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The Character Behind Character Design

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Meet Character Designer and new favorite Sharpie artist, Marc Perry!  I hunted down this amazing artist and all around great guy through good ‘ol Google a while back.  When I came across his blog, I found that he draws TONS of Sharpie doodles and posts them write to his own site www.studio5.blogspot.com.  This immediatley sparked my interest and I had to know who was the character behind such creativity!

Marc’s passion for style in design and exploring new and different ideas keeps things new and fresh in terms of animation, personal art and personal projects.  You may recognize this artist’s work from several popular animated television series including Ren & Stimpy, Johnny Bravo and Tiny Toon Adventures. 

Get to know Marc Perry, the person and the artist, and take a closer look at a collection his Sharpie renderings, right here on the Sharpie blog!  Here’s some background info on MP to get things rollin’…

Born and raised in North Carolina, Marc Perry started drawing at a young age, right around 3 or 4. Influenced by many different artists and styles, very much so by cartoon and animation, Perry uprooted to Southern California to work as a Character Designer in animation. 

boyWhen did you first realize you were an artist? I guess the first time was back in early elementary school.  I was always drawing and creating characters, cars, jets, spaceships and creatures from my imagination or getting inspiration from magazines and books.  I even started selling some of my drawings to classmates and making special pieces for my friends.

Many years later, while working in retail before my animation career, I discovered that one of my coworkers, an old classmate, had bought one of my drawings and still had it after so many years! *Just a bit of trivia here, one of my tattoos is a character from a major influence of mine and is a tribute to him and the inspiration his work gave me.

When was your first big break?  My first big break, I think was an opportunity offered to me by Paul Strickland (which I will always appreciate and never forget).  Briefly, the story goes like this…Once Upon a Time… No really, it was like this –-  I was working in a completely unrelated field, yet had always been drawing and tried on numerous occasions to get into animation unsuccessfully.  I made a call to Warner Bros. looking for the animation department and was connected to Paul Strickland with whom I spoke about my dream of working in animation since I was a kid.  Paul was attached as a line producer to a new show called Tiny Toon Adventures and said a new director was coming on and in need of an assistant.  To make a long story short, I made the trip to LA on the possibility of this job, was hired started that very day, which looking back now was some 20 years ago.

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I want to know all about how you started using Sharpie markers as one of your primary sketching and drawing mediums!  For many years now, Sharpie markers have been one of my primary drawing and sketching tools in character design, concept and development sketching.  The story of how I first started using Sharpie goes something like this…

When my daughter was born I found it difficult to use my usual medium, Prismacolor colored pencils or Tombo pencils, both of which require sharpening.  Since I wasn’t able to use my sharpener due to the noise, I needed to find a quiet replacement.  I found that a black Sharpie marker and heavy laser print quality paper were the ideal combination.  The Sharpie was great for line quality and the paper wouldn’t cause the ink to bleed (*Sounds like he could’ve used a Sharpie Pen, it doesn’t bleed through paper!).  The Sharpie helped me to improve my drawing technique as it’s lack of erasability made me plan ahead to what and how I was going to draw.  The permanent ink aspect was great because I was able to do colored marker comps. directly on the drawings without bleeding or smudging.

I also found that the use of a whiteout pen would allow me to make line corrections without changing the overall drawing, its look or its feel, which sometimes happens when cleaning up a drawing. 

What is your work environment like?  My work environment usually is at an animation desk, with an animation disc or at a large art table where I have access to paper, markers, paint and inspirational sources, such as books, art, and drawings.

3 things that must be within an arms length at work:

  1. Paper (laser print quality or newsprint sketch paper).
  2. Sharpie fine point markers, wide chisel tip markers, Tombo markers and my whiteout pen.
  3. Basic colored markers and pencils for working up quick doodle colors or comp. ideas.

manI read that you designed a character after your daughter.  Have you modeled any others after people in your life? How do you come up with them?

The best way I could describe how I come up with characters is by doodling with shapes, playing with different postures and adding features that help to represent the type, size, shape, attitude among other incidental features that give the character personality.  Most of the time, when I work on shows, it usually calls for creating characters for a special scene or episode based on a set style.  It is fun and challenging to create memorable characters that stand out.

With the new technology that’s out there today, what has been the most difficult part of keeping up with changes in animation?

Technology, software programs and new drawing mediums, such as the Wacom Tablet and Cintiq have changed how a great deal of production is done.  The addition of these tools and software has, for the most part, made things cleaner to work with and less wasteful, as far as materials go.  Changes and Effects, for instance, can be done very quickly and with fewer staff. 

On the other side, things have become more specialized or technical, especially with the creation of CG where people are experts of specific areas.  CG has been a boom to the entertainment industry and has allowed characters and worlds to take on a whole new reality.  With the advancement continuing and now the popularity of 3D in theaters, it appears that the old artistry of hand creation has been lost and the new generation will know nothing of traditional animation or that what they see now is only advancement do in thanks to computers and technological developments.

monsters girls

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 I imagine there are hundreds, if not thousands of elements that go into TV/Film. What specifics are you involved in? As a Character Designer, I am responsible for the creation of characters, both main and incidental, that will be used in the animation.  Sometimes the Character Designer will create the props that will be used in the animation as well.

In my last few productions, I have been involved with Visual and Concept Development, and following that through into Art Direction.

What are the best/worst parts about your job? I would honestly say that there really isn’t a worst part, it’s more the nature of the Television and Film Entertainment industry.  Those in “The Industry” know first hand that it isn’t your usual steady 9-5 job.  There are those lucky times where you can get connected with a show/series that has a long run with little to no down time, but that’s usually not the standard.  More often than not, you work on a show or series for a specified number of episodes; once those are completed there’s usually some down time or a hopefully brief layoff period until there is a decision regarding additional pickup. 

Sometimes, when multiple shows are in production you can be reassigned to another series if needed and could fit the style.  Most of the time, however, towards the end of a series you begin scrambling and searching for a new a new show to be a part of.  So, I suppose the feeling of instability, then, would be the “worst” part of my job, or the industry as a whole. 

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Now, the best part of my job – It’s a lot of fun and satisfying to be able to use specific talents and abilities and to have a career in entertaining yourself and others.  Whatever parts of the industry you work in, I think there is a certain pride you take in your work, both as an individuals and part of a collaborative team, bringing fun and entertainment to an audience.

 As a Character Designer, I have fun creating new and different characters all the time from my imagination and seeing them come to life.  As a Visual Concept Designer and Art Director, the enjoyment is creating new and imaginative characters and environments and then overseeing the visual creative process through to completion.

 

Can you tell me about what you’re working on now?  Currently, I am working on personal projects and development for my own show and series ideas.  I’m also working on ways to branch off into areas where I can produce and sell my non-animation art commercially through products, merchandise, books, or through selected galleries.

Do you have any goals that you’re working toward? I think the biggest goal for most of us in animation or as artists, for that matter, is just working and making a living.  You always have goals; it’s part of human nature, yet for artists it is usually not easy to obtain many of the ones you dream of unless everything just happens to fall into place.  I have always had big dreams and the desire to work at obtaining them, many, I can happily say, have come true and are not even art related. 

Basic CMYKLooking back, knowing what you know now, what would you want to 10 yr old Marc Perry to know?  This may come as a surprise, but….I would probably tell him to choose another career path other than art!  Being an athlete my whole life, I would probably suggest picking a sport where I could become a professional or at least use that talent to get a scholarship to a University for something in the medical field, such as becoming a surgeon, where I could use my hands and eyes for something greater!

Favorite Sharpie: The one I wrote the draft to answer these questions, a black Sharpie Fine Point Permanent Marker.  I have used these for so many character designs and concept designs, I can’t even recall.

Favorite Characters: Good question, hard to answer.  My style influence is classically based on the designers of the ’50s (stylistic and disgnee) and Retro, as it is referred to as now (flat and stylistic).  So, I would say my favorites are characters, yes, but more importantly are my favorite designers of character design.  Most of these people have been and continue to be my inspiration for many and different reasons.  Here are a few:

  • Ed Benedict
  • Tom Oreb
  • Ward Kimball
  • Mary Blair
  • Hawley Pratt
  • Bill Hurt
  • John Hubley
  • Gene Deitch
  • Jack Cole
  • Eric Sokol
  • Eldon Dedini
  • Miroslav Sasek
  • Aurelius Battaglia
  • Ed “Big Daddy” Roth

The last thing I’d Like to share is… To be able to do what I do, turning something you love and would do for free into a career is great!  To bring that fun and entertainment to others is something I think a lot of people in the industry enjoy.  I’d also like to add a word of thanks to the people who have enjoyed some of the work I’ve done and hopefully will continue doing for a long time.  I thank you all.  It’s all appreciated.  A special Thanks to Whitney Kelly who found my work and invited me to share. Best! MPerry.

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Thank YOU Marc, for this incredible interview and all the great art you produce!  Be sure to visit Mr. MP at his very own site for more of his work and info!  www.studio5.blogspot.com.

*Uploaded your favorite Sharpie pics onto the Sharpie Uncapped Gallery.

*Become a Fan of Sharpie on Facebook!

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