Q: Will you look at my portfolio? Check out my site? Answer these 10 questions for my HS paper?

A: I hate to say it but I just can’t. I used to. Then I tried to do it sometimes, for some people, but it was just unfair and still took up way too much of my time. If I’m not doing client work, freelance, fan art for you all to see, teaching, or my own personal “dream projects”- my little free time needs to go to my family. I hope you understand.

Q: Can you give me some pointers on how to do ___ better?

A: There are no “pointers” to art, just like there isn’t to life. It’s practice. Every situation or thing you draw is brand new to you, in that moment. You just have to do it and learn from it. Practice, practice, practice- that’s my ONLY pointer.

Q: What tools do you use?

A: At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old man (too late, I know), I don’t believe how well you draw something has ANYTHING to do with the tools. (See my answer above for the real answer.) But, you can draw something a bit better or with some “style” with certain tools , so I do get the question. In general, I use very simple tools: to do my initial sketch/design I use a Prismacolor Col-Erase Light Blue or Red colored pencil. When I like where its going, I will usually go over it with a soft leaded graphite pencil like a 2B, Blackwing, Tombow or some other graphite pencil that is smooth, not too waxy, and not too smudgy (and nearly impossible to find). When I ink, I like brush markers, many of them happen to be Japanese: The Kuretake Mangaka brush pen, the Zebra pen, the Pentel or Pilot brush pen, and a few others. There’s an excellent selection at jetpens.com. That’s where I get mine.

Q: How can I get into Disney?

A: I hear your question a lot. BASICALLY it comes in this form: “I've always loved Disney animation and my dream is to work there one day.”
Its a good dream to have. Unfortunately, because millions share that dream, its a hard one to accomplish. Without seeing your artwork what I can tell you is that this dream has to be a GOAL; not a dream. Goals you work at, dreams you think about. This Goal is about equal to an athlete wanting to get into the Olympics. Its about that hard and that big of a long shot. First things first: do you draw everyday? If you're answer is "yes" (or close to it) than you are one step closer. Have you drawn everyday for YEARS? If yes, that's great. Have you filled up many sketchbooks over the years? If yes, than even without me seeing your artwork, I can say you are getting even closer to your goal. If you (years ago) stopped copying Disney characters and mostly concentrate on drawing from life AND creating your own characters, than that's another good sign that you are headed in the right direction. Basically, just like an swimmer that wants to be in the Olympics, you would expect certain things from him: He/she practices everyday and very extensively, he/she has competed for years and is one of the best amongst his/her peers, he/she has sought out training from experienced professionals/coaches, and he/she clearly knows what they need to improve on to make it to their goal of the Olympics (Disney). So, look inside yourself and answer these questions. If you haven’t put in the years of training/practice it takes to get even a starting position at the World’s Top Animation studios (and this includes Pixar, Sony, Dreamworks and maybe a couple others), then you know what you have to do. I usually suggest 4 to 8 years of extensive drawing, animating, painting, etc. – depending upon which part of the animation process you want to work in. That may be depressing if you are at the beginning part of that road/process, but if you love doing it the time will pass and each frustration will become a new goal to concur. Good luck!

Q: No, I said HOW do I get into Disney? How do I contact them?

A: Seriously, I got into Disney in the late 80s, you don’t want to hear my opinion on how they do it now. All the answers are online, believe me. And up to date. Disney.com is the first place I’d start. I can tell you this, you won’t be knocking on their door with your portfolio in hand. Its not done that way anymore. In short: You need an online portfolio to link to and then fill out the necessary online job applications on their website.

Q: But what do I put into my Portfolio to get into Disney:

A: This is another hard one to answer. It depends on what part of the production process you want to get into: character design, environmental layout (also known as concept design), background painting, storyboarding, or animation. Those are the main ones. If you’re good at more than one of those things: great, but most of us aren’t. The point is: only sell your strong points. Don’t put “progress” drawings in there- you know, the ones that show how far you’ve come since 6th grade. Nope. That’s not a portfolio. A portfolio is your BEST work. Even those drawings you can’t believe you drew. Especially those. Those “accidents” aren’t cheating, they are the glimpses of the way you will draw ALL THE TIME, if you get this job and the daily practice and training that will come with it. No copies of other peoples work. No Disney characters. No anime (yes, I said it.) (Because no one in the US -especially Disney- is making anime style films. They just aren’t.) For this same reason, I suggest people that want to be animators have SOME 2D (traditional) animation, but you better have LOTS of CG animation- and it should be great stuff- because that’s where the work is and that’s what the studios are looking for.

Don’t make your portfolio “general”, make it specific. If you want to be a storyboard artist, you need certain skills that you want to show off in your portfolio: storyboard samples, some original character designs (helpful), life drawings (always good to have), shot layout sketches (where you are analyzing different ways to frame a shot), tonal studies of shots, etc. That’s a specific portfolio. Do the same for painting, concept art, character design, and animation. Make it specific and say you want to do THAT specific job. Don’t put the kitchen sink into your portfolio and then expect them to “find a place for you at the studio”. They have a few, specific jobs to fill and are looking for THOSE jobs so the portfolios/people that have the portfolios that look like they already are good at those jobs- will get those jobs. It’s that simple.

AND- and you’d be surprised how many portfolios I’ve seen that are like this- If you want to be a storyboard artist, you better have storyboard samples in your portfolio! Yep, and if you want to be an animator, you better have an animation reel of your animation to share a link to! That’s right- they are not going to teach you how to animate, storyboard, character design, etc.- you already need to know how to do those thing- and pretty dang well. You WILL get better on the job, but the days where they train you and all you have to do is be able to draw decent- are over.