Thursday, February 5, 2009

Shannon Tindle 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 grew up in Kentucky to really supportive parents. I drew constantly. They always encouraged my imagination and my love for drawing. I always had a secret desire to be a professional artist, but didn't really know how to go about it. After high school, I attended the University of Louisville where I was a biology major. I thought I wanted to be a doctor and was about to enter the Pre-Med program when my dad said," Hey, you don't really seem to be into this. What do you really want to do?" We had visited Disney's Florida Studio a couple of years earlier and I had heard about Cal Arts. I told him that I wanted to go to animation school and he said," Show me that you’re committed to it and I'll support you." Not long after that I got rejected by Cal Arts. I reapplied a year later and got in.

I guess that convinced him I was serious, so he and mom let me go for it.

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

Before I draw anything, I always start with research. Nothing is more important than knowing your subject. It really helps me to get into the head of the character. If I know when he/she lived and where they came from etc. I can really start to develop a specific picture in my head of who they are. When you're designing a character you have to tell that character's story with as little as one drawing sometimes. You'd better know the details or it's gonna show. I hate looking at drawings where somebody just throws something down without doing research. If that character is a poor child from the 19th century, I want to see costuming that reflects that specifically. And research is not just related to costuming. If I know what the living conditions where like for a child from that period it will help me make decisions later on size and shape. All of these things are in service of the story.

After I've done the research, I start blocking in shapes. Sometimes I'll work in line and sometimes I'll just throw down blobs of color. The drawings are really rough at first; I'm really working from my gut (based on the research of course). After I have a few dozen roughs, I pick a couple I like best and start to refine the shape and add details. Once I have the rough detail blocked in and I like the overall silhouette, I start toning the piece and working it up to finish. Lately, I've been working almost exclusively in full color. This is a lot easier (at least for me) now that I do a lot of work digitally.

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

I start by walking the dogs and sharing breakfast with my lovely wife Megan (the brilliant paper sculptor sometimes known as Megan Brain). I hop in the car and shoot off to the Dreamworks Animation compound. Once there, I walk down "the Hall of Intimidation" to my office. I call it "the Hall of Intimidation" because the walls are covered by the artwork of some of the greatest artists in the world (seriously). Nico Marlet, Tony Siruno, Devin Crane, Joe Moshier, Sylvain Deboissy, Sam Michlap, Emil Mitev, Simon Rodgers etc. etc. are all represented in this hall. I wish everyone could walk through this area in the morning, it's INSANE! Anyway, once my ego is firmly in check, I sit down at my desk across from brilliant artist and good buddy Shane Prigmore. We grouse about how crappy American Idol was the night before, I log into my computer, pop in a movie and start doodling. I'll do this until noon, put down my pen or stylus , go eat FREE lunch (Thanks Mr.Katzenberg, sincerely) with some of the aforementioned geniuses, grouse about American Idol to them, and then head back upstairs. If there are no meetings, I'll spend the rest of the day drawing at my desk. I've gotta say, I feel really blessed.

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

I've worked on Samurai Jack, Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, The Proud Family and many other TV shows. At Dreamworks I worked on Peabody and Sherman, Master Mind and Crood Awakening. Shane and I, along with Andy Schuhler wrote, directed, storyboarded and designed a pilot for Cartoon Network called Project Gilroy.

I also worked on the soon to be released Coraline.

Is there a design you have done that you are most proud of?

I'm typically only happy with a design until I see it the next day. Then I hate it and start all over. However, if I had to choose, I'd say Mr. Bobinski and Spink and Forcible from Coraline are designs I'm happy with. I also had a lot of fun on Crood Awakening and Foster's. In each case, I have to point to my directors as great sources of inspiration. Chris Sanders, Craig McCracken and Henry Selick all pushed to me to do my best work! Thanks fellas!

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

I mentioned a couple of them before. Right now I'm doing visual development/story on a Bill Joyce project at Dreamworks. I think people are really gonna dig this one!

Who do you think are the top artists out there?

Man, there are quite a few. Everybody I work with is insanely talented. As mentioned before Shane Prigmore, Tony Siruno, Joe Moshier, Nico Marlet, Emil Mitev, Simon Rodgers and Devin Crane are all brilliant. Other pals of mine that really inspire me are Ben Balistreri, Dave Lee (insane FX animator), Mike Cachuela, Peter Sohn, Mike Murnane and Andy Schuhler. You may not have heard of Andy, but he can draw ANYTHING! I keep bugging him to put up a blog.

Kent Melton is GENIUS! Derek Thompson is amazing!

Old schools guys: Chuck Jones, Maurice Noble, Milt Kahl, Ernie Nordli (WAY underrated), Tom Oreb, Ed Benedict

Outside the animation world, I really dig John Romita Jr., Ronald Searle, Alex Toth, Jack Kirby, James Gurney, the Provenson's, Al Hirschfeld, Rick Baker, Ian McCaig, Heinrich Kley, JC Leyendecker, Franklin Booth, Daumier, Charley Harper, David Lean, Steven Spielberg. I could go on and on. I LOVE looking at other artists's work.

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

In my office, I have an animation desk AND a Cintiq. I like having both options. At home I have an animation desk, a Cintiq and a Modbook tablet. As mentioned before, if I'm working in Photoshop or Sketchbook Pro, I just lay down rough shapes in color. This forces me to think simply. I always want the color to help describe the story/emotion of the character.

If I'm working traditionally, I use Precise V Point pens, Colerase pencils and Pantone Markers. I LOVE Ingram animation paper from Cartoon Colour. I throw a stack of that on the animation disk or my plexiglass board w/pegbar and go to town!

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

I don't think there's any part of design that's easy and that's what makes it so fun! I love the challenge of design. It's creative problem solving. I guess the toughest part is pitching your work. You never know what people are gonna think. It's best to just do what you feel convinced about and hopefully people will dig it. If they don't, at least you had fun scribbling it out.

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

As mentioned before, walking down the hall to my office REALLY keeps me honest. I can't say enough how inspiring my friends and colleagues are. I also like to try different things. Right now, I'm sculpting and learning how to cast my sculpts in resin. It's just another outlet for all the stuff bouncing around in my head.

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

I love Carlos Grangel's stuff from Corpse Bride. That stuff was such a beautiful example of graphic design translated into 3d form. Of course, you gotta mention the sculptors and puppet fabrication crew who helped realize those designs.

Nico Marlet did some stunning work on How to Train Your Dragon. People are gonna FREAK when they see that stuff.

I really dig the designs that Tom Oreb did for Sleeping Beauty. I also love the alien designs done on Disney's Mars and Beyond. I love Rooty, Toot, Toot and Tell Tale Heart done at UPA.

There are WAY too many others to mention.

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

It depends on what day it is:) If I'm just doing my own stuff, I like drawing sci fi, monsters, superheroes; that sort of thing. There are very few things that I don't have fun drawing.

What inspired you to become an Artist?

My grandmother, comic books and Disney World. My grandmother is an amateur artist and always had the Andrew Loomis books and plenty of art supplies lying around. I spent HOURS at her house drawing. I've been buying comics since I was 3 so those were a huge inspiration. And lastly, a trip to Disney World when I was 18 changed my life. It was the first time I saw professional artists working in a studio environment and also the first time I heard about Cal Arts.

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

The coolest thing I've learned from other artists is process. In school you're learning technique and how to apply that to your personal vision. In a studio, you learn from the experience of other artists. You start to refine your process. And most importantly, you learn how to make decisions. That may seem simple, but when you’re on a deadline, you really have be able to make confident decisions and refine your process so that you can get what's in your head onto paper in a timely fashion. Some people HATE deadlines, but I really feel they force you to be clear.

What are some of your favorite websites that you go to?

There's a website that has everything Honores Daumier ever did. Everyone should check it out. Matt Jones has a really great Searle blog. I spend a lot of time on different sculpting blogs. Bill Wray/William Wray's blogs are always inspiring.

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

I guess I would say have fun and ALWAYS make time for your own, personal work. Working at the studios is great fun and really helps you hone your craft, but nothing feels better than completing a project on your own terms. If you can do both, than your REALLY lucky and your name is probably Brad Bird.

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

Check out my blog: or e-mail me at (wait for it)

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 might have something available soon. Keep checking my blog!