Suheb Zako

Where did you grow up? At what age did you start thinking about pursuing an artistic career?
I was born and raised  around Paris. Like many, I knew Toriyama's Dragon ball when I was little, he was definitely my idole. Since I got to know his works, I've dreamt to become an artist, a comic artist to be more specific. I ended up learning 2D animation as I really wanted to learn how to draw perspective properly, staging, and more…  

Did you go to an art school or are you self taught? How did you develop your skills?
I went to a small 2-year school based in Luxembourg, LTAM, where I learnt the basics of animation (anatomy, perspective...). But I feel like I learnt the most of what I'm doing now, after graduation, when I needed to update my portfolio and find a job.
 
Have you always been supported in your artistic path or has it been challenging to let your family and friends understand your choice?
Not always, my parents were worried about finding a “real job”.  Which is healthy somehow. But I always preferred to draw, since I was a kid. My mother saw my perseverance over the years and helped me to pursue my dream. Today I'm lucky enough to say that I earn my money with the same passion I've always had.

What was the strongest influence you had when you were growing up ( artists, movies, cartoons, comics etc.. ) ?
Akira Toriyama without any doubt. Then I saw the work of Takehiko Inoue (Vagabond) ,Tsutomu Nihei(Blame!) and Yukito Kishiro (Gunnm). It was certainly the second time my mind was blown away. Still today, I can read their mangas again and never get bored. Few years later I discovered Otomo's Akira, Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, Oshii's Ghost in the Shell, Kon's Paprika... Because of these guys I'm now working in the animation industry.

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?
Warriors with a twelve pack abs. (as a kid I always though the more muscle you have, the strongest you are, thanks to Akira Toriyama Sensei)

From the initial client idea to the final work: What goes through your mind and what is the method you use when starting a project? Could you describe it?
I first off read the pitch/script, then I put down some very rough sketches where I can explore every directions I can.
I show it to the director/client and If he's pleased  I go further to the second step... I continue going back and forth with the client until the final stage.
 
What is your process in creating your art and what are your favourite tools?
I always preferred traditional art, a pencil, a sheet of paper and some water-colors.
I love that in traditional there are always “those mistakes” which make the pieces so unique. But for a matter of time I mostly use photoshop for my professional work.

What part of the creation process is the most fun and easy and what part is the hardest?
I prefer the sketch part, when you put down the ideas. Then the next steps follow, it's only drawing, adding details... The hardest would be the end, the polishing phase.

What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work, collaborate or share your creative time with?
I work from home since I'm making a comic book (along Jérôme Hamon and the French publisher Métamorphose). Without writing down all the details of my borings days I would simply say as a freelancer that the biggest challenge is to deal with many clients at the same time (or working on several personal projects). I easily end up working very late at night... But its a part of the fun.

What are some of the things you have learned from other artists who you have worked with or whose work you have seen?
I was lucky to meet some of the greatest artists I know these last years, and two things always comes out: hard work and humility. 

Is there something that you have designed that you are most proud of?
Not really... Or maybe the comic I'm working on now... It is certainly the biggest challenge I ever had.
 

What projects have you worked on in the past and what are you working on at the moment (if you can tell us)?
I worked mainly as a story artist for feature films, here in Paris and for the US. I recently worked a bit on 'Despicable Me 3' and 'The Grinch' at Illumination and more recently as a visual development artist for Aardman studios. Besides,  Im working on a comic book which should be out in France by the end of the year.

Do you have a longterm career goal? What would your dream project be?
Probably to keep drawing as a living. Im very happy with what I'm doing now, being a comic artist and working for the animation industry at the same time, I feel very lucky. But who knows, maybe one day I will have the opportunity to see a project of mine on the big screen.

Working in-house for a company or freelancing: what suits you best? And why?
Both can be a dream or a nightmare, it depends on what kind of studios we are talking about. Personally I love to alternate, like a year at home and a year in studios can be cool. Being in a studio will allow you to meet people and learn a lot from them, while working at home is great when you are multitasking and you want to set your own schedule.

What advise would you give to an artist who is dealing with an artist's block? How do you boost your imagination and keep yourself creative?
When it happens to me I just put down my pen and have a break, I make a coffee or a tea. If the block persist I look out for movies, video games or I read some comics. Having a break in these situations helps to have a new look on your work. Travelling is the healthiest thing when it comes to bigger block, I think.
 
Concept art, animation, illustration, comics, you name it. There are so many careers and when you are very young, sometimes you know only one thing: you simply love to draw. In your opinion, what should a young person take into consideration to make the right decision when choosing an artistic path?
I don't know If there is a perfect path for any artistic job. Before doing comics or animation I was doing stained-glass, and here I am, working on a comic book and for the animation industry. I push young people to “have fun” and do what they like more than pursue a career. Somehow, all the artistic jobs are somehow connected I think, as long as we work we can only get better. (Of course If you want to do animation, just go for it and try to do the more animations you can.)

In your own experience, what would you suggest to someone who is inspired by your work and wants to follows your footsteps: should they work in one consistent style, or develop many different ones?
I never really thought about this, It is I don't know If I do have many different styles. I would say more one style with different levels of stylization. I think the healthiest is to have fun and do what we like. The rest comes along.
 
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?
I would say Miyazaki's storyboards. Maybe Porco Rosso's one. Simply because it's pure genius. Everything in it is perfect, the story, the characters, their purposes, the relation they have to each other...
 
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?
Unfortunately I feel like the competition is pretty wild nowadays, saturated... It might seems funny but I would recommend to not care much about that. Since I don't really care I feel like I'm more sincere with myself. And people can relate to it through my work. I'm sorry for the fuzzy answer...

Who are the artists who inspire you the most today and what are some of your favourite designs out there?
To many to tell, but I love more and more Christophe Blain and Jorge Gonzalez work, I feel like they are unique in a sincere way... Far from the fashion of the animation or comic industry yet so pleasant .

We have a soft spot for hand drawn animation, what is your opinion about the future of this art form?
2D animation is already an endangered animal, the hand made animation on paper as we know it might disappear. But in my opinion, 2D animation will never really disappear, it will evolve for sure and get mixed with some 3D techniques but will remain alive.  But yeah, loosing hand made movies would be a big loss.

Social networks, crowd funding websites, print on demand online services and so on. 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 see only benefit. Or maybe I dare say that we tend to work less and spend more time on internet, embellishing our showcase. It is a matter of point of view I guess.

When clients contact you for a commission, what essential info should they include in their very first email in order to communicate with you efficiently and effectively?
As long as the client is polite and don't try to force the rates it's fine , I don't really care.

Finally, where can we see your art online and get in touch with you? How can we buy your creations and support your work?
People can reach my work through my Tumblr ( zakosuheb.tumblr.com ) I also have an Instagram ( instagram.com/suhebzako ), Twitter ( twitter.com/suhebzako ), and a Facebook page ( facebook.com/suhebzako ).

Thank you Suheb :)