Pixars Brave

Maya Animation Artist

Tell us about yourself Philip; where are you from and when and how did you get started in 3D animation?

I am from a tiny village in the southwest of England. I spent most of my life here and have been interested in 3D animation for nearly 10 years but it never really occurred to me that I could actually do it as a living. Then I went to university in Manchester to study a fine art based degree. The course was very open and they allowed students to do animation (although there was absolutely no training) - this was the real spark, which made me realize that I could turn all my story ideas into reality. I have just graduated this year with a First, so I am really happy.  

What Programs and Hardware do currently work with? And why do you choose to work with these software packages?

I pretty much exclusively use Maya. I used to use Lightwave. I like Maya because it allows you to get right at the bones of the program and make it work for you.

Do you think that artists with a formal education in animation have an advantage over self-taught artists?

That’s a tricky one. I think that a formal education in 2D animation is good but I am less keen on computer animation degrees and courses. I personally a find it useful to be self taught as I know exactly how and why things work - not just that they do.

Who’s work do you admire?

I really like children’s illustrators particularly Kathleen Hale (famous for her Orlando books from the 50s) and Arthur Rackham. The way Rackham draws trees is wonderful, you can see he really loves his subject matter. Jan Pienkowski is another favourite. I really enjoy artwork that has been created with love.

Where do you get the inspiration for your art?

The most bizarre things. I just think of silly things when my mind wanders and then elaborate on them. Train journeys are good as you’ve got a constantly changing image/environment but without a narrative structure to it. I get a lot of ideas on trains.

Could you take us through your creative process when starting a new animation project.

If I don’t already have an idea I often start with a contradiction. Or look at the norm in a situation and try swapping ideas around or turn it on its head. For instance: what if we had to pay for gravity? When people got cut off for non-payment they would just float into space. Then I would start thinking of the consequences of this.

Could you tell us about your 3D animated short An Irresponsible Use of Frogs?

To sum up the story…If you follow a double yellow line far enough you will reach the traffic control HQ, a hellish place where all yellow lines are created...

Greta, a not-so-wicked witch, becomes a traffic warden to try and uphold her old fashioned evil values. “These days it seems turning milk sour is just not enough for a witch to make a living!”

It all started nearly 2 years ago as a completely different story and then I let it mature naturally and it just kept developing the narrative until it bore no resemblance to the original story. I then created it formy final graduation show. It was the last of 3 shorts created at university.

How was the concept of An Irresponsible Use of Frogs conceived?

My main character Greta the witch was actually a character I made up over 3 years ago. She was originally a strongly feminist witch who burned her bras to keep her cauldron alight. Then I kept adding layers of contradictions to her character to create the conflict and drama I needed to drive the story. For example. she is a little on the ugly side so I gave her an interest in glamour and a desire to be beautiful, and she actually had an acting role once playing the legs of the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz. Sadly she has had no acting work since. Another contradiction is her upbringing - she is left a legacy of evil by her mother who also showed her great love. This gives Greta strong maternal instincts but a desire to do bad. You may notice that all her cook books are vegetarian and she even has a tin of corn Vegi-pillars because she wants to be evil and witchlike but does not want to kill caterpillars. There are a great many details like this throughout the animation which are not immediately obvious. She has a life jacket on her coat stand; this is in case of witch dunking as Greta can’t swim and she would not want to be proved innocent so she hides it under her clothes to cheat!

How long did it take to complete An Irresponsible Use of Frogs?

It was over a period of about a year and a half but that was while doing other university work and a 2 month work placement at 422 Manchester.

What software packages were used in the creation of An Irresponsible Use of Frogs?

Maya, After Effects and Photoshop. I also bought Ray diffuse and Tomcat Tooshader specifically for this project.

What’s next for Philip Child? Are there any new projects on the horizon?

I have loads more Ideas and stories in development but I am not rushing into anything. I need a rest after so much work! I might put some info about past animated shorts on my website if people are interested. Much of next year will be spent entering film festivals and hoping things develop from that. There will be tough competition, I have seen some really great work from France and Germany this year.

 Do you have any advice for the aspiring 3D artist out there?

The only thing I can suggest in my humble experience is: don’t get bogged down learning a piece of software, as it’ll probably be out of date in a year. It’s better to concentrate on developing interesting ideas or strong artistic skills as in the end that is all that will set you apart from anyone else.

Thanks to Philip Child(http://www.irresponsiblefroguse.co.uk/) for agreeing to answer the questions I had for him.

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