What is your name and your current occupation?
Fred Gambino, currently freelance illustrator and concept artist but about to start as art director for Xing Xing digital.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation/illustration?
I’ve worked as an illustrator all my working life, straight from college but I had a brief stint as a grocery delivery driver while I was establishing myself.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
It’s hard to choose a favourite after so many years doing so much stuff. I will always have a soft spot for the Ant Bully as it was the first big animation production that I worked on. Firebreather at Cartoon Network was fun also.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m based in the UK in Derbyshire but have moved around the world to work on various projects from Dallas to LA to Vancouver. I spent many years working traditionally in oils and acrylics as an illustrator, mainly of book covers but also some advertising. Some time in the mid nineties the computer was brought to my attention, in particular, what were then state of the art images produced in Bryce, a new landscape generator. Convinced I had already missed the boat I cashed in an endowment mortgage to raise the money to invest in a computer set up. As it turned out I was ahead of the pack, not behind and was really one of the first in my field to produce images digitally. I was considered a kind of digital pioneer. This led to my inclusion in a book called Masters of Fantasy Art by Dick Jude, published by Harper Collins, which charted the new direction illustration was taking from traditional to digital. As one of the digital pioneers I was asked to contribute to the digital section. This book came to the attention of John Davis, the director and writer of Jimmy neutron who was looking for illustrators to concept design the Jimmy Neutron movie. Something about my work resonated with him and I received an e mail out of the blue one afternoon asking me if I was interested in working with him on the film. That was my first step into the world of animation and concept design.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
It depends on whether I’m at home or working on site and no two days are the same. At home I get up fairly early, I’m usually at work by nine although sometimes I take an early bike ride. No matter how busy I get I always take time to cycle or exercise. I try to stay as fit as possible as I find this helps me mentally enormously and I often sort out tricky design problems on the bike. The whole Dark Shepherd project started with an idea on a long bike ride. If I’m starting out on a job I may be searching the net for reference or inspiration. I usually produce a rough for client approval and then source my real reference. This might include getting a model in to photograph or building something in a 3D programme like Modo, which is my 3D app of choice. Then I put it all together in Photoshop. If I’m working on site it’s very much the same actually except my timetable is dictated by the company.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I like the early stages, thinking up the ideas when it’s possible to work freely and then the end, when I’m putting in the finishing touches. The bit in between is absorbing by can be slow although that has changed enormously since I started to work digitally. Working digitally gives an artist enormous freedom to change things but that also has a downside as the changes can be infinite.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
I can’t say that there is much I don’t enjoy. I consider my self very lucky to have been able to make a good living out of something that would be a hobby otherwise. That said, of course there are some days when things don’t go well and that can be frustrating.
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 a 2008 Mac pro using mainly Photoshop and Modo for 3D. I’ve been waiting for Apple to produce a new desktop machine but I’m not sure about the new Mac pro’s. At any rate, because of the way I work, the 2008 machine does almost everything I want in real time so I don’t feel any pressing need to upgrade at the moment.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
When things slow down, wondering what’s coming next. Although I enjoy the travelling and working in a studio environment being away from home for long periods can sometimes be difficult.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
Dark Shepherd the book and story has become a big part of my life and I would hope to continue developing that as well as producing more images for it.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Does cycling count as an unusual hobby. Otherwise afraid not. I’m a keen movie goer, especially to our small local cinema which screen everything from summer blockbusters to small low budget films that often I have never heard of and never hear of again but which count as some of the best films I see.
Is there any advice you can give for an artist trying to break into the business?
Get your best work together, keep submitting it and be ready to accept and take on board criticism as long as it’s helpful.