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 graduated with a BFA in Illustration from Utah State University. I studied illustration exclusively for my Jr. & Sr. years. I have one really talented teacher to thank for teaching me a ton about painting and illustration--Glen Edwards. He really was one of the few instructors that stressed the fundamentals of drawing & painting while so many others either couldn't or wouldn't. I originally planned to be an illustrator, but found a job as an artist at a videogame company. It was fun to discover all of the different aspects that went into making videogames. After that, I learned how to animate, build 3D models & paint textures. It really opened up some possibilities as far as what I wanted to do with my career. Right now I split my time between concept art and texture painting.
How do you go about designing, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?
I think it’s very important to have a good idea of fairly specific character traits. It also helps to understand as much information as possible, such as backstory & other character relationships. After that, I like to have a couple of actors' voices in mind to help me visualize how the character will act. I use an illustrative approach to it, so it's challenging to visualize how it's going to animate sometimes. I'll usually try to make the character have as much appeal as possible, but without getting too "cute". No matter how ugly a character is, they should still be fun to look at. I try to avoid seeing other character designs that are similar in subject matter so I don't start tainting my view of it. It's good to look at other designs after you have your initial version on paper. It helps to make sure you come up with a solution that hasn't already been done before. There is always creative overlap, sometimes it's hard to avoid. From there, you just bust out a ton of sketches while trying to consolidate the things you like down into a handful of designs. Sometimes I'll paint a few of these sketches up, in hopes of really "selling" the design to other artists. It's a constant filtering process that seems like it never ends.
What is a typical day for you at Avalanche Software, and who are the people you work with?
A typical day starts with chatting a little bit with Todd Harris (concept bro), going over the concepts we’re currently working on. Pretty informal critiques & comments follow, trying to figure out what’s working, what’s not. I usually focus on texture concept painting, trying to reinforce the design ideas of the character and world concept into the surfaces of the game. Along with other artists we'll draw variations of established sketches and hopefully introduce something fresh into the design. I feel fortunate to work with so many tremendously talented artists; it's inspiring to see what people are working on everyday.
What are some of the things that you have worked on?
The Tak and the Power of Juju series of videogames (THQ/Nickelodeon) Chicken Little, Meet the Robinsons (Disney) Many other videogames over the years that kind of blend together.
Is there a design you have done that you are most proud of?
I don't know if I have one in particular, you're always thinking the design isn't perfect and can be refined some more. That being said, I'm grateful for the experience I had on Tak. I learned a lot about taking a character from start to finish. The Pins & Needles characters were a couple of voodoo dolls in the game, and they were Tlalocs' incompetent henchmen. I really got attached to them, and was fairly pleased with how they turned out. Tak was a really fun project to work on with Todd & Dave (McClellan), we got a lot of creative freedom to do what we wanted. Since it was our first original IP, we fed alot off each other and learned a ton about the process, and how hard it truly is sometimes.
What projects have you done in the past, and what are you working on now? (if you can tell us)
Right now I'm working on some original stuff that I can't talk about, other than to say I'm really excited about it.
Who do you think are the top artists out there?
Oh man, there are so many. I like artists from "low-brow" to realistic fine art painters to animators & story artists. Here's a few: Burt Silverman, Richard Schmid, and Jeffrey Hein. All of the animators at Pixar, the Foster's character designers, Glen Keane, Nicolas Marlet, Steven Silver, John Nevarez, Peter deSeve, JohnK, Bill Wray, Sebastian Kruger...so many to chose from.
Could you talk about your process in coloring your art, as well as the types of tools or media that you use?
I use Painter pretty much exclusively for painting up my drawings, I’ve tried to replicate the process in Photoshop but haven’t figured out that one yet. The process I have been sticking with lately is doing a full B&W value study after I scan in my line drawing. After I get that to a point where I’m happy with it, I’ll do a selection using image luminance; paste it onto a separate layer. After that I'll paint some rough color washes underneath the sketch on the base layer. Then I'll put a new layer on top of that & start blending the two layers together. In the process I'll hopefully try to cover-up all of the B&Wdrawing with brushstrokes, depending on how finished I want it to look. I've tried to mimic the process & techniques that I would use on a traditional oil painting.
What part of designing is most fun and easy, and what is most hard?
The best part is the initial kernel of an idea, when you’re trying to sketch what’s in your head. Some people are really good at that, I feel like it’s the biggest challenge. Once that is established, fleshing out the details is the fun part. You can go overboard sometimes too, by “noodling” out your drawing too much. I really enjoy the painting part of the sketch; it seems like that is when it starts to come to life.
What are some of the things that you do to keep yourself creative?
I don’t have a really good answer for that; it seems like music, movies, books always help me get inspired to create new stuff.
What are some of your favorite designs which you have seen?
That seems to change every month. I really like art that has some kind of a twist on the conventional character designs out there. It's good to have the solidity of design that some of that stuff has, but it's better to have some sort of fresh take that makes it different.
What is your most favorite subject to draw? And why?
Definitely heads & people, because there are endless possibilities, and you'll never run out of inspiration.
What inspired you to become an Artist?
It was the only thing that I was any good at early on. As a teenager I was into skateboarding and wasn't really all that good at it, but I loved the art on the decks & stickers. I was thrilled to find out that people actually get paid to draw stuff, and I wanted to do THAT! My dad is an art teacher too, so he was always encouraging me. Combine that with tons of Looney Toons & other cartoons, and that's how I got the desire to be an artist.
What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?
It seems like you will pick and choose different techniques from a variety of artists. I was lucky in school—we had a guest artist program where illustrators came and did presentations of their art & process. A couple of my favorites were C.F. Payne and Skip Liepke. It was tremendously valuable to see professionals work up close, and what it takes to really have a compelling portfolio.
What are some of your favorite websites that you go to?
All of the regular art sites like Drawn.ca, Cartoon Brew, after that I usually go blog surfing, there are so many fantastic ones out there, with new ones popping up every day. I've got a bunch of links to friends other art I like at my blog, too.
What wisdom could you give us, about being an Artist? Do you have any tips you could give?
It probably sounds simple, but my college education came down to this:"Draw and paint...ALOT. You'll get better." There's a quote out there by Chuck Jones I think that says something to the effect--"You've got a million bad drawings in you, you better get started." It's important to learn and soak up info(theories, techniques,artists) whenever you can, but it really just comes down to plowing through some sketchbooks & paint.
If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?
You can always email me here: woodyrye
Or visit my blog: woodyart.blogspot.com
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?
At the moment, I don’t have anything available. I’m in the process of putting together a book of paintings & sketches that I plan to have done for Comic-Con in ’07.