Kevin Dart, Tadahiro Uesugi, and Robert McGinnis.
We have a soft spot for hand drawn animation, what is your opinion about the future of this art form?
I really hope it makes a come back in feature film...but I'm sure its going to take some time. However, I'm happy that its still going strong in television animation. TV animation is becoming so much more experimentive with their designs risks these days, which is really exciting to see! In the future I think we're going to see technology advance with blending the CG and hand drawn worlds, but I think at some point the industry will move back to hand drawn animation. Its just so charming and moving and I think audiences are missing that.
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?
I wish that social media outlets for artists were more prominent when I was younger. Students these days have instant access to their favorite artists' work for inspiration. I think that social media outlets allow for artists to build a wider audience for their work which is great to get their names out there. I know I wouldn't be where I'm at without having taken advantage of social media and put my work out there for people to see. Its kind of a necessity if you want to be a successful artist these days. You need to build a following to help find new work and if you want to be successful selling your work as well. The only con I can think of is that putting your work out there online makes it easy for people to steal it or use your ideas for their own profit. But I think that's a risk you have to take and just know that people who steal are only hurting themselves in the end.
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 find me on Tumblr: ( philliplight.tumblr.com ), Instagram ( @Philliplight ) and Twitter ( @Lightphillip )
Thank you Phillip :)