Peter Donnelly

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What is your name and your current occupation?
Peter Donnelly. I am a freelance illustrator and animation professional. I develop visual concepts/storyboards for advertising agencies, animation studios and illustrate childrens books.  I also teach film pre-production to 3rd level students and direct animation.


 What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Most of my previous jobs were art related although I did work cleaning shopping malls as a Summer job after school…operating one of those big floor buffers dreaming of escaping..


 What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?  
The Land before Time, Titan AE, The Thief and the Cobbler, Prince of Egypt to name a few and some short form films and TV projects that have picked up some nice awards along the way.  In total I’ve been credited on around 15 feature films to date.
How did you become interested in animation? 
I was always a fan of the ‘Art’ of animation, the design and mood that could be achieved with shape, line and colour. Although I never had a desire to be an animator , I loved to draw and wanted to be an illustrator and in time realized animation covered a wide range of artistic jobs that I could relate to.

Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I am from Dublin, Ireland. Back in 1987, I was looking to get out of graphic design when Don Bluth set up his animation studio in my home town. It was a case of being in the right place at the right time with the right portfolio. There’s as certain amount of luck in getting a break into this industry. I applied, got a job as an inbetweener and began a wonderful journey meeting amazing people and working in places such as London, Arizona, Berlin and LA .
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job? 
I broke away from the studio system in 2005 and decided to build my own art studio and work on different projects both inside and outside of animation.  My typical day begins by dropping my young daughter off to school, opening the studio, checking email and working on whatever’s on my desk at the time. My hours are flexible; I sometimes work late into the night if I’m on a roll. I’m very fortunate that way. Some jobs are two day turnaround others are weeks, it depends.


What part of your job do you like best? Why?
The freedom and flexibity. I am very lucky to do something I love and have a natural talent for. I get to draw every day and get paid for it!
What part of your job do you like least? Why? 
Sometimes it can feel a little isolated working alone in a studio. Downtimes take a little getting used to. Talking money with clients can be tricky.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Avoiding being pigeonholed and boxed off. Clients tend to place you in little boxes…you need to remind them that you are capable of more than one thing…that you have a range in your abilities and talent. I like to work in several areas, art directing, story art, character design, I like a challenge.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Pencil, paper, cintiq, photoshop, illustrator, painter ,watercolours, camera.

In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I’ve worked with some artists that have gone on to do great things, great directors, art directors. I worked very closely with Don Bluth and Gary Goldman for 14 years and got to know them very well.  I worked with Dean deBlois director of ‘How to train your dragon’ for a number of years…he was a terrific artist even back then. Quite a few people have become leaders in their fields.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Moving out of feature animation and going back to college to learn creative software was hard. For many years all I needed was a pencil and an animation desk and I was used to a very good salary. I resigned from 20th Century Fox as an Artistic Supervisor in 2000 and returned to Ireland to study and forge my way as an illustrator. I sacrificed a lot but it paid off in the end and kept me ahead of the pack in some regards.


Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
I am always developing ideas for childrens books, sketching and designing between jobs. I am about to start a project in the next couple of weeks storyboarding some well known childrens books for a TV series which should be fun. A couple of 3D projects I designed and directed are almost completed so I’m looking forward to seeing those finished.


Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I’m a huge music fan and have an unhealthy interest in synthesizers and drum machines.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
The old cliché…keep drawing everyday. You’ve got to really want it, there is a lot of great competition out there and you are now competing with other artist… worldwide! Stick with the dream and stay focused. Keep an open mind always and soak up whatever talent surrounds you…ask questions. Be nice to people on your journey, you’ll be surprised who you’ll bump into again. There will always be someone better than you, don’t get carried away with the faries.

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