Monday, July 20, 2009



Paul Linsley 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?

I was born on the road and spent most of my life moving around the United States. I went on to explore Mexico and Europe for a few years, drawing as much as I could, painting murals and learning how to work with oil paint. I taught at a few art schools as a way to supplement my studies, then went to Calarts. I had four great years with such a loaded concentration of talented people; I was main-lined to an inspirational tap. My original intention was to be a painter, but became enamored with animation as I was immersed in all it’s glories. I got to study with some of the best and the brightest. In all honesty, I was out of my depths. I was sent as a guinea-pig to Goblin School of Animation (Paris, France) to represent Calarts and begin a relationship between the two schools.

There, I was inundated with still more stunning talent and some of the kindest people I have worked with. After graduating I pursued illustration and freelance work and was offered a position on the Calarts Faculty. I went on to teach figure painting, animal drawing, story structure and visual story telling, while I worked freelance and developed my personal work. Later I was offered a position as art director at Tandem Motion Picture Studio. I came on board the story department when I pitched them a feature and became the screenwriter, story artist, and designer for the film. It's a small Studio and I was in heaven working on this project. I later began work for Blue Sky Studios as a freelancer. Then was picked up and the 8fish Creative Studio. It's been a fun ride so far. Can't wait to see what comes next.

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

What goes through my mind?... “Okay Paul, we need a completely original character, that’s fun and appealing, but complex, yet simple, and like nothing we’ve ever seen before.” ... Panic. Anxiety. A dim bulb of an idea. Start moving the pencil, Paul. You can do this. Just start moving your pencil. Man, that looks like crap. Wait look at some of your favorites in your inspiration folder. Awwww.. Carter Goodrich! Scott Morse! Yess... Clair Wendling :) Yes yessss... Maybe a little Joe Sorren... Yes More? Why not some Francisco Herrera? Yess. Some Travis Charest. No, wait to stiff! I know, some Nate Wragg, lightly peppered with Matt Nolte. Perfect. Now pick up the pencil and draw again. CURSES!!! Then I go on to take some cheap stabs at a doodle and give it some life. It’s like there is riot of bad drawings clamoring to escape your mind through the pencil, and every time you pick one up, those have to be released first before you begin to find the magic. Of course I go through the basic elements of design: circle, square, triangle, red, yellow, blue. Is this an antagonist/protagonist? If I have the luxury (depending on the project) I’ll go into the screenplay and try to understand their history, inner-conflict and the roll they play in the story.

While I was working on “Pangea” I was the writer as well as the lead designer so I was spoiled with nearly endless exploration. I spent a lot of time working with the director, Nate Smith, trying to flesh out all of the dimensions. Because I was writing the characters, I had more insight and authority over the look of the film. Tandem is connected to one of the Largest Dinosaur Museums in the world, so they say (but I’m skeptical). So I had endless amounts of resources just on the other side of my office. It was so much fun!
Once I’ve done twenty or thirty drawings I’ll start to narrow down more of the feeling of the character based on tone and attitude. It usually just funnels down to a feeling.

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

Right Now I’m working with 8fish a cool creative Studio that mostly handles Ad theming, Commercials and Websites. I’m working with Ernie Harker (The pres), Art Director: Ian Johnston (the Italian Stallion) and AJ Bell (my crony) Right now it’s mostly a nine to five kind of place with the occasional tight deadline and some late nights. It’s fun, though. It has been an education for me.

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

After school I took up illustrating children's books for Higher Ground Press. I teamed up with my mother; author Sonja Linsley on several books. I got to write and illustrate my third book “Bobby Stellar: Space Kid”. I got to do the title cards for Adventure Time (Pen Ward’s masterpiece) “Pangea” an animated feature from Tandem Motion Picture Studio. Along with design and animation for several commercials, including a cool little Batman spot. I also wrote and illustrated a one-shot comic For Ryan Woodward's publishing company Summertime Comics. It was titled "Schism." I actually used it in my visual story-telling class as an example of what not to do. I had a lot to learn. I do appreciate Ryan giving me an opportunity to put a book together.

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

I thought this one was pretty cool. I did this a few weeks ago for the San Diego Comicon. I always thought it would be cool to see the TMNTurtles designed to reflect their characters more distinctly. If I were offered a chance to do a comic with the TMNT like this I wouldn’t refuse. Write your local representative and see if we can make that happen.

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

I got to do some work for Blue Sky Studios that I can’t talk about yet, but it’s going to be cool. I’m currently developing some animated properties with the guys at 8fish and with Nick Peterson (an old friend/roommate from Calarts. He’s a hoity-toity live-action director, but he’s old school experimental animation.) I’ve also been doing a web series called “The Inside Out” with my brother, Todd Linsley (an honest to god creative savant) you should check out the episodes at And I’m releasing a collection of my work in a book titled “Bento Box” at Comicon.

Who do you think are the top artists out there?

I don’t know, man. The industry is so organic. I can say who are some of the artists I salivate over. We’ll start with some essentials, Caire Wendling (I have a badly abused collection of her work from Paris.) Phil Hale, Sean Cheethom, Odd Nerdrum, Joe Sorren, Jon Foster, Ashley Wood, Kent Williams, all amazing painters. My designers: Carter Goodrich, Nico Marlet, Marcelo Vignali, Jose Lopez, Scott Morse, Tim Biskup, Matt Nolte, Nate Wragg ( he’s doing some beautiful resurrections of the old UPA cartoon modern).

I have to do a special mention of Greg Baldwin and Dave Guertin the guys from “Creature Box” ( Ian just introduced me to their work a couple of months ago and I can’t get enough of them). Mike Mignola, Francisco Herrera, Carlos Meglia, Humberto Ramos, Joe Maduraira, ya know, the gurus. I have to mention Frank Stockton an illustrator I worked with a few years ago. I check out his site at least once a month. Of course this is only scratching the surface, but this are kind of my contemporary canon of great artists.

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

I just did a kind of demo on my blog about how I paint caricatures ( Honestly, I feel like I’m in a state of constant catch-up. I spent a lot of time getting my hands dirty in oils paints and drawing on paper, so I was completely unaware of how much the world had left me behind. The funny thing is I wasn’t that good of a painter, either. When I was younger I went to mexico and lived in the most fascinating city in the world, Guanajuato, (it is a truly magical place). I dedicated myself to learning how to oil paint. There I met Pablo Mercado and Pasqaualina Azzeralo Collin and Laura Flynn. We spent everyday painting, putting up small exhibitions in cafes, painting murals, dodging the running of the bulls (literally). It was a magical time for me. I soaked in everything I could from Sorolla, Sargeant, Klimt, Velasquez. Later we opened a kind of open cooporative school of art. We strung up ropes and Mose, a dear friend and brilliant young physicist would climb over the class while we did life drawing like we had never seen it. It was an exciting time, until the mafia put the squeeze on the building and ran me out of town. That’s another story. I digress.

My point is that I spent the first twenty years of my life learning to draw, and then I expanded into painting with oils (Partially thanks to Piero Piluso, another artist that has set me on a path I needed to explore). From there I expanded into traditional 2-D animation. I mean hand drawn, rub-your-eraser-‘til-there’s-no-paper-left kind of animation. During that time I kind of rediscovered comics. It wasn’t until I graduated from college that I got my own computer and began to really learn Photoshop. I’m extremely new to the digital medium.
That said, the way I approach line, value, and color on the computer is basically the same principles as traditional oil paint. Only within the last few months have I gone almost completely digital. But the principles still apply. (Although Ian has been teaching me lots of ways to cheat in Photoshop. That’s an amazing program!)

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

All of it.

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

Research, Research, Research! I LOVE art books, I have a folder on my desktop that I have filled with as many artist’s work as I can find on the internet. And I love reading. I Once heard Ray Bradbury Speak on writer’s block. He said there is no block that can’t be broken down with the inspiration of deep and thorough research. The mind is a well, and every time you create you draw a little from the reservoir. The well doesn’t just stay full, you have to fill it with research and insight.

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

In school I worshipped Carter Goodrich. I found his art any where I could and Pinned it up all over my cubicle at Calarts. Lit candles and preyed.... (Okay, I didn’t pray to him, but it was the source of a lot of meditation) I’m also a fan of Kent Williams. I first found his work as a fourteen year old kid in a comic shop in Hickory, North Carolina. I met him several years later in Paris. He subsequently taught at Calarts. I also discovered animations best kept secret Claire Wendling. I found her work in Paris and have seen her influence spill through the animation and comic world like a pandemic. And we can’t forget the Mignola-nator. GOLD, I tell you! PURE GOLD!

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

I love the human form. Being a human, myself, i think it is the single most articulate instrument of expression. (If i were a pencil sharpener I might say pencil sharpeners are the most articulate instruments of expression, but I’m not convinced they express anything among their own kind.) I tend to be drawn to more organic shapes. I have a tendency to make architecture and machinery organic. I really admire those people that can make a car look like a car, but still give flow to the human form. I'm especially interested in drawing a character acting. There are a few people that can design well and even fewer that can give those designs an inner life. Sometimes I get it, sometimes I miss the mark. I still have a lot to learn.

What inspired you to become an Artist?

Harrison Ford and M.A.S.H... When I was a kid I had a comic book of Star Wars and it had a drawing of Harrison Ford. I copied it. I thought, “Hey I can do that.” (I also thought I could fly at the time too. That’s how I broke my leg.) So I started drawing the actors from M.A.S.H... Before I knew it I was a caricature artist wishing I was and international, vagabond painter, then I read, read, read, travelled, travelled, travelled, and painted, painted, painted and Slam! I’m at Calarts looking around wondering what I was doing there. Now it's a compulsion. I would draw even if it was illegal. Like most artists out there, I just need to do it. Sometimes I'm not as prolific as I'd like to be, but I try to keep a steady diet of drawing.

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

I just learned how to use the liquify filter tool in Photoshop from Ian (That guy knows everything! I mean it, everything...).
I drew caricature at Six flags to get me through college. There I got to be close friends with an amazing artist named Peter Grondahl, among other phenominal artists. That was one of the best practical experiences I had with drawing. It’s like drawing with a shot gun pointed at you. And I have to say, a lot of people put down theme park caricatures, and probably 85% of them are crap, but I really saw some honest-to-god genius coming out of those booths. It taught me how to draw from my unconscious, trust my first impression and exploit it, draw without inhibition, cater to the customer or just satisfy myself, work under grueling conditions and still produce something you can believe in, work with other artists, how to sell, how to read people’s expectations, and a lot more that I’m still coming to understand.

I learned a lot from Corny Cole, though we argued almost all the time. Glenn Vilpu (he couldn’t hear well enough to argue) Mike Mitchell one of those quiet brilliant souls that doesn’t know how not to inspire and frankly from everyone I went to school with. I was at Calarts at a strange transitional time. I rubbed elbows with frustrating geniuses like Matt Nolte, Nate Wragg, Justin Hunt, Austin Madison (Pixar Guys), Joel Crawford, Steve Macleod, Jeremy Bernstein, Morgan Kelly, (Dreamworks Guys) Thurop Van Orman, Nate Cash, Penn Ward, C Raggio, Hugo Moralis, Armen Mirzion, Liz Ito (Cartoon Network, Nick Guys) Matt Williames, JEAUX Janovsky, Mari Inuki, Dave Creek, Wattana Khommarath, among many others that all had this massive repertoire to pull from. These guys seemed to already have this deep reservoir of style and insight into animation. I was coming from a classical painting background and was completely lost half the time. I’ve been playing catch-up ever since. I learned from them all. Emerson once said "I can't tell you all the books that I have read, but they have made me who I am." I feel that way about artists.

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

I often visit character,,,, You could pretty much Google any of the artists mentioned above and I have seen most of the sites/blogs associated with them.

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

I don’t know if this counts as wisdom, but I got two things:
1.Be a sponge. As soon as you start to think that you‘re hot $#!% go find someone better than you. You'll find them sooner or later, so seek them out. Learn from them. Dare I say, copy them. Soak them in and make them a part of your arsenal. Do everything you can to kill your ego. Ego is the temptation to be impressed with your own mediocrity. There’s just no room for it in the work place or in the craft. Ego is the death of progress. Just keep learning.

2. Get your own computer with the art programs and learn them thoroughly. If I could do it over again I would have bought a computer long before I went to school. I still would have kept up the drawing, but I would have begun the cross over much earlier. Having your own computer sets you free. It’s worth it to save up and get a Mac. Even if you have to walk to work, get a computer. I hate thinking about how much better I would be right now if I had that advice.

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?

Well, funny you should mention that. As I mentioned I’m releasing a collection of my artwork from the last year or so in a book titled “Bento Box”. If you’re going to Comicon I’ll be in the 8fish booth E5 selling my book and drawing caricatures. Stop by and let’s have a chat. you can also see more of my work at