Wednesday, June 17, 2009



Dan Schoening Interview

Tell me a little bit about yourself, about your life? Where did you go to school, and what classes did you study? What helped prepare you to become the artist that you are today?

First and foremost, I’m a very proud father of a wonderful 4 year old girl. I consider that part in my life to be the most important. Not only does it take precedent over pretty much everything, it also helps inspire and focus my art in certain directions.

My story starts off like many artists you know. I’ve been interested in art from a very young age, and was always encouraged by my family to continue drawing. I really gravitated towards superhero comics and all kinds of television cartoons and animated features.

One of the most influential moments in my artistic upbringing was when I went to a local arcade at the age of 6. My eyes were astonished by the game I was watching. Dragon’s Lair not only took my quarters, but it gave me the desire to learn animation.

Fast forwarding to college, I took a 2 year Visual Arts program at Camosun College in Victoria BC. I was quite focused on just animation/comics up to that point, but after that 2 year program, it really opened up more possibilities in the realm of art. I studied printmaking, sculpture, painting, photography, art history, ceramics, etc. It was a well-rounded 2 years in visual arts, and something that definitely helped mold what I create today.

After finishing the program at Camosun, I traveled to Vancouver BC and studied Character Animation at VanArts. It was a pretty heavy 1 year intensive program, and I learned a wealth of knowledge. I studied everything from character design, life drawing, storyboarding, key animation and assisting.

I think a key factor in all of this is that I really wanted it. If you want do get somewhere or do something strongly enough, you will work as hard as it takes to get there. And really, it’s not that taxing, as I love to draw. I just need to find that missing flux capacitor I left laying on the table, as finding the time to do it all is very scarce!

How do you go about designing, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?

When I begin to design, first and foremost I consider the character’s personality and traits. What does he act like, and why does he think that specific way, etc. Keeping this in mind before drawing will help the character flow much easier. When doing a rough pass on the character, just like in life drawing you look for lines to fall into one another. A line from the calf, for example, can be drawn up into the inner leg.

Taking the character traits into consideration once more, how does this character dress, is it appropriate to the time and place? For a front shot of the character, the stance and expression of extremely important in my drawing. I feel that this, beyond the dressing of the character really gives the viewer the most information visually.

I really like to explore new styles, and try not to do one too much. It keeps things fresh and forward moving. The coloring style that I’m known to do often came about after watching Chen Yi Chang’s talk in 2002. He was discussing how line is only there to help define form. It really clicked in my mind then, and I wanted to create art with no outlines. Thus, I began to pump out art that reflected that goal. When considering the character, setting and story that I’m trying to convey, I will decide on which coloring style I would like to use. Sometimes, for pieces that I really want that sense of life to come through, I’ll leave the line work. If I want the piece to be very crisp and sharp looking I’ll color with no outlines.

About 90% of the finished work I do is colored in Flash. I import the art to the stage and then convert it to a symbol. I will then lower the alpha to about 25%. I will create a layer above and begin to trace the shapes with the line tool. It isn’t just like tracing though, as you need to create form with shapes of color, so you have to go beyond the line art and begin to see the volumes and add lines where necessary. After outlining and coloring, if the piece requires it, I will export it out and open the art in Photoshop. Here I will add the efx, highlights and shadows.

What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work with?

Well sleep isn’t on the agenda too often! Lol, seriously though, I do manage to garner enough. My work day starts at about 7am. I get to work after 8 sometime, and usually grab a coffee and see what is on the headlines for the day. I work with about 5 other artists in the studio here, and it’s in an open pit styled area. It’s good for bouncing ideas off one another. The time at work usually consists of small animations, prop designs, storyboarding and lip sync for clients such as Disney, Fisher Price and Leap Frog. Every artist in the studio has some very specific strength’s. Unfortunately with the way the world has been devised for fast paced delivery on everything, it’s hard for everyone to utilize their skills to their fullest potential. After work I head back home, and begin any freelancing or personal projects. This is where I get the most enjoyment out of art, as the subject matter is closer to what I like, and the clientele are more understanding of what I can produce. I would eventually like to solely do freelance work. However, to make ends meet and take care of my daughter, it is not economically feasible. I usually work up til 12am before I call it a night. Overall it’s a pretty long workday, but I don’t consider it work, as it’s something I love to do. Most often, I would like to have more time in the day. I do find it important to take breaks in between work. Sitting in front of a computer all day can’t be good for you, lol.

What are some of the things that you have worked on?

My first full time storyboard job was at AKA Studios working on Season 4 of Ed Edd and Eddy. I created the art for two short stories in Cereal and Pajamas and Attack of the Monstrology published by Ape Entertainment. I was extremely excited to be apart of the concept and design for the new Ghostbusters Wii game. I created four short interstitial animations for DC Comics featuring characters such as Batman, Power Girl and Darkseid. I am also an artist on the new line of DC Superhero books published by DC and Stone Arch.

Is there a design you have done that you are most proud of?

The first design that comes to mind is the Mario re-design I did for my Pipe Dreams piece. Something about that design just really flows for me. If I get some spare time, it would be cool to revisit him in a new piece.

What projects have you done in the past, and what are you working on now? (if you can tell us)

Currently I’m still creating art for DC and Stone Arch’s DC Superhero line of books. I may be dabbling in other DC projects this year as well. At my day work, we just wrapped up two Leap Frog Leapster titles, Wolverine and Disney Fairies. The rest is a wee bit hush hush right now, but I’m excited about it!

Who do you think are the top artists out there?

I come from the school of thought that believes all artists are students, always learning and never a master. I can tell you whom inspires my visions however. Don Bluth, Bill Pressing, Mike Kunkel, Tim Kelly, Bob Strang, Sean Galloway, Dustin Nguyen, Steve Silver, Chris Battle, Cale Atkinson, Joe Bluhm, Robb Mommaerts. I could go on, but we’d be here for a while. I encourage you to check them out, all of them are at the top of their game.

Could you talk about your process in coloring your art, as well as the types of tools or media that you use?

A majority of my art is colored in Flash. I like the crisp look it offers, and it is great for creating art with no outline. After I have scanned in my drawing I pull it onto the stage and make it a symbol. Then, I set it’s alpha to about 25%. After that I create a new layer above that one and begin to draw over the lines with the line tool. During this process it helps to see things three dimensionally, so you can then add lines to create that volume. After I have outlined the drawing, I will delete the lines, which is always interesting as you don’t really know how it has all panned out until that point. After, if need be, I will save it as a png and open the file in PS for some efx and lighting. Sometimes, I go back to basics and color my work with traditional mediums like tria markers and white acrylics. Some drawings just call out for that treatment; it really keeps the life and vibrancy.

What part of designing is most fun and easy, and what is most hard?

The most fun and easy designs are the ones you are excited about from the get go. Like you can’t wait to draw them up. The toughest ones are the designs that have to follow a specific style that to begin with just doesn’t look or feel appealing.

What are some of the things that you do to keep yourself creative?

Spending time with my daughter helps me to come up with new thoughts and ideas. I also like to watch a fair bit of 80’s cartoons. They seem to get the creative gears turning quite well. Staying active and fit also helps clear my mind and conjure up new ideas.

What are some of your favorite designs which you have seen?

The old Disney shorts were amazing. Pigs is Pigs is still one of my favorite shorts, and the design work within it is nothing short of amazing. I love the style that Bruce Timm and company have developed for WB. I also love the concept art that Pixar creates. I would love to see them do a film using that rough work as final art.

What is your most favorite subject to draw? And why?

Anything 80’s movie/cartoon or superhero related. It reminds me of being a kid. I think it’s important to always keep that aspect of yourself.

What inspired you to become an Artist?

I was definitely inspired by cartoons and comics growing up, a lot of Disney animation. Like I mentioned, Dragon’s Lair played a huge part. My family was also extremely supportive of me.

What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?

Off the top of my head I can think of three instances. One would be my colleague Cale Atkinson, whose style is extremely unique. He has this awesome way of applying texture to his pieces using Photoshop and scanned textures, and I’m still trying to get that technique down. I just recently colored some pencils by Sean Galloway as well. The way his character’s volumes piece together is very fluently. I really picked up a few things for my own drawing style while coloring that piece.

What are some of your favorite websites that you go to?

I share a website with some other extremely talented artists over at the Sketch Tavern, The forums there are always full of interesting art and artists alike. I also post work often on Deviant Art, I enjoy Cartoon Brew the occasional visit to Ain’t it cool news. I’m also a fan of Youtube, and I love the drawing and art tutorials posted on there by other artists.

What wisdom could you give us, about being an Artist? Do you have any tips you could give?

Practice all the time. If you look at people who have achieved great quality, you will see that they are obsessed with what they do. They eat, breath and sleep their passion, and it shows. It applies not only to the craft of animation and character design, but to any profession. Do what you love and it will show. And don’t be afraid to fail, as with those times, you will learn more about your art than you will if you succeed.

If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?

I can be contacted through my blog, Deviant art, the Sketch Tavern or email,

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?

Almost all of my work is available as a print, and some of the original art is up for grabs too. I also take on commissions from time to time. I am going to begin work on a new sketchbook, which is long overdue. Please feel free to drop me an email!

Dan Schoening Gallery