Steve LeCouilliard

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What is your name and your current occupation?

My name is Steve LeCouilliard and I am a freelance story board artist from Vancouver, Canada.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I took basic training in the Canadian Forces one summer and I also performed as a pirate at childrens’ parties for a little while.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Ed, Edd n’ Eddy was a well-made show with a big following. I worked on the under-rated but terrific The Mighty B! for one board and I had fun on George of the Jungle and League Of Super Evil. I also boarded some fun cinematic sequences for the sadly cancelled Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned console game. It would have been awesome.
How did you become interested in animation?
By watching Looney Tunes on TV and Disney movies. More than animation though, my inspiration to become a professional cartoonist comes from comic strips like Calvin and Hobbes and Pogo. I also
grew up on Asterix and Tintin, comics that are so beautiful, you can’t help but be inspired. I’m so glad my local libraries carried those books when I was growing up.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I spent my high school years on Vancouver Island, but I moved to Calgary, Alberta shortly after getting married. In Calgary I heard about a one-year diploma program in Classical Animation, which I took with a student loan and some help from my mom and step-dad. After graduating in 2000, I soon got a job at the only video game company in town, where I designed characters and animated sprites for about three years before moving out to Vancouver in 2004 to try my luck in TV animation. The first place I called was AKA Cartoon which hired me to work on Ed, Edd, n’ Eddy and I’ve been doing storyboards ever since.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
For the last three years, I’ve been lucky enough to work from home on storyboards for League Of Super Evil and other projects. On a typical day, I get up around 8 a.m. and make breakfast for my kids before my wife drives the older one off to school. Then I’ll shower and get to work. I work on a Cintiq in a small separate room in my apartment and I’ll rough about thirty storyboard pages a day or clean up about twenty if I’m in the clean-up phase. I usually work late with breaks for lunch, playing with the kids and making dinner. On the weekends I work on my web-comic projects.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
The thing I like about story-boarding is the ability to “direct” the story. I am the first artist to translate the printed word into visuals, so my influence over the show is felt more than any other single artist. Any type of media usually succeeds or fails in the story department. I’ve seen movies with really strong animation that fell apart due to lack of good storytelling. I like being one of the people responsible for guiding the story.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
The big downside to working in television is that, unlike films, which are made to entertain an audience (at least in theory), TV is made to sell an audience demographic to advertisers. The networks commission a show to draw in 8-to-12-year-old boys, for instance, so that the network can successfully sell advertising space to Mattell or Adidas or whoever. As someone whose motivation is to entertain the audience, it can be frustrating to have to please accountants and executives before I’m allowed to do my job. At least I don’t have to deal with them directly.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The lack of job security. As a freelancer, I’m always hunting for new work after my current job ends. Sometimes projects don’t overlap, so I can end up in a dry spell which eats up my savings and adds stress to trying to take care of my family.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I use a Wacom Cintiq for my work, with Photoshop CS4. I resisted the move to digital for a long while, but ultimately it makes me more versatile, faster and better connected to my employers.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I used to work for Danny Antonucci of Lupo the Butcher fame back when I did Ed, Edd, n’ Eddy. I’m on friendly terms with Sherm Cohen of Spongebob Squarepants, Ted Mathot, head of story at Pixar, Home on the Range director John Sanford, I usually hang out with Pascal Campion at conventions… Animation is a small world. Attend a few conventions, put your art on the Internet and you’ll meet a lot of important folks.
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
I won a Xeric Grant for my self-published comic, Much the Miller’s Son, which I have been posting online since 2007. I am currently working on a new comic series called Una the Blade about a barbarian single-mom (both of those links may be NSFW, by the way).
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I’m pretty good at mimicking voices and accents. I used to do it a lot but I’ve gotten out of the habit, since I think it’s a bit annoying.Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
There are much more lucrative and less stressful ways of making a living. If you can go a week without drawing, you’re probably not cut out for this. Sometimes when a hobby becomes a job, it stops being fun, so for a lot of people, it might be best to keep drawing for pleasure, but not pursue it as a career.  On the other hand, if you aren’t cut out for anything else because all your waking hours are spent thinking about stories and working on your drawing skills, getting some formal training might be worth your while. The best way to get into storyboarding, once you’ve developed the necessary drawing skills, is to get a job doing revisions. This is a great way to learn the technical aspects of the job while getting payed. After you’ve built up some familiarity with the process, it’s likely you’ll move up to storyboarding when there is an opening, because companies usually like to promote from within rather than hire outside the company. At the very least, you’ll make valuable industry connections, which will form the basis of your career.  Another thing to remember is that you never stop learning. Always challenge yourself, work on as many different kinds of things as you can and when you have a gap between projects, take the opportunity to create something of your own. I owe more of my professional notoriety to Much the Miller’s Son than any of the shows I’ve worked on. In professional animation, you are one small cog in a very big machine, but when you do your own projects, you get to share your unique, unfiltered vision with the world.
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One Comment

  1. I love the city of Vancouver and have always thought about being a storyboard artist, especially after animatic came about. Thank you for the detailed interview and all the helpful information. I’m also a single father of two young daughters and can understand the stress that comes when work is hard to find. Fortunately for me I have only experienced that once and hope to never have to experience it again.

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