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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 began my Art career in 1994 at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. Right from the start, I knew that I wanted to work in Animation. School was an exciting opportunity, and I tried to make the most of my time there by taking as many drawing classes as possible. I was fortunate to study with some truly inspiring artists. During the summer after my second year at SVA, I accepted a layout position at the MTV animation studios in NYC to work on the "Beavis and Butthead" movie. This was a great experience, especially since I was still in school. My third year of schooling consisted mainly of drawing and illustration classes with the emphasis on portfolio. I submitted my work to the Disney Feature Film department for review, and was accepted into the "Disney Animation Boot Camp". That was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Thirty three people were selected from around the country to receive training from some of the best animation artists that Disney had to offer. After the program ended, I decided to work rather than finish up my senior year.
How do you go about designing a character, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?
This is a tough one. I think that there are several things that go through my mind. It also depends on whether you are talking about characters being designed for a production, or ones that I design for myself. When I design characters for a production, I am often given some sort of idea about the characters personality, general shape, or, in some cases, a very detailed description of who this character is. Usually the script dictates some of the information that I need to get going. Occasionally, the art director will have some sort of vision that he wants, and if I am lucky, he'll give me that information. In some cases, depending on the show, I will need to reference photos or artwork. This is particularly important when a character is based on a real person or animal. However, when I am given the opportunity to just be creative without any guidelines, I am usually the happiest. I love to play with different personalities, emotions, or feelings, so when I begin my designs, I am usually influenced first by emotion. I always try to create the character from the inside out. Who is this guy? Where does he live? Why is he so angry? and so on. Once I have a feeling about who the character is, I begin to do rough sketches. During this rough stage I try to visualize how to best suggest these emotions that I have into some sort of physical appearance. I try not to be too clichéd in my designs, and I am always trying to be as honest as I can with myself and the audience. I will usually continue this stage of character development until the director or supervisor gives his approval, then it's off to clean-up. The main differences between designing for a show vs. my personal work is being able to work in my own style, and having the luxury of extra time.
What do you think really helps you out in designing a character?
First and foremost, I think that good drawing skills are a must! This will really open up your designs to a much broader range than ever before. Secondly, I think that really studying and analyzing people's personalities, situations, and human behavior are a big plus. For me, it's not just about understanding the physical differences in things, but also what's in their psyche that appeals to me the most. Being as open as possible to everything around you, and having an opinion about things is important as well.
From your own experience and maybe from some people that you know, what should we put in our portfolio and what should we not?
I would suggest a healthy mix of your own designs, life drawings, color samples, illustrations, background art, animation (if you have any), sketchbook samples and of course animal drawings. Typically, your most recent material is usually your best work, so I would try to include my most recent work when putting together a portfolio. I also think that it's important to limit your work to your very best samples, even if it means less overall pages. As far as Character Designs go, I think that it's best to include a variety of characters that suggest different age groups, fantasy, animal, or gender. It's always nice to show your range and thought processes. Most of the character designs in my portfolio are roughs. It's always nice to see a couple of designs in a more finished form, but it's not necessary. In most cases, roughs are perfectly acceptable, or preferred. I wouldn't suggest including any material that doesn't highlight your drawing abilities. If you have any doubt about a piece, its probably your gut instinct telling you that it's not your best, so always trust your instincts! If I'm still in doubt, I'll usually show my work to coworkers and ask for their honest opinions as well.
What are some of the things that you have worked on?
My professional work experiences have almost entirely been on TV productions. I have been fortunate enough to work for almost all of the TV animation studios here in NYC. Some of my clients include: Jumbo Pictures on "Disney's Doug", MTV Animation studios for "Daria" and "Beavis and Butthead", Stretch Films for "Courage the Cowardly Dog", the Discovery Channel, Nickelodeon, Funny Garbage, and most recently Noodle Soup for "the Venture Bros" for the Cartoon Network.
Is there a character design you have done that you are most proud of?
No, I can't really think of any one design in particular. Each experience was so unique, that they were all great in their own way.
What are you working on now? (If you can tell us)
Now that I'm done with the Venture Bros., I'm actually thinking about leaving NY for LA. I am really excited about this, and optimistic about future projects.
Where is the place you would like to work if you had a choice?
I would love to do some Feature Animation work. Any of the Feature studios would be a great experience, and I'm hopeful that I'll get an opportunity one day.
Who do you think are the top character designers out there?
I'm a big fan of Carter Goodrich, Peter Deseve, Tony Fucile, Peter Clarke. There are so many great artists out there!
How do you go about coloring the character, what type of tools or media do you use?
I usually use Photoshop or Painter. I still, however, enjoy traditional watercolors and markers whenever I do not have access to digital equipment.
What part of designing a character is most fun and easy, and what is most hard?
The best part about designing characters for me is the initial development, or "Rough" stage. I love coming up with different concepts thereby giving the director an array of designs to choose from. It's a fun creative stage to be in! Co-workers are sharing ideas, and new and interesting concepts just keep flowing. The hardest stage is definitely the final clean-up. This stage for me is more tedious than anything else, and while it still demands a high skill level, just isn't as much fun. That probably explains why most of my work is rough.
What are some of your favorite character designs and least favorite, which you have seen?
That's a tough one. I'm really fond of some of the work that's being done at Pixar, Dream Works, and Blue Sky. There are so many cool designs out there, that it's difficult for me to pick a few that I like the most. In particular, I was really impressed and inspired by the designs on the "Incredibles" and Blue Sky's "Robots".
What is your most favorite subject to draw? And why?
I have always been a fan of designing villain characters. I'm not sure why, but from an early age I always felt attached to the villains in the classic Disney movies like "101 Dalmatians" and "Sleeping Beauty". Villains always carry such strong personalities, and the best ones are always multidimensional. It's always fun to work on characters that have some depth to their personalities, and are not just good or just bad.
What inspired you to become an Artist?
I grew up watching a lot of animation. I remember when I was pretty young, my parents would always take us to this local school where they would show all of the classic Disney Movies on a projector. I remember thinking how great it would be to be able to work on something as amazing and beautiful as those films. I didn't understand anything about the field of animation until many years later when I was in High School and College, but I still have those same feelings about making cartoons today.
What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?
Be creative, stay loose in your drawings, always push your designs further.
What wisdom could you give us, about being an Artist? Do you have any tips you could give?
First, NEVER give up! Always pursue your goal. Animation is a competitive field, and it definitely has it's ups and downs. So, you really have to be passionate about it, and be careful not to lose it. The second best advice that I could give is to keep drawing. DRAW,DRAW,DRAW!!! Animation is a craft, it's not unlike being a dancer or a musician. As artists, we must always practice to maintain our skills, and to hopefully become better. The last bit of advice that I have is to be active in the arts: find out what projects are being done and where; research artists, styles, instructors and studios. It always helps to network, so do your best to meet fellow artists, go to screenings, and find out how to be involved.
If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?
Please contact me! I'd love to hear from you guys. My blog is at: http://martinwittig.blogspot.com/ and my e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org
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?
No, unfortunately I currently don't have anything for sale.