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Chris Battle 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 was born and raised in Santa Monica, CA by my artist Mom and my photographer Dad, who both encouraged all my artistic endeavors from a very early age. Lots of paper, lots of crayon, pencils, & markers. Growing up in Los Angeles surrounded by the film & television business, I had the advantage of having my dreams of working in cartoons/illustration seen not as a silly fantasy, but as a valid career choice. My parents also had several friends & associates who worked in the animation/entertainment industry, so it was not uncommon for me to get a tour of Disney Studios or Lucasfilm as a child. I was also fortunate to go to Santa Monica High School, which had a very serious art curriculum headed up by renowned artist LaMonte Westmoreland, who encouraged my cartoon illustration at a time when most art teachers told you "Cartoons? Hmph... You'll grow out of that." Other than those high school art classes, I never went to art school.
How do you go about designing, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?
When working on a TV show or film, it all boils down to the story and who the character is, so I always start with the script/story treatment. While reading, I'll often doodle in the margins whatever concepts come to mind, so that when I meet with the Director, we can go over our mutual ideas of what the character will be. From there I'll start drawing rough concepts, which I'll run by the Art Director, and if approved, I'll tie down the drawing into it's final form. From there, I'll need do to turns (Drawings of the character from all angles) and after the storyboards are done I'll often need to do special poses/expressions (A luxury in the breakneck pace of TV production) If I'm lucky, sometimes I'll be able to put my 2 cents into the clean-up and color process so they designs can stay true to my vision.
What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work with?
I'm a typical night owl artist, and often stay up late drawing, so I usually roll into work around 10 AM, grab some coffee, and settle in. Sometimes I need to read a new script, but most often I'm busy attacking already in-progress designs for the latest script or storyboard. The day moves pretty swiftly once the drawing begins, but I always take time to walk around and see what everyone else is doing (It helps to get an idea of what the entire show is looking like instead of just your one little area), and usually try to get outside for lunch with friends-- it's important to actually see some sunlight and get fresh air to recharge your batteries. Usually by 7 PM I call it a day, unless I'm in the middle of a drawing and in "The Zone"; Sometimes you can't stop while the drawings are flowing!
While the person I work with most directly is usually the other Character Designer (Most shows will have 2), I often wind up collaborating with every crew member-- Storyboard Artists, Prop Designers, Background Designers, Directors, etc. Most of our work always bleeds over into the one another's and it's good to work together to keep that unity of vision for a project.
What are some of the things that you have worked on?
Mainly TV series work: Dexter's Laboratory, The Powerpuff Girls, Samurai Jack, The Mighty B, El Tigre, Xiaolin Showdown, Kick Buttowski, Duckman, Aaaaahhh Real Monsters, plus all sorts of pilots and shorts.
What projects are you working on now? (if you can tell us)
I'm currently doing Character Design for "Dan Vs.", an upcoming prime-time comedy for The Hub, a new cartoon channel from Hasbro & The Discovery Channel.
Who are some of your favorite artists out there?
Shane Glines, Craig Kellman, Chris Reccardi, Andy Bialk, Don Shank, Carey Yost, Brianne Drouhard, Bill Presing, Sanjay Patel, Marc Boutavant, Mike Mignola, Adrian Johnson, Xavier Ramonède, Vera Brosgol, LeSean Thomas, Jose Lopez, Jose Luis Agreda, Aurore Damant, Kevin Dart, Dave Johnson, Derrick Wyatt, Jamie Hewlett… and that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Could you talk about your process in coloring your art, as well as the types of tools or media that you use?
I start with pencil sketches (Often on Post-It Notes) and then scan them into Photoshop; From there I go to town digitally. I like to keep a rough line in my art to preserve the warmth and life that comes from the original pencil, and usually use brushes that mimic watercolor markers and other traditional media. Occasionally I'll dabble in ad markers on water color paper if the need to do something tangible arises.
What part of designing is most fun and easy, and what is most difficult?
The most fun is when you hit that magic moment where you can "see" your design and it starts flowing from your hand to the page-- that moment of creation is like nothing else. The most difficult is when you're working with someone else's design that you don't entirely "get" and need to do turns or special poses that you can't figure out.
What are some of the things that you do to keep yourself creative?
I like to soak up art/design/inspiration like a sponge, so I love to just enjoy art in any form-- Movies, music, video games, gallery shows, books, other artists' work, product design, etc. It's what initially inspired me to become the artist that I am, so luckily I have a never-ending source of inspiration in that respect.
What are some of your favorite designs which you have seen?
I'll just keep it to contemporary designs, 'cause if we go through all the classics, the list will go on forever: Like everybody else, I love GORILLAZ and all of Jamie Hewlett's work. Bruce Timm's DCU designs are modern classics. THE SECERT OF KELLS features some of the most stylish & beautiful 2D film design I've seen in a long time. Robert's Valley's Beatles ROCK BAND intro film designs made me hopeful about 2D again.
What is your most favorite subject to draw? And why?
I'd say it's pretty obvious I love drawing women… for equally obvious reasons ;) I also like drawing Star Wars stuff… 'cause I'm a dork.
What inspired you to become an Artist?
I was lucky enough to grow up during the 80's, which was a perfect storm of kid pop culture: The best of the old (Looney Tunes, Hanna-Barbera, Classic Disney, Marvel & DC comics) and the best of the new (Star Wars, Muppets, Nintendo, Robotech, etc) You can't help but come out of that creative stew with a head full of cartoons and desire to be part of it!
What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?
I've had the good fortune to work with some of the best talent in the animation industry-- most of whom worked on my favorite modern classic cartoons. I think just being around so many talented people, you can't help but improve and grow as an artist.
What wisdom could you give us, about being an Artist? Do you have any tips you could give?
It may sound cliché, but you should just draw like crazy. Draw plenty from real life. Study from everyone and everything that's come before you. Draw what you love, but also make sure you draw what's most difficult for you-- push yourself to grow outside of your comfort zone. Always keep growing as an artist; Always keep moving forward creatively.
If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?
There's a lot of places to follow my work:
My Blog: http://chrisbattleillustration.blogspot.com/
My Flickr Page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisbattle
My Facebook Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Chris-Battle/77142582211
My Email: CBillustation@gmail.com
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 recently released an iPhone Sketchbook App thru Imaginism Studios, which is available at the iTunes Store: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/chris-battle/id362763318?mt=8
… and I also have an Etsy Store where I have postcard sets and occasional original art for sale : http://www.etsy.com/shop/ChrisBattle