What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Nate Wragg and I’m currently working as a Visual Development Artist for Animation
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Well not many, paper route I guess isn’t that crazy. I did work with my dad for a while as an assistant electrician. I got to do lots of fun stuff like crawl through spider webs under really old houses, that could get pretty gross and creepy.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Well Ratatouille was the first project I got to design on as a professional, so that’s one I’ll always be proud of. It was both exciting and stressful making that transition from student to a working artist. Designing the end credits with Harley Jessup, Teddy Newton and Andy Jimenez was way too fun to. I couldn’t have asked to work with a better group of artists. I also was excited to be apart of Toy Story 3. Character designing on that film was also a real challenge, but in the end, I’m very happy with the characters I got to help design.
How did you become interested in animation?
As a kid I developed a love for both drawing and cartoons at roughly the same young age. So naturally I tried to draw the cartoon characters I loved from the movies and shows i watched. As I got older I got better at drawing, and I began to really feel like working and drawing in Animation was something I’d want to do when i grew up.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I was born and raised in the small town of Davis in Northern California, about 15 miles west of Sacramento. Since there wasn’t a big culture for animation in the town i lived in, i had to move to a city where there was an animation industry that i could try and break into. So I moved to LA and attended The California Institute of the Arts, and studied Charatcer Animation while I was there. It wasn’t till I left school to take an internship at Pixar that I began to break my way into the industry.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Well, my day actually starts pretty early. I love working on my own projects outside of my day to day life at the studio, so i’m usually up every morning at 6am, drawing and painting for a few hours before I go into work. Once I get into the studio at about 9am, I start on my assignment for the day / week. During the day, I’m just usually at my desk drawing or I’m meeting with supervisors to go over the work I’m working on, in hopes of either getting approvals on my designs, or notes that will help me work towards getting approvals. Once 6pm rolls around, if i don’t have to work late, I like to go home and hang out with my wife until i start the next day all over again. While my schedule isn’t that interesting, the drawing and the assignments usually are. One day you may be asked to draw trash cans, then the next day you may be asked to draw zombies that live in trash cans, and for me, it’s the assignments that really make my day interesting, not the daily schedule.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I really love to draw and paint, and be part of a collective art team that is striving to design great stuff for animation. Sure it’s fun to design something that will be featured and you can hang your hat on, but it’s also fun to just work around other inspiring artists and all work together on something that hopefully people will really enjoy. For example, designing Mr. Pricklepants from Toy Story 3 was fun but also very challenging, but in the end, hearing people say how much they love him and think he’s so cute and funny, that’s hard to beat.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
I think the hardest part of working as an artist is either working on a project you have no passion for, or having to be creative and draw when you just don’t feel it. For me, while being an artists is a job, it’s really tough to be creative if you just aren’t feeling it. It’s like trying to force something that’s just not going to happen. And when you are up against a deadline, and they need the drawing to be great and turned in in 10 min, it can get really stressful if you are having a bad drawing day.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Working on a project you have no passion for. As artists, were passionate about what we do, and if you are working on something that is just tired and lame and has no excitement or drive, it’s really hard to work yourself up to working on such a bland assignment. I know that may sound a bit “Diva-ish” but that’s the way it is, if you aren’t inspired to draw or create, it’s really hard to force your self to do it, and do a good job at it as well.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I work on a Cintique computer at work. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s a computer that let’s you draw on the screen. I primarily use photoshop when I’m drawing digitally on my computer. If I had my choice, I’d rather paint and draw with real media, but when working professionally you have to be able to adjust and fix your work based of notes from your supervisors, so working digitally makes that so much easier and quicker to fix and change your designs, so now most working artists work digitally.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Yeah, it’s actually pretty hard not to be surrounded by greatness working in this industry. The first film I worked on “Ratatouille” Brad Bird was the director, so basically every meeting you have with the guy, you know your taking direction from a legend. The first internship i had was at James Baxter’s Animation Studio in Pasadena. I can remember explaining to my parents when I got the internship that I’d be learning from one of the best to ever animate. But working in this industry you begin to get spoiled with all the talent around, so I always just try and learn as much as I can from artists like Teddy Newton, Nico Marlet & Lou Romano ( just to name a few ) while I’m around them.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Well, a tough situation I had surrounding my art career was getting used to the idea of getting turned down, or not accepted for Jobs / Schools when applying. And I don’t mean that in the sense that i felt I should get every job I applied for or get into every school I wanted to attend. Mostly i mean getting used to the idea that as an artist you are competing with everyone else out there, most of which are either as good as you, or better, and that’s a tough thing to get used to at first. Applying multiple times for positions, re-sending out your portfolio multiple times to try and get work. Learning to dust your self off when you are disappointed, and try even harder for what you want is tough, but it’s part of the life of being a commercial artist / designer.
Well, I just finished my first solo art show “LOCALS” earlier this summer at Gallery Nucleus, so that was a pretty big commitment to a personal project. It was a ton of fun, but a ton of work. I’m in talks right now for another solo show next Fall, but I’ve yet to really begin to think about what exactly that will be. But at the moment, I really want to start to develop my own children’s books and start working on stuff like that. Projects that are a bit smaller then designing for animation, things I can completely manage my self. As much as i love the collaborative nature of the animation industry, it’s nice to take a break from that, and work on things on a much smaller and individual scale.
Well let’s see…nothing really unusual. I’m a huge sports fan ( football, basketball, baseball ) and love rock climbing, so I guess those might be things people might not expect me to take interest in.
My main advise would be to find your own artistic voice and never give up on yourself as an artist. This kind of harps back to my comments about trying multiple times for things, working as an artist can be tough, and determination and work ethic i think is one of those things that can make or break a young artist looking to get into the industry. So if I had any advise to give it would be that, don’t give up on your self, keep drawing, and keep pushing your work out there till something sticks.