What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Chris Deboda. I’m currently a freelance concept artist/illustrator for the film and gaming industry.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
None really. I’ve been a sales associate at a department store where the only crazy things there were a few of the customers on occasion. The real craziness didn’t begin until once I got into the industry.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I’m proud of almost all the projects I’ve been a part of in some form or another as long as I was able to learn and grow from each one. The most notable project I’ve been a part of to date would probably have to be the video game called “Red Dead Redemption” which has won an award or two.
How did you become interested in animation?
Growing up on 80’s cartoons, I’ve always been interested in animation ever since I could remember. I was also a huge fan of the old Warner Bros. Chuck Jones and Tex Avery shorts. And of course classic Disney Animation as well. It wasn’t until the 1990’s era of Disney Animation when I started seriously thinking about animation as a potential career path.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
Originally born in North Carolina but I grew up in San Diego, CA. Always enjoyed drawing ever since I was a kid and ended up taking art classes throughout high school, and college. I remember, as a teen, writing and sending letters (before the emailing days) to all the big known studios in California requesting information on breaking into the business and what they would like to see in a portfolio. Eventually, I ended up graduating with an art/animation degree from Cal State Northridge. But upon graduating, I found that jobs in the film animation industry were hard to come by (not unlike today’s climate I suppose). So I looked towards the video game industry instead and worked my way up from there.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Currently being a freelancer and working from home, my hours and schedule varies quite a bit. But in general, my working day mainly consists of alternating between checking emails and creating art based on notes from those emails. That said, I tend to be a night owl and whether I’m working on personal or professional artwork, most of my inspired, creative, and productive energy seem to occur at odd hours late into the night for some reason.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
The creative part of course. The early exploration sketching phase is a lot of fun since it allows you to dream a little bit and dig through your imagination.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Dealing with tough and unrealistic deadlines. Also, working lots of overtime crunch hours for extended periods of time is not so fun. Lots of stress is involved when these things do occur.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I mostly use Photoshop on a Cintiq and a PC computer.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The instability part and not knowing where or when the next job and paycheck will be coming from. Makes it a little difficult to plan things in life.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I’ve met quite a few great folks at various conventions, schools, art shows and even people from work. But I would have to say that the biggest event I’ve been to was the tribute event for Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston back in 2003. The biggest names in animation were all there under one roof but none bigger and greater of course then Frank and Ollie. Such an inspiring day that I remember like it was yesterday.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Although not that uncommon in this business, but being a part of a couple of mass layoffs due to lack of work is always tough. Fortunately as it turns out, they end becoming a blessing in disguise each time they happen (for me at least), but it’s still a tough situation at the time nonetheless.
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
I’d like to join the self publishing bandwagon and get a personal art book out there some time soon. And who knows, maybe a graphic novel down the line as well.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I’m a bit ambidextrous, I guess. I’m predominantly right handed for most things but draw with my left. And I’m also a sports fan.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Be persistent, be humble, study and observe everything, draw every day, and of course go out and network. Surround yourself with other talented and passionate artists and maintain your enthusiasm towards drawing and creating.
Chris I love your design it’s fantastic. It’s really nice to get insights from other artists in the industry.
Thanks for posting! 🙂
Chris – I’ve got a few questions –
As a freelance illustrator, how do you develop new clients? Please don’t just answer ‘word of mouth.’ I know that’s part of most people’s success, but can you please be more specific?
How do you decide what to include on your site as examples of your work (particularly what not to include, even if you feel like it’s good work)?
What’s the craziest way you’ve ever landed a job? Why did it work?
Incredible work posted here with the interview. Wow. Really like your character sketches and location design variations. Terrific forms with great attention to key details. Bravo.
Jason: To answer your question, I’m still fairly new to the whole freelancing thing, and the freelance experience I have gotten so far is mainly through referrals and working with certain people in the past that have reached out to me and so forth. Hopefully, by keeping active in online forums, attending events, and doing interviews like this one, will help eventually generate new and more clients.
As for the online samples, a good general rule of thumb is to only post work that you enjoy doing. Because if you post otherwise, even if the work is deemed good, you might get hired to do things that you don’t really want to do.
Hope all that helps and makes sense. Thanks again.