What is your name and your current occupation?
Hello my name is Axel Ortiz…I am a Development Artist based in Los Angeles. I mainly do conceptual work not only in animation..also in video games, theme park and live action. I also work on my own projects as well.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Well, I wouldn’t say my past jobs were crazy….more like working with mentally nutty people. Worked Sears in the kids dept…dealt with crazy customers. I worked at a Pioneer Chicken for two weeks so I can make enough money to buy a comic book back issue. Before heading out to school to the Art Center….I worked at the airport down in the ramp…where I would get passengers’ luggages into the plane. In all of these places I worked with colorful characters…I would always be drawing in my sketchbooks during my breaks….or on the clock.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
There’s a few projects that I liked working on…like Big Guy and Rusty show from Sony Animation was very cool to work on…I’m a fan of the Geoff Darrow and Frank Miler book that the show is based on. I also liked working on developing characters for pitches for clients as well…getting the chance to create something new is always fun…I’ve done stuff for Nickelodeon, Bento Box, Midway, Activision, Animax and others. Lately I’m excited to be developing characters for two animated show ideas for two clients of mine. One will be pitched to Disney…let see how that goes?
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from the greater Los Angeles area of the South Bay….not far from the beach. I got into the animation just by chance…Sometime after I graduated from the Art Center College of Design…I was doing freelance jobs and working on my own project at the time…I got a call one afternoon from a friend of mine who was a director asking to see what I was doing? I told her I was doodling…she was happy to hear that. She asked if I would be interested in swinging by the animation studio where she was working at. I told her…ok. So I went over and brought some of my work with me and was introduced to the head Director…he looked at my work and I was hired on the stop. I’m like cool. The first three weeks were a bit rough since I was learning on the job…after a while I got the hang of working within a pipeline and producing work…I was a storyboard clean up artist. I also got a chance to design characters as well on another show which was a cool thing to do as well.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
A typical day for me lately is to just to move myself from my bedroom to the back of the house where my studio is at and start on my projects there. I have a To-Do list that I go through. I haven’t worked in house for some years now in terms of animation…it’s all been freelance or contract work. So I work on my computer and or drawing table getting drawings done. I’ll do email and Skype to communicate with a client. The length of my work days varies day by day…I might work 6 hours one day…14 on another day.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I love to create characters, backgrounds and such from the story at hand…in the starting stages of sketching designs out…figuring out how these characters and things or environments will work out.
What part of your job do you like least? and why?
Being a freelance I need to deal with the business side of things…dealing with what needs to be done and how much it will cost. Also dealing with clients that really don’t know what they want? That can be frustration at times.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis, how has technology changed in the last few years in your field and how has that impacted you in your job?
I pretty much work on a computer with a Cintiq attached to it plus my drawing table/lightbox for working on traditional pieces. I work on Photoshop mostly, also work on other 2D programs as well. I have a scanner as well to scan in pieces to be worked on digitally. Working digitally has made things go easier in terms of making changes to pieces.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Just trying to keep sane.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I have traveled to different cities and places …met some real nice folks out there. I have met some really talented artists in the animation biz. CTN, SDCC and the NY Comic Con are great places to met some awesome talent.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Having clients not paying the invoice I sent out to them in a timely matter. One time I was referred to a gig over to an animation studio (will remain nameless) I was asked to do a “test” to see if I can fit the need of the project. I’m like…”ok” I’ll give it a shot…at that time I was never been asked to do a test before. I do the test I drop it off. I don’t hear anything back from them. I figure they didn’t like what I did. Sometime later…it gets back to me from a friend that happens to be working with this very same animation studio that the test I did was actually used in the production. That totally sucked to hear. I’ve heard from of this same studio doing this all the time to artists wanting to get a gig. From that day forth I will not bother with taking a test. There are times I really want to jump on something I’ll do a test “with in reason” In the past year I have gotten emails from recruiters and HR persons and the such telling me that they dig my work and feel my work will work well with the certain project at hand…etc….I tell them “sure” but I need more information about the project. But then I am asked to do a test before telling me what it is. I’m like…why? I didn’t approach for work…that’s totally uncool. I’ll sign an NDA and that’s it. Why bother approaching me to do a project if you’re going to be asking me to do a…test? The nerve of some people.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
YES! I have some cool stuff that I’m working on that should be coming out this year! First off….GEEK! a 130 pages of goodness that I’m working on now with my friend Matt Cohen and Shawn Depasquale. There’s the Gargantuan Art Book that I want to finish up by putting together the pages for so I can print it out to debut for San Diego Comic Con. There’s also Roy the Space Cowboy…started producing new images for prints plus a 12 page story will be on the works as well. there’s other projects but don’t want say anything about them yet.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
No, not really…I could tie a cherry stem into a knot with my tongue.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business? Keep drawing…also keep your skills up. Also remember to have fun…and to be inspired. At times it can and it will be hard…but remember it’s a fun business to be in.