Carolina Cuenca 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 in Madrid (Spain)  My artistic leanings were already present when I was in primary school, but it was in high school that I started to concentrate on drawing.  Leaving my crayons behind and getting my hands on real pencils was like a whole new world!
My brother’s comics soon fell within my grasp.  I remember the Fantastic Four by John Buscema and Tarzan by Russ Manning made quite an impact.
Naturally I had to continue my schoolwork, but I never lost my motivation, and in high school I started drawing in earnest.  At the time I wanted to be a comic book artist and found whatever time I could to do my own comic strips.
There was one artist in particular who was like a teacher to me, as I pored over his comics to learn all I could about drawing.  That was Alan Davis – one of the best.
I didn’t go to University, and it was hard to find an alternative to studying Fine Arts in those days.  I studied a number of courses, workshops, trying to apply technique to my drawings, but it was not enough, and I ended up learning more on my own.
My attempts to break into the world of comics were not successful.  In the end I went from studying at a good friend’s airbrush school to the world of animation, almost by accident.  I started out as Layout Assistant and worked in many pre-production positions on 2D and 3D animated films and series.  Twelve years on my career in focused in two areas: Storyboard and Character Design.

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

First I take time to read the script.  I make notes, and add them to those of the director.  This is an essential part of the work for me, understanding the character’s personality and the type of story they are set in.
There are times when you don’t have any of these things, just a couple of brief notions that give you an idea where to start, but then your job naturally gets complicated.  Sometimes you get led down blind alleys or come up with nothing.  In the end you get over it and finish your contribution through hard work, constant brainstorming and trial and error.  These situations can also make you stronger and more creative as an artist.  You broaden you scope, reach for new ideas and finally the characters start to emerge.
I am usually surrounded by art books and digital media that help me find my character’s situation.  Checking out all the resources available on the internet is also a great way of finding inspiration.
There is certainly one aspect of Character Design I consider the most valuable and also the most difficult, and that’s the visual impact from a psychological point of view.
Not only must you satisfy the director, but you must also reach the public, be they children or adults.  Form, shadows, character and color.  All very basic at the beginning, but handling these separate elements allow you to effectively zoom in on the details in the end.
It may sound nice and easy, but it’s hard to apply it to your daily work.  Sometimes I can get caught up with details when I begin a drawing, just because an idea sprung to mind at the time, but then I have to scrap it and start over again.
You can use any system you like for your own designs, but the work routine you choose will usually have an effect on your personal life, which is not a bad thing.  

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

For me, A normal day consists of making as many sketches as you can.  You start by going over the notes you have on the character, where they are located and with whom they interact.  From there I make some rough sketches, often just a silhouette.  If the production already has finished characters I put them side by side to compare sizes and forms to make sure they fit in.
On a social level, sometimes you go and chat with colleagues.  Everyone needs some time to relax, share a joke and clear their thoughts.  It’s also a great moment to show your work and get opinions from your peers.  If you’re stuck for an idea, a different perspective can be what you need.  
My colleagues are from a wide variety of backgrounds, some of which have nothing to do with animation, but have shared the same experiences.  That helps a lot, because you gain experience not only by working, but also by learning from the people around you.

What are some of the things that you have worked on? (Books, Movies, Games, Comics) 

I started out doing illustrations for brochures.  I wanted to illustrate comics, but the closest I got was doing sleeve artwork for books about them.
After that I moved to pre-production of TV series and them films, first in 2D and then in 3D.

Is there a design you have done that you are most happy with? 

Actually, yes.  I worked on something a number of years ago from some ideas that came from my brother.  If I get round to it I would like to finish it off properly, but I don’t think I will ever publish it.
From all the other work I have done it would be hard to choose one over the others.  Each drawing has its own story, not to mention those that will never see the light of day because the project fell through.

What projects are you working on now? (If you can tell us) 

Right now I’m working as Visual Development Artist at Kandor Graphics in Granada, Spain, on the Upcoming Projects Department. 

Who are some of your favorite artists out there? 

Wow, there are quite a few!  I have already mentioned one, a British comic-book artist called Alan Davis, and I also like Iain McCaig, Claire Wendling, Armand Serrano, Marcos Mateu, Chris Sanders, Andrew Shek, David Colman, José Manuel Fernández Oli.  I’m a big fan of many artists!

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

I’m always learning new things about color, as it’s never been one of my strong points, unfortunately.  I usually start with Col-Erase or freehand using a Wacom and Photoshop.  In the beginning I went forth using watercolor and airbrush, but since discovering digital I haven’t looked back. 

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

Most fun: Rough sketching!  Filling the page up with mad things!  I do also enjoy cleaning up though, when I’m fully into the design phase.  Least fun: Color.  It’s still the most difficult part of the process for me.  Staring at all that white is terrible!

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

I leaf through all the art books I am (constantly, LOL) buying.  When I’m a bit low on ideas I sit on the sofa surrounded by books and soak up the things I see inside them.

What are some of your favorite designs which you have seen

I love the work of Iain McCaig, whatever project you name (hmm, maybe all the designs he did for Star Wars), Wendling and IguanaBay 2.0.... and everything from my friend Oli!

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

Faces and the female form, because they’re such lovely subjects to draw, but I like the mix of human and animal – there you have infinite possibilities!

What inspired you to become an Artist? 

When we were kids my brothers and I were fortunate to be surrounded by all sorts of storybooks and comics.  Growing up reading and seeing what you could achieve inspired me a lot.  I wanted to be a part of it, and in the end I was lucky to have been able to make my own little contribution.

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

I have learned to respect my work, and also that insecurity in oneself never helps, whatever industry you work in.

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

First of all, be humble.  Egos abound in this industry, and are usually a hindrance.  Better leave it at home.  We are fortunate to work in something we like (even though we suffer sometimes) so we should try not to lose our motivation along the way.  Draw, draw, draw... never stop learning, and above all, surround yourself with good source documentation!

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

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? 

Unfortunately I don’t have anything on sale yet.

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