Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Designer Interview: Ovi Nedelcu

Seeing his designs for the Planters spot, I used our little “Planters Case Study” as an excuse to pick the super talented Ovi Nedelcu’s brain. He was incredibly kind and generous with his time and artwork, and a true gentleman.
Here’s what we learned from him…

CharBlarg: Let’s talk about Planters. Did you work with the other character designers on this job? If so, what was your experience like with them, and how do you like working with others versus working alone?

Ovi Nedelcu: Yes, I did work with other designers but not directly. We were all basically given the same assignment, but most of us were doing it freelance and just tuning it in. so I cant really answer the second half of the question because I was working alone pretty much.

CB: Were the characters split between you, or did you all design a version of the entire cast on your own?

ON: We were asked to design specific characters. Or at least I was. It was more of a development phase to see what we would come up with before they settled on a style or look.

CB: What is it like to redesign such an iconic character, and how does it differ from designing other characters?

ON: It was fun trying to come up with fresh new designs. I personally didn’t do a design take on Mr. Peanut. I did the supporting cast.

CB: Were you given specific notes or restrictions? What were they like?

ON: Yeah we had a few guidelines to follow but they didn’t want to hold us back too much. We were to come up with a new look for the characters so not too many restrictions were given. Its development, so they wanted to be open to new ideas.

CB: Did you start designing knowing it was going to be a stop motion project? How did this affect your designs?

ON: Yeah I knew it was stop motion and it helps to know as well because if its stop motion or CG it allows for complex designs/details. If its 2d or hand-drawn you want to come up with an appealing design but make it simple enough so that animators aren’t bogged down redrawing unnecessary details. With a puppet (CG or hand made) you can design it the way you like because you only have to build it once and not redraw it thousands of times. But as far as approach, that doesn’t change. I still start with story, and try and use clear, appealing shapes and design principles. The details are just “icing”.

CB: We’re taken by Planters, but we’re also super taken by the rest of your work. What are some of your favorite drawing/painting tools?

ON: I like using black warrior pencils, prisma color pencils, acrylic, gouache, and ball point pens for analog art and photoshop for digital art.

CB: What is your set-up like and what do you do in the morning to get you in your design groove?

ON: I either doodle in my sketchbook or in photoshop. I create a “warmup” document and just add a new layer everyday. Once I fill up the page or layer I’m ready to get to work. That’s my warm-up for the day. I also try and do this just before bed as well. But I only draw in my sketchbook before bed. Never digital.

CB: Where is the most surprising place you found inspiration?

ON: Um, not sure. Inspiration comes from all places. I’m surprised all the time. Just doing this interview for example has got me thinking of drawing. Sometimes I can look at a coffee cup or a rug and get inspired to interpret that into a drawing. Inspiration can come at any time and anywhere. At least for me it does.

CB: When you're designing characters what kind of resources do you rely on the most -real life, personal experiences, blogs, books etc.?

ON: Reference and life experience, and observation are at the top. Then I have artists I admire and study. But I try my best to look at life and try and interpret what I see because that’s what develops MY STYLE. If I were to only look at other artists I would start to look like them only. If I get artist block Ill go through books and try and spark an idea or push my thinking in a one direction or another. All depends.

CB: How do you compare designing for stop motion versus flatter designs like 2D or other works? Can you compare the experiences/needs of different kinds of jobs, and do you have a favorite among them?

ON: I kinda answered this in another question, but yes when I design for 3d (CG or stop mo) I get to add details I probably wouldn’t bother with if it was 2d. With 2d you can get away with a lot of “cheats”. But with 3d or stop motion you have to remember someone will have to model and build that puppet and you try and think of how that design will look in 3d. but the approach and process starts the same. Story, character, and appealing shapes. I don’t really have a favorite, I like both.

CB: What is/was your biggest challenge in designing characters?

ON: Coming up with unique and appealing designs and making sure they serve the story/character properly. It’s easy to resort to cliché designs but coming up with a unique take on rehashed material (if its rehashed) is always a challenge. I mean seriously, how more ways can one create the witty teen hipster? I think this character has been done to death! The smart computer wiz side-kick? Good grief, not another one!! Sometimes you just can’t avoid the clichés because the material/show/film/producer/director calls for it so you are stuck with just creating an interesting design without the character. You do your best with what you have. The better the material/story, the better the character designs will be. It’s that simple. Good story=good characters and hopefully designs. Bad story=bad characters, but possibly interesting designs. You want both if possible.

CB: Do you still draw for fun?

ON: Always. I draw in my sketchbook everyday and I really enjoy it. I don’t try and make the perfect drawing I just draw however and whatever I like. I’m not worried about people seeing my messy drawings anymore. I’ve grown out of that and its really liberating. I draw my family a lot.

CB: Do you sketch from life often? If so, what kind of places seem to be the most rewarding?

ON: Yeah, I draw my family at home all the time. Its by far the most rewarding.

CB: Do you draw top hats on characters for fun like we do?

ON: I have no idea what you are talking about. But sounds fun.

CB: Which character of yours are you the most proud of?

ON: Eh, not sure. I always felt my BIG WHEEL characters were fun to do. 

CB: Which character designs/designers do you admire the most?

ON: Man, too many. But if I were to just pick a few I suppose, Tom Oreb, Chuck Jones, Provensens, Searle, Bill Peet, Milt Kahl, Nico, Fucile, Mary Blair, Craig Kellman, Joe Moshier, Shannon Tindle, and so, so many others.

CB: What do you think is lacking the most in character design you see around you?

ON: Fresh unique characters/designs/ideas and draftsmanship. Draftsmanship comes second to a good character design, but its still important. I get the feeling a lot of the blogs/designers are starting to look alike and im also guilty of it too. I try and do my own thing but too many times other artists are or have been influenced by the same classics and so we start to look alike. This is why life reference is so important, because then you are creating your own style by interpreting life and not another artist.
Cliché is another problem I see. Its important to try and create charACTOR designs (as I like to put it) and not just designs. For example don’t just draw a doctor, but a specific doctor. How does he/she act/think and why? Is he old and grumpy? Young and hip? Old and hip? Greedy and crazy? If he is crazy, how so? Is it because of a bad relationship? Money? Power? What drove him to be crazy? These are the kind of questions a good character designer should be able to answer and communicate visually in the design. It doesn’t always have to be over the top and on the nose, but a good designer should be able to tell a story with his/her characters and not just draw an interesting design/shape. The design/shape should reflect the story. Story informs what your design should be so that you can create believable characters. Story, story, story.

CB: If you could go back in time and give your brand new character designer self advice, what would you say?

ON: Befriend as many directors and producers as you possibly can. Its not what you know, its who you know sadly to say. Not always, but most of the time.
As far as art advice I would tell myself to focus more on story than style. Styles come and go, but a good story or character will always be there. Observe life more and focus on interpreting life in interesting shapes.

CB: Thank you and if there’s anything you’d like to add, please feel free to do so!

ON: I think that about wraps it up, thank you for taking the time to interview me. I appreciate it and had a good time doing it.

And here are some of Ovi’s amazing characters!!


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