Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dan Seddon 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?

My name is Dan Seddon, I was born in Toronto, and raised about an hour outside in a smaller city called Cambridge. As a kid I spent a lot of my time watching cartoons, drawing cartoons, and being awkward, As time went on, things didn't change much, I was still awkward, and I still had an unstoppable love and passion for animation. I was very lucky to have very supportive people around me all the time, my friends, my teachers, and most importantly my family always pushed and supported my art, and if it wasn't for them I probably wouldn't have even thought about pursuing a career that I loved.

I went to Sheridan College right after high school and graduated from the BAA Animation program in 2010. I spend the most amazing 4 years of my life here and learned so much from the most amazing teachers, students, and professionals. It was here that I learned about character design through two amazing teacher Enzo Avolio and Pete Emslie, and from my first year at Sheridan I knew that was what I wanted to do.

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

The very first thing that I do when I go about designing a character is try to figure out who the character is. I'll jot down a couple of key words that best describe the character and tape it to my table so I can be constantly reminded. Next and probably most importantly, I'll do a bunch of research and collect a lot of reference material, the more I know about everything, clothing, period, attitude, purpose, characteristics, the better and more original I find the character turns out. I then start spitting out a bunch of quick roughs and gesture thumbnails, playing around with different shapes and really trying to focus on the overall silhouette that best compliments the personality of the character.

I then take what works from my thumbnails and begin to draw it bigger. And by bigger I mean bigger, for some reason I have this bad habit of always work very large, by the end of one of my designs I usually end up with 2 or three pages taped together. I think it is because at this stage I work very quick and loose, I use long loose lines as I begin to almost sculpt and work the character until I have a solid rough design. I'll then switch on the light table and create a tighter rough drawing, at this stage I make sure there are no tangents and focus a lot on straights and curves. I'll also begin to add details in the face and clothing, it is at this stage where most of the personality comes out. And that is my design process, I don't really like to do much more to the design after this stage, because I tend to second guess my lines a lot and I feel like I have a more confident rough line.

Some fellow students at Sheridan College want to know how you manage to get so much personality into each character.

This is a really awesome question, and I've never really thought about it to be honest. But as I try and think of something to write for this answer I guess that piece of paper that I keep taped to my desk with the key words on it could be the reason. I've been doing this for a very long time and I find it very useful, I'd definitely recommend id to everyone, and it only takes a minute to write out, and a second to look at it.

Another thing I do that helps with personality is studying it. I have sketchbooks full of just people, real people, bodies, hands, gestures, whatever I see I draw. Then when I am designing and I know a certain personality I need to portray, I can go into my sketchbooks and use them as a sort of personality library. I can take things that work from my studies and try them out in my designs, it's really fun, and really useful.

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

Right now I'm a character designer at 9 Story Entertainment in Toronto, typically when I get to work in the morning ill go to my desk and get right to work. We have a very small design team on the show I'm working on and there is always a lot to do. My day consists of watching leica reels and going through the storyboards and funpacks of each episode and making note of what needs to be designed for what episode. When I'm all organized and know what needs to be done I jump right into it and begin designing.

I work with the most amazing and talented people. When I first got to 9 Story I was fairly new at designing in flash, and everyone was super patient and taught me so much. Our team consists of myself, Hyera Lee, Carlos Garza, and our amazingly talented leader Cory Bobiak, probably the coolest boss you could ask for. I sit beside my boss Cory, which is great for me because I ask a lot of questions, and annoying for him because I ask a lot of questions. I think is very important as an artist to ask questions, Art is in infinite and there is so much you can learn from other artists by just picking their brains.

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

After I graduated I did a lot of freelance work which gave me the opportunity to work on a couple of different genres, I have done some designs for video games, televisions shows, pitch packages, Flash animations, 3D animation, and even stop motion. I hope to one day get the chance to design for feature film.

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

Tough question, it's hard to say really, I'm never really all that happy with my work, I think it's an artist look back on something you did and then you instantly think to yourself what you would do differently now. If I had to pick something, I think I'm happy with my frog character. Noting too crazy just a rotation sheet of a frog, but for some reason I really like it and can't really think of much I would change now. I also like how his butt turned out.

What projects are you working on now? What have you worked on since graduation?

Right now I am working at 9 Story as a character designer, and I am also working as a freelance character designer for Arc Productions (formerly Starz Animation). So I am pretty much like a super hero, character designer by day..character designer by night.

We are working on a really cool prime time children's Action-Adventure series that is partnered with cartoon network. But I can't really go into detail, I really wish I could and I would love to share with you the designs we have been working on because they are really fun, but not allowed to just yet. I'll post them as soon as I can.

In the past I have done various freelance projects, and while I was in school I had the opportunity to work for Cuppa Coffee Animation on season one of Glenn Martin DDS as a sets and prop designer. As my first job it was so exciting to see how everything was done, and it was also really cool to work in stop motion animation.

Who are some of your favorite artists out there?

There are so many amazing artists that inspire me. I have to say one of my favorite artist ever is Tim Burton, his designs really showed me that you can push boundaries and really play with proportions. I am also a huge fan of the incredibly talented Florian Satzinger, you can see a lot of his influence in my work, he was my main inspiration while designing the characters for my short film, Ducking Around. Another of my all time favourites is Nico Marlet, for obvious reasons of course. Some of my favorites would also include, Andrew Shek, Glen Keane, Shane Prigmore, Shannon Tindle, Ben Balistreri, Pete Oswald, Toby Shelton, Colin Jack, Andy Bialk, Shiyoon Kim, Marie Thorhauge, Robin Joseph, Chris Sasaki, I could go on and on, there are honestly so many amazing artist I look up to.

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

I really love to work traditionally, which is why a lot of my work is just rough line work. My favorite tools are a gigantic old light table that I got from a good friend who owns a printing company, any sort of paper I can get my hands on (the bigger the better), and my prismacolor pencils. It's pretty simple but nothing beats drawing on by hand on paper, carving and sculpting with the pencils, and crinkling up and throwing a piece of paper into the bin that has a horrible drawing on it.

When it comes to coloring my art I really love to paint under my roughs, still keeping things rough a simple. I use Photoshop and a cintiq, and tend to use flat colors as appose to heavy shading and textures.

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

The most fun part of designing for me is the initial development stages when you can just go wild and create a million different versions of the same character. I really love this stage of designing where there are no boundaries set yet and you can explore so many options and directions. The most difficult part of designing for me is taking my mind off of it, when I'm working on something that I'm really into I will think of it constantly even when I'm not working on it. it drives me crazy and I lose a lot of sleep.

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

I think it's really important to keep a sketch book, and even after a long day at work of drawing I still like sit down and draw in my sketchbook. When things are less hectic I like working on side projects with friends, it's good to keep yourself surrounded with creative and positive people. And probably what I find most helpful to keep myself creative is to do something not creative at all, I play a lot of soccer and find it a really helpful way of clearing my head when it gets so cluttered. When I'm less focused on a million ideas it's easier to concentrate on one thing.

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

My all time favorite design is Oogway from Kung Fu Panda, Nico Marlets designs from this film are just incredible, as well as the designs for How to Train your Dragon. I also really love all the designs from Coraline, just such incredible work and personality in all the designs.

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

My most favorite subject to draw is people, ugly people to be more specifically, males more than females. I really love playing with proportions and the faces, baggy eyes, depressed features. I don't know quite what it is but I just really enjoy it and I find that a lot of my designs are ugly people (except when I'm drawing a self portrait) .

What inspired you to become an Artist?

I think that I was really lucky to be surrounded with such supportive family and friends. They all really made me feel as if I could actually be an artist for a living, especially my dad who always pushed me to do what I loved. He really helped me out a lot with school and materials and never asked for anything else in return. I don't think I would be where I am today if it wasn't for everyone telling me I could do it, and for that they are my biggest inspirations as an artist.

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

Probably the greatest thing about being an artist and working with other artists is that you learn something new every day, everyone knows something that you don't and everyone is open to share their secrets. Having said so , I've learned that it is very important to ask questions, be curious, learn, and absorb everything .

What wisdom could you give us, about being an Artist? Do you have any tips you could give?

Honestly, you just have to draw. Everyday. Draw Draw Draw. Take advantage of every opportunity you have, ask questions, pick people's brains, study other artists work, figure out how they do things, study life, study film, and most importantly never give up.

If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?

You can reach me anytime through my email, with any questions or comments, I'm more than happy to write back so don't be shy. Also you can get more information from my blog,, and see some more of my art work and some of my short films.

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?

I don't have any of my art for sale, never really thought about it. But feel free to email me with any inquiries.

I just wanted to quickly say thanks Randall. I have been a huge fan of the character design blog for a very long time, and being asked to be part of it is truly an honor. The artists that you have interviewed here have been such inspirations to me personally and I just want to thank you for this amazing opportunity.

Thank you Dan, for the kind words, and for the time you took to do this interview.

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