Where did you grow up and when did you say to yourself: ‘’I want to be an Artist’’? And what was the strongest influence you had when you were growing up (artists, movies, cartoons, comics etc.. ) ?
I'm Italian. I was born in Origgio, a small village close to Milan. I grew up loving comic books. My favorite was the Silver Surfer. Later on I became a comic book artist. And then I fell in love with animation. It was Don Bluth's films that really got me -- “Dragon's Lair," “Space Ace” and “The Secret of Nimh.” I read “The Illusion of Life” and rediscovered the Disney movies. I learned about all the amazing talented artists that worked at Disney and was so fascinated that I decided to give animation a try. I worked a short stint in London on “Balto” and loved it. This event changed my life. From London I went to work in Germany at Munich Animation where I worked on three animated feature films.
After that I had the great opportunity to make a short film “The Shark and the Piano” . The short has been screened at animation festivals all around the world and collected a number of awards. Then I moved to Denmark to work at A-Film and then back to London at Stardust. After that Dreamworks offered me a job in Los Angeles and here I am.
Did you go to an art school or are you self taught? What helped you prepare to become the artist we know today?
I have studied in art schools for nine years but I never had formal animation training. My knowledge about animation started with a couple of videos. One from Phil Nibbelick about the bouncing ball and the other (really important one) from James Baxter about how things move.
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?
As a child I was into horses and then later superheroes and mythological characters. Today I draw a lot of women and animals. If I do something that catches my interest then I like to take time to develop it to see where it goes. A few years ago I did a series of drawings about a Young Minotaur which eventually become a book. Right now I'm into this theme of women in space.
From the initial client idea to the final work: what goes through your mind when you're designing and what is the method you use when starting a project? Could you describe it?
I always keep in mind the personality and the purpose of the character in the story. I collect reference material and try to look at the real thing if I can. I need to find an expression or pose that can define the character . Then I like to draw the character in a walking pose. You get a lot of information about a character looking at the way they walk.
What is your process in coloring your art and what type of tools and media do you use?
I tend to draw with a ball point pen. It keeps my concentration focused on what I'm doing. If I work with a pencil I find myself doodling a lot and veering from what I'm supposed to draw. The coloring and editing of my drawings are done in Photoshop. Lately I've gotten into shapes more than lines and Photoshop has a couple of great tools: the lasso and the pen.
What are some of the things you have learned from other artists who you have worked with or whose work you have seen?
From comic book artists I would say the importance of anatomy, perspective and composition. From designers: the control of shapes, proportions and caricature. From animators: analysis of movement, acting and entertainment. From story artists: simplicity and staging
What projects have you worked on in the past and what are you working on at the moment (if you can tell us)?
As a comic book artist I worked for "Diabolik"and "Dylan Dog." These comic are pretty popular in Italy. I also worked for "Il Giornalino" on the series "Reporter Blues" (which you can see on my facebook page).
As 2D animator I worked on: "The Fearless Four," "Tobias Totz," "Help I'm A Fish," "Jester Till," "Eight Crazy Nights" and "Sinbad:Legend of the Seven Seas." Other credits include the Sinbad DVD special "Cyclops Island" and Po in the credits of "Kung Fu Panda." As 3D animator I worked on "Shark Tale," "Flushed Away," "Kung Fu Panda "(1 and 2), "How to Train Your Dragon," "Megamind" and "The Croods." As Story Artist I worked on "The Fearless Four," "Jester Till", "Shrek the Third" and The "Croods." On “How to train your Dragon” I sculpted an early version of Stoick, designed by Nicolas Marlet. I kept sculpting as a hobby and recently sculpted an anatomy model of a Lioness. As Character Designer I worked on: "Help I'm A Fish," "Jester Till." I also did all the characters of my short film, "The Shark and the Piano" as well as some design on "Flushed Away" and "The Bee Movie." I also wrote and directed the animated short "The Shark and the Piano" produced by Munich Animation in 2001. On this short I did the storyboards, the design and art direction. I also animated parts of it and supervised the animation and clean up.
At the moment I'm involved preparing the characters for Croods 2 in addition to serving as the anatomy consultant on the show. I also did some animals characters design for Larrikins (Dreamworks upcoming project).
Is there something that you have designed that you are most proud of?
The design for The Shark and the Piano and Larrikins. I'm also happy with some of my sculptures.
What part of the creation process is the most fun and easy and what part is the hardest?
The fun part for me is the anatomy and the coloring, the hardest is coming up with something that is original and appealing.
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?
If I have a block I surf Internet and in less than 20 minutes get plenty of inspiration. I look at pictures, drawings and work from artists I admire. I even get inspiration from looking at interior design.
Who are the artists who inspire you the most today and what are some of your favorite designs?
There are so many comic book, illustration, sculpture and animation artists that inspire me. Just to name a few: John Buscema, Jack Kirby, Neal Adams, Gene Colan, Richard Corben, Joe Kubert, Alex Toth, Guido Crepax, Sergio Toppi, Attilio Micheluzzi, Dino Battaglia, Jordi Bernet, Sergio Zaniboni, Giorgio Cavazzano, Frank Frazetta, T.S. Sullivant, Heinrich Kley, Olaf Gulbransson, Ferenc Pinter, Rembrant Bugatti, Antoine Louis Barye, Anna Huntington, Milt Kahl, Don Bluth, Nico Marlet. Thanks to the Internet it's easy to find talented artists. My last discover is Michael Sanlaville.
Finally, Where can we see your art online and get in touch with you?
You can follow me on Facebook ( facebook.com/gabriele.pennacchioli )
Thank you Gabriele :)