Category Archives: Careers

Concept Artist: Matt Kohr is Living His Dream

Originally posted 2/09:

The dream of every young artist is to have a job drawing cool pictures all day long. Matt Kohr is living that dream. As a concept artist for a leading video game company, Matt sketches ideas for characters, vehicles, and environments. His work clearly sets him apart as a rising star in the highly competitive arena of concept art.

A headline on Matt’s sketchblog reads, “Becoming a Stronger Artist One Scribble at a Time.” After looking at his sketches for school assignments and online competitions, you immediately get a sense for his determination to succeed. A recent graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design, Matt firmly believes in total commitment to the craft. “The simple act of working for nine hours every day makes me a stronger artist. Doing it surrounded by a team of talented game developers makes it fun.”

Matt has always drawn weird stuff. He says, “My love for fantasy and Sci-Fi started at an early age from movies like Star Wars and Aliens; and the internet now provides me with a constant supply of inspiration.” His fascination for fantastic worlds has turned into a full-time job drawing and painting concepts for Vicious Cycle Software. But it took a bold move to get him started in the game industry.

As a freshman in college, Matt introduced himself to a game developer at a recruiting conference for seniors. He told the developer about his website–which he didn’t have–then quickly put one together in time to land a job via email. “I told him I would work for free. Some combination of passion and portfolio landed me a summer internship, which led to a fantastic working relationship throughout college,” said Matt.

In an online interview with his college professor, Brenda Brathwaite, Matt gives advice to students preparing to be a video game concept artist:

“Never put your pencil down. Seriously. School work is not enough to get you where you want to be. Find a team and make a game or a mod. All of the best work comes from extra-curricular drawing. Always be imagining.”

Visit Matt Kohr’s website and sketchblog

Animation Artist: Victor Navone

Originally posted 6/06:

Is Victor Navone from outer space? Nope–he was born in San Diego, California, planet Earth. But some of his drawings and computer animations look like they came from outer space.

In 1999, while learning computer animation, Victor created a 1-minute animation called Alien Song. It features a rhythmic green alien singing the song I Will Survive. It quickly became one of the most viewed Internet animations ever.

Sketching how a character will look is called character development. Victor drew the alien’s body in different poses to show how it would move and express emotions.

The president of Pixar Animation Studios received an email copy of Alien Song and asked Victor to work as a full-time animator. An animator works frame by frame to create the movement of characters or objects. Thousands of frames are put together in a sequence to create an animated movie.

Drawing is a very important part of Victor’s work as an animator. He says, “You can buy [computer] software that has lots of bells and whistles and gadgets, but it will ultimately come down to your skill and experience as an artist to make compelling animation or art.”

Victor has animated characters for the movies Monster Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and Cars. And to think, it all started with some simple drawings of a one-eyed creature from outer space.

In 1994 Victor worked for the game developer Presto Studios. He drew ideas for computer games while learning to use 3D graphics software. He quickly advanced to the position of conceptual designer. A conceptual designer creates how a game’s graphics will look and function.

As Victor gained more experience he took on exciting responsibilities. He took charge of conceptual design for the games Blackstone Chronicles and Star Trek: Hidden Evil. During this time he began to teach himself character animation.

Victor’s alien character, Blit Wizbok, was born in the summer of 1998. “I’m a sci-fi fan so the first idea that popped into my head was a funny green alien,” said Victor.

Blit Wizbok was created with basic 3D computer forms.









He made pencil drawings to develop Blit’s features. He drew Blit with one eye and three fingers on each hand to make animation easier. With his little green character ready to sing and dance, Victor used animation software to make Alien Song. He animated Blit’s movements and added music, then put it on the Internet.

In December of 1999 Alien Song brought Victor a lot of recognition as a character animator. It helped him to get a job at Pixar Animation Studios.

Whether he is communicating an idea to a movie director with a quick sketch, or spending many hours to create a character, the ability to draw in different styles is important to Victor.

He used a realistic style to draw the details of a humanoid alien (shown above) for the Star Trek computer game. How is the drawing style of the humanoid alien different form the style used to draw Blit?

Even though Victor is a rising star, he always finds time to help artists learn about animation. He is a teacher at the online school Victor enjoys giving students advice about using software and developing visual ideas. He says, “Animation is very hard work, but it’s extremely rewarding and a lot of fun.”

Victor is passionate about sketching ideas from his imagination, developing them on the computer, then making them come to life as a movie.

Look for him to play an important role in the future of animated movies. Because just like his animated classic Alien Song, Victor Navone will survive.

Web Comics & Graphic Novels: Telling Stories With Pictures

Originally posted 6/06:

27-year-old Kazu Kibuishi and 26-year-old Amy Kim Ganter draw together a lot. They are living their dreams as comic artists and love to tell stories by drawing pictures.

Kazu works as an animator for a company called Shaded Box Animations. He draws ideas for video games, films, and commercials. When he’s not working on animation projects he spends long hours drawing his Web comics. Web comics are shown on the Internet instead of printed in comic books or newspapers.

Kazu’s web comic called Copper is very popular. Copper is a lovable boy who sets out on adventures with his dog Fred. Kazu writes, draws, and colors each Copper Web comic.

Scholastic, the largest children’s book publisher in the world, has contracted him to produce a graphic novel called Amulet. Graphic novels are similar to comic books in that they use pictures to tell a story. The stories are longer and put together in a covered book.

Kazu's web comic called Copper is very popular. Copper is a lovable boy who sets out on adventures with his dog Fred. Kazu writes, draws, and colors each Copper Web comic.

Amy is a freelance animator and illustrator. Freelance means she works on different projects for different companies. She also illustrates stories for book publishers. She is currently creating a graphic novel for the publisher Tokyopop.

Amy and Kazu live in Southern California. It is their goal to be full-time graphic novelists. Learn more about these talented artists and the wonderful stories they draw.

Amy Kim Ganter

Amy Kim Ganter describes herself as “someone who loves to tell stories and draw comics!” Amy spends much of her time drawing from her experiences in life. “I’ve been drawing comics since I was 10. It started with a comic about my hamster but then it kept growing, for two years, until [the hamster] died,” she said in a recent interview about her work.

Reading lots of Japanese Manga comics inspired Amy to draw and write. She studied animation, cartooning, and illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Amy has an online Web comic called Reman Mythology. Her graphic novel Sorcerers & Secretaries is a love story that is popular with readers.

Above: Pencil drawing of the character Nicole Hayes in the graphic novel Sorcerers & Secretaries










Through the years Amy has learned about true love. “I think I know better now, and I can’t wait to write more about it! I guess it’s just as I grow, my perspectives on life change with it, and it always gives me something new I want to express.”

She smiles when asked about life with her fiancee, Kazu Kibuishi. “We work in the same studio. We both love comics and we both love storytelling; we both love people, we both love characters. When you have the same shared passion and outlook on life, it’s easier.”

Amy enjoys working as an author and artist. She especially enjoys sharing time and her art with Kazu.

Kazu Kibuishi

Above: Illustration from Kazu Kauibishi's graphic novel Amulet

Born in Tokyo, Japan, Kazu Kibuishi moved to the United States in 1982. He studied film at the University of California, Santa Barbara and graduated in 2000. He and Amy currently live in Alhambra, California.

In 2005 Kazu was on Comixedia’s list of top 25 people in Web comics. He also made Webcomics Examiner’s Best Webcomics list. Kazu’s graphic novel Daisy Kutter: The Last Train is listed as one of the “Best Books for Young Adults” by the American Library Association (ALA). His Web comic Copper is admired by readers and comic artists.

Shown above is Kazu’s Web comic Copper being drawn with ink. To see the steps Kazu takes to create his amazing comic click here.

At left is a color illustration from Kazu’s graphic novel Daisy Kutter: The Last Train.

Sketching ideas for his character, Copper, was challenging. At first he was thinking of a serious, cool-looking adult character. He remembers saying to himself, “Oh man, this isn’t cool at all… I can’t do cool comics. I just don’t have it in me, it’s just not cool. And Copper sounds like a little boy’s name. So I drew this real quick sketch of a little boy with a C on his chest and I was like ‘he needs a dog’… so I drew out the first Copper.” Kazu’s quick sketch of a little boy has become one of the most popular comics on the Internet.

Kazu was asked in an interview which artists have influenced his drawing. “The biggest influences overall would be Hayao Miyazaki and Jeff Smith (creator of the comic Bone) mainly because they set out to do what I eventually want to do, and that’s to create a big graphic novel adventure story.”

Kazu and Amy are well on their way to creating big adventure stories. Hectic schedules take them to many cities in the world promoting comics. But they always look forward to being together in their little studio, sharing their passion for drawing pictures that tell stories.

Learn about Kazu Kaubishi’s process for creating a comic:

Above: Kazu begins his stories by drawing many thumbnail sketches.
Above: Following his thumbnail sketches, Kazu uses a ruler to layout the comic on a large piece of thick paper called bristol board. © Kazu Kibuishi
Above: After layout, Kazu draws the entire strip with a light blue non-photo pencil. Light blue doesn't show on the artwork when it is scanned to the computer. Next, Kazu draws all of the words in the comic with a black pen. © Kazu Kibuishi
Above: Following the blue pencil guidelines, Kazu carefully draws black outlines with pen and ink. See how he uses thick and thin lines to make the pictures. © Kazu Kibuishi
Above: After the whole comic is inked, Kazu scans the artwork into a computer. Then he adds color by using software called Photoshop. © Kazu Kibuishi

Above: Finally, another Copper Web comic is ready for Kazu’s website.






Drawing & Animation: Great Ideas Start With the Stroke of a Pencil

Originally posted 4/05:

At the heart of every great animated movie you’ll find talented artists. All of them have been drawing since they were kids. And all of them will tell you the same thing: Great animated movies start with brilliant ideas that flow quickly from the tip of a pencil.

When a writer has an idea for an animated movie, the story is told with simple drawings. These drawings are called rough sketches. The rough sketches are drawn on cards and attached to large bulletin boards. A team of artists and writers can move the cards to different places in the story, or add new cards to change parts of the story. The parts of a story are called scenes. After the story is completed, the creative team presents it to an animation studio such as Pixar Animation.

Above: The creative team presents the story to studio directors and producers. Above Left: The team members use character voices, make sound effects, and even sing songs to present their ideas. Above right: Storyboard pictures are drawn inside frames. Notice how simple lines show the key poses of characters.

After the story is approved by the studio, storyboards are created. Storyboards show the emotions and dialog of characters in a scene. They also show the timing of scenes and important movements of a character. The movements are called key frames or key poses. Storyboards communicate instructions to many people involved in making the movie.

Before starting production of the movie, one of the most important creative phases begins. This phase is called character development.

Character Development:
Imaginary Actors Come to Life

Above: While drawing, animation artists imagine themselves to be inside the character, to think like them. Glen Keane, imagined the anger and strength of the character from Beauty and the Beast. Take a moment to study the master animator's sketch, shown above. Each bold pencil stroke brings the character to life. Notice how lighter lines show the position of the Beast's body. Darker pencil strokes show facial features, strong claws, clothing, and dramatic shadows. Every line shows how this actor will move.

Animation artists know the audience is made up of humans, and humans expect characters to look believable. Legendary animator Gene Dietch writes, “We should aim not just to make our characters move, but to make them live – or certainly seem to live – to project inner life.”

Drawing how a character looks and moves is called character development. Artists put a character into different situations to develop their personality and the way their body moves. Sketches are made of the character’s anatomy (body structure) and facial expressions.

Above: Animation director, Glenn Keane, starts developing a character for Disney’s Aladdin by sketching simple curved lines of action – the first sweeping lines of an arched back, the swing of an arm, or tilt of the head.

As characters come to life, the studio prepares for the animation process. Drawing is very important as production begins.

Artists Use Drawing for Communication
During Movie Production

Sometimes several years are needed to complete an animated movie. Many teams of specialized artists are brought together to work on a movie. This work is called production.

During production of a movie, drawing is used by artists and directors to communicate visual changes and ideas. Corrections such as changing a character’s position, or adding new background colors, are quickly sketched during conversations.

Shown above: A drawing by Hayao Miyazaki shows a key frame from Princess Mononoke. Blue pencil lines tell artists where to add shadows. Other lines and notes show camera movements and colors to be used.

Finally, after countless hours of drawing combined with the latest technologies to produce all those great effects, your favorite animated movie is ready. Another great story idea brought to life by solid drawing skills.

If you’re interested in animation as a career, learn the sketching techniques shown below. The sketches are great examples of how drawing was used in animated movie classics:

Above: It takes hundreds of sketches to develop a single character. These rough sketches show Aladdin pausing to think, then telling Jasmine, "I'll do it!" © The Walt Disney Company


Above: After many discussions with directors, Princess Jasmine is formed with beautifully drawn lines. Shown above is Mark Henn's development sketch for Disney's movie, Aladdin. Notice the care in drawing believable human forms and emotions. © The Walt Disney Company
Above: Some of Glen Keane's first ideas of Ariel for a scene in Disney's The Little Mermaid. Notice how he has drawn very quickly, capturing his imagination's first thoughts of a pose. © The Walt Disney Company
Above: Glenn Keane's character development sketches for Beauty and the Beast. Careful attention is paid to believable anatomy and proportions. © The Walt Disney Company
Above: Glenn Keane's character sketch for Beauty and the Beast © The Walt Disney Company
Above left: After months of development, a concept drawing by Joe Johnston shows the basic character in the movie Iron Giant. It was important to show animators how the robot's legs would move. Above right: Tony Fucile and Steve Markoski worked on this concept sketch. The director, Brad Bird, liked the refined concept, and it became the basis for the movie's main character. © Warner Bros.
Above left: Pencil shading shows the 3D form of the robot's head. The artist was studying the movement of the neck and jaw. Above right: The beautiful pencil drawing shows the robot walking in the evening. The telephone pole shows the size of this giant. Dark gray tones create the mood of the scene. Areas where more light shines are called highlights. Notice areas that have been erased to show highlights. Which emotion, do you think, is shown by the position of the robot's head and body? © Warner Bros.
Early concept sketch for Mickey's Mechanical Man made in the year 1933. It's interesting to compare it to sketches for Iron Giant © Walt Disney Studios
Above: is a cleanup drawing for 2D animation. A final pencil outline is carefully drawn of the Beast. Next, a thin, clear plastic sheet, called a cel, is placed over the drawing. Then black outlines and colors of the character are painted. Thousands of cels are filmed in sequence to create a character's movement on the screen.