ElsaChang_Headshot

Elsa Chang, Character Designer at Dreamworks Animation

“Keep drawing and try learning everyday”

Tell us about your journey from picking up Drawing as a kid to working for Dreamworks Animation as a character designer.

My mom noticed I loved drawing at 3 years old. She signed me up for art classes when I was 6 and I would go twice a week every year until I was 13 years old. I got accepted into an art high school where I studied visual arts and then immediately went on to studying illustration at Art Center College of Design. When I graduated I freelanced with various studios including Disney Interactive and Disney Publishing. My first studio job was as a visual development trainee at the Walt Disney Animation Studios. I then went on to be a character designer at Sony Animation, Paramount Animation, Nickelodeon and now Dreamworks TV Animation.

Brave
Pic Courtesy : Elsa Chang

What does your day typically look like?

I sit down with my character design supervisor and coordinator and go through the design assets for the episode I am working on for the week. We look at special and extreme poses in the storyboard animatic and they task out the ones that need to be fleshed out or need to have a turn-around to me. I then get to my desk, put my headphones on and get to work.

Did you undertake any formal trainingto become an Animator? How much important do you feel it is to gain international experience in this field?

I never studied animation. To become a visual development artist, typically a degree in illustration is what most artists have acquired. To be a character designer a lot of artists studied storyboard or 2D animation. I trained to be an illustrator but had a passion for characters so I attended lectures and talks outside of school to learn more about character design. Nowadays, a lot of studios outsource for CG Animation. Mostly to Canada, South Korea or India. I think this gives international artists more opportunity to work in the field and to work with major studios.

What is the process that you follow while executing any project and the tools that you use?

The first thing I think about before drawing a character is what is the personality and what are the descriptions in the script, if there are any. I then think of shapes and how I want it to contrast with the other characters. I work on a Cintiq HD 22 and Photoshop CS6.

SpongeBob2
Pic Courtesy : Elsa Chang

Tell us about your most memorable/challenging piece of work that you have created?

Some of the most challenging designs I’ve had to do required being very technical, either being perfectly on perspective or giving a stylized character realistic anatomy. It was tricky sometimes to make sure a character with unrealistic body proportions can move and pose in a realistic way.

Disney1

Which aspect of creating such brilliant pieces do you enjoy the most?

I love when I am able to design an animal. Humans are limited to looking a certain way, they have, generally, the same eyes, ears, nose, hands and feet. For animals there are muzzles, beaks, claws, talons, scales, fur, feathers, horns, hooves, etc. There is more variety to play with when designing animals and more opportunity to exaggerate features.

Disney2
Pic Courtesy : Elsa Chang

Who or what keeps you motivated to generate new ideas?

A lot of my design colleagues and friends. They are all so incredibly skilled at what they do and it’s inspiring.

What projects are you currently working on?

I am currently working on personal work for upcoming conventions that I will be exhibiting and selling my work at and I am also working on season 2 of DreamWork’s ‘Dawn of the Croods’.

Dawn_of_the_Croods
Pic Courtesy : Elsa Chang

What message would you like to give to the aspiring animators?
Keep drawing and try to learn every day. Sketch people at cafes or wherever you find yourself sitting with other strangers. Learn human and animal anatomy. Quadrupeds are something I see a lot of animators and designers struggle with. Acquaint yourself with birds, land mammals and aquatic animals. Human gesture drawing is important as well for getting better at simplifying shapes, anatomy and poses.

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