What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Jeff Starling and I am a commercial artist.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Before gettting into the crazy buisness of animation I was involved in advertising where the art director has not done there job unless they have made some change,causting me more time and effort, to my work as an illustrator. A lot of those art directors new nothing about drawing but could sure critisize one. My foray into the world of animation came after leaving Sierra games to go to DIC (animation bootcamp), where I was introduced to a whole host of artists and animation directors.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
After a brief while at DIC it was my luck to land a job as a background designer at Warner Bros. working on Batman The Animated Series. Over the years I have worked with one of the shows producers Eric Radomski. He hired me early on at HBO or Boo animation where we did Spawn and with Ralph Bakshi, Spicy City. I and another employee won a contest for best name for the Bakshi show. Recently I have spent time at Titmouse ,where everything is done under one roof in Flash and photoshop doing design for Metalacolypse. Bitchin work being done all around at that place.
How did you become interested in animation?
I have always loved to draw and so in considering how to turn a buck with it I imagined I may some day be involved with animation. Ray harryhausen was one of my early influences. For that matter Willis Obrien and Jim Danforth are also men to whom I owe a debt. Stop motion animation. Golden Voyage of Sinbad is still one of my favorites. I started working at an effects house in Atlanta when I was in my early twenties and apart from some time spent as an illustrator , have worked on animated projects since.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I am from West Point, New York. My dad was a career officer in the military. I grew up when Betty Ballantine was publishing books of Frazetta’s paintings. That coupled with Heavy Metal magazine and underground comics to truly warp my sensitivities and I decided I wanted to draw for a living too. I went to one of the art institutes of in this case Atlanta. I finished any art training I was going to get before having to get a job at a place called Portfolio Center in Atlanta. I was lucky to find work out of school but my tastes were in fantasy art. I got a job after spending some time doing comic book covers and cover art for role playing games at Sierra Games. This was the first steady job I had where I was being paid to work on projects based in Fantasy. After leaving there and going to Los Angeles I started working for various animation houses.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
These days I am freelancing and work silly hours to get work done on the computer. I am able to work out of home via the internet and can of course communicate with those at the job site instantly through programs like AIM, where we trade art and roughs back and forth. I find the work does not ultimately pay as well but the freedom of not having a commute ways against that.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I like drawing. I want to do my best and try to within time constraints.What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Illustration is laborious and there are times one reaches a point of diminishing returns with a given drawing and yet you have to keep going until it is done regardless of how much detail is required. Crews for animated projects are more streamlined these days, it seems, and you really have to pull your weight.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Watching good ideas and shows that should be greenlit for further seasons be driven into the ground buy piss poor management
that truly could care less. I have seen some very promising studios die a premature death and others never form because of bad judgement on the part of suits.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I work mainly with photoshop as I am a background guy. I have recently been required to draw directly in Flash for a show animated in same, entitled “Ugly American”.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I don’t know how great he may be but I did, as I said, work with Ralgh Bakshi to develop a series for HBO called “Spicy City’. Most recently I had the pleasure of working with John Lassiter at Disney Toon Studios doing development set design for “Tinkerbell”.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I severed three ribs while snowboarding a few years back and it makes me less foolhardy as I want to be able to continue to create art and that will be rather difficult if one is paralyzed.
Any side projects you’re working on you’d like to share details of?
I have just finished a round of development art for Christy Hui, creator of Xiaolin Showdown for an upcoming project which she is pursuing.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
The work speaks for itself. The people you show your portfolio to are likely damn good artists and quality usually gets noticed.
That said it does not hurt to have friends in high places so try and make a few along the way.
Great stuff Jeff! Some amazing lighting you brought to that vampire piece.