What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Justin Rodrigues. I’m currently a freelance character designer and visual development artist. Some of my clients include Fisher-Price, Starburns Industries, and Wonderverse Studios.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I spent quite a few years in retail, which can be torturous. It involves long, crazy hours and some horrible customers. I managed a comic book store for a couple years, which wasn’t too bad. It was cool to see that side of the industry and I got to read all the comics I wanted to for free. I also spent a year moderating chat logs for an online MMORPG. There are some pretty crazy stories I could tell about that one!
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I’d have to say I’m pretty proud of the project I’m currently working on. I’ve been on it since the very beginning and I’m really happy with how it’s coming along. I’ve had a hand in a lot of different roles – from character design to backgrounds to prop design, so I’m really honored to be a part of it. I can’t say much more about it just yet, but I think it will be really cool once it’s released.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I grew up in Fresno, California. I’ve had a passion for art and drawing for as long as I can remember. I moved to Los Angeles to go to college, thinking I would try and get into the music industry of all things. I very quickly failed a calculus class and realized business wasn’t for me. I remember walking past the animation room at school, seeing the students watching cartoons and working on their projects, and it hit me – this is what I’ve always wanted to do. After I graduated, I worked for a few years doing the aforementioned odd jobs, but when my last job laid off my entire department, I decided it was time to become serious about my art career. I took six months off and worked on my portfolio night and day and slowly started picking up some work. Then I landed at a small social media video game start up, and I haven’t looked back since!
What’s a typical day like for you with regard to your job?
Being freelance is a little different than working in a studio. Every day can differ pretty drastically, depending on what I’m working on at the time. I would say on average, I’m usually working on a list of designs or artwork I need to get through in a certain amount of time. If my client has a tight turnaround, I’ll usually send designs for revisions as I finish them. Then I’ll work on the rest of the designs they need while I’m waiting for feedback. Working remotely can pose certain timing challenges, as you’re usually waiting on the studio or client to get back to you, so there can be some lulls between working.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I get to draw every day! Seriously though, each job poses a new challenge and it’s a lot of fun to push yourself artistically.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
I would say the uncertainty of freelancing can be a little nerve wracking at times. Whenever a job ends, it gets a little scary. Fortunately for me, it hasn’t taken too long for the phone to start ringing when I need it to. Knock on wood!
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 work on a 21″ Cintiq, and nowadays, I almost exclusively draw directly into Photoshop CS6. I’ve been working in the computer since I graduated from college. I used to use a Wacom Intuos tablet and bought my Cintiq a year or so ago. That pretty much changed my life. While I was used to working on a tablet, the Cintiq is much more natural to work in.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Staying inspired and motivated is always a challenge. It’s easy to get bogged down in the day to day of creating art for a career and forget why you are doing it in the first place. I try to allot a certain amount of time to draw and create art for myself. Trying new things and experimenting with different mediums keeps me refreshed and excited about art.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I’ve had the good fortune of meeting a lot of my heroes and artists I look up to. Going to the CTN animation expo every year has afforded me that opportunity. I’ve also had the chance to tour the Walt Disney studios and see where all the old classic films were created. That to me was very cool and very inspiring.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I’ve been pretty fortunate thus far in my life. If I had to pick one instance, it would be getting laid off from my last “non-art” position. Losing your job is never fun and it made it all the more scary that I was going head first into the art thing. It was a pretty tumultuous time for me, doubting myself and my abilities as an artist, all the while not knowing if you’re going to be able to pay your bills. It all worked out in the end though!
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I’m currently working on my second art book that I hope to put out this year in time for CTN-X. I’ve also got a few ideas floating around in my head that I would like to do something with eventually.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Nothing too unusual to report. I just started getting back into playing the guitar, but that’s pretty standard and uninteresting.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Draw, draw, draw, draw, draw! Seriously, persistence and perseverance will get you far in this line of work.