Tuesday, March 14, 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?

Hi, my name is Andrew Shek and I reside in Toronto, Canada. The first drawing I ever did was at the age of 2.....and it was an elephant, been hooked ever since. The high school I attended had a very diverse art program; it included figure drawing, painting, and ceramics.....just a bit of everything. Upon graduating, I was accepted into Sheridan College's 2D animation program, I couldn't believe it when the letter came in the mail.......it was very exciting.

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

When starting a new design, I always think of the general shape of the character I'm going to draw. For example, a hippo is a sausage, a giraffe is a stick, an elephant is a rectangle.....just break down each figure into its simplest form then add upon that. Of course you should always break away from these preconceived "formulas" to get some variety and uniqueness. Also research is very important too, it’s so important to me to get my drawings anatomically accurate. I have seen way too many animal drawings where the joints are in the wrong places....haha...to me that’s just as obvious an error as putting a lion's mane on a tiger’s body. Finally, posing is something I'm always struggling with, a great pose can tell a story in itself.

What do you think really helps you out in designing a character?

Observing life really helps me to understand a subject's movement and structure. If I want to design a rhino, I'll go to the zoo and study how it moves, how its weight shifts, the way its feet spread when it walks.....this is the stuff which you can't experience from books or video, at least not as effectively.

From your own experience and maybe from some people that you know, what should we put in our portfolio and what should we not?

Well, in College we were told to cater our portfolios to the type of jobs we wanted. Here is what I know so far, if you want to get into the big places specialize. Smaller studios usually like generalist. Also, putting a character in multiple positions is usually more interesting than seeing just one static pose.

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

Well, I consider myself quite lucky to have been involved in many projects in such a short time. In high school, I was involved in a co-op program at Nelvana Animation Studios, I worked in the still art department where they make publicity materials, video covers...etc, basically anything that was non-animated. This was the first time I had ever set foot into a real
animation studio and I learned so much just being there. I flipped through tons of storyboards/design packs and got to see the inner workings of a studio. During the summer before my final college year, I was fortunate enough to be hired at "House of Cool”, headed by Ricardo Curtis. My position was strictly doing character orthos and concept work. I learned a
great deal there; it was like an apprenticeship in a way. This past summer, I animated for Chuck Gammage and also did inbetweening/cleanup on "Curious George".

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

I did some elephant caricatures which were inspired by Hirschfield; I think those are probably my favorites so far.

What are you working on now?

Currently I'm studying 3D animation at Seneca College but in a very short while I'll be looking for work!

Where is the place you would like to work if you had a choice?

I know everyone says this, but I would like to work for one of the big studios like Dreamworks or Pixar. I would also love to work on something based in Natural history, like BBC's "Walking with Dinosaurs"; I find the combination of paleontology/zoology and animation absolutely fascinating.

Who do you think are the top character designers out there?

Chen-Yi Chang, Claire Wendling, Alice & Martin Provensen, and Bill Peet.

How do you go about coloring the character, what type of tools or media do
you use?

Markers are probably my favorite medium to colour with. I like the way the colours bleed into one another; they just feel very organic, and it’s weird but I like the smell too. I also use Photoshop and have been trying inks and watercolors lately.

What part of designing a character is most fun and easy, and what is most

The most enjoyable part is when you have an idea in your head and it’s translated onto the paper just as you imagined. The hardest part is trying to make your designs unique every time so as not to become repetitive.

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

Absolutely loved the Triplets of Bellville designs, they are so exaggerated and so different than all the mainstream designs (well in North America at least). Love the GORILLAZ, such simple designs yet so appealing. The animals that inhabit Disney's Jungle Book have always been on the top of my list as well. They are packed with so much personality and at the same time, they are not that far from what their counterparts in the real world would look like....just amazing. I also liked really liked Craig Kellman's designs for Madagascar.

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

ANIMALS!!!....without question. They come in all shapes, sizes, colours, textures and temperaments. Some already come pre-packaged with personality, like a rhino is a fighter, a cheetah is a runner, and a giraffe is a supermodel. I find them way more interesting than people ever will be, but that’s just a personal opinion. I tend to be drawn in by the zoo types.... elephants, rhinos, giraffes etc. they are so large and have so much mass to play with. It’s a shame that there aren't more designers out there focusing on the animal kingdom.

What inspired you to become an Artist?

Probably all the Disney films I used to watch as a kid, I could recite the entire Jungle book as I watched it.

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

In College, I was surrounded by an unbelievably talented group of people who made me strive for the best. In a way we created an environment of healthy competition, always trying to keep our skills up and feeding off each others ideas.

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

Always try to surround yourself with other talent so that you'll always strive to be better. It’s good to be influenced by others but don't ever copy someone else's style, try to find your own.

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

e-mail andrewshek1@hotmail.com

blog www.elephantart.blogspot.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?

No artwork as of now, but I'd really like to compile a "How to Draw Animals" book someday.