What is your name and your current occupation?
Jez Tuya is my name, and I am a freelance illustrator.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I had a brief stint of working part time as a shop floor assistant in a retail store (in charge of the toy and kitchenware department) while still in art school. I have so many horror stories from my experience, and I decided to quit after two months of working there, and promised myself to never work in retail ever again.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Pretty much most of the work that I’ve done is for publishing, and one of my favourite projects is illustrating a picture book based on one of Roald Dahl’s poems called “Television.”
How did you become interested in animation?
I actually wanted to be an air force pilot after I graduated from high school. I had an obsession (and in some ways I still do) with airplanes, but with the grades that I had in high school, and because of my apparent allergy to maths and physics, I came to the conclusion maybe flying planes was not for me. But I’ve always had a fascination for art and animation since I was a kid. I didn’t grow up with video games or cable television when I was wee lad, and drawing was something I did for fun. (That, and making airplanes out of Legos). I remember my parents would always bring home boxes of scrap paper for me to draw on, and it would feel like Christmas whenever they do, and I think they may have unintentionally encouraged me to enjoy making art because of that. I also watched LOTS of cartoons, and whenever I visit my grandparents’ house, I’d rot my brains watching Cartoon Network all day. That’s probably why I’m still quite fond of the “good stuff”- classics like Tex Avery, Looney Tunes, Popeye, Hannah Barbera, etc. “Rabbit of Seville” and “What’s Opera, Doc” will remain as my most favourite cartoons from childhood. After finishing high school, I decided to pursue art as a career, so I went on to art school, and after graduating 4 years later, jumped into the deep end by becoming a freelance illustrator.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I was born in the Philippines, but I’ve been living in Wellington, New Zealand for more than 16 years now. I’m not quite in the animation business yet, but Lord willing, I’d love to be a character designer for feature film some day.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Since I work at home in my studio (nee spare room that has my computer and drawing table), what I usually do after I get up is I’d have breakfast, go for a long walk to clear my mind (depends on the weather), and before I start working, I’d spend 30mins-1hr loosening up by doing gesture drawings. Depending on the workload and deadlines that I have, I tend to do my freelance work from 9.30am, and stop at 6pm. I make sure that I have time for myself in the evenings to do my own projects, or to relax and be with friends, because I find that living like a hermit never a good thing.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
The best part of my job, hands down, is designing characters. That’s what I really love doing the most.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Being a freelancer can be a bit lonely, especially when I’m doing a big project that has really tight deadlines, which would sometimes force me to live a hermit lifestyle, which I really hate. That’s one of the reasons why I really would love to work in a studio environment some day.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I mainly use Photoshop, and I use a wacom Intuos4 tablet to render. Other than that, I like drawing on printer paper, with 2B/3B Staedtler lumograph pencils or Col-Erase pencils.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
I think the most difficult part of freelancing is probably getting/waiting for the next job, especially when you’re based in a country where the industry is very, very small and limited, and it’s very hard to predict when the next job will come. I feel very blessed to be a part of an illustration agency, because that relieves me of those limitations.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Most definitely, when I came to Los Angeles for the first time last year.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
It’s a situation that I still find myself in, and it’s the lack of an (local) artistic community to belong to. After graduating from art school, I had a small (but tight) circle of friends that I’d hang out with occasionally, and meet once or twice a week to go out and draw somewhere. But over time, they moved on to find work overseas, or in some cases have decided to change careers after deciding a career in illustration wasn’t for them, which is sad, but it has helped me appreciate the little things in life, especially the friends I have that are still around.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
Nothing spectacular at the moment, but I’m always thinking of new ideas for children’s books, cartoon or something like that. I currently have an idea for a book/film set in WW2, about an unlikely crew of Royal Air Force pilots (and their pet seal) in the cold, northern reaches of Britain, rescuing people in the sea with their clunky obsolete seaplane. I’m currently in the early stages of designing characters for it, and it’ll be an ongoing project that I’ll be doing alongside freelance work.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I find gardening and mowing the lawn quite relaxing. (Did I say that out loud?)
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Do great work, and be great to work with. My buddy Chris Oatley gave this advice, and it stuck with me when I first heard it. Like I said before, I’m not quite in the industry to give advice about breaking in, but I think that as well as showing that you could produce good work, prove that you’re a good person to work with, and when you reach your goal to be a character designer for a big studio, or whatever your ambition is, be humble about it. If there’s one thing the world could use lot less of, it’s arrogance.