What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Julian Allen and I am a freelance character designer, entrepreneur, storyboard artist, sketch artist and all around art hooker…lol.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I can’t say I’ve had any crazy jobs. I remember after high school I worked at a seafood supplier. Does that count? In any event, that was like working in a refrigerator.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Two years ago I had the opportunity to work for Disney Imagineering on an upcoming theme attraction for Disneyland Tokyo. The first job turned into two additional projections from Imagineering and then a fourth. That one I had to turn down. I was working like crazy for them, plus working full time at an animation studio. I made crazy money that year.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m originally from Detroit, Michigan and I’ve always been surrounded by art. My dad was an awesome artist. I wish I had half his talent. With that said, my dad subjected my brother, sister and I (who were also artist) to all types of art. When we were kids my brother used to want to be one of the first black animators to work for Disney.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
A typical day has changed. I’m now endeavoring in starting a video game studio. I’ve always been an entrepreneur. My new typical day is spent doing a lot of networking and trying to meet other artist. I’m still making sure I get my drawing time in, but priorities have changed slightly.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
My favorite part is creating worlds. I’ve always known I didn’t want to do illustrations per se’. I didn’t want to make pretty pictures. It’s something about creating characters, creatures worlds and universes that I consistently love.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
At this stage of the game, trying to start a studio, I’m doing everything by myself. Often times I feel really drained and tired. Sometimes I feel like I’m all over the place, ie, designing characters, writing, networking etc, I get pooped.
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 LOVE TECHNOLOGY! My setup at home is the bomb! (at least to me it is.) I work on the 22” Wacom Cintiq HD with 2 additional monitors. I have all the latest software I think. The change in technology has been great, especially with programs like Toon Boom Harmony and Storyboard Pro. (I do think they’re overpriced…hey, can I say that in this interview?) I’m diving headfirst now into After Effects. Simply put, I’m a software addict! I love learning new programs! I’ve got it bad, really bad!
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
I try not to look at things as difficult. I prefer the word challenging. When I see things as challenging, all that does is boost me all the more to go head to head with whatever the obstacle is. The only time something is difficult is when you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing, ie, I know I could never be a nuclear physicist. I know that. That’s not what I’m gifted to do. Anything art related or visual, dude please, there’s no such thing as difficult. I can draw or paint anything if I choose to. That’s what I was born and gifted to do. It may sound cocky, but it’s not, I just know what I can and cannot do.
If you could change the way the business works and is run how would you do it?
I would go back to the days of old where creative people were in charge of studios and not college grads who have a marketing degree or something or other. I would make sure that creatives are also business savvy. Unfortunately for us, most artist I talk to just want a job. That level of desperation creates the, work 13 hour plus days, especially in the gaming industry. Screw that!
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Those that are recognized in animation no, but I know some great animators. In comics and film yes. I was blessed to meet the great and my personal hero, John Buscema before he passed away. I also met Jim Henson way back when I was in high school. He was at our local mall doing some promoting. I think it was for the Dark Crystal.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
The death of my father and the death of my son, my wife had an ectopic pregnancy, those were the worst days of my life. Thee worst.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
Currently it’s all about starting this game studio for me. I have been helping a friend named Eric Elder doing character designs for a project he’s working on by the name of Changa.
Any unusual talents or hobbies, like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Not really. I’m a huge RC guy, unfortunately I don’t have the time I would like to run and race my cars. I run both gas and electric cars.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Absolutlely! Be consistent and persistent! Do not give up! If you know you have the desire, love and discipline don’t let anyone stop you. Practice, practice, practice! Draw, draw, draw! If anyone tries to stop you, run them over and keep it moving!