Where did you grow up and when did you decide to become an artist?
I grew up on the French Riviera, in south of France. The landscapes, the light and the sea are really amazing there. I have a very common story for an artist: as a child I was daydreaming a lot, a real ''bookworm'' in my own world. When other kids stopped drawing around 10, I just continued doing it. I was so passionate about drawing that sketchbooks and blank spaces in my notebooks weren’t enough, I was literally covering my desks with doodles and sketches (teachers weren’t very pleased). Everybody around me were assuming I will become an artist one day. But I don’t know if I have really decided it at one point, it just came out like this, one step at the time.
Did you go to an art school or are you self taught? How did you develop your skills?
I began art classes in college, and then I went to a graphic design school. That was not really drawing, illustration or comics lessons, but it was very interesting in many other ways (graphic design, art history!) and taught me a very important thing: look everywhere and not just in comic books or anime. Then I went to E.M.C.A., an animation school based in Angoulême, for two years. Best student years ever! All the classes were amazingly challenging, and life sketch sessions (I never had chance to practice this before) made me progress a lot ! Stuying animation is in my opinion one of the best drawing formation, it requires so much knowledges: anatomy, perspective, composition, volume, timing. Bonus points for the city with it’s beautiful medieval architecture: the school itself is a castle down the river… It may seem anecdotic, but the environment in which you live and learn is important and inspiring !
Have you always been supported in your artistic path or has it been challenging to let your family and friends understand your choice?
My parents always supported me A LOT! They helped me in every step of my path until I went pro. My dad didn’t really understand the “purpose” of being an artist, but he was never opposed to the idea; on the other hand my mom was sooooo supportive! In fact, it was her who forced me into the Art class in college when I was 14, saying “Try it ! You’ll change next year if you don’t like it.” And she was right, I’ve never quit art schools after this first year and made it into graduations and first job. I’ll always thank her for that, because I’ve seen a lot of art students who hadn’t the same chances as me. Some had to work after classes to pay they school or even lied to their parents to keep on studying art.
What was the strongest influence you had when you were growing up ( artists, movies, cartoons, comics etc.. ) ?
As a child I used to copy a lot of french comic books, Disney animated films and Mangas. I learned a lot by reading, looking closely and analysing how the drawings I liked the most were made. All the 90’s Disney films were a huge inspiration back then, but in France we had the chance to watch a lot of Japanese Anime, airing on TV since the early 80. So I basically grew up with Rumiko Takahashi, Mitsuru Adachi and Akira Toriyama’s work and when I read “Gunnm” by Yukito Kishiro (I think I was 11 years old) it was mind-blowing. As a teenager, I basically read all manga that was published in France and was very influenced by Japanese animation and video games. This may seem not original at all but Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki’s work was also a big revelation at that time and their films are still inspiring me a lot today. I was also very impressed and totally in love with Charles M. Schulz’s “Peanuts”. His understanding of childhood, his way of constructing stories based on characters dynamics always impressed me.
What is your process in colouring your art and what type of tools and media do you use?
I’m dramatically inconstant in my colouring process. Plus, I love to let things happen and not anticipate too much how the final drawing should look like… So it’s a bit difficult for me to get a pattern or a “how to”. I just keep in mind that contrast should be pertinent and relevant with what I want to tell with that image. I’m using a lot the “convert your image in grayshades” technique, to analyse if the balance of black, white and gray is ok. When I work in CG, I use the good ol’ Photoshop with custom brushes. I draw on Wacom Cintiq 22 HD since last year and I must say it really changed habits. It’s more natural for me. For traditional drawings, I LOVE watercolor, because it can be a real fast way of getting a coloured mood for little doodles. I’m kind of selft-taught in watercolor technique so I’m doing things as they come. The important thing to keep in mind with it is to use the light (white) of the paper as much as you can. Colour can be really sober and yet bright with this technique. I use a 48 colours Rembrandt palette, one of my most precious art stuff ever <3 !
What part of the creation process is the most fun and easy and what part is the hardest?
I’m quite indecisive person and I want to explore a lot of things in art. So when dealing with a new project or a vague idea of illustration, there are too much possibilities and I often find myself struggling to choose one way or another, especially when it comes to colours ! Sticking to the direction I’ve chosen can be tough too. Once this “choices” step is behind me, I can have fun with characters, expressions and poses. Drawing characters have always been my favourite.
What are some of the things you have learned from other artists who you have worked with or whose work you have seen?
The most important thing I have ever learned was during a masterclass in the Animation Workshop (Viborg, Denmark) with a Pixar background artist. He showed the class the importance of CONTRAST. And the funny thing is that it’s a thing you can apply to every step of your art. Contrast makes all the difference between a outstanding/strong story/posing/timing/colour/design/composition and a tasteless one… That’s a principle that really made me see art from a deeper perspective and I try to keep it in mind whenever I draw, colour or write something. Another really important notion for character design is to be very precise and meticulous when it comes to the “silhouette” (I think you would say “shape” in English ?) of the character posing, Keeping it always very visible and readable.
What projects have you worked on in the past and what are you working on at the moment (if you can tell us)?
I started to work in the french animation studio NORMAAL in 2005. At first, I was animating on TV series like “Mandarine & Cow”, and then on most of their projects. In 2008, the boss asked me to develop an original serie based on an idea he had. I co-created for the studio a TV serie named “Copy Cut”: that’s about a bunch of geeky-teenage cosplayers living crazy raod-trip adventures around the world. With my friend and colleague Dao Nguyen we wrote the concept, leaded the writing of the 52 episodes and I designed the characters. Pierre Volto directed the serie. It was quite an adventure and “Copy Cut” is still broadcasting in France. At the moment, I’m mainly working on two projects. For animation, I’m co-leading the writing of a pre-school TV serie “Oscar & Hoo”, based on a children book illustrated by Michaël Dudock De Witt. And I’m also working on a comic book project (still work in progress) that I’m presenting to publishers this year.
What is your longterm career goal and what would your dream project be?
I don’t thing I have something like a “long-term career goal”. But after more than 10 year in animation, I know I want to publish books for children. That’s what I’m in for now. I’m interested in both illustrated or comics books, I even have crazy projects of hybrid/numeric/crossmedia stories. These would be my next projects.
Working for a company or freelancing: what suits you best? And why?
One thing I knew about myself very early in my life is that I lack self-discipline. Because of that, even if I was craving to work as an illustrator or a comic artist, I chose to work in animation after my studies. I knew that freelancing wouldn’t be good for me, I needed a balanced and very defined workspace/workflow. Plus, I’m teamwork-addicted, and love building a project with other artists. Animation is a wonderful playground for that ! Sometimes, even a modest and not-so-fun project can become an unforgivable experience depending on the team you work with. And I don’t have problem with my work and art being at the author/director service. But, as we change with time and by having a baby, I finally decided to go freelance two years ago, as a writer for TV series, illustrator and comic artist. I’m still working a bit on self-authority to organise my days, but it’s a great pleasure to finally put my own projects on paper.
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 ! It’s always there, hiding in a corner waiting for you to doubt, to feel unwell… We all go through this and we all have our way to deal with it. When I’ve been struggling with art block, I tried to fight and force me, but it wasn’t working at all. I figured out I just needed time : time to live outside drawing, time to watch and see the world around me, time to open. And above all I needed to be indulgent and kind with myself. Not complaisant, but just accept that sometimes, you can’t draw and it’s ok (even if it’s terrifying). Giving myself this time and this indulgence, I came back to drawing. I can’t tell what will work for each artist who experiment art-block, but it will pass, and it’s not wasted time. Because a huge part of learning drawing is done by observing the world around you. Even during an art-block if you keep on looking and watching you can learn a LOT of things that will just pop out when you’ll come back to practice. Trust your eyes as much as your hands !
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?
There’s obviously a lot of things to take into consideration, but I think it’s sometimes hard to know if this path or that path will suit you before even trying. And nowadays I find it quite easy to switch from one discipline to another: many animators become comic artists or illustrators at one point. We’re just storytellers that switch tools to tell their stories, and sometimes, YOU change and this or that way of telling a story doesn’t connect with you anymore. My advice would be: TRY ! Learn what you need and find the way that suits you best at the moment (may it be anatomy, movement, composition, direction, colours, backgrounds, even scenario…). Even if it turns out that animation or illustration isn’t your thing for whatever reason, you’ll still have learned something that will be useful at one point. Because in the end all of this is about telling a story.
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?
True and not true. I don’t think it’s an absolute statement. For example in the animation industry you learn both options and I think it’s a nice way of exploring art and find yourself in the process. You have to be able to draw basically anything and be a technician that use his skills to serve the director’s project; but you also need to have a strong personality to stand out, to work on designs, or if you want to be a director yourself. With that said, I’m convinced that the art pieces that make you stand out, the ones that people remember you for are the ones you did with sincerity and love, that were important for you to draw.
Who are the artists who inspire you the most today and what are some of your favourite designs out there?
There are so many talented artists around here ! I’m really found of the work of, Studio Ghibli, Fumio Obata, Maruti Bitamin, Kei Acedera, Mamoru Hosoda, Amélie Fléchais, Zao Dao, Annette Marnat, Guillaume Singelin… The list could go on and on!
We have a soft spot for hand drawn animation, what is your opinion about the future of this art form?
Hand drawn animation is so hard and so beautiful! Are we talking exclusively of traditional hand drawn animation (on paper and all) ? I don’t know if in the occidental animation industry we’ll ever practice hand drawn animation the way Japanese studios are perpetuating it again. But the full traditional stuff is evolving in some pretty awesome 2D soft like TV Paint, specially made for digital hand drawn animation. We are seeing some really cool stuff (TV shows or movies like “Tout en Haut du Monde” or “Ernest et Célestine”, french animation films) animated with this hybridizing of hand drawn animation and CG. I like to think the future of this art form is promising.
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 follow my work on Facebook ( facebook.com/miniminiludvin ), Tumblr ( miniludvin.tumblr.com ) and Instagram ( instagram.com/miniludvin ) I will be very pleased to see you there!
Thank you Mini :)