Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Meg Park 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 grew up in Fife, Scotland, spending most of my childhood drawing comics about my dogs and pretending to be a dog. At school I was told off for drawing on things I wasn't supposed to, and having sloppy handwriting because I didn't care for writing; I only wanted to tell stories with pictures.

At college I split my time between studying illustration and animation (2 years of each). I graduated in 2010 from the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design in Dundee, with a Bachelor's degree in Animation. While I love to animate and creating my own short film was a fantastic experience, I'd say I'm an illustrator at heart (and more of a cat person now).

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

Whether designing the character for animation or not, I always find it useful to think like an animator. Get 'inside' the character and understand who they are, how they carry themselves, what their attitude is like. Know their back-story, or come up with something short and simple if you're designing from scratch. Give them little quirks that make them stand out, characters should be memorable as well as appealing.

I try to explore as many ideas as I can, study a lot of references, exaggerate shapes and keep drawing until the balance is right and everything works. I always strive to communicate as much personality and expression as possible in each drawing, too.

What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work with?

I work full-time as an in-house illustrator at a small company, where I can be working on anything from info graphics to logos and branding for very large clients. In my spare time I work on small freelance projects or personal things for my portfolio.

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

As a 2010 college graduate, I don't have very much under my belt yet, but I've worked on lots of interesting little freelance projects, including book covers, tattoo design and concept work for a television series pitch. I have also had a t-shirt design printed and sold at

Is there a design you have done that you are most happy with?

Like most artists, I tend to be very critical of my own work and almost immediately after finalizing something, I will look back on it and pinpoint the things I don't like or would do differently. I'm happy with most of my work to an extent, but my constant desire to improve and learn from everything I do tends to stop me from getting too attached to a single piece of work. I think something would be wrong if I was 100% happy with a design.

Who are some of your favorite artists out there?

I love the work of Chris Sanders, Joe Moshier, Dice Tsutsumi, Nicolas Marlet, Lou Romano, Glen Keane, Shiyoon Kim, Nate Wragg, Brittney Lee, Tang Heng, Andreas Deja, Shane Prigmore...there are hundreds more artists I could reel off my list, but I'd say that Milt Kahl has always been near the top. He is a phenomenal animator and draftsman, you can't help but fall in love with every drawing and raw pencil test. His work is consistently flawless.

Could you talk about your process in coloring your art, as well as the types of tools or media that you use?

I don't use anything fancy, just Photoshop and a Wacom tablet. My work is mostly digital, but I always try to use textures and brushes in my work to mimic that traditional look. Generally I like to keep things simple, avoid overworking and sticking to as few layers as possible. I find the more time I spend on a piece the more convoluted it tends to get.

What part of designing is most fun and easy, and what is most difficult?

Good design is difficult, but I think that difficulty and problem-solving is the fun part (if it wasn't, I'd be in the wrong career!). Especially nowadays when original ideas seem hard to come by, and everything has been done before. I think to overcome that, you just need to try as many different approaches as possible, don't be afraid of making mistakes and don't take it too seriously. Taking a step back and designing the silhouette first sometimes helps if you're stuck. Designing should always be fun and I think confidence is the key to a good drawing.

What are some of the things that you do to keep yourself creative?

I follow a huge circle of designers, illustrators and animators on platforms like twitter and blogger, which helps to keep me up to date with what's happening in the industry and what other people are working on. Having an almost constant stream of updates and new things to look at helps to keep me inspired.

I also love travelling and visiting new places, I have recently started dabbling in photography too.

What are some of your favorite designs which you have seen?

Everything from the characters to the sets and props are so beautifully designed in the Kung Fu Panda movies. Also, Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon comes to mind as one of my favorite recent designs, the character is appealing on so many levels. Nico Marlet is mentioned often here in other interviews, and rightly so; his work is stunning!

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

I love animals, and I've always loved to draw animals (especially cats and dogs!). There's just something really fun about drawing fur, paws, ears and tails.

What inspired you to become an Artist?

I've always been more interested in drawing than anything else. I think it was watching endless amounts of Tom & Jerry cartoons and old Disney movies as a child, and finding a battered copy of 'How to Draw Cartoon Animals' by Christopher Hart in my local library that made me realize I could actually do this for a living. It's not a book I would recommend to anyone over the age of 10, but it taught me the bare basics at a very young age.

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

- Be able to detach yourself from your work. Don't be precious with it, be able to look at it objectively and see the flaws, and never be afraid or dismissive of constructive criticism from others.

- Know your subject inside and out. If you don't fully understand the skeleton or the muscle structure of the creature you're trying to draw, your drawings are going to look bad. Go back and study it from life, videos or books (preferably life!).

- Have a killer taste in whatever field you want to pursue. Know what's good, understand why it's good, keep yourself immersed in it and you'll keep growing and learning.

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