Where did you grow up? At what age did you start thinking about pursuing an artistic career?
I was born in 1984, in New Brunswick Canada, in a small city called Dieppe. I attended a french school that hosted an annual drawing contest put on by a french bank called the Caisse populaire. Those contests really constructed the foundation of my artistic skills. The first time I entered the contest I finished first in my class which felt great and it motivated me to draw more. That contest had different competition levels; winning your class advanced to competing with the whole school, the winner of that round went to a regional competition for the Atlantic Provinces. Throughout the years I got closer and closer to winning Atlantic Canada until one year I finally won it. That contest really got me thinking about pursuing an artistic career.
Did you go to an art school or are you self taught? How did you develop your skills?
I went to an art school called NBCC miramichi they have a great curriculum and awesome teachers. I own so much of my skills to them. My mother and grandmother can also draw extremely well. My grandmother was a professional artist, and when she saw my interest in art she took me under her wing. I used to go over her place and she taught me colour theory using pastels for hours on end. I really enjoyed those times. My next door neighbour also played a huge role in developing my creative side. I used to hang out in his basement with a pencil and some toys, and I would spend hours illustrating stories all night long. We used to call those series of stories ‘Dog Mystery’. Those are some of the best memories of my life.
What was the strongest influence you had when you were growing up ( artists, movies, cartoons, comics etc.. ) ?
That’s a great question! I definitely had lots of influences growing up. Because I went to a french school we had french comics, known as ‘bandes dessinées’. Spirou et Fantasio was a big one for me, Asterix and Tintin as well when it comes to comics. As far as video games goes the art direction of Earthworm Jim was a huge influence on me. It was illustrated by Doug TenNapel, a brilliant cartoonist who later created the show Catscratch. I really love his work. Movies also played an enormous role in forming my tastes. I was deeply influenced by movies like Rocky, Jurassic Park, E.T., Star Trek and Star Wars. I also watched cartoons! Animation was definitely my true love. I soaked up TV animation like Astro Boy, Dragonball, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Anime), Ren & Stimpy, Batman the Animated Series, and The Real Ghostbusters. Animated feature films like The Land Before Time, Disney's Aladdin, Miyazaki’s My Neighbour Totoro, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe were a huge influence.
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?
I feel like nowadays my favourite subject matter changes all the time, but when I was a kid I definitely had a favourite subject. I normally drew kids and spaceships with alien creatures, probably because I watched lots of science fiction. To this day I still tap in to those childhood subject matters, I guess it’s just part of me. I also tend to draw environments; as a kid I used to make up countless amounts of random wacky worlds, I think a lot of that came from video game worlds maps. Its funny, as a kid I would mostly watch other people play games, instead playing them myself. While other kids played the games, I use to analyze them. I feel like a lot of my skills derive from that.
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'm normally nervous and exited at the same time when I start something new, just because there is so much of the project that is unknown. My first goal is to get to know the client a little more as a person, to find out their experience in the industry what their past work is and their taste in art. One important thing to find out is if they have a clear vision on what they want. If it seems like the don't, I try to ask the right questions to help them discover what they are looking for. After we’ve had some discussion and I think I’ve got enough to go on, I normally go online to seek out references like photography, illustration, painting and drawing events, movies, and sometimes I even go on a certain site called Character Design Reference. :-D Afterwords I start compiling images in a project folder with numbers on each image to easily identify them with the client. I do that for the first couple of days, than I meet up with the client once more and go over the images to see if I can narrow down what she or he is looking for. After going through that process a couple of times and I’m feeling comfortable, I start doing thumbnails that will only take about an hour or two at the most, nothing too committal at this point. Based on the feedback I will continue in the same direction or I will change direction completely. The early stages of visual development are the most crucial for communication. After being patient with this process the project seems to flourish.
What is your process in creating your art and what are your favourite tools?
I'm not sure if I have a definite process or not, but normally I will get inspired by something someone said or something I’ve seen a person do, or maybe an illustration. Sometimes its simply the combination of colours in an illustration. Sometime even music will trigger some illustration in my head. In some ways just living in everyday life inspires my art. I would say my favourite tools are my sketchbook and photoshop. Most of the time, a more complex piece will start as a little doodle in my sketchbook of a character or a element like a tree or a car, normally something simple. Afterwards, if I want to elaborate on the idea I will bring the art piece into Photoshop and flesh out the idea on the Cintiq.
What part of the creation process is the most fun and easy and what part is the hardest?
It’s exhilarating in the beginning when the idea’s fresh in your mind, and you start putting down some lines. That feeling is what keeps me hooked. That’s the reason I continue to draw.
What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work, collaborate or share your creative time with?
Since I’m a layout supervisor I'm mostly looking at Excel spreadsheets and managing artists. Although sometimes it seems tedious, it definitely has its awards. From brainstorming to team building, it definitely makes me feel fulfilled at the end of a day.
What are some of the things you have learned from other artists who you have worked with or whose work you have seen?
One big thing that I learned is every artist works differently. From creating story to painting a background; it’s fascinating to be around. I feel energized every time I see a new technique that I pick up. That sense of ‘levelling up’ is so satisfying.
Is there something that you have designed that you are most proud of?
I'm not sure if I have a single piece that really stands out to me but there is a project that does. Working with one of my friends on two music videos Robo Wonderkid and Lumberjacked was extremely good for me. It sort of broke me out of my shell and made me more daring with my career. It really showed me anything’s possible if you have passion behind it. Because of that experience, those videos are what i'm most 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)?
I've been in the industry for almost 10 years now so I'll just name off a few that stand out to me. I worked on animated TV series such as George of the Jungle, Garth and Bev, Wild Grinders, Teen Titans Go, Bravoman, and Pickle and Peanut. I’ve also done several music videos like, Rich Aucoin's Push, Rich Aucoin's Lumberjacked, David Myles Santa Never Gave Me a Banjo, Benn Ross The Fly, Classified Having Kids Is Easy, Deltron 3030 Melding of the Minds, and many pilots which I can not speak of.
Do you have a longterm career goal? What would your dream project be?
I have a very ambitious career goal I think. I always had in my head that I wanted to create my own TV show or feature film someday, either co-create it with a writer or art direct it. Sometimes I feel like that dream is impossible, but as the years go by my dream seems to be getting closer every day.
Working for a company or freelancing: what suits you best? And why?
Working for a company for sure! I love the team atmosphere, and also how it eliminates all the invoicing and paperwork. I also like working with talented artists so I can learn new techniques and skills.
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?
Artist blocks are quite normal for many artists, I tend not to have them too much, but when I do there are two things I consider. Either I’ve been working too hard and need a couple of days to feel refreshed or I need to get inspired somehow. If I don't feel creative I spend sometime on the internet looking at talented artists that inspire me. I feel like every artist should be looking at what’s going on out there. The internet is one place to look, but there are other options like doing some observational work, drawing buildings or people at cafes etc. Sometime watching a great movie inspires me to draw. Either way I feel like honing the skill of ‘getting back on the horse’ is very important.
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?
When I started I thought I wanted to be an animator, I was very stubborn about it. I had it in my head that this is really what I wanted to do. I did well in animation school. The teacher even re-played some of my scenes for the following years as a example. But a career in digital animation really didn't come easy to me. At the time, the studios didn't have salary and I couldn't even pay rent, I was getting a two-hundred-dollar paycheque every two weeks. Then one day I a had a beer with one of the owners of the company, and he told me that he really liked my layout work on my blog. Afterwards he suggested that I join the layout team. Eventually I decided to give it a go. When I did, I excelled. So if I learned anything from that, it’s that you might not get it right at first go, but if you keep searching for what’s right for you while being honest with yourself, you will find your way along your artistic path to a viable career.
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 work on many different ones?
I would definitely tell them to draw in any styles that inspires them. As long as you’re drawing, you are getting better. I've been drawing in different styles as long as I can remember. Drawing in different styles really can be a strength or a weakness, depending on the employment. If you work in animation for any length of time you will need to adapt to new styles very fast. This makes you very employable. The negative part in not really having a distinct style is when the employer is looking for a particular art direction. For example if they say I want a Mary Blair look to it they will be looking for someone that naturally does it and is passionate about 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?
I think a young artist needs to mentally prepare themselves to do long hours. Even after school. Animation is a very hard and tedious, and sometimes deadlines are tight. If you go in the industry prepared for hard work, then thinking this way will make you stronger. I also recommend scheduling yourself daily deadlines, and finish them each day. It’s a great way to stay on track.
Who are the artists who inspire you the most today and what are some of your favourite designs out there?
You mean people I steal from! Hahahaha… The world is full of insane talent, I’ll name just a few, Daisuke Tsutsumi, Bill Wray, Scott Wills, Charley Harper, Robert Valley, Nicolas Marlet, Kevin Nelson, Paul Felix, Jim Kim, Jamie Hewlett, Edward Hopper, James Jean, Alexandre Diboine, Scott Campbell, Moebius, Akira Toriyama, Osamu Tezuka, Rémi Salmon, Joel Mackenzie, Steve Lambe, Nicolas Dehghani, Jon Klassen, Todd Oldham, Ed Emberley, Annette Marnat, Fabien Mense, Tim Biskup, Jim Flora, Doug TenNapel, Anthony Holden and many more.
We have a soft spot for hand drawn animation, what is your opinion about the future of this art form?
If you mean hand-drawn animation on paper, than I think that medium will fade into obscurity, because of the long process of that technique; just the shooting of it takes hours. But in terms of digital traditional animation on the other hand, that will be around for a while. It’s basically the same process, only you can scrub the timelime in realltime which has many benefits.
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 really think we are living in a exciting time. We are not limited by publishers and other companies for exposure. We have blogs, Instagram, Facebook, tumblr, and many other avenues to publish our art. The downside to this is that everyone can post, even people that just take pictures of their food, dog, cats, lattes. It’s like a giant sea of stimuli, so it makes it hard to stand out sometimes.
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?
- Visual descriptions
- The number of revisions
Finally, where can we see your art online and get in touch with you? How can we buy your creations and support your work?
I post my work on multiple sites at the moment. The site I post the most is my Tumblr ( tony-mitchell2.tumblr.com ). I also have a Facebook page ( facebook.com/Art-of-Tony-Mitchell ), and an Instagram ( instagram.com/tony.mitchell.art ). For inquiries, I can be reached at ( email@example.com ).
Thank you Tony :)