Where did you grow up and when did you decide to become an artist?
I grew up in beautiful Montreal Canada. I was always doodling, and quickly realized that art classes were my favorite because that’s where I would get my best grades. I never thought about being in animation as a real career until a lot later in my life, even though I spent all my time drawing cartoons! It wasn’t until I went to Cegep (in Quebec that comes after high school but before University) That I realized I wanted to pursue a career in art. I wasn’t passionate about any other subject or activity besides drawing, so I had to follow my gut.
Did you go to an art school or are you self taught? How did you develop your skills?
The Cegep I went to helped me learn Photoshop and Flash and taught me about painting and life drawing. I still didn’t know about animation as a career until I was in my first year of University taking Fine Arts, that a friend who went to Sheridan suggested that I try and get into that school for animation since I loved drawing cartoons so much. I didn’t quite fit in my University, so I applied to Sheridan and got in and on day 1 I knew it was where I belonged. Sheridan really helped me find my path with my drawing abilities and what my tastes were in animation. It wasn’t until I left Sheridan and got jobs in the industry that I found out what I really enjoyed doing as a career.
Have you always been supported in your artistic path or has it been challenging to let your family and friends understand your choice?
Since I wasn’t very good at most school subjects, my parents for the most part understood that art was my calling. Luckily for them I found animation. Since it’s one of the more commercial arts it does pay well compared to other artistic jobs. It was hard for them to initially let me go to Sheridan because it was 7 hours away from my home, and way more expensive than the University I was attending. Eventually they caved and let me go, phew! My two brothers are both in the film industry, so we’re all very close in the sense that when we're all together we all talk about movies and tv shows. It’s nice to have siblings that understand what you do for a living and share that passion in their own ways.
What was the strongest influence you had when you were growing up ( artists, movies, cartoons, comics etc.. ) ?
Growing up in Canada we didn’t have the same television shows that played in other countries, so I had a lot of European/Canadian influences. Disney movies too of course, but I would have to say one of my biggest earliest influences was comic books. Every morning I would read the comic pages in the newspaper, and after school I would read Garfield, The Far Side, Foxtrot, Asterix and more. Comics still have a huge soft spot in my heart, and are sometimes a nice break from animation.
What part of the creation process is the most fun and easy and what part is the hardest?
When drawing my own artwork, the funnest part is the initial rough stage and the exploration. I usually draw all over the page, and just explore lots of shapes and different mediums. It’s very energetic and quick which I like about it, until I find something that clicks with me and I decide that’s the drawing I'll take further. The hardest part for me is clean up/final color. It can be hard for me to capture that initial energy I had when I was exploring, and I sometimes feel like it kills the drawing or tightens it up. One of the more important things to me is having a drawing look alive and feel energetic, and if it seems like i’ve lost it I tend to not like the drawing very much. Color can overwhelm me too, I wish I was better at it!
What are some of the things you have learned from other artists who you have worked with or whose work you have seen?
Ah i’ve learned so much! I guess one of the big things i’ve learned is trying to keep your voice, whilst also working for a studio and with Executive Producers and Directors. It’s a fine balance of doing what's asked of you and what's right for the show, and also putting yourself in there and your voice. It’s important to have a voice as an artist, whether that’s in your style or your subject matter. What makes you, you and why.
Is there something that you have designed that you are most proud of?
When I was was Star Vs. The Forces of Evil, I was so ecstatic when we started getting fan art of the side characters. I had a lot of fun designing background and side characters, and to know they had an impact on someone enough to draw fan art it just makes my heart explode (in happiness). On the new PPG reboot it was the first time some of my designs became actual toys, and that was just overwhelming for me because I love toys so much. I was really proud to be working in animation at that point and knowing my design would be a toy in someone's childhood.
What is your longterm career goal and what would your dream project be?
Eventually it would be amazing to have my own show on tv and run it. It would also be a goal to show run even if it wasn’t a show of my own creation, but a reboot...maybe a JEM reboot!! I also would like to start selling books and stickers and my own toys as well.
What advice would you give to an artist who is dealing with an art-block? How do you boost your imagination and keep yourself creative?
Oof this is a hard question to answer, I feel like I’m still trying to find the solution! It’s usually different each time i’m having an art block. Sometimes it can be I need some new artistic inspiration, other times I just need a mental break and to stop, and sometimes it’s purely a confidence issue and I just need to talk it out with a friend! I find going for a walk outside, observing people, playing with animals or seeing friends and talking can be the best for an art block. Real life experiences are a constant and surprising source of inspiration, and it’s okay to put down the pencil for a while and not force it and just observe.
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?
For Television Animation, I don’t think this is entirely true. I really feel like there needs to be a balance of your personal style and ability to mimic the style of the show you’re on. For a character designer especially, it’s important to be able to see the details and nuances of a show style and be able to mimic that and apply it to other designs. You also hop around on different shows, and if you’re only able to draw in one style it can be problematic. For a storyboard artist I think it’s more flexible, you can have your own style but it’s still important to know how to draw the main characters on model as well.
What’s your point of view about the industry today: what are the expectation for someone who wants to make a living with an artistic career?
I think the Television Animation industry has been great! There are so many shows being made and so many new studios opening up, there’s a lot of exciting things happening today. I think for someone trying to break into the industry, definitely have a solid online portfolio or place to see your work. It seems like a lot of artists are getting tests and contacted purely through their online presence, so it helps to keep it updated. Also have a clear idea of what you want to do (for now). It’s hard to help someone who doesn’t know what they want to do in TV. If you feel like you have a passion leading you to character then really try for that. I think once you’ve done the job for a few years you can see if you want to do something else like storyboards etc, but it really helps to have a goal in mind when first getting in.
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 my artwork online on my Tumblr ( cheyennecurtisart.tumblr.com ), my Instagram ( @cheyennecurtis ) and my Twitter ( @Cheyenne_Curtis ).
Thank you Cheyenne :)