Saturday, March 6, 2010

Interview With Lindsey Olivares.

Lindsey graduated from Ringling College of Art and Design in 2009. She's been at Dreamworks PDI working as a Visual Development artist ever since.

1) Could you walk me through your hiring process at Dreamworks? How long did it take from the time you applied, to the interview, and awarding of a position? Did you do anything special with presenting your portfolio? Were you nervous when they called you for an interview? What was your initial reaction when Dreamworks awarded you a position?

I had been in contact with some people from Dreamworks throughout my senior year. I was featured on the character design blog and a Dreamworks artist saw my interview and artwork and showed it to his production designer. This really got the ball rolling and when Dreamworks came to my school (Ringling College) for their recruiting visit they told me I had a job offer during that interview. I found out the details of that offer in the week after and accepted the position officially a few days after. I was incredibly excited and called up family and close friends to let them know the good news.

2) How is it like working at Dreamworks? Did you start off as an intern, or were you hired fulltime? Did you have to do training or drawing test when you started, or were you given work to do on Madagascar 3 immediately? Was the learning curve a difficult hurdle to overcome coming straight from school or was it a smooth transition? What are the work hours like, and how is the work atmosphere? What are some of the neat things you have learnt from other artists that you have worked with or seen?

I started off hired full time. I had a day of basic orientation training, but I pretty much started work on the film immediately. Since at school I mostly worked in 3d and animating I haven't actually digitally painted a ton. So I'm still learning a lot and trying to improve constantly. Work hours are 9-6. I don't really put in overtime. Its relaxed and not a stressful work environment.

3) Tell me a little bit about yourself, about your life? Where did you go to school, and what classes did you study? What challenges did you face, and what helped prepare you to become the artist that you are today? Roughly, how many hours a week did you spend polishing your skills to reach the level you are at now?

I grew up in San Diego California. I knew I loved to draw at a young age. I came from a very creative and supportive family. My father is a professional guitarist/musician, my older sister Brooke is a very talented painter, and my mom is the type of mother who'd let her kids paint murals all over the walls in the house. Growing up I was surrounded by people who encouraged my passion for creativity. Like most little kids I loved animated Disney movies; these movies made me want to be an animator. I didn't really know what that meant, but I knew those movies were all moving drawings…and that was too cool. I had my first real taste of animation at Cal Arts' summer program for high school kids called CSSSA. That sealed the deal for me as far as my decision to go into the animation world. Then I decided to take the 3D route. I ended up moving out to Sarasota Florida to study computer animation at Ringling College of Art and Design. At Ringling I took classes in concept, drawing for animations, 3d character animation, figure painting, landscape painting, graphic novel illustration, children's book illustration etc. I felt challenged in balancing my time. I spent most my time animating but wishing I was drawing. That was a big challenge for me and trying to find time to draw, paint, and create the type of work I wanted to be making. I worked nonstop, it's hard to say. At school It seemed like I was always working, unless I was eating or sleeping. But sometimes those overlap too :)

4) What inspired you to become a Visual Development Artist? Did you always know that you wanted to do that, or do you have ambitions to do other specialties like animating, modeling, texturing, etc? What are some of the things that you do to keep yourself creative?

Originally I wanted to be an animator. I wanted to be a traditional animator since I was a kid. When the industry went 3d I decided to go to Ringling College to study computer animation. I still thought I wanted to be an animator but didn't really understand the pipeline. In our first year we take two semesters of 2d animation. I really enjoyed those. But when we got into 3d I just couldn't find myself enjoying animation. I just craved to draw more. Drawing is really where my heart is. We had a concept class where we focused on story, character/environment design. I loved this class and started to learn of what visual development was. I realized this is what I wanted to do.

To stay creative I try to go out drawing. I like to go to malls, food courts, and cafes to people watch. Aside from drawing, I don't do a ton to go out of my way to be creative and get inspired. Inspiration seems to happen on accident when you're living life. It's hard to plan. I guess for me it's more about trying to see the artistic charm in our daily life experiences. My favorite ideas have come from personal experience, sometimes it's a character, memory, or story message that rings true to me. I love thinking in cars...driving around late at night, or as a passenger staring out the window.

5) What inspired you with the idea for your short film, Anchored? Were there any challenges you faced when doing the film, and how did you overcome them? I was wondering if you could talk about the shading style for your shorts; is this a diffuse map connected into a toon shader?

The inspiration came from my personal life experiences and what I believe. When thinking of an idea I was reading the Bible and looking for inspiring verses. I read, "But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind" James 1:6 and "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" from Romans 15:13. I also wrote down notes from the parable of the lost sheep..."What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost." Before I figured out my story I had written out verses like these. My sketchbook was full of verses, quotes, parables, song lyrics, and many loose pieces that I tried to sort together to find an idea. I wanted to make a film with a strong message, and I wanted to create a feel-good piece. I wasn't sure what message I wanted to share and felt stressed over trying to find something meaningful. When I put aside all the pressure of what I wanted my film to be and started naturally working out the story, the original meaning of the verses and metaphors were clearly revealed in my story. It worked out so smoothly that I really felt like it was a story from God, and I was able to use my art as a messenger.

A lot of the details are influenced by my life. While I was thinking of a story I was at a low point, feeling discouraged and doubting things I knew. I had some moments feeling adrift at sea. Also during this time, two of my really close friends were away for a couple years and the only form of communication we had was through handwritten letters in the mail. Sending letters was such a change from the instantaneous communication we have these days. I was interested in that type of conversation and really appreciated the meaning of receiving a letter from someone you don't see anymore. Some of the letters I received were so encouraging and hopeful. They really helped me gain perspective. I think that feeling shows through in my piece when the man adrift at sea is surrounded by all the origami crane letters. When I was working out the story, I didn't plan to put specific details from my life in the film. It's subconscious and natural. We do what we know, it makes our work honest and truthful. You need to share a part of yourself to really give a story that heart and emotion. I really don't feel like the message came from me. I think it was something that worked itself into my film, and something that I learned from while working on this project. I learned from the message in my film, it really spoke to me. I truly have felt like both my characters and have learned from the message in my film. The inspiration comes from God and how I've interpreted my life into story.

Just finishing the film was a challenge. When I think of a concept, I try to be practical about how much work I can take on, but at the same time I don't like to limit myself with worries about the things I don't know how to do. Taking on challenges is a great way to learn. This was my thesis film at Ringling College of Art and Design, so the curriculum was set up that we'd spend a semester in our 3rd year planning the film with story and art, and most of our senior year executing the film in 3d. There were so many parts of the film that I assumed I'd just figure out later..during the second semester of senior year "later" was approaching fast. I didn't know how I'd make the water, how I'd rig a rope of words that the characters interacted with, and how to transition between 3d and After Effects. Some things didn't seem like too big of a deal, but when it came to actually executing it, they were much more challenging that I had assumed. My film was experimental in style and combined several elements so executing the look of the film was a challenge. I had a lot of manual tracking in After Effects that was very tedious. I was working in full HD scale so it was slow and challenging to maneuver in After Effects at times. The shot with the cranes flying from the man in the boat across the sea to the woman was tricky. It's a mix of After Effects and Maya and was difficult to blend the two. In 3d it was too difficult to animate the words moving over such a large distance and have the camera tracking the words over such a distance while attempting to have words move by smoothly as if your reading them.

Smoothing up all the loose ends and tightening up the piece took a long time. There were a lot of pops in the animation's motion, pops when a 3d model of a crane switches to a stop motion After Effects crane, pops with the transitions come in too suddenly and etc. There were a lot of jarring sloppy pieces that interrupted the flow of the piece. Just cleaning up was hard for me, catching glitches, intersecting geometry etc and getting everything fixed in time. As a one man team making a 3 minute short in a school year, my time was so limited. There's still so many things I would've liked to do with the piece that I didn't get around to. I had to learn how to prioritize and keep everything in perspective. It was hard finding a balance in my priorities, working the piece closer to a finish as a whole and sacrificing certain aspects that remain very unfinished in my eyes. I overcame this challenge by keeping in mind that I was making this film to motivate and uplift people, The story was already working so I held on to the hope that my film would have that effect regardless of the unfinished cloth, various rough parts in the animation, or all refinement in the water, transitions, and effects that I never got around to.

The characters have exaggerated color maps for their textures. I exaggerated the colors in their faces and clothes, including variations in values. I wasn't relying completely on the lighting to show the form. A lot of the value and hue shifts are built in to the textures and shaders. The look was achieved in compositing my render passes in After Effects. I used a diffuse color pass which is the raw color without being affected by lights. From there, I manipulated a series of other passes in After Effects and composited them together to create a look with a watercolor/ hand painted sensibility.

6) Do you have any plans to produce more short films on the side?

Currently my greatest ambition is to make short films. I recently finished my thesis film "Anchored" It was the greatest project I ever worked on. Working on it was so stressful, exciting, and addicting. I loved making my own film. After completion, being able to share it with an audience was such a blessing. I received so much wonderful feedback and a lot of emotional response. It means the world to me to hear that someone can feel uplifted and happy from watching my film. I'm craving to do more work like that in the future.

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

I like drawing animals or funny looking people. Generally I don't like drawing kids and pretty people…I have more fun when things are chunky, droopy, wrinkly, aged, awkward, etc. It seems more real to me to draw unappealing things and try to give them appeal. Animals are fun because there's already a lot to work with when designing them. I think of God as the ultimate designer… he must have had a blast with the animal world creating so many interesting shapes, sizes, patterns and textures. Human shapes are more familiar but the animal world seems to have more unique elements to work with.

8) Who are some of your favorite artists?

When I was interning at Disney I gained such an appreciation for raw beautiful drawings. I was able to see collections of original animation drawings…they were incredible, I think some of the most amazing artists and draftsmen are the 9 old men and other Disney artists ranging from Mary Blair to Glen Keane. Some other designers and illustrators I enjoy are Charles Harper, Ronald Searle, Alice and Martin Provensen, Erich Sokol, Nico Marlet, Joe Moshier, Paul Felix, Tadahiro Uesugi, Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt, Sterling Hundley, Norman Rockwell, Dean Cornwell, Chris Ware, and so many more than I'm leaving out.

9) Looking back, would there something you would change with your demo reel to better meet their expectations? Do you have any tips for students, and industry professionals who have their hopes to break into feature film business?

My advice is to show your best work and show a diverse body of work that will show the company that you can fit in there. That you have a diverse range so they trust you can take on the style of their film. And to show the type of work that you'd be doing there, so they can see if you'd be ready for production. For a visual development job that's usually a lot of prop design, and lighting/mood paintings.