What is your name and your current occupation?
Hello. My name is Larry MacDougall and I am currently illustrating several children’s books although I have also recently been doing some visual development work and character design with Disney designer Harald Siepermann for Zipfelmutzen Film in Germany. They are working on a 3D animated feature.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Well, I’ve certainly had a few odd jobs in my time. I’ve cleaned buses and I’ve worked in a steel mill. The steel mill gig was pretty horrible at the time but the memories of working in that extreme environment and some of the nutty people that worked there have been fueling my imagination ever since. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
A couple of recent book projects I’m rather proud of are The Secret History of Giants and The Secret History of Hobgoblins, both of which were written by Ari Berk. The Secret History of Hobgoblins is finally due out this fall after a rather long delay.
How did you become interested in animation?
Like most people in the animation business I grew up watching cartoons and always enjoyed drawing. I was a big fan of comic books and Mad Magazine as well – you know, Mort Drucker, Jack Davis etc.. Anyway, one day during my stint at the steel mill, just after I’d finished high school, I was introduced to an animation student who was attending Sheridan College. He showed me his sketchbook which was filled with drawings of all these old, vintage Disney characters like Peg Leg Pete and Goofy. He had drawn them is very expressive poses and with great facial expressions. I was immediately hooked and soon afterwards was attending Sheridan myself.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from a small industrial city in Canada called Hamilton. I got into the animation business when Nelvanna in Toronto was making their Care Bear feature. They needed to crew up and I was put in the layout department. That goes back several decades. After my time was up on The Care Bear Movie I left animation and started illustrating for the gaming publishers – Dungeons and Dragons, that sort of thing. I did that for quite a while until the ever increasing darkness and violence of the games became too depressing and I began making children’s book images during my off hours. I’ve been doing children’s books for the last ten years or so, as well as Magic Cards and other things. And now I’m back in the animation business as a free lance-visual development artist and character designer.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
A typical day for me is to get up early, draw and or paint all day and quit around dinner time. If things are really tight I will work after dinner also, but it doesn’t usually come to that.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I like drawing characters the best. I also love drawing and painting trees, especially in watercolour. What I love about drawing trees is how organic and free-form they are. They just have the wildest and most outlandish shapes ever. Also, you can make them fit into any space because they can grow into any shape. For that reason they make great design elements. I have recently been illustrating Arctic Mythology for Inhabit Media, way up north. There are no trees in the Arctic, as we all know. Having to compose paintings and make illustrations without being able to use trees was very challenging indeed. It was a real handicap for me and a great lesson.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Anything with proper mechanical perspective. I don’t like using rulers when I draw and correct perspective is so boring.
I much prefer to eye ball the perspective and have crooked lines and exagerate and distort the drawing. With formal perspective there is only one correct answer – it’s like math. With free style drawing there are a million correct answers, and that’s a lot more fun – for me anyway.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I use photoshop for toning drawings and correcting paintings but mostly I’m pretty traditional.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The most difficult thing about this business for me is dealing with late pay cheques and cancelled or delayed projects.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I don’t know about animation greatness but some of my fellow classmates have gone on to have very successful carrers at Disney and Pixar, and all over the business.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
When you’re in the art business there’s nearly always something going sideways on you. That’s just the way it is.
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
Keeping my blog going with original posts of art and stories is pretty much a side project for me – one which I quite enjoy.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I can sing the national anthem backwards while standing on my head, but I only do that at parties when Royals are present. It’s not polite to show off unless there’s a potential knighthood involved.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Only the most obvious advice which is to learn to draw as well as you can and learn as much about art history as you can. There’s nothing worse than standing around chatting with some of your fellow artists and you’re the only one that doesn’t know what they’re talking about. It’s your job to know art.