Thursday, February 02, 2006

THE INTERVIEW


Tell me a little bit about yourself, about your life? Where did you go to school, and what classes did you study? What helped prepare you to become the artist that you are today?

I was born in Apsheronsk, a small town in the south of Russia - a 2-hour drive from the Black Sea. My mother kept me very busy from a very early age. I first went to Art School when I was just 6 years old. Two years later I started going to Music School and at the same time I attended dance classes. This was all extra to my everyday normal school where I studied all the usual school subjects like study Russian language, Maths and so on.
So basically there was a period when I had to run between schools and go dancing afterwards while in fact all I wanted was to play football or “Indians” with my friends. I am however, now, looking back very glad that these opportunities were presented to me.

I to this day remember my first art class. I remember how the teacher put an empty jar in front of me and told me to draw it. I started to draw it and at first I drew it correctly with ellipses and proper perspective. But then for some reason it seemed all crooked and wrong so I erased the ovals and drew a simple rectangular perfectly straight and “beautiful”. The teacher, who was a very nice woman explained my mistake to me and I corrected it. I will never forget my first art class. I graduated from art school when I was 10 years old. Ironically I got ‘A” in all subjects except for pencil work. I never attended any art schools after this. I preferred to learn on my own, so I’m basically a self-taught artist.


I finished school at 16 and applied to the Moscow Forestry Engineering Institute. I studied there for five years. Half way through the course I did my army service for 2 years (luckily I often worked as an artist whilst doing my military service, mainly drawing propaganda posters for the army base). Shortly after Institute, I very unexpectedly got into animation. My first job was as an inbetweener. Later I took a course in animation, however I didn’t become an animator, instead I became a clean-up artist. I remember asking my boss to let me switch into animation, but he told me, “You’re going to be a character designer very soon, why do you need to be an animator?” Two years later after this conversation I became a character-designer.

How do you go about designing a character, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?

There is no rule to it. I think it depends on the type of character you are creating. If characters are cartoon-like, you can start with a simple shape like a circle, a square, an oval or a triangle. When I’m dealing with many characters I use different shapes. Even if the shapes are similar you can play around with the character’s height, make him taller or shorter. It gets more complicated with realistic characters. The most important thing is the character of the character if you see what I mean! How it moves, what it does and how it does it, and how every time the character does something differently. These things help to bring out the character’s individuality. All means are good. For example sometimes I look for characters among actors or amongst my friends – they can be anyone from friends to neighbors. Also and above all you need to know the story well. It’s important to know how the hero/the heroine interacts with other characters, those who he/she gets along with well, those with whom he/she doesn’t and so on….. what his/her hobby or dress style is. Very often a character has some kind of background that isn’t included in the script, but which opens up the character’s personality and helps us understand more about this character. You can even make it up yourself, create some habits for the character. Sometimes his/her occupation points you in the right direction. So, basically, any information is useful, the more we know the easier it is to design a character.

When the character works, it means he has come alive, has started to breath and the audience takes him for real.

During the process of creating a character a lot of drawings and sketches are drawn. Usually nothing remains from these first sketches – of course there are exceptions to this but generally something completely new is created. There is no one strategy to this process! A good thing really otherwise it would be really boring. The same is with creating the character’s character! You can go about this in many different ways too. You can begin with either facial expressions, perhaps a silhouette, or from a particular gesture. It is easier to create if you know what’s his/her occupation is and who he/she interacts with in the story.

What do you think really helps you out in designing a character?

I think it’s the story, if it’s clear a character comes along quickly. Sometimes it can be a photo or an expressive pose. Again, it always depends. For example, you can get something interesting out of scribbles and small sketches. I do think that it is better not to show your work until you have finished it, as a good idea can often be misunderstood. Sometimes switching to another drawing style gives some ideas. The producer or director can also be of some help too :o) And one other thing, that I nearly forgot !!!MUSIC!!! It is easier to work with music.


From your own experience and maybe from some people that you know, what should we put in our portfolio and what should we not?


Everything that you think is good. Draw from life, do quick sketches. Create your own world - it’s always interesting that way.

It’s not worth copying somebody else’s drawing, even if it comes out well. It’s still someone else’s work. It’s boring that way. Don’t try to copy someone else’s style, try to work out your own.

What are some of the things that you have worked on?

On movies – I’m working in the movie industry at the moment. Who knows what tomorrow has in store.

Is there a character design you have done that you are most proud of?

At the moment it’s probably those characters that I designed for “Prince Vladimir”. They are at the top of my list for the moment although I like (nearly!!!) all of my characters :0).

What are you working on now? (If you can tell us)

At the moment I am working on a Finnish project, it’s a very interesting project. I am working on the characters though I didn’t design them from scratch - I am reworking them and finishing them off ready for production.

Where is the place you would like to work if you had a choice?

I am happy working in Russia, in Moscow. The only down side to this is the winter! It can be very hard work here due to the weather. If it were possible to relocate Moscow to the coast it would be perfect. I am from the south of Russia and love the sea.

Who do you think are the top character designers out there?

There are many character designers that I like from different countries. It’s impossible to list them all. I like all those artists who work on big projects in the movie and game industry. I have met (virtually-speaking) a lot of them through their Blogs. All the designers presented on your website are interesting.

How do you go about coloring the character, what type of tools or media do you use?

On “Vladimir” we had a special person for coloring. If I do it myself I use Photoshop mainly. And pencil and paper of course.

What part of designing a character is most fun and easy, and what is most hard?

The most fun part is drawing sketches and expressive poses. I especially like drawing something funny, something that makes you smile. You sit, you draw and you can’t help smiling, I’m even smiling as I write this. :O)

The hardest part and perhaps the most boring is when you clean-up the character because it loses a lot of expression. It seems to ‘dry out’.

What are some of your favorite character designs and least favorite, which you have seen?

My favorites are ‘Jungle Book’, ‘Sword In the Stone’, ‘Lilo and Stitch’, These are some of the first that come to mind. I also really like Mulan because of its minimalism.

What is your most favorite subject to draw? And why?

My son. That’s if I have time. He is very funny. People are always interesting to draw. I like to draw animals too.
I also like to draw when traveling.

What inspired you to become a Character Designer?

It was a coincidence really. It seems that the profession chose me and not the other way round. Life pushed me in the arms of my profession. I am inspired by those people who look at my drawings: they are my mirror.

What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?

The most important thing I’ve learned is the importance of ‘Drawing from Life’.


What wisdom could you give us, about being a character designer? Do you have any tips you could give?

To become a character designer you need to love people…. Study them and their nature. Draw them from life. Observe. Express your feelings and be true to yourself. This way you’ll surely become a character designer.

If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?


You can find me on my blog http://andreiriabovitchev.blogspot.com/
Or write to: riabovitchev@mail.ru


Finally, do you have any of your art work for sale (sketchbook, prints, or anything) for people that like your work can know where and when to buy it?

Not yet :o)