What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Pierre Collet-Derby. I am currently an Illustrator at Ubisoft Montreal by day and a character designer by night for various animation projects.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I was lucky to be able to find work in the animation industry right after school. When I was a student in industrial design, I had the opportunity to be an intern in a cabinetmaking shop. It was a very interesting experience but I remember being exhausted after each day of work. Being a craftsman can be a physically demanding job.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
In 2003 I had the chance to animate on “Mickey’s twice upon a Christmas” for Disney. It was my first important gig as an animator and working with Disney characters was a dream come true for me. I learned a lot during this production, and met a lot of talented artists.Overall each project I’ve been working on has been rewarding as an artist. You always learn new things, meet great people and overcome new challenges. So I’m proud of all those projects, either big or small.
How did you become interested in animation?
As far as I can remember, I’ve always been interested in cartoons and comic books. I started to draw at a very young age and have always been encouraged by my family to pursue that passion. When I was around 13 years old, my parents signed me up for a comic book class every Saturday morning. It was taught by comic artists from the area, and every year we would go to the Angouleme international comics festival. I did that for a few years, and then knew that I wanted to have an art related job in the future.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I am originally from France but moved to Canada in 2005. I got into the animation business in 2002 just after school thanks to a friend who had a deal with a studio to make a short animated film. He needed to build a small team and called a few friends to give him a hand on that project.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I usually get to work around 8:30 am and leave around 6 pm, with a lunch break between 12 and 1. When I don’t have meetings, I’m usually at my desk working in Photoshop, and checking with my Art Director if I’m going in the right direction. Simple as that!
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
The part I like the best is the learning part. Everyday you learn new things, technical or artistic tips, that will help you being a better artist. That’s why good communication is a very important asset as an artist, don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t know something and to help whenever you can.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Dealing with the executives or the editorial is very often a hassle. You always have to fight for your ideas and more than often you know you’re right which can be very frustrating.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
During the day I work mainly with Photoshop and a Wacom intuos tablet on a windows machine. I wish we had Cintiq tablets at work, but they didn’t understand yet that the workflow would be drastically improved with those, anyway…At home, I work on an iMac with Photoshop and Sketchbook pro, and an intuos tablet when I work digitally. However I do most of my character designs on paper or cardboard with pencils, ink, markers and gouache. It goes a lot faster for me to work that way, and nothing beats the feeling of a pencil on a sheet of paper.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Well, right now I am in the video game business, and that’s the tough part for me. I really belong to the animation industry, but unfortunately most of the studios closed their doors here in Montreal, all the government subventions now going to the game companies. It’s kind of sad. I’m actually planning on moving from Montreal as soon as I can.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
A few years ago I attended an acting Master Class given by the great Ed Hooks, it was absolutely amazing. More recently I attended 3 story Master Classes by Matthew Luhn (fantastic story artist at Pixar), and I loved it. I’ve learned a lot about story telling and it opened my eyes on a lot of things, I will never watch movies the same way from now on.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Spending a couple years away from the person you love because you’re living in different countries, and having to deal with the immigration policies to be able to see each other. I’ve just been through that, and fortunately the long immigration process finally ended a few months ago.
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
I’m currently developing characters for an animated tv show pitch, but I can’t really talk about it right now. I’m also working on a poster design for a Broadway show, but again I can’t talk about it.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Mmmm not really…
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business? Show your work ! Today it’s very easy with blogs, twitter, etc… the more you show what you can do, the more feedback and critiques you’ll receive. That way you can improve quickly and also reach out with other artists, students or in the business. Draw, draw, and draw, always carry a sketchbook with you, sketch people, animals, architecture, situations…Be yourself, don’t pretend you are the kind of artist you are not. People will believe in your art if it comes from your experience, your thoughts, your sensibility. Experiment with different styles and mediums, but at the same time, know your strengths.Last but not least, love what you do, always give the best you can give (even if some tasks can be boring) and be nice with others.