What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is James Woods, and I’m currently a student in the UK, walking those final steps towards graduation! Super excited for the next few years of canned food and dry cereal:)!
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Well, my employment history wouldn’t have been crazy to the average Joe, but I was a lanky (still am, ha), clumsy teenager who found drama in pretty regular jobs. I was a paperboy that cats peed on and swarms of bees chased (yellow t-shirts are insect fodder). I also worked on a food service counter at a supermarket where I cut the tip of my thumb off on a ham slicer (no worries, stitched and glued back in place), and disappointed old ladies with my inexperienced cheese cutting skills. But all of that’s ok, because it spiced things up a little! Cutting off an appendage is character building! I also got to fulfil my British destiny and was an extra in some of the Harry Potter films… My poorly placed foot tripped up Daniel Radcliffe mid scene… No sabotage intended.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I’m very new to the industry so I have a very small experience bank to draw from. The best time I’ve had was interning for industry veteran Uli Meyer at his London studio over the winter 2011 period. I had a very small hand in helping out on a project at the studio, but the experience of being guided by such talented guys and hearing about the days they used to hang out with animation legends was mind blowing.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from a little town on the outskirts of London. I guess, like so many other artists in this industry, I drew constantly from a very young age, copying dogs and dinosaurs from Dorling Kingsley books or doodling out the covers from my favourite VHS films. A lot of my drawings were of Velociraptors (mainly their little hook foot), though typically, a lot of them were Disney covers. Me and my siblings were pretty much raised on that studio, and from the age of 4, I said that I wanted to be an animator. So I drew a lot, and then drew even more as I started applying to art school and onward. Right now, I’m still at school and just finished some freelance design work for a studio.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
My typical day. Hmmm. Well when I’m devising a project, I’ll set up my workstation, pound my brain for some ideas, draw said ideas, get frustrated because the idea isn’t going anywhere, drink tea (my housemates have quite the selection), draw some more, drink some more and then a spark of inspiration will hit and I’ll hold onto it for dear life. Then I just work on developing it further until I really get a sense of what I want to create. This idea might end up being complete rubbish, but at least you spent the time exploring and learning just how rubbish it was. This is the time when you can’t be too precious with your work (you can still have pride though), otherwise you’ll never get to explore every avenue of possibility that your work can have. I’ve recently discovered the importance of research. So i’ll research and reference all that I can, not only because I’ll really understand and immerse myself in the world or culture I’m trying to depict, but also out of respect and visual continuity. A red indian in ballet pumps wouldn’t be so hot… When I’m really into the meat of a project, I start out early, work until it hurts, close my eyes for a few hours and then start all over. But only because you know those red, sleep deprived eyes and slurred speech will all pay off eventually and you’ll have a body of work that you hopefully feel excited about.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
The part I like the best is the initial idea generation process. When you catch that spark and everything suddenly makes sense and your drawings suddenly look like more than a scribble and you’re super pumped and invigorated to draw out your world.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
The part just before you realise what you’re doing and you make too many horrible drawings and become this self deprecating, boohoo angsty artist who is convinced will remain unemployed until the end of their days… But then a few hours later you feel stupid because you’re rolling with a neat idea and having an awesome time.
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’ve been a photoshop boy for a long time (dark, Neopets days… Yes… I was one of them), though back then I would use a mouse and some kick ass lense flare or mosaic filter to spruce up some art. Now we have these amazing tablets and media mimicking technologies that make creating art so much quicker and easier. It may not have that precious, crafted, personal feel that a traditional painting can have, but the work turnaround and flexibility is something that I’ve found invaluable. Sketchbook pro and Painter are also great programs to have in your arsenal.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The most difficult part is trying not to plaster yourself with an expiry date. But if you’re willing to evolve, and find new ways to work, hopefully that won’t be a problem. Be adaptive… You’re an art chameleon. Also feeling so intimidated by the hordes of ridiculous talent that’s out there.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Hearing Uli Meyer speak about the time he spent with Art Babbitt on ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ and the relationship he built with Ronald Searle all sounded so amazingly inspiring. I’m very grateful for his generosity with time.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
A tough situation. My recent first day of work, designing characters for a commercial. Initially, I couldn’t get to grips with the style and was convinced they were going to fire me by the end of the day, but eventually I found my footing and it all worked out fine.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
The only projects I have right now are University related. Gotta put my head down and earn my diploma.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I can make all of my hair (well scalp) slide from side to side without touching it. Looks like I’m wearing a wig.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
I’m still so new and am trying to find that answer myself, so I’m not really in a position to say. I would like to stress the value and importance of internet blogging though. It’s a great way of seeing the work that’s out there, connecting with so many talented artists, making friends, being inspired and pushing your own little boat out into the sea of talent. The animation industry is one of the friendliest, and most generous places to explore… Trust me, I’ve endured the wrath of supermarket grandmas and their dodgy cheese orders. It’s also very easy to become consumed by your work, but you don’t ever want to become bitter. Also, just draw because you love it.