What is your name and your current occupation?
Brent Noll- I am Director of Illustration and Animation At How It Works Media, And Free Lance Illustrator. I Also draw caricature at theme parks and the occasionally I attend class.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
One of My first Jobs was at a golf course in a rich upscale community of conservative elites in the Texas Hill country. I was the miserable peon assigned to picking up golf balls on the driving range while over privileged 7 year olds attempted to drive golf balls 150 yards in my general direction. I got hit on several occasions. I drove an armor plated golf cart with a tendency to get tangled up on itself. I also would venture out of my mobile chicken wire fortress and wear some kind of golf ball extracting contraptions on my arms and stomp around the woods retrieving lost balls. I’d stand precariously close the golfers knee deep in some freezing mucky streams and attempt to meet that days quota of lost balls. Also I had to wash said golf balls. I still have an image in my mind of the grounds keeper repeating over and over again in a toothless southern accent that it was “Very imPOR-Tint ta wersh ur balls son”
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
One of My clients at work is StarMap. The original creator of the technology that allows you to hold up your Iphone to the sky and have it interpolate constellations. He really likes classic cartoons and my work. I spend a lot of time making sure that his character designs really pay homage to classic Hana Barbara Characters and the golden age of animation. at first I didn’t think it would be interesting to draw that stuff. But it really opened my eyes to simple designs and fun cartoony shapes.
Also One time I did a bus wrap design for a Hospital in Austin. They let my draw cartoon Jet engines and big Chevy fenders on the side. I think the bus goes around inner city schools and gives free rabies shots to underprivileged kids or something.
How did you become interested in animation?
When I was 18. I knew I liked to watch cartoons and preferred them over real shows. And I could draw really well compared to people at my school. I drew the comics on the school newspaper but I didn’t have any sort of direction. one day I went to visit my mom at the boutique store she was working at. I saw one of the those “how to draw Disney princesses” books and gave it a look through. I was thinking. This isn’t really for kids. No kid could possibly comprehend the kinds of shapes and structure and anatomy that go into animating one of these characters. I studied to the book for hours and drew all the circles and shapes that made up Ariel. I couldn’t get it out of my head. I hadn’t watched an actual Disney animation in years so I downloaded beauty and the beast. I was overwhelmed by the art immediately. Right from the opening credits with the multiplane camera effect on the landscape. The way the characters moved to the music. the way their faces contorted to display emotion and the colors pallets. I watched all the pencil tests and interviews with James Baxter. I wanted so bad to be able to draw like how an animator draws.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I Am from San Antonio Texas, in 2007 I was Fine art Major At UTSA because I couldn’t do math and drawing was the only thing I was really good at. I drew the comics on the newspaper. One day some people from Sea World came to the school in need of Caricature artists. I thought it would be easy. so I applied for the job. It was a life changing experience. I had never been around people who could actually draw. And I was terrible at it, Which was really humbling. I learned so much during those summers drawing hilarious pictures of theme park customers. At some point I switched universities and needed a new job. I saw an ad on craigslist for a cartoonist. They wanted someone who could sketch characters. design story boards and use the adobe suite. It turned out to be a web design company looking to move into the field of Explanation videos. traditionally they are the kind of videos that graphic designers hack together out of traced vector illustration and stiff motion graphics. It was the perfect opportunity for a new artist. with a lot of hard work and dedication I really helped the company take off. I like to think my art direction is a big factor of why How it Works is so Successful The job is amazing. I have almost complete artistic freedom. I hired a staff of super talented animators out of California to assist me. every day we hang out online collaborate on animations. It’s so awesome being around such talented people.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
It varies because I can work from home. or go into the office I need to collaborate with my boss. But on days that I go to work. It usually starts with me waking up at the crack if 10:30. And rolling into a pile of dirty clothes. At which point I find the cleanest pair of jeans and hop in my car to Austin. I grab an overpriced coffee from the hipster hive coffee shop attached to my office, and review scripts from my boss. after discussing the clients product. I sketch a simple story board It usually only takes a couple hours. Then for lunch I go to the food truck trailer park next to our office complex and get a thing called a “Gordita Plate” It’s some kind of greasy cheesy fajita meat stuffed into a compact tortilla covered in sour cream. I spend the rest of the afternoon drawing character concepts in Illustrator and creating a mood board for the client to see. I usually flip through fashion blogs or magazines to help me pick a type of person that will be represented in the video. Then I sit in traffic for an hour work on persona projects when I get home. If all of my concept art gets approved I spend the next week or so drawing all the backgrounds key poses and props that will be used in the video. then ship it off to our animator in California who tween it all around in after effects.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
It’s got to be the Gortdita Plates. Just kidding. I really like researching and developing new characters and backgrounds for a new client. I study their product and branding and try to represent that in a fun cartoon way that both reflects my current animation interests as well as their company.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
I really hate having to separate layers of art work in to animatable assets. and label each one. I try to keep it interesting by coming up with funny names for the layers. so that me and the animator can laugh about it later.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I do all of my sketches on a Wacom intuos 4 Large in Photoshop cs5. Then for work related projects I rendered the characters in Adobe Illustrator as Vector images. For personal stuff I like the hand drawn lines so I just paint and draw in Photoshop.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Currently my hardest challenge is attempting to complete my BFA at Texas state while maintaining a consistent work schedule, meet deadlines as well as free lance. work. School can be overwhelming and I don’t really fit in with all the art school type kids. It’s a fine art program so its full of pretentiously lazy hipster types who only like vague nonsense. I don’t think the cartoons I make at school are appreciated. This semester I just finished my thesis work. Which was 8 months of self directed projects. I choose to do an animation. and I spent between 3-6 hours a day painting all the characters. backgrounds and key poses in Photoshop. as well as going to awful critiques each week where you have to discuss crazy art school nonsense like how a pile of moss on a canvas relates to contemporary issues in field of drawing. I spend most of my time cornered in a sketch book drawing caricatures of people in the class. It’s the only way to cope with the stress of knowing that all of my friends are at real design universities studying animation and illustration while I am basically stuck in a never ending cesspool of state university conceptual bullshit that is essentially a caricature of the movie ghost world.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Well I am an avid follower of John K and related cartoon theories. He once posted some inks that I did on his blog. Also I am really good friends with Marlo Meekins who has sort of been a personal mentor to me. She’s given me all kinds of amazing insight into the animation industry. I really feel a lot closer to the animation scene and stuff when I talk to her. there isn’t much in terms of an animation community in South Texas.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
The toughest situation would have been when I was just starting out at my job. It was all spec work and various graphic design gigs that didn’t always pay. for about a year I could barley maintain over a $100 in my bank account. on top of that my boss at the time would give me ridiculous jobs that he would wanted turned around over night. And then wouldn’t receive payment for.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I’m working on an animation for my thesis show. It’s about two kids who find a dead guy in the forest. And attempt to use his body like a puppet in order to buy booze and porn. I just finished a rough cut of it last night. It’s been 8 months in the making.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I can stick my finger REALLY far u\p my left Nostril. Like really far. Doctors don’t like it.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
You should start doing professional work as soon as your able. take every opportunity to draw something if there is okay money. You never know what will turn into something big.