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Well, first, I want to thank you for this opportunity to express myself. It's a real pleasure to be featured on this blog, which is a great source of inspiration by the way.
I was born and I grew up in Switzerland. And as far as I remember, I always had a pencil in my hands. I know that this kind of sentence is often in all the artists’ interviews on this blog, but I think that is often how our passion has begun. I think that mine really started with my grandfather. He was a great drawer, but he kept this skill only for his own pleasure, as a hobby. I was very impressed by his talent, and I think this is perhaps the beginning of my desire to work in the drawing.
When I was young, I started with small comics, created at my grandmother home. I even tried to sell my drawings to my own family. With not a lot of success... certainly too expensive! I really enjoyed doing that.
I was, for sure, inspired by a large source of inspirations. Thanks to my father who had (and has) got a great Franco-Belgian comics collection. I was never tired to read them again and again.
My favorites heroes were “Spirou and Fantasio” from Franquin. I loved so much the drawing in these albums as "Radar le robot" or in "Les voleurs du marsupilami". Of course, I also had a lot of other inspirations, as "Lucky Luck", "Asterix", "Tintin"... and so many amazing artists. My parents always supported my passion and they always push me in this direction. For instance, they paid some summer comics school in Switzerland and helped me to find solutions to push this skill in a professional way.
So after my basic schooling in Switzerland, at the age of sixteen, I started a professional school called ERACOM, in order to follow lessons on multimedia during four years. I have chosen this direction, because, at that time, it appeared to me that it was the best way to gather my two passions in the same job, namely : drawing and new technologies.
During these studies, I discovered the Gobelins school on the web. I was stunned by their short movies, and in particular "Le Goûter". When I saw it, I knew this was what I wanted to do. I enjoyed making pictures with my camera, creating web sites and live action shorts at the Eracom School, but I really knew what could be my future job with the discovery of the Gobelins. It was like "Oh ok, there is a real professional way to do cartoon animation, and it’s by this school that I should do it."
Then I tried to get information about how to get in, and how to stay in France studding. By chance our past neighbors had a grandmother who lived near Paris, and I could go to the open doors sessions at the school, in order to gather informations. After that, I stayed two years in Switzerland, working in a small multimedia enterprise tried to get some money, and preparing my exam entries for the Gobelins.
Unfortunately, I failed at my first attempt. With hindsight, I knew now that it was a good thing. I think that I might be a little bit too young then. But this first test wasn't too bad and I finish with the last group. Enough, to get the strength to tried the next year. Between theses attempts, my parents, always behind me, paid me one year of private animation school in Lausanne called Ceruleum. It gave me bases for animation, that I did not, and I could improve my drawing skills by the same way.
I succeed at the second attempt. Thanks to the grandmother of my past neighbors, I could found a place to stay in Paris during my first year at the Gobelins and begin my studies. I learned so much there, with all the other people in my class. People who were and still are amazing artists. During my second year I also had the amazing chance to go in Los Angeles for a 2 month internship at Sony Pictures. Gobelins is a really good school; there you have a really good connection with the working life. All your teachers are professionals and every summer you have to do an internship. While learning, you can begin your professional connections and that's very important.
During the Gobelins, I naturally get easier to the character design and the visual development part of the projects. I don't really know why… It seemed natural for me. So after the Gobelins, I naturally tried to found a place as character designer. With chance, my first job was on a feature movie called "Mune" directed by Alexandre Heboyan and Benoit Philippon. They are amazing directors and great guys. I hope that their movie will be a success, they deserve it. I worked few times with them and switch with different freelance jobs as graphic author (mostly for TV shows). Since then, I had the opportunity to work for more feature projects, always as character designer. The last one, on which I am currently working, is the "Little Prince”, directed by Mark Osborne.
I'm only now at my second professional years, but I'm very excited to see what's coming next. I would like to explore more about the possibilities to mix drawings and new technologies, new media. I'm now working on different projects for the iPad for example.
How do you go about designing, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?
What I love about design and about this job especially, is that there is always a different way to think about the project and the character, I mean visually speaking. It depends a lot of the style, the director's envies and the mood of the project. And that keep me very excited about all the new works.
I'm not the kind of designer who has got a strong visual identity, and I think that is one of my strength. I prefer working on my drawing skill than my style. I think it’s essential to take a new look at yourself at the beginning of each project. Found the great idea; work on the style with the other designers and all the crew. My professional background push me in the way that I don't think a project only by myself (unless is my very own stuff) but more as a team. I like to see how a character is taking a shape when he is working by different persons.
Now for my part of the job, when I have to work on a character, it always starts with the script. When I read, I have ideas coming through my head. Not specially images, but more stuff that make me laugh or makes me vibrate. I don't really how to explain that. You have ideas and images which born in you when you see or read something that you like.
So it's how that starts with me… Then, I write few ideas on paper which make me smile. I try to find a global direction for the character. I mean, I try to found a headmistress idea for him. That could be a physical detail or a global shape, whatever, but it must be, if possible, unique and identifiable. Most of the times, you already have that kind of descriptions on the script, then you try to find something else, something complementary or from time to time, something very different and at the opposite of what the public would expect.
Then, when I have my main direction(s), I start my researches. I try to start with the main ideas that I found, I mean, if the character have a huge mustache, I will start with some faces. If there is a character with a typical physic, I will start with some global shapes. And then, I try to found something that I feel great. Something that could be part of the final character. That part is very difficult, because it could be a feeling on one drawing, and it could not work with a different posing. So you have to extract what's working and make a sort of synthesis of your researches. It's very difficult, but it's also for me the best part, because you have to work with the other guys from the team and it's very funny and interesting to see how things are working or not on different people. And sometimes, you discover something which is not your way to think, and very interesting for your work. That makes you improve.
About my technique, I mostly work on my computer, on Photoshop. But all my first sketches are on paper. I like to be able to keep the hand drawing at the beginning of the process. But, for me, the two techniques are complementary. I don't work the same shapes on paper than on the computer, and it's very interesting to blend both. Computer drawing is now essential for the industry. You can be able to be very flexible with the retakes and work faster. However I try to keep the hand drawing for my personal stuffs and when I have more time.
Increasingly, I try to keep a rough style in my first drawings. I like the way that sometimes the ideas are more precise, more bold through a spontaneous drawing. I try to be more accurate about my drawings, as I said, not in the stylish way, but more in the way that I feel the right feeling into them. That would be stupid to say, but when a drawing makes me laugh, most of the time, it works.
What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work with?
It depends of the job, of course. But now I'm working on a feature project in Paris directed by Mark Osborne. It's a great project based on the novel of Saint-Exupéry, "The Little Prince", which is of my favorite book. We are four designers and, that's an honor to work with all the team.
I can't explain that much of my work, I don't have the right for that, as if I was a secret agent. But most of the time, a typical day is a lot of researches on characters and a lot of model sheets and technical notes about the design style. We have to be very accurate on this, because we are working with different countries. That's great; it keeps me mindful about my work and my choices.
I like to keep in touch with my Gobelin's friends too. They are awesome friends and unbelievable artists and always push me in the good way. I like to finish my day with them around a beer or for a good movie at the theater. I also try to keep activities in a different way as drawing and art. This keeps my mind clear and help me with my work. So often, I finish my day with some bicycle riding or climbing, except when I have freelance jobs for the evening.
What are some of the things that you have worked on?
I'm kind of young in the place, so I don't have yet a huge experience. But I'm proud to have worked on our student short at the Gobelins, "Who's afraid of Mr. Greedy" with Maxime Mary, Simon Boucachard, Adeline Grange, Guillaume Fesquet, Jean-Baptiste Cumont and Sylvain Fabre. That' was one of my best experiences. I also had great times on our short for the Annecy Film Festival, called "Soapy Trip".
Outside the Gobelins, as I said, I had the chance to work on "Cloudy with a chance of meatballs 2" at Sony Pictures. Since I graduated, I worked on three different feature movies here in France: "Mune" and the "Little Prince". I have also worked few Tv shows. All that projects were awesome. Great experience, each time different. I'm looking forward to have new ones!
Is there a design you have done that you are most happy with?
Wow!! That’s a tough question. I'm very harsh to myself. I mean, sometimes I can’t see a “one week old drawing” anymore. I see all the defects and all the thinks who doesn't work. So, if after one month I'm still happy with is that he passes the test. I think that I prefer my personal stuffs… but I think that is the same for the most of us. Recently, I'm still happy with my two Rats designs for a personal project. They still make me smile, and they give me new ideas.
What projects are you working on now? (if you can tell us)
I don't have the right to tell you more about my projects. But like I said, I'm working on the feature movie of the "Little Prince", and on the side, on different personal projects. Like an iPad animated book. I also have few freelance clients for visual development on TV-shows.
Who are some of your favorite artists out there?
I think that we all have a huge source of inspiration everywhere. I mean, there are so many artists around the world who push me every days to go further. Internet is a wealthy universe for that. Whenever I go on some blog I found by link few artists that blow my eyes. Naturally, I have some favorites, whose Anette Marnat, Aurélien Predal, Cyril Pedrosa, Tony Fucile, Shiyoon Kim, Carter Goodrich, Nicolas Marlet… the gods that were Franquin, Milt Khal… and many more. But I'm still impressed by the work of my closest friends.
Could you talk about your process in coloring your art, as well as the types of tools or media that you use?
I usually use Photoshop and a Wacom tablet for the drawing and the colors. Most of the times, I use pictures for my color bases, like reference. Then I try again and again to find few great colors… I like Photoshop for that. I don't have a strong feeling with colors, but I can use layer tricks to find something that I like. When I have found my palette, I colorize my rough with a first pass of solids. Currently I don't clean my rough and keep it below my colors. Although, I use sometimes directly a strong brush with a solid color without rough to work shapes. It's a great way to find unusual silhouettes. After the first pass of colors, I use a personal brush, usually with texture or particles to shapes with shadows.
After that, I created new layers to put details like eyes, hair and sometimes I push a part of my sketch with a strong brush… but I'm always looking for new color methods. I noticed that in each productions I adapted my process for the design and colors.
What part of designing is most fun and easy, and what is most difficult?
Drawing character is always fun… the difficult part is to take position in the style of the production. But once this step past, it's, for me always a pleasure. It could be difficult when your drawings are not in the good mood for the director, because it's always a little part of yourself which is rejected.
The most frustrating part is when you have a great idea in your mind, but you're unable to put it on paper. Some ideas are just made to stay in your head.
What are some of the things that you do to keep yourself creative?
Stop drawing… no seriously. When I'm looking for inspiration or I can’t draw what I want, sometimes that make me feel better to just stop and do something else. Something physical, be far from your desk, at a coffee spot, enjoy the sun with a book etc. That really works! You can also change your work habits. That's a great trick to push your drawing skills and to found different shapes.
But the most important is to keep an eye on everything. I mean not just on design artists, but all around you - visiting expositions, seeing movies, traveling. For me, what works the most is keeping parallel activities as climbing, bicycle, to clean your head.
What are some of your favorite designs which you have seen?
I like a lot of recent designs… like the Tony Fucile designs for "The Incredibles" or more recently the "Brave" designs from Matt Nolte. It's a difficult question, because I don't have a preference for a particular style, but I like when the shapes are cartoony and living with a great construction. The designs from Carter Goodrich are awesome for that. The most important for me is that has matched with the global project.
What is your most favorite subject to draw? And why?
I have different periods. But my recurring subjects are humanoids animals, that's always fun. You have a great base to work on a character with an animal, and you can be very free with shapes. But I also like to draw strange guys, like dumb rednecks or crazy dudes, it makes me laugh. When I draw something for myself, it's generally something funny. I'm a stupid guy.
What inspired you to become an Artist?
A lot of things! I mean it isn't just one thing or one artist. All my life I've just be attracted by imaginary stuffs. Like I said I always had a pencil in my hand and, younger, my Mom always pushed me and my brother to rent book at the library. At these times, I didn't like reading, so I always chosen comics. What was great for my parents, because I read a little bit anyway. That pushed me to draw again and again. At the school, I wasn't the cool guy with the cigarette, but the guy who drew. Maybe I adopted that picture of me… And after that I always stay in that way. My whole family were all the time behind me. I had a lot of support from the outside. Who's a chance, because there is not a lot of "real" jobs in that way in Switzerland. I think that I also met the right people at the right time.
What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?
Professionally, maybe the most important is to always have an overview of the project. Never forget that you're working for an entire project, with a huge team work behind. It's very difficult to keep distance with your different characters and to find great shapes and good contrast which work with all the world behind. Always start with sketches of your ideas, try to have a nice background for your researches, and try to keep it. Don't be afraid to use references… Do not copy, but be inspired.
And for the personal work… just make you laugh and enjoy!
What wisdom could you give us, about being an Artist? Do you have any tips you could give?
Be curious, try to keep your mind open to every kind of art. And draw a lot… mostly for yourself.
But try to still go out sometimes!
If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?
They can reach me at email@example.com.
I'm now working on a real website, but I still post on this blog: http://rossireakakat.blogspot.fr where I try to put some recent works.
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 don't have books or anything to sell now. But people can ask me for anything on my email, or they can see my news on my blog.
I also recently opened an account on Society6. So if you want a pillow or a print with one of my drawings, you're going to have the possibility to get that here: http://society6.com/jrossire