What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Luis María Benítez and currently I work as a background artist and as a freelance illustrator.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I had the misfortune of working at a call center. I had moved to another city and I didn’t know how to get started. A real nightmare.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I’m relatively new in the business so I wouldn’t be able to say that yet.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I was born in Lobos, Argentina. I got into the animation business after I moved to Buenos Aires, the capital where after a while I recovered my dream of studying animation so I went to an animation school and there I started to feel very interested in illustration. I started to learn by my own, connections were made, and then after I got my stuff online the first offers started to arrive. The first jobs I had were storyboards for advertisement, then some book illustrations and concept art.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I mostly work during the night so I wake up late sometimes. It all depends on the time I have available. I prefer starting with the gathering of references, and then the sketching and layout process after dinner. If things go on the right direction I can go to sleep and then at the following day I have another chance to see if the work was well planned and start with the painting.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
The creative process when you’re trying to put your thought on the blank sheet is something I enjoy very much. Since I was a child I always loved to sit down and see that blank sheet in front of me and the ideas you can come up with.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Actually, I like all the stages of my job. It only turns ugly when you’re supposed to work very fast and that’s hard and stressing sometimes.
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 PC and I use Photoshop, Illustrator, Maya and Google SketchUp. When I illustrate I use a Wacom tablet. That’s all I need and since I started almost 3 years ago, so changes have not been of significant importance to me.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Uncertainty. When you’re a freelancer you face the fact that sometimes there’s going to be a lot of work and sometimes you will have to wait for a few days or even more until you get the next job. Especially at the beginning when you’re making new connections and people don’t know you very well. Therefore I consider working at a studio is better because it allows you to get more organized with your free time and at the same time you can take other works at home which enables you to save money for those hard days.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
In 2010 I attended an animation festival in Buenos Aires and I had the chance to meet Simon Otto, who at that time had worked as head of character animation for “How to Train your Dragon”. We talked around 15 minutes and I was the only one at that time who identified him despite there were animation students and professionals everywhere.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Well, I wouldn’t say a situation, but a tough period of time. After I left high school I faced, like many, the uncertainty of not knowing what I wanted to do, despite it was very clear for me that animation was the answer, although the problem was that there were no places to learn from. Therefore, as I like sciences I enrolled at university for geology. After that, we had one of the worst economic crisis in the country and therefore I was forced to drop out. At that moment working in sciences was quite a challenge. After some time I went back and got into economics and it was a terrible choice, so I changed again, for sociology and it was another mistake. Not knowing what I wanted to do was very tough at the time. Today I can look back and now I appreciate that I’ve learned from different fields of knowledge.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
As I write this I have a few BGs to be painted for an animation series currently in the making.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I don’t have unusual talents, but as hobbies are concerned I have a deep interest in sciences, and astronomy is another passion. I have a telescope and I love spending some nights in summer looking at the stars, the Moon. It’s very relaxing for me.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
First of all, try to learn as much as you can from theory and practice. Keep in mind that success is something social, something you can’t achieve by yourself alone. You need to interact, make connections. It’s not easy at the beginning because nobody knows you, so create a website or different profiles on illustration or animation related sites and show what you are able of. Patience is the key, so never divert your attention from your goal of becoming an artist or animator (who is also an artist). There might be many moments in your life when you think “maybe I should do something else”, but if you deeply wish to become an artist in the animation industry somehow you will be able to find your way. You may start with small works at first, but as time passes by new experiences will be earned.