Carlos Grangel Interview
Carlos, could you tell me a little bit about yourself, about your life? Where did you go to school, and what classes did you study? What helped prepare you to become the artist you are today?
I was born in Barcelona (Spain) and went to school there as well. After graduating from High School I was on the point of going to university but, with my family behind me, I decided to have a go at the thing which excited and energized me more than anything else. I had always had artistic leanings and so I put together a small portfolio and found a position in a Studio Agency. I began by doing comic and illustration work, on a freelance basis, which continued for a number of years. I then decided to further my knowledge and did a years course in Animation Techniques, graduating in 1989. I had always felt drawn to animation and I was very keen to learn the process right through from the development phase, on to the animation phase and finishing with post-production. I took some samples of my work to Amblimation (in London) and was fortunate enough to start working there as a character designer.
Could you tell us about the history of Grangel Studio? What type of services do you do?
The Studio was established in 1985 when my brother, Jordi, and I needed a place to work on our illustrations and comics, as well as some advertising work. Jordi is an excellent, versatile artist (5 years younger than me) and he too decided to work in the artistic field, he also has a very well develop business side and knows well how to run the Studio. After my experience at Amblimation, in 1993 the Studio started to create characters and styles for animation, including commercials, shorts and feature films. Some of my colleagues from the early years and some new artists joined us. With all that input, today it is a well-know center of creativity, with a highly skilled and dedicated team of artists, amongst who feature designers, animators, sculptors and painters. Our services include classic and digital animation, models, maquettes, consumer products and merchandising, all on a small scale but promoting quality over quantity. It is a kind of Artistic Laboratory.
What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work with at Grangel Studio?
I try to work between 9 and 10 hours a day. My day starts around 9am and goes on until late, bearing in mind that the majority of our clients are international, so the time difference means we work long hours. I work in a fairly big office with other colleagues. I love the energy of creating and sharing ideas as there is always a better way of doing things and it’s great to listen to and consider what your artist friends have to say. One of these is Carles Burges, our Art Director and Graphic Logo Designer, who always has suggestions for improvements. There are also other offices at the Studio, handling different types of work. It’s always good to switch off and see other work. It really gives me a better perspective of my own work when I get back to my table.
What are some of the things that you personally have worked on?
Sorry, not many! I have specialized in the look of the characters for many years so I haven’t had much time for personal creations. I do have a few ideas and early sketches to illustrate a couple of books and I am also creating some concepts for TOYS but it will be some time before it reaches the market. I must add that I have very much enjoyed working on shorts with friends.
How do you go about designing, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?
I have no problem in sharing some insight into how I work. Firstly, I start analyzing the treatment or script and character bio (if any), taking detailed notes, and then I meet with the Director/s, paying great attention to everything they say about the characters, as it is really important to clarify the personalities and role of each character. Once what has to be designed and when it has to be designed have been determined, I try to collect some reference material and information. For example, for period or historical films such as The Prince of Egypt, The Road to El Dorado or Corpse Bride documentation is vital and for films with animals, life drawing sketches (see some prepared for Spirit) or DVDs and books with photographs will help prepare for the assignment.
I try to work a rough line-up first, designing a bunch of characters…from proportions to costume and try to get the personality of each character in its shape and form in a loose way first and then define it in color and ink. Working on a group of characters at the same time helps me to find the right balance and proportions which is great for getting the look of the characters and the right level of stylization. The Character Designer also works with the Production Designer and Art Director sharing information and artwork. It’s a very energetic creative process which I find fascinating. I try to pay equal attention to all the characters and props, to the secondary and incidental characters (who are to the designer eye as important as the main ones), as there needs to be a consistency of style.
When the general style of characters has been approved, then I explore in depth different body types and faces for each character, as I do like to offer different options and possibilities for the Director to choose from (among others please see samples of William van Dort in Corpse Bride).
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Could you talk about your process in coloring your art, as well as the types of tools or media that you use?
I am really open to trying any technique, from cut/out or collage to color pencils, anything that helps me to express myself. I normally study the story carefully before jumping into a technique, and then I might use colored cardboard that helps me to get the color patina for the general look. The process starts with pencil or brush (black, sepia or other colors). I love the feeling, the flow and the freshness of the strokes, sometimes free without any drawing first (sample of the heads of the Calvary horse on the film Spirit). For the coloring process I use a first pass of markers (Pantone, Copyc or Magic Marker) and I add colored pencils and gouache or pastels, all in a very subtle way. (See Lions for Alex on Madagascar or some colored Corpse Bride characters).
Is there a design that you have done that you are most happy with?
I have good memories of the majority of projects I have worked on. There are always positive things and great experiences from each one of them. I do not have a favorite design…I enjoyed shorts like the Periwig Maker and if I have to mention a movie, Corpse Bride perhaps is the one the Studios and myself were most involved in. We were in it from the beginning and until the very end fulfilling production needs. Furthermore, at Tim’s request we helped with the subsequent consumer products and merchandising.
What projects are your working on now? (if you can tell us)
The Studio is involved in several different projects, including a couple of commercials, helping out on one short and when it comes to Features we are working with LAIKA, DREAMWORKS and SONY. The subjects and names of the projects are confidential. In addition, a new collaboration with another studio is taking shape for next year. We truly are very fortunate.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
I admire and a lot of things to learn from many artists but at the same time I do not know them all. However, to name a few: Illustrators: Dulac, Harry Clarke, NC Wyeth, Howard Pyle, Kley, Hokusai, Searle, Steadman,; Painters: Vermeer, Fortuny, Velazquez, Ingres, Degas, Sorolla, Klimt; Sculptors: R Bugatti, Pompon, Bernini, Rodin, Canova and Animation Designers: the old and new Disney Masters, Tom Oreb, Chuck Jones and the ones I have worked with closely as colleagues and friends: Carter Goodrich, Nicolas Marlet, Tim Burton and Peter de Sève.
What are some of your favorite designs which you have seen?
I have always been a fan of films like 101 Dalmatians and Sleeping Beauty, as well as UPA cartoons, so I thank everyone who made those films possible.
What part of designing is most fun and easy, and what is most hard?
I most enjoy working on early development (Pre-production) when I feel more creative and the flow of ideas comes in a fresher way. I really like the energy of a small team of artists working together on the research for something new, appealing and interesting to suit the story, with the best possible look. To me animation is a collaborating art. On the other hand, it’s harder for me to focus on model sheets and turnarounds which require a discipline that combines more technical attention, really precise observation and commitment and even more so when 90% of the films being made nowadays are CG. I do think the interaction between the Character Design Department and the Modeling Department and Set Up is essential because it ensures the final look. The vision of the Characters on paper needs to be translated in the best possible way on the computer.
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What are some of the things you do to keep yourself creative?
Not working on weekends and having a life outside work…family and best friends are really the most important things to me.
What is your most favorite subject to draw? And why?
I can’t really think of any…I probably have a natural inclination to enjoy designing anything stylistic and graphic rather than realistic.
What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?
Really impossible to list…so many…everyday is a learning curve when you interact with artists. The most interesting thing is to learn different ways of doing things and to learn to use new tools and techniques to help you better explore your creations. There really are not many secrets: hard work, observation and experimentation.
What are some of your favorite websites that you go to?
I am sure there are many interesting websites but I can’t recommend any as I don’t often visit websites.
What wisdom could you give us, about being an artist? Do you have any tips you could give?
Firstly, be creative, secondly, open yourself to share and thirdly, be ready to start from scratch as many times as your artwork requires.
If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?
E-mail works best as I travel a lot and the internet helps me to keep in touch.
Finally, do you have any of your art work for sale (Art Book, Prints) for people that like your work can know where and when to buy it?
No, I am sorry…the majority of films I have worked on haven’t got a “making of” book and, furthermore, the studios have the original artwork produced for their movies. I do have a writer friend who is interested in an Art Book of Grangel Studio, so that could be a possibility for the future.
I'm sure I am speaking for all of us fans when I say we would love to see an Art Book of Grangel Studio in the future. Thank you so much Carlos, I appreciate all the great information and the beautiful designs you shared with all of us.