Núria Aparicio

Where did you grow up and when did you decide to become an artist?
I grew up in Barcelona, the city where I still live and work. Choosing this job wasn’t voluntary, or at least not consciously. I finished my mandatory studies and when I had to choose what I wanted to do with my life, any option that I considered a  "real profession" attracted me. I used to draw as a hobbie but I really  didn’t know you could also make a living with it. For some reason I  studied audiovisual production and when I finished I found that there was a public school where I could study illustration and animation. When I finished that other course I was lucky enough to get into a very small animation studio and that's when I realized it was already my profession.

Did you go to an art school or are you self taught? How did you develop your skills?
The school where I studied illustration and animation was a great place, with very friendly teachers and a somehow hippie atmosphere, but after I finished the course my level of knowledge was far from acceptable. It was after working on a studio, with really talented people and having to get to their level if wanted to become competent. I forced myself to draw, check tutorials and look at references to improve. Even today I still maintain that habit and even if it’s a self-imposed thing, I enjoy it a lot and learn new things every day ;-P

Have you always been supported in your artistic path or has it been challenging to let your family and friends understand your choice?
My family has always let me do what I wanted. They didn’t have any close reference of anyone making a living out of something artistic, so maybe at first they were a little hesitant to believe that I could do it. But they’ve always supported and encouraged me, especially my grandfather, who among other talents was a painter and always saw that I had a way with the drawing.

What was the strongest influence you had when you were growing up ( artists, movies, cartoons, comics etc.. ) ?
In my childhood I fed my brain with a lot of Disney movies. I could watch them millions of times and even today I know a lot of the dialogues of most films. One day my brother brought the film Akira home and everything changed. Suddenly I grew up! Not everything was princesses and stories with moralizing, there was something beyond, another kind of animation, with loads of effects and violence! (Thanks Victor for opening my eyes). Today I still worship what they do in studios like Disney and Pixar but also enjoy a lot what independent artists do outside the commercial stream with a more urban and wild touch.

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?
This is an example of how I handle a character design commision: The first phase and one of the most important is the search for "references": styles, colors, search reference photos, movies, books.. anything that can inspire and help me define what I want. Then I start with the sketch phase: I try proportions, poses, sizes, shapes… it’s basically time to play and have fun. The finishing phase is the most relaxed one, more technical, basically dedicate dedicate all the hours it takes to refine the concepts that I chosed in the previous phase (me or the customer). 

What is your process in colouring your art and what type of tools and media do you use?
My method is simple. I usually use Photoshop to color my drawings. I import the sketch to a new file and then I throw in some layers. I draw the different parts in it’s own layer (for example, a layer for hair, skin on another one...). Everything separate so I can touch up or change the color of anything without distorting it’s surroundings. Once I have the base colors ready I work on the lights and shadows, playing with the layer options. When the light is ready I give the finishing touches and some general color retouching.

What part of the creation process is the most fun and easy and what part is the hardest?
Every part is interesting. When you're throwing the first sketches or defining the style, characteristics of the character and looking for references, everything is super creative but you have to be focused and you can spend so much time trying things until the result is cool.Then the more mechanical parts come such as coloring and finishes, perhaps a little boring but you can listen to some music or enjoy a podcast while you work

What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work/collaborate with?
Well, that depends on the project. I am currently freelancing and so much depends on whether I'm working on some animations for an agency or if I'm illustrating a book for a publisher or if I'm designing characters for an app. In any case, I work at home, so my day to day is usually pretty boring concerning social relations. Well yes, I am in  the company of my cats and that makes me very happy. 

What are some of the things you have learned from other artists who you have worked with or whose work you have seen?
Actually I learned much of what I know from other artists with whom I have worked. It was right in the first animation studio where I worked that I had to learn from my colleagues in other to continue there. You can always learn something from the person next to you and if you work at home there are other ways to access others
knowledge: studying drawings by other artists, tutorials on YouTube, courses all over the internet... it’s important to never stop learning.

Is there something that you have designed that you are most proud of?
Whenever I finish a job I'm proud of it. Sometimes, when time passes I begin to see flaws here and there. I guess the ones that are currently on my portfolio are the one I feel more proud of.

What projects have you worked on in the past and what are you working on at the moment (if you can tell us)?
Well, I had a strong start, animating on a film that was released in theaters in an animation studio from Barcelona. Then I worked as an assistant director and animator in other studies. I have been combining these projects with my freelance work for advertising agencies. recently I got into the publishing world and this has been a breath of fresh air for me. I have published with Albert Whitman and Co, Penguin Random House, laGalera and now I'm working on my first book that’s not for children. At the moment I can’t say much more but this time I’m leaving the computer aside and I’m getting hands on with the pencil and some watercolors, it will be ready in November.

What is your longterm career goal and what would your dream project be?
I set short-term goals, so it's more fun and less frustrating. When I worked in a shoe store I wanted to work in animation, when I got it I determined not to stop until I had a good level of drawing and get to make a collection of illustrations and exhibit them in a gallery, when I did it I decided to illustrate a book so I did some of those.I think my next goal is to publish a children's book written and illustrated by me. In the future I would love to be a reference illustrator to work on interesting projects either designing characters for animation, making concept art or illustrating books. Making a living from this profession here in Spain is already quite difficult so I think I’ve gotten quite far as of now. 

Working for a company or freelancing: what suits you best? And why?
Both have their good things and bad things, but after all you're always working for others unless you live to create your own products. When you work in a company you have a certain schedule, sometimes not very flexible but you have a fixed regular income and you are surrounded by people with whom you can learn and have fun. When you work as a freelance you can build your own schedule and organize how you want to work. You can also choose which project to work on but otherwise have no economic security and you have to deal with paperwork.

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?
All I can say is always do whatever you love. You may start animating 3D and eventually realize you like the more traditional approach to animation or start as an illustrator and realize that what you really like is designing websites. The key is always do what makes you happy, because if you're happy working this is reflected in the result and you don’t have to be afraid to change and jump from one topic to another, it’ll be worth if you enjoy it.

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?
This is quite true but don’t confuse having your own style with doing one thing. Drawing well is something that can be achieved with dedication and time and it’s important that your drawings are distinctive and have your signature, so people know it's yours without having your signature at the bottom, but in my opinion style is something natural. In my case I think I have a particular style but I enjoy doing different things, that is, drawing a hot girl and the next day work on cute childlike drawings. I think an artist must be versatile, leave the comfort zone and experiment with other techniques and styles to be better.

If you had to recommend only one art book (a comic book, graphic novel, children book, ''how to'' book) to a fellow artist, what would it be and why?
Only a book?? Seriously!?? Can i say three? For animators: The animator survival kit, for illustrators 100 Tuesday Tips and anything related to the art of Emily Hughes.

Who are the artists who inspire you the most today and what are some of your favourite designs out there?
Mai Egurza, Dean Heezen, Rayner Alenca, Cécile Carre, Amélie Fléchais, Cyril Pedrosa, Jamie Hewlet, Benji Davies.

We have a soft spot for hand drawn animation, what is your opinion about the future of this art form?
Me too! Lately I've had the opportunity to work on traditional animation productions and it’s been a great experience. 3D aesthetics are being kind of abused and I'm personally a bit tired. I think it’s just fashionable and although today we have a few incredible movies with traditional animation I’m confident that in a few years we’ll see many more productions that use this technique, perhaps coming from great producers like Pixar, can you imagine?

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 don’t see anything wrong. Sometimes, if you are not known, publishers don’t trust your projects and eventually reject your work. These sites get artists closer to their followers and basically people that could be interested in getting your work to see the world. For artists it’s a very powerful tool to reach many people without leaving home, people from all over the world can see your work, comment on it, it's great! Social networking is the best agent you may have.

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 at my portfolio ( lapendeja.com ) and in my Tumblr ( lapendeja.tumblr.com ) or in my Behance ( behance.net/lapendeja ) You can follow my day by day in Instagram ( instagram.com/lapendeja ) And you can support my drawings and sketches in my Patreon ( patreon.com/LaPendeja )

Thank you Núria :)