Yann de Préval

Where did you grow up and when did you decide to become an artist?
I grew up in Grenoble, in France. As a kid I've always been fascinated by animated films and VFX and was a big fan of the TV show ''Movie Magic'' ( ''le cinema des effets spéciaux'' in French ). Growing up watching movies like Jurassic park, Nightmare before Christmas or Who framed Roger Rabbit, I knew I wanted to do something in relation with animation. The only issue was that I didn't enjoy drawing as a kid (and was terrible at it... maybe that was the reason why unless it was the other way around haha). So I started by making short stop-motion animated clips with my friend's webcam using Play-Doh and Lego.

Did you go to an art school or are you self taught? How did you develop your skills?
At 15 I knew I wanted to work in animation so I decided to go to a high school with an applied arts training course where I learned a lot about architecture, design, history of arts, and where I had no other choice than to start drawing. When I turned 18 I went to Supinfocom Arles a 3d animation school, at that time my goal was to be a 3d animator, most of my efforts were put into this. I think it really helped me to get a sense of posing, expressions and how a character should be designed to be appealing for an animator and the audience. During our final year we had to team up in order to make a short animated film, and I was put in charge of the design, storyboard and animation. Since then I always think how my design could be turned into 3d or 2d animation and how this should influence it.

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 in my choice even if they still don't always understand what it is all about haha. My Mom thought I was going to end up working in the video game industry when I was kid as I was spending too much time glued to a screen, I guess it didn't fall very far.

What was the strongest influence you had when you were growing up ( artists, movies, cartoons, comics etc.. ) ?
Like a lot french kids I grew up with shelves filled up with french comics ( from Asterix to Yoko Tsuno ). And I watched everything that was on TV from Batman TAS, the Animaniacs, Dragon Ball to the Looney Tunes.

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?
It starts with going through the material I've been provided, it can be scripts, storyboards, references, I usually ask a few questions to be sure what the client has in my mind and if anything changed from the material. Then I try to gather some reference on my side, and try to make a folder that would work as a mood board. Then I do a few B&W sketches, that's the part I prefer, where I try to explore different styles and as many options as I can (depending on how much time I've got). After that the client picks the ones he likes and it goes through a 2nd pass where I try to establish the style more thoroughly and try to match the different characters together. The 3rd pass is coloring and adjusting details and addressing notes.

What is your process in colouring your art and what type of tools and media do you use?
I do my coloring on Photoshop with a Cintiq. I prefer to do a rough color pass on one layer of the overall character before getting into details. Then if my happy with the direction I separate the different elements into layers so it's easier to adjust and make changes.

What part of the creation process is the most fun and easy and what part is the hardest?
I love coloring it's kinda relaxing, you already have an idea of where you want to go. I think the hardest part is when you're designing for 2d animation, is to keep your design simple enough but at the same time find ways to add more details and personality to it.

What are some of the things you have learned from other artists who you have worked with or whose work you have seen?
I've learned that you should always try your best even if it's not your style/sensibility/alley and that's how you'll progress. It really helped me to be surrounded by people who always tried to push me out of my comfort zone. At the end it's going to help you get better at your own thing/style.

Is there something that you have designed that you are most proud of?
The project I helped designing I'm the most proud of is a TV show project called Muffin Jack and Jeremy (you can find the trailer and some animation test online) I created with my pals from Steak (http://steakanimation.com/) for Ankama. Even if the project didn't get the green light, that was one hell of opportunity and experience. We got the chance to really push as far as we could how a 3d TV show should be looking and moving for us.

What projects have you worked on in the past and what are you working on at the moment (if you can tell us)?
Right now I started my own company called Iris N Pepper Animation ( irisnpepperanimation.com ) with my partner Aude Vitrant. We're developing and writing animated TV show and offer service work for other studio (from storyboarding to compositing). I still collaborate with my friends from our collective Steak , ( steakanimation.com ) usually working on pitch and visual development.

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?
I don't know if there is any tricks as I'm still not really sure how to deal with it haha. I have no issue working on someone else project as I consider it work but regarding personal work it's more complicated. I can be very good at procrastination, so if I have an art block I just do something else, stop thinking about it until I feel a bit guilty and get back to it with more dedication. I don't think that's a good advise though haha.

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?
It's good to have a plan of where you're heading, something that would help you making your choice in terms of career and lifestyle but you should always be opened to take some distance from it, and who knows maybe you'll be surprised and find something else you love and are good at.

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?
Hum that's a tough one, I think it's healthier if you have a style you are recognised for and which you excel at. Having people asking you for what you love to do is definitely better to build up you self-esteem and confidence. But it also depends on the kind of project, on animation projects you can't just expect to find project perfectly aligned with your style and sensibility so it's better to be able to adapt. But for an illustrator I definitely think it's better to have a style that screams your name and can't be confused with someone else's work.

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?
The last comic book I bought and fell in love with is ''Morgane'' from Stephane Fert and I would definitely recommend it!

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?
Today's industry is lacking ethic in my opinion, many companies consider artist like lightbulbs you can change once they burned out. But there is a lot of good guys out there and that's why I would recommend to try to find people you like the work, that you can trust and with who you can build a relationship for many years. I think the success to a career is not just related to how talented you are, there is big part of luck that you should consider.

Who are the artists who inspire you the most today and what are some of your favourite designs out there?
My Tumblr feed is so full or different artists I can't pick one. I love the work from the guys at studio La Cachette, Headless studio, Sergio Pablo Animation or Cartoon Saloon.

We have a soft spot for hand drawn animation, what is your opinion about the future of this art form?
I love hand drawn animation and even when I'm working on a 3d project I always try to give this little vibe you can find in 2d animation but it's definitely not the same. Sadly I don't think we'll continue to see a lot of traditionally hand drawn animation apart from Japan or indie production, it really is as beautiful as it is time consuming. But I think 2d animation assisted by computers has a bright future, there has been a lot of feature films coming out France lately. Films who were often a lot more interesting visually and story wise than the usual CG movies. Budget have never been tighter to produce quality and 2d animation is still cheaper to produce than good CG, so I guess 2d animation still got a bright future .

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?
The good part with internet today is that someone on the other side of the world can know about you and your work. You can get classes from people you admire, see the process of artists you love, it's really exciting to have all of this just a few clicks away from you! The negative side of it is how easy it became to use and exploit people. Just look at how many contests for T-shirt, books, and many other things you can take part without getting paid for it. There is so many unscrupulous individuals that ask you to work for free for exposure or put you into competitions against each other and just get to pick the one they like and want to pay.

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 contact me via e-mail ( yann_de_preval@hotmail.com ), follow me on Facebook ( facebook.com/yann.depreval.art ) or Tumblr ( yannouchka.tumblr.com ).

Thank you Yann :)