Saturday, October 07, 2006


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 Welland South (currently located on the south side of Welland Ontario)…that’s close to Niagara Falls.

For me, growing up didn’t present me with too many options for what to do with my life. If you didn’t want to work at Stelco, (which I didn’t!) and you couldn’t play hockey (which I couldn’t) you strived to be a rock star! And since that didn’t work…I went on to study Classical Animation at Sheridan College and graduated, class of 1990. Many thanks to my grade 12 Art Teacher, Miss Ferrar, who strongly recommended it!

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

It depends…
For example, At NELVANA, when converting Bill Joyces book GEORGE SHRINKS into an animated series, we studied the book for consistencies in proportions and character traits.
”Oh look at that, he always rounds those corners in the face, and those shapes there, they change smoothly”, or “those ankles and wrists tend to taper in, or out”, or “why does he draw rosy cheeks on all his characters? “.
Basically observe and draw the characters, (yes even trace them) to see how things are connecting (or not) and then make changes accordingly.

However, when it is for a character where you have more creativity…
First, I tend to research the character. Then, I rough out my first impressions until I find that the sketch is going in the right direction. Next, I put another piece of paper on top, and then, I always look for ways to simplify, simplify, simplify! I often do this by establishing a dominant shape to the character or just by looking for what can be taken out...usually it is a lot! Once the character is stripped down, I look for the details that I just can’t live without. If it doesn’t need it, I exhale and think… “Could it really be finished?” At this point, I set it aside and come back later, which gives me a fresh perspective. Frequently, I then “Gasp” and place yet another piece on top and revise it once again! Eventually, I do decide, “for now it’s working” and then I move on with my life.

What is a typical day for you at the Sheridan College?

Well, the first thing we do is caricature all students who are late. (Sometimes me)
And then I spread my wisdom for the day. (Aaaaaaah the lecture.)
Things like “Why does Mickey Mouse have pants and no shirt and Porky Pig have a shirt and no pants?” It’s where Critical Thinking meets the Professional Doodler and the Discipline of keen observation meets Art.
And oh yeah, things about Character Design too! I teach Character Design to First Year Animation Students.

The class will consist of various exercises (Depending on the agenda for the day)
Then, I’ll usually meet with students to see “what they’ve done” and make suggestions (via stick it notes) in hopes that they go back inspired to out- do themselves yet again!

At some point between classes I may meet with other staff to work on “school stuff” to see how we can do things better. Always striving for “maximum Impact”.

And here’s the toughest thing about teaching…

It’s not about you!

It’s about the student!
To see them work hard and become their very best.
It’s a great thing to be a part of giving back to Animation.
All this and cartoons too! I ’m getting excited here!
Not a bad job, eh!

How long have you been teaching?

Three years.

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

I’ve animated on Warner Bros. T:iny Toons, Disney’s Goof Troop and Darkwing Duck and with NELVANA I animated on Pippi Longstocking. Then, my focus changed to design. My favorite design contributions were on George Shrinks, Maggie and The Ferocious Beast, and Jacob Two Two.

Is there a particular piece of art you have done that you are most proud of?

I’m quite fond of my Jazz Singer piece. I made a mock CD cover from the never-invented label, “Off-Key Records”! “The greatest songs you’ll never hear! “
I know, I know…too much caffeine.

What projects have you done in the past, and what are you working on now? (if you can tell us)

In the most recent past I have pursued designing and teaching a cartooning course for pre-teens, which I’m expecting some exciting news for in the next few months. I have also taken great pleasure (and inspiration) in illustrating various projects for regular people with very big dreams!

Who do you think are the top artists out there?

There are a lot of great ones and here are a few (in no particular order)

Jason Groh – for his whackyness.

Jeff Astolfo – for his divine subtleties.

Mike Smukavic – for his dedication. (Perpetual sketchbook man)

Todd Kauffman - a fine Wellander , who knows how to get the job done.

Mia Alcorn – for great use of shapes.

Eren Blanquet - for her soft design touches and great use of colour

Gabe Swarr – for his hilarious child-like design qualities.

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

I’ll take a sketch into Illustrator where I’ll use the Pen Tool because of its smooth arcs and transitions you can achieve with the Bezier Curves. It is a challenge to keep it looking natural though.
Lately, I’ve cleaned up the original sketch on paper with a Pilot pen. I then take it to Photoshop for clean up. I select the line > delete it > and then (usually) fill it with black. I then click with the Paint Bucket tool, and “ZAP!” there you go. Simple, simple, I spend more time on picking colours and working on BG’s than anything else. I’m forever looking for a good pattern overlay or drybrush technique that doesn’t look too “Photoshoppy” If you know what I mean.

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

The concept sketch and putting a scratchy line on the character is the most fun.
The hardest is deciding on the colours.

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

I go to bookstores and Sketch outside (whenever possible).

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

Anything by Bill Peet, or Ed Bennedict.
I’m also a big fan of the Pigeon in Mo Willems “Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus”.

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

Kids and animals.
With three young kids of my own, it’s where I’m at.

What inspired you to become an Artist?

I don’t ultimately know… I suspect T.V.

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

I worked with a great director on George Shrinks.
Doug Thoms, he had the patience of Job. He showed me a great deal, how to notice the subtle things, like how things corner and to avoid “Hot Spots” as he called them (A place in a design where too many points meet). George Shrinks was dramatically different style for me and it showed me how to adapt.
Become versatile, it’ll open up your world.

What are some of your favorite websites that you go to if you have the time?, course),, and the links from my blog.

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

Draw, draw, draw!
Via sketchbook or computer, keep you’re creative juices flowing.
Treat people with respect, and meet deadlines.

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

I can be reached through the e-mail at my blog

Finally, do you have any of your art work for sale (Books, sketchbook, prints, or anything) for people that like your work can know where and when to buy it?

Unfortunately, I don’t at this time, although, I am currently looking at getting a sketchbook together.

A many thanks to you Randall,
the pleasure’s been mine.