Ep.143: Awesome tips for creating stories and characters with Armand Baltazar (Timeless book series)

By Iva Mikles •  Updated: May 14, 2018 •  Interviews

Hey, guys! In this episode, I am chatting with Armand Baltazar, a background & visdev artist, and art director. He worked with big studios such as Dreamworks, Walt Disney, and Pixar. He is also the creator of a fantasy book series called Timeless!

Get it FREE with Audible at https://artsideoflife.com/timeless

Get in touch with Armand

Key Takeaways

“Fail to achieve! Be willing to be completely fearless in your passions and be willing to accept that you will fail sometimes, but if it’s in your heart to move forward, every failure brings you that much closer to your success!”

Resources mentioned

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Special thanks to Armand for joining me today. See you next time!

All artworks by Armand Baltazar, used with permission

Episode Transcript

Announcer  

Creative, artistic, happy! That’s you. There are endless possibilities for living a creative life. So let’s inspire each other. Art Side of Life interviews with Iva.

Iva Mikles  

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the next episode of Art Side of Life where I chat with inspiring artists and create variety of art related videos. My name is Iva, and my guest today is Armand Baltazar and in this episode, you will learn valuable tips for creating stories, building worlds, and why it’s important to learn to present and communicate your ideas.

Armand Baltazar  

You have to present what I think is oftentimes forgotten by people who want to be like concept artists and on anatomy, the team is that you know, your big job is to communicate your designs are communicating these ideas, these concepts, right. And so the person that you need to be able to communicate to your director, and the thing is, is you’re establishing a dialog, you’re trying to draw out the things that they like. So it becomes this thing where beyond besides drawing, you have to be able to present your work. And then while you’re presenting it, be able to ask questions. And so what it is, is you’re sort of communicating

Iva Mikles  

Armand has the background and visual development artist and art director originally from Chicago, now living and working in California. He is most known for his great patient for narrative painting and pictures that tell story with feeling and design. Arman has worked with big studios such as DreamWorks, well, these new feature animation and Pixar and these credits include The Prince of Egypt, the role to Eldorado spirits stallion of the Cimarron, Sinbad, shark, Dale, and many more. He’s also a creator of a new science fiction fantasy book series called Timeless, which will be edited to a feature film in the future as well. And if you are no than all the will member, you can get it as a free audiobook. You can check it out on artsideoflife.com/timeless. And now let’s welcome Armand Baltazar and let’s get to the interview. Welcome everyone to the next episode of Art Side of Life, and I’m super happy to have Arman here.

Armand Baltazar  

Hi. Hi, how are you?

Iva Mikles  

I’m good, good. I’m super happy that you join us and took time from your busy schedule and rich. Let’s just dive in right away through your background. And maybe let’s start with the fan question. Like how your childhood smelled like

Armand Baltazar  

how my childhood smelled like yeah, okay. It’s, you know, it’s smelled a lot like dried fish. If I had to pick a smell, you know, so I, I, I’m Filipino. I’m Filipino American, and my parents are immigrants to the United States from the Philippines. So my earliest memories of childhood was my mom cooking smoked fish or frying fish in the kitchen. Because that was very popular Filipino foods. And it was different from the other kids in the neighborhood growing up. So if I had to pick one smell to remind me of my childhood, it would probably be that Oh, that’s really cool.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah. creative outlets as a child, did you throw on walls or something like that?

Armand Baltazar  

I did. I mean, I drew on everything, you know. And the thing is, is when, when I was a kid, I was really, unlike now it was a really super shy, painfully shy kid. And, you know, one of the weirdly funnest things I would do is go and hang out with my mom in the office, her office used to have an office job as a secretary. And I’d play with the Xerox machine. And what I mean by that, it’s like, I would draw character. And then I would draw, like the character again, in a couple of different poses, and I put it in the Xerox machine, a copy machine, basically, copying 100 times, and then make little armies and, you know, and little groups of superheroes and stuff. And that that was that was one of my fondest, like, memories as a kid. And then also drawing on stuff I shouldn’t and getting a lot of trouble. I actually one time, painted a picture on my dad’s car, thinking I was using like temporary paint that would wash off and wasn’t here. It wasn’t it was permanent paint and I got a lot of trouble. Customer art, you know? Yeah, exactly. Yeah, get a custom painted car, right.

Iva Mikles  

And when was the time you decided, okay, I want to take this as a career or seriously.

Armand Baltazar  

You know, when I was a kid, all I love to do was draw and paint and what probably around the time when I was around you Junior High School read before I went to high school, that, you know, my parents were really great because they sort of recognized my passion for our work. And they encouraged it, you know? And they said, you know, you should keep doing this because you’re really good and you love it. And I started thinking, you know, what, that encouragement, I was like, you know, yeah, I want to do this, you know, and, and I remember, when I was a kid, all things visual stimulated me. Like I used to read children’s books. And I remember my first, the first couple of children’s books that made me want to draw one of them was Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. And then another one was the original Ferdinand the ball. You know, the pen and ink drawings, you know, we’re like, oh, my gosh, they were so beautiful. And so I knew from an early age, that was the thing I loved. And so I would say probably, you know, in elementary school, going into high school, I realized that this is the thing that I want to do one way or another. I didn’t know how it was going to turn out. But I wanted to do that.

Iva Mikles  

And who advised you maybe to do like, either, like go into animation? Or how did you choose the field in artistic career?

Armand Baltazar  

Well, mostly, I stumbled into my career, you know, in looking back up. So when I went to high school, I studied art. And I was I grew up in a city called Chicago. And in Chicago, that kind of art that was very popular, the job in his advertising, commercial advertising. So my teacher in high school goes, Look, if you want to work in the city, you have to go study advertising, because those are the only kinds of jobs there are. And so I thought, okay, so I did that. And I studied advertising. And I found out that after I studied it, that I really didn’t like it. You know, it did nothing wrong with advertising. But it wasn’t, it wasn’t what wasn’t what inspired me when I was a kid, I wanted to tell stories, you know, I wanted to be, I wanted to be like NC Wyeth, you know, making paintings about pirates, you know, I wanted to be, I wanted to be Frank Frazetta, you know, you know, telling these sort of adventure stories and stuff. But instead, I was drawing and painting, hotdogs, and hamburgers, and bottles of beer. And it wasn’t the kind of art I want, you know. And so I went back to school, again, after learning advertising to be a book illustrator. So I went to school in California at a place called Art Center, College of Design. And I studied to be a book illustrator. And I thought, Yes, this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to illustrate books, this is gonna be great. This is what I’ve always wanted. And that’s what I’m going to do. And then, while I was in school, I ended up showing my work to and what a production designer and art director from Dreamworks Animation. And the thing is, is that I hadn’t planned on working in animation, I had shown my artwork to these people, because I was, at first I wanted to just get feedback. And they looked at my they looked at my paintings in my work, and they’re like, you know, you do you do storytelling, illustration. And in, it’ll be any paint really wonderfully. How would you like to tell stories with, with your paintings for us as a background painter? And so, weirdly enough, I’d never considered animation. Because when I was a little kid living in Chicago, animated films were made by Walt Disney in some magical place far away. Yeah, and the people that did it, were magical people from far away. So I never I never put two and two together. There was when I was a kid, there was no Internet, there was no access to any of that kind of information. I didn’t even know that was a real, you could do that as a job. And so my eyes open. They’re like, Oh my gosh, yeah. That’s, that’s what I’m gonna do. And so I sort of stumbled from being a kid of wanting to make cool pictures for storytelling to somebody who painted hamburgers and bottles of beer, then becoming a background painter and animation. Oh, really cool. And

Iva Mikles  

so how did you actually meet these people? When you ask like, Oh, can I get the feedback? Was it the inside like sketch club or, you know, like,

Armand Baltazar  

sometimes it’s it’s a pretty, it’s a, it’s a funny story. Talented and probably sub probably some of the people in the audience might have heard me talk about this before, but it was a very bizarre story. So when I was in school, I was about halfway through school, like said there was no Internet, there was no way of really contacting professionals in the world, short of just picking up a phone and calling them directly or knocking on your door showing up at you know, at their office where they work. So I knew that at my school, every time there was a graduation, professional art directors, creative directors and production designers would come and look at the senior school artwork. And so I was halfway through school, so it was not a graduate. I had no right to put my show my artwork, but what the seniors would do is they had this big long hallway in the school, and they would put their artwork up on the walls. And then the people from all these different companies would come and look at their portfolios. And if they liked them, they’d get the card and get an interview. So I wasn’t trying to take anyone’s job or vote or anything like that. But I had the idea in my mind, boy, it would be great to get the feedback of what these people think about my work. So I have more years of school left, I can improve so that when I graduate, I’ll be ready to go. And so what I decided to do is I knew that the artwork was gonna be hung that haul, me and my girlfriend, who’s my wife now, but my girlfriend at the time, we broken the school at about two in the morning. I took all my artwork, I went down the hallway, all the other students had had their artwork up from the day before. And well, let me back up, I didn’t break into the school, the school, it’s open, right, but no. And so I went in there, because people I was working on their artwork, you know, all hours in the night. So I didn’t I didn’t break a window or anything like that. I just went into the school when no one was around. And then I thought to myself, Well look, when these professional people come to the school, they’re going to be given drinks, coffee, wine, whatever to, you know, walk around, look at the artwork. And if you’ve ever been to one of these things, they always talk about the artwork, you walked up and down the halls, it goes, that’s a really nice piece. So it’s too bad. They didn’t do this, or Oh, I love that. I love the way they’ve used the light. I love the way the composition, they actually would say out loud, what they think their feedback, you know, they’re talking to each other, right? And so I’m like, all I need to do is get my artwork up on the walls, and stand around and listen to them. And I’ll find out what they think and how I can improve. So what I did was this, I knew that all all those people would be drinking their drinks, what looking around the artwork, at some point, they’re going to have to go to the bathroom. So what I did was I walked to the end of the hall to where the men and women’s washroom was. And I put my artwork neatly around the doors to the men and women’s bathroom. And I dressed up in a white shirt and pair of dark slacks like I was one of the people who was a waiter or giving out drinks, you know what was working the occasion and my girlfriend came with me and we stood near the washroom to sit next to the washroom didn’t listen to hear what people would say about my artwork. And so what ended up happening I actually wasn’t when the when the moment of opportunity happened. I was not standing there. I was standing someplace else talking to somebody. But my girlfriend at the time was standing there and an art director from Dreamworks saw my stuff is like, oh my gosh, who is this? Interested owes me? You know, it’s always my boyfriend’s work. And basically, she, you know, said, Would you like to ask your boyfriend to pass my card? You know, and I got the information and we sort of connected and I got invited to go to DreamWorks for an interview.

Iva Mikles  

Did you do like an internship or did you start is by the way is the

Armand Baltazar  

one I went I went to, you know, when I talked to them, when I talked to the to the lady on the phone. She was just like, you know, take I explained to her what happened. You know what I did? And you notice I wouldn’t be all truthful. And she was okay. She was laughing. She was why I really really like your artwork. And I’d like some people here to see it. So pull it off the wall, put it in the portfolio and come in. And so I went down and I drove down to DreamWorks. And I showed my portfolio and DreamWorks in this at this time. We hadn’t made a movie yet. They hadn’t made Prince of Egypt. So it was being hired. And I eventually got hired to run the prince of Egypt. So I sat in a conference room, there was no furniture because the company was brand new on the floor. And you know, the production designer, the art directors, they were all there. You know? I’ve never like looked at my stuff. And they were like this is this is DreamWorks. This is going to be Steven Spielberg. Jeffrey Katzenberg and Dan Geffen’s company will make an animated film called Prince of Egypt, you know, and then as I was sitting there, and Steven Spielberg, like walked across the room, and he’s like, it’s his company. And I’m like, Oh, man. And he goes, and we’re looking for background painters, and how would you like to be a background painter? And so I told him, I was still in school. And I said, Well, that’s no problem. How about this? How about you work for us part time? So I started DreamWorks while I was in school. I worked part time, like two days a week until my graduation and the week after graduation. I came in I started the full time.

Iva Mikles  

How was your experience there? And like learning maybe from others, or maybe some stories from the time?

Armand Baltazar  

Oh my gosh, it was it was brilliant. It was it was probably the best experience professional artistic experiences I’ve had in my life. And the thing is, is that people often ask me, What is my favorite? What’s the favorite movie ever worked on and that’s really tough to answer. But if I have to really really break it down to the most absolute best experience and invest movie and probably Prince of Egypt because This is where not only my career started, but I met and worked with all these phenomenal people and learn so much. It was a, it was a thing that changed my life completely. And it was it was amazing. Like, I worked with this guy who was directly above me named Paul Hossain. And he was a matte painter who worked in animation, he worked in live action, he ended up being an art director and Lord of the Rings. You know, he also, I mean, he was a production designer on Surf’s Up. And on the Boxtrolls, you know, so he had this long list of skills. And then I worked with all these amazing European designers who came from Amblin animation, you know, all these sort of French animators and designers and German production designers and art directors. And it was, it was such a huge learning experience, not only from the art, but of the culture. So I was this kid in Chicago, never been anywhere around the world. And suddenly, I’m surrounded by the best artists from the US, the best artists from France and Italy, in Germany and Spain, all pulled together to work on a film, right. And the thing is, I started as a trainee, so it was kind of like, alright, this week, you’re gonna go learn with this person. You know, it was like being in school. Yeah. But I’m getting paid.

Iva Mikles  

Getting paid to learn it. Awesome. Yeah. You know, and

Armand Baltazar  

so what was great about Grimm works was I started as a background painter. But eventually, I sort of moved through the different departments and worked with a lot of different people who, who taught me all these amazing skills.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, wow. Yeah. And what was maybe the best thing you learn if you can print out something like, like, a ha moment, you know, to make your artworks better.

Armand Baltazar  

I have to really it was, you know, I, I worked with, okay, I worked with three phenomenal people in terms of my education in, in color in painting, you know, work with this gentleman, art director. In Florida, she was background supervisor named Ron Lucas. And he was phenomenal in that he was trained by Sergei Bogart, the Russian impressionist, so I got to learn Russian Impressionists theory color theory from him. And then I worked with a guy named Sam Mishlove, who was a phenomenal layout artist at Disney, he came to DreamWorks. And he had such a fantastic sort of background in composition and in drawing, and layout that was super invaluable. And I worked with his Chinese artists and Xiaoping way who was trading in the Chinese Academy. And he had an approach to color and painting that was so different than anything I’ve experienced. And so the three of those guys had a huge, huge impact on forming my, my color sort of vocabulary. And then it was plus by people like Paul Zane, who worked on Lord rings stuff. And then the other, I’m sorry, I gave you a bunch of aha moments. But that was color. That was my color, aha moment. And then my other moment was working with this phenomenal Spanish artist named Marcos Mattel. And he has a book out called framed. Framed ink is really wonderful. So he was one of my mentors, and my boss on learning how to light for for, for films for animated films, and those guys that was at color and light. So my aha was color and light between some of the most gifted artists that a person could have in their early career. Wow,

Iva Mikles  

yeah, that’s really cool. Yeah, and you also do together maybe, like during the breaks, or didn’t get a chance to kind of like, give each other feedback? Well, we

Armand Baltazar  

would, you know, the thing is, is that we would, we would paint on the weekends, we’d paint after work. So we would paint and draw, sometimes we do trips together to go, you know, landscape painting, or we would hire model and paint models, you know, and then, and then, you know, a few of us had our own little personal projects that we would sort of create illustrations for and then bounce back and forth off of each other for feedback. And that was, that was really cool. And it was kind of like, it was kind of like we were getting, we were professional, we’ve got to be professional students, you know, in a sense, we do our job, but then it was like, okay, you know, we got worked on now. Now classroom time begins.

Iva Mikles  

We do work where we are kind of like time restrictions when you’re creating artworks during the time like did you get like, I don’t know, a week to create this or was it like, different than it is now in the animation studios?

Armand Baltazar  

Oh, you mean like an actual working in animation? Yeah, it was it was different. You know, the thing is, it was that like, in you know, in answering that question, it almost means looking at the different stages of where animation was that. So when I started on Prince of Egypt, for example, it was all traditional 2d animation, right? So everything was hand drawn in terms of the animation, everything was hand drawn in terms of the lab, everything was hand painted in terms of the painting, right. And so a lot of times your painting physically changed, depending on the requirements of animation. So, for example, if you have a long pan shot, you know, a shot that’s moving across the screen, and you have got, like, It’s Prince of Egypt, you know, three or 400 animated characters, you know, going through, including like maybe 10, or 12. In the foreground? Yes, it’s a big shot, right. And so sometimes, what would end up being happening is that the general rule of thumb was, your background paintings had to be as big as the animators could make their animation to be overlaid on top and then photographed, right, so some of these paintings would be 1012 feet across, you know, I mean, they would be enormous, right. So it wasn’t like your computer screen where you zoom in, and you paint something, you know, it was, it was they were huge. And then on top of it, they were, they were layered in sheets of acetate, because it’s traditional 2d animation, use multiplane, sort of like the camera that’s shooting downwards, and you’re taking these different levels, and you’re moving them slightly at different speeds to create the illusion of depth and movement, right. So you’d paint a background painting, then you put a layer and then paint the next, you know, thing in top, then you pay on top. So I remember doing a painting that was I think it was probably eight feet now, maybe six, six to eight feet across and had 16 levels on it. Right. And so one painting a month, four weeks of working like morning till night, morning till night, you know, kind of thing on that, you know, and then other paintings where you had like a couple of days, because it was just a small sample shot. So it always changed. And then one of the things speaking about the difference of things, is this a Amour just talking about production backgrounds, when you’re in 2d animation, if suddenly, the director is like, Oh, this is great, this happens, you know, your paintings, and the scene is all in the morning, we change our mind. Now, this is happening at 11 o’clock at night. So you’d have a sequence where you might have painted 2030 4050 paintings for the scene, you know, if it was a really big, long, complicated scene, and then you have a change of time of day, you have to go back in and repaint all those paintings, and there’s no Photoshop, you know, so it was, it was very labor intensive. I mean, it was great, though, but, you know, I’d go to work and it’d be, you know, my, my wife, and I had a set of clothes that were for going to work. And then for life, because there was always paint on my clothes, you know, paint, like I was in school. So when I graduated and started working, like, Oh, we’re gonna finally have some clean clothes. No, it was also covered in pink, you know, now, you fast forward to where things are today. And the computer is a blessing and a curse, you know, part of it is that, it allows you to have an extraordinary amount of output, like the amount of work you can do, and the amount of time you can do is really, really amazing. And the problem is, though, is that because it allows you to do that, it also encourages you to do that, you know, sort of thing. So, you know, like, if I know a physical painting will take, you know, have like a week or two weeks to do. It’s kind of like, I can do the same thing in matter of like a day or two. You know, and because you can do one or two in a day, depending on level of complexity, you might be then asked in a studio situation, like, oh, well, since you’re working this fast, why don’t you give us like eight or nine paintings a week, you know, whoa, you know, kind of thing just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should, you know, so, you know, I’m answering more than what you asked for, but it’s it’s, it’s it’s both good and bad, you know, kind of thing. And sometimes it’s a lot of work. And sometimes it’s a little

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, and have you also ever sometimes just like cooperated on the on the artwork, you know, like if you work like do background painters on one painting, or like, oh, yeah, like different things like moving around and stuff? Oh, well,

Armand Baltazar  

yeah, I mean, the thing is, is in background painting, in 2d animation, you almost always had to do that, especially when they were big, they were complicated, like some of the big shots on Prince of Egypt would sometimes have three or four painters on them, because it would just be too big and complex. I mean, in the time that you needed to have it done, you know, sort of thing. So, you know, and in CG animation, it’s a little bit different because the the artists in the art department are not making the artwork that’s actually going to physically be on screen, they’re making the artwork that then will be interpreted by a whole crew of other artists, you know, technical and computer artists, who will then build all the things and then put it together. And that’s what we see on screen, you know, sort of thing. So it’s a little bit different, you know, there but like for example, if you created a bit like I’ll create a street scene in like inside out, right They might just be all my design one artist, but then when it actually gets made and put on screen, it might be 10 people who are making it, you know, kind of thing.

Iva Mikles  

So you get a chance to look at it again, like, oh, the light is not really exactly how I designed it at the beginning of the concept, or when you pass it through down the pipeline, then it doesn’t come back for you see?

Armand Baltazar  

Well, really sort of, it sort of really depends. So New York, just a, like an art department artists, you know, creating the creating the designs, and you might be creating the lighting, you know, and the color and all that sort of thing. But really, what happens is, it’s the job of the art director, to sort of be the in between, so he looks at the art director will look at all the artwork being generated by the art department, you know, working with the production designer, they’ll put in from the director, the director is like, this is exactly what I want, then they take that artwork and send it over to modeling, you know, and surfacing and lighting, right. And so rather than having the 10 people that work in your department, going back and forth to the other department that check on them, they just send like one or two people, usually the art director or production designer, and they go in and look at it and they go, why doesn’t this look like what we created, you know, that sort of thing, but, and then I’ll try and get that, you know, to look like where it is. And then the artists will be invited into a thing called dailies. And the dailies will be a way of looking at what the other departments have created from what you did. And then you can sort of submit notes or thoughts, you know, to, like, oh, you know, what, we did this this way, and, you know, might work better if we follow it, you know, it’s one of those very delicate sort of games, where you have a lot of people who are working on something, and and so it’s kind of like, it’s a collaborative art form, you know, so there’s a lot of like, Oh, I see, it’s different than what we designed, you know, and kind of thing, and then you’ll, you know, it’s one of those cases where you then go to the director and go, do you like it that way? You know, and they go, Oh, no, actually, I want it to look more like what the art came out with the original artwork form that goes back, or if the director says, you know, what, they’ll see it looks cooler this way, then, you know, like, Okay, you’re the boss, you know? So it’s a little bit of that, but that’s sort of how the pipeline works.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah. And did you get the chance also to present your artworks? Or was it as well, just to pass it on the different departments when you create something or bright notes, like, this is what I wanted to communicate?

Armand Baltazar  

Right now, it’s, you have to present. I mean, and that’s an important skill, too, you know, the thing is, is that what I think is oftentimes forgotten by people who want to be like concept artists, or artists in anatomy, the team is that, you know, your big job is to communicate your designs are communicating these ideas, these concepts, right. And so the person that you need to be able to communicate to are the head designer, you know, the production designer, but more importantly, to your director, and, you know, and so the thing is, a director is like, I want to design for a castle, you know, you’re just not gonna go back to your room and go, Well, here’s my castle, here it is, here’s what you get, right now. No, it’s not, it’s not so much like that, you know, it’s gonna be a bit of the first round of like, well, here different ideas for the castle, and then you’re putting in from the director. And the thing is, is you’re establishing a dialogue, you’re trying to draw out the things that they like, because sometimes directors are not, you have different kinds of directors, the kind that can express themselves, and are very visual, and can tell you exactly what to month, and then you have directors that are very cryptic, and don’t, aren’t very able to communicate their ideas. And so it becomes this thing where beyond besides drawing, you have to be able to present your work. And then while you’re presenting it, be able to ask questions, you know, sort of thing, like, I’m looking at a picture of you right now sitting in your, in your studio, and I’m seeing plants to the side of you, right, and I might go, oh, you know, now in my head, am I going, this would be a cooler design, if the plants were on the other side of you to better go. But I might going, but I wouldn’t just say Hey, we should stick the plants over there, I might say, you know, what might be cool is that we can create a more intimate setting, if we were to take the, you know, the soft forms and plants on this side, and then sort of echo them over to the other side. And it kind of frames the character in a really nice way. So that’s my way of suggesting something to the director, by giving him way of thinking, oh, yeah, I can see how that can be helpful, or, Oh, no, that doesn’t work, because I’m gonna have a big dragon crashed through the wall two seconds later, you know. And so what it is, is you’re sort of communicating. And the thing is, is with a lot of directors, especially the ones who don’t communicate visually, or are thinking about visual design, it’s because their heads wrapped up in story and animation. And animation is about performance. It’s about the acting, you know, sort of thing. So sometimes you’re not thinking about how big a door should be. What kind of doors should it be, you know, what is it a stone castle? Is it one made out of, you know, wooden timber, you know, sometimes they’re not thinking of that and it’s your job to paint the picture and to to offer them all the toys in the sandbox that they can have to make this work.

Iva Mikles  

Exactly as also when you were mentioning playing Right, what kind of plans? Like something, as you mentioned, like a cozy atmosphere? Or is it intimidating, scary or whatever it is? Right movie,

Armand Baltazar  

right? Yeah, exactly.

Iva Mikles  

And do you also how does your process differ from like working in a studio? And when you’re working on your own staff, you know, like, do you also draw thumbnails? And the same same thing with different color variations and different moods?

Armand Baltazar  

Yes, and, you know, the thing is, the easy answer is, I use all of it, and to different degrees, you know, because the difference is, a lot of the tools that I would use in animation, 20 years I spent in animation, a lot of them was to find the solution. And sometimes finding the solution was finding out what the director wanted. And when you work in visual development, sometimes you don’t even have a story yet. You know, kind of things are sort of formulating the story, they’re formulating a scene, you’re they’re formulating, let’s say little go back to the example of a castle, what kind of Castle is it? And the director may not know, right? And so you might be using your approach or method, or I might be using my approach and method just to find out what they like. And then after I get that, then I go to the next step, well, what is it about they like they need to convey, and then after I do another artwork to that, then I get down to what you didn’t exactly look like. That’s usually the third step. So a lot of times the first three steps of thumbnails to roughs is to create this dialogue back and forth, sort of helped me make the exact right kind of design and then offer up design ideas. So I’m doing all these things so that when I do make a design idea, it will have covered those other things that are important to the director. Now, when you’re working on your own project, you are the director, you already a lot of times have a lot of those questions already answered in your head. So sometimes when I designed to be completely honest and truthful, I will literally pick up the paintbrush or the stylus. And I know what I want. Exactly, I know why it has to be. And I’ll just bam, hit it, and then it’ll be what I want. That doesn’t happen all the time. And other times I’m like, I don’t know, if that’s the right solution. And then I’ll thumbnail it all out. I’ll do 15 different versions, create one up like yeah, that’s it, and then rewrite the story in my head and like, oh, no, that’s not even in the story anymore. It’s gone, you know. So it’s your, it’s a bit of the process that you use before. And then sometimes it’s easier because you’re the person writing the story. And you’re the person who is saying yes or no to everything. And then sometimes it’s a curse, because you’re the one who is saying yes or no to everything. And if you change your mind, and same as if your director change your mind, you had to start all over, you know, so it’s it’s similar, but it’s I think better than the best thing of it all, is it’s your project. So every pain and every victory you experience is all worth it because it’s yours. You know,

Iva Mikles  

definitely anything your story and then you can communicate part of yourself as well in the in the world and characters. Right,

Armand Baltazar  

right. Absolutely.

Iva Mikles  

Before we continue, let’s take a little break, because many of you have been asking me about recommendations for different tools and resources to help you out with many different things like studying finding inspiration, overcoming artistic blog, managing your time and freelance. So I decided from now on in the episodes, I will share with you some of my favorite things which helped me a lot and I’m sure they can help you out do so let’s go take a look. So the first one is all the role, which is a largest audio bookstore out there with more than 100,000 audiobooks. And I love listening to stories and learning from books. And even if you’re another book reader, this is a great way to get the knowledge and advice from books just by listening. It would be a shame to miss out on all the great tips if you just don’t like to read. I usually listen to audiobooks while I’m traveling doing housework or painting. It’s very relaxing and I learned a lot. But it’s awesome. You can get free 30 days trial, which is like getting free books. So try it out for yourself and go to rtsideoflife.com/or. They will. The next one is for all the freelancers and studio owners out there. It’s called FreshBooks. And it’s an invoicing accounting software that is super easy to use and significantly cuts your time needed for invoicing, getting paid, tracking expense time tracking and making proposals. great part about this is that with few clicks, you can export all important data for your tax declaration too, and you can get the free trial 30 days to test it out for yourself do so go through art side of live.com/reg books. The last one is trusted house sitters and As you maybe already know, I love travelling to refresh my inspiration and avoid art books, but my budget doesn’t allow it so often. Fortunately, I discovered trusted house sitters website where you can do the petty thing and leave for free like a local, I love dogs and cats and all kinds of animals. So it’s great when when, in this way, it’s only about buying a flight ticket or travel there by car. Accommodation is for free. And you can have great fun with the animals. And you can also draw them and practice your animal anatomy skills. It also works for those of you who have pets, and are looking for betters to be able to travel. So check it out at rtsideoflife.com/d H S, you will find more artistic resources, tips and tools used by me or mentioned in the interviews. It’s rtsideoflife.com/resources. So go check it out. And just to let you know, some of the links are affiliate links, which means I will get paid a small commission if you decide to purchase through them, but at absolutely no cost to you. And in this way, you get a chance to support Art Side of Life, which I really appreciate. And now let’s go back to the interview. And how was the transition for you, you know, like from different jobs and kind of job roles studios to working on their own? What was going on in your head and your experiences along the way?

Armand Baltazar  

Well, you know, the thing is, is that it was an unexpected thing. You know, sometimes I liked it when people asked me about my career, and what has happened like with what I’m doing now, you know, I tell them that when I was a kid, I wanted to make artwork for stories, for books, and maybe even create stories, and I ended up having a 20 year career, creating artwork for other people’s stories, you know, and then it took me 20 years of making our work for other people to realize that I wanted to make artwork for myself, I wanted to tell stories for myself, you know, kind of thing. And so it was funny, I had to go through those 20 years of doing it for everybody else to realize that, hey, I actually want to do this, for me, kind of thing. And so it was a bit of a shock. And honestly, when I did it, it was just a little side project, I’d never I thought you know, I’m not going to make my little story, I’ll make some more work for it. Because I originally had made this and I still have I made this for my son, he asked me to make a story for him and illustrating and so I did. And then I was going around to different conventions, mostly to look at portfolios for the students I was working for, like, like, like Pixar, but to show people my artwork is so I could maybe get a Kickstarter fund myself taking an extended vacation and work on it, you know, so I hadn’t really prepared for my childhood dream to come true. You know, like writing a book and illustrating it. I mean, I was like, in the back of my head like, man, lol, they’ll be great some time I actually plan for it to happen in my retirement, like, Okay, I’ll be an old guy retired, and then I’ll have time to do it, you know, and then somebody wanted me to do it, you know, and so it was a bit of a turn. So you know what happens when all of a sudden you get a shot at doing the thing you always wanted to do you take it, you know, it’s scary, but it’s a lot like, it’s a lot like working for a studio. I mean, in the end, it comes down to, here’s the story, I got to make the artwork, I kind of try to make the best story I can, you know, and then you do it. And then you can move on to the next one, you can try to make it better and better. Really cool.

Iva Mikles  

And maybe you can mention for some people in the audience, I don’t know, like how the book came to life, maybe the started or the funding of the book. And, you know, it’s just like, Okay, this is happening. This is real.

Armand Baltazar  

Well, so while I was working at Pixar, having a grand adventure, the biggest adventure of my life happened. Well, actually, it happened a little bit before Pixar, but I had a kid, I was married, I had a son. And while I was working at Pixar, my son sort of asked me to make a book for him. So I started out, you know, by making what would have been a children’s picture book, it would have been. So if you look at the early artwork from the book that I posted online, it’s much more stylized, and it’s much more kind of young looking. And so I started making images and writing a very, very simple story about this boy who lives on an island of junk and some pirates come to try and steal his junk. And then boy builds this big giant robot and scares away the pirates. It’s very sweet, very short, very small. And the thing is, is I never finished it. So I was working at Pixar working on movies getting busy, you know, and I never finished the story. And then in a blink of an eye, like close to 10 years goes by and my son’s like, he’s like 11 going on 12 walks in my office and he looks at this painting. I painted up this big red robot for his little children’s book and he was the head. You know, you should finish this, you should finish the story for me. And I’m like, I felt super guilty. And I was like, You know what, you’re right. I’m gonna finish this thing. I’m gonna finish for it. And then he looked at me and said, Yeah, well, I’m older. Now can we make it kind of a bigger, older Big Boy adventure story? You know, because he read Harry Potter and all the movies Lord of the Rings he is. He’s a 12 year old boy, what kind of thing? So I said, Yeah, and so he, he, I said, but I’m not sure where I was going to go with it. And then he kept pushing and pushing, and gave up all these great ideas. And I said, Alright, I’m going to do it. And so I started working on weekends, at night, when I got home from the studio, I would write, and I would draw, and I would paint, then on the weekends, I would do more writing, drawing and painting. And so I made it a routine. So every time I come home from work, I would spend at least an hour or two writing or drawing that most I tried to write during the week when the light wasn’t as much of an issue. And then on the weekends, I would try and do more art, because then I would have the days to do that, you know, and so I’d wake up by routines on weekends were to wake up, do stuff with my son and do stuff with the family, and bam, in the studio, you know, kind of thing. And so I did this, started making your work seriously for the book. And I started going to some of the conventions to sort of show the work to try to get begin, like I mentioned earlier, a Kickstarter, but now he’s actually says, I’m going to do it, I’m not really going to do it. And so I started doing that. And then a good friend of mine, John Nevarez, said, Hey, we’re at the San Diego Comic Con, I was looking at portfolios for Pixar. And he was like, you want to get people interested in your book? Why don’t you take up two feet on my table, show people the artwork from it, so that when you announced your Kickstarter, they’ll know about it. And so I said, Yes. And then I went and started showing my stuff there at Comic Con. And then at Comic Con, you know, it’s for people noticed it. And the publishers noticed that some of the movie studios noticed it. When he started talking to me, you know, sort of about it. And I started up, you know, getting an opportunity to publish the book for HarperCollins. And then up the, they asked me how many stories ahead, I told him, because there was a lot of stories. So initially, there’s six stories, and they said they were interested in the series. So I signed on to do a three book series with HarperCollins. And then it got picked up by Ridley Scott, the movie director, and scot free and 20th Century Fox to be developed into something with Carlos Saldana, the director for blue sky to work on and as a director, and so, you know, I mean, interim, what happened, when we back up was I got the book contract, it was gonna be a massive, massive undertaking, because I’ve just been picking at it, I didn’t have it all done had had been picking at it, it was in progress. And I know I needed to really spend time. So I left Pixar, so I could work on it full time. And then that’s when 20 Century Fox sort of approached, you know, because they had seen, they had sort of seen it at Comic Con. And then after I went to HarperCollins, they asked for a copy of it from HarperCollins. And they saw it and then they called me and said, Can we show it to some movie directors? And I said, Yes. And he didn’t. And I got a call from from those folks. And you know, the rest is kind of where I’m at. So now I work on, you know, no longer working at Pixar on their films. Although they’ve sort of given me the open door to come back and help out on things whenever I want. But in the meantime, I’m working on the books and helping to develop the film. And that’s I’m doing full time right now. I’m working on Book Two,

Iva Mikles  

When can we see the maybe the animation or the more books, they already have the time plan, which you can share confidential?

Armand Baltazar  

Well, it’s yeah, you know, the thing is, it’s, you know, we’re hoping to have them come up soon, what I can say is, we’re hoping to have them come out sooner than later. So let’s, you know, I would say probably in about a year and a half, let’s, we’ll keep an eye out. You know, if everything goes according to schedule, that’s that’s sort of the plan kind of thing in terms of the film. You know, films are, you know, things are, we’re working on it now. And if all things goes perfectly, the film will come out with a coincided with a release of a book. So, Book Two is being worked on right now.

Iva Mikles  

Right? And if you think about maybe some starving artists now and they would like to create like their own world, or you know, characters in the world, they always start with, with the character and then take the story and the world around them or do sometimes start also with the world and like, oh, this kind of character would fit in this world or maybe some things about the world building.

Armand Baltazar  

Right? You know, the thing is about that what I found no, I’ll share this with you because I have before this story that I’ve made that is getting made. I tried to other times to make characters and story in a world and fail. And so in, I’ll tell you why I felt why I failed was because I think I have the wrong approach. And I’m just speaking specifically for my, for my experiences. But in what happened in the first time I tried to do this was, first I started by creating cool characters, right and had the samurai character, I had this girl, and she was a pirate girl. And she was going to go on an adventure with the samurai. And then I started making character designs like crazy. And then I started making environment designs like crazy, right? I spent, I think a year and a half, going completely bananas, designing the heck out of characters, and world. And then finally, when someone asked me after I showed all this stuff. Wow, that’s so awesome. What’s it about? I sat with a long pause, wait, well, there’s this pirate girl. Yeah, and there’s a samurai and they’re gonna go and fight, you know, this evil guy. But it was the thing is, is that I’d spent in trying to tell the person what the story was about. I couldn’t, because I hadn’t actually spent the time on story. I spent all my time on design, all my time on making the coolest characters all my time making the coolest worlds thinking out of the story will work itself out. But in the end, for example, like if you’re making an animated film, or if you’re making a book, in the end, the story is what’s going to hold people, you know, it’s what’s gonna hold them. I mean, your your characters, Mr. Incredible is so cool. And awesome. The adventures he goes on with his family, because you care so much that he succeeds and that he you know, he’s gonna be able to, you know, be a good dad, you know, and his kids are gonna love him and you care about you have to care, right? And the thing is, is that I hadn’t spent the time on story. The second time. I spent all my time on story, right. So what I decided to do and the second time I tried to tackle doing the story is I said, I’m going to pick a story that’s already written, so I don’t have to think about it. So I took Jason and the Argonauts, you know, like the mythology. That will be the story. Now all I have to do is design for right. But the thing is, in the end, I picked Jason The Argonauts, because I liked I like I was gonna get to design a bunch of cool monsters, you know? And I’m like, well, that’s gonna be fun. Yeah, I was like, oh, it’s gonna be fun, because I’m monsters who want to design something I like to design. So it wasn’t yet still thinking about. I was still thinking, I mean, I took Okay, I’m gonna be more about story. But I’m still thinking about the wrong things. And in the end, when a finding is I started designing some really, really cool stuff. I knew where the story was gonna go, I knew I had to design.

Armand Baltazar  

But when it really, really got down to it, when I looked at the story, if you’ve ever really read Jason, the Argonauts, Jason’s a jerk. He’s not a very nice person, you know, he’s actually in the end, he’s, like, in the old movies, the movies make them out to be really great. But in the story, he was like, kind of not really an awesome person, which is, the Greeks had this thing of like, making characters that were flawed, you know, the jerky things and, and stuff. And, and the thing is, is that I didn’t care about the characters. I cared about the look. But I didn’t like the characters. Like I liked this characters. You know what I’m like, if I want to spend all my time after I come home from 40 5060 Hour Workweek, I want to make sure I’m working on something I care about. Because that was the other thing that was hard, is if you don’t care, it makes it really hard. Because you have to put in long hours after your week at the studio, you have to make something great. So why did this one this last time work? Well, because I ended up making a story that was about this boy who saves his dad in a very simple story. The kids dad gets taken away and they get asked to go and venture to take rescues that. And boom, well, like I understood the characters. And the thing is, is that the base the main character on my son, right, and I’m like, I had a story that I actually could care about. And then when we put in the long hours after work, it was fun, you know, because it’s like, when I made the cool pictures. I knew why I was making the cool pictures, you know, and I knew what I wanted people to care about, after they read the words and looked at the art, you know, and so, for me, whatever tips I’m trying to give you give you, your audience is really like, continue to be an awesome artist. But make something that you care about, because it’s not an easy thing to make up characters in the world worth having out in the world. You know, so if you can find something you can really, really care about is going What if you’re a good artist, your stuff is going to be here, you find something you care about. It’s through the roof, man, you know, and so that’s really the thing I would say to people to find beyond themselves and make something worthwhile. So they look at it they go, this is gonna be awesome, because they know it here. Even if they’re doing a bad drawing of it over and over and over. They know what in here, they’re gonna get there. You know?

Iva Mikles  

What about the audience situations maybe for the environment? Do you go on locations to do like research or do sketches? Or was it from past experiences?

Armand Baltazar  

It’s all of that. It’s all of that, you know, in fact, not hopefully not giving anything away, polish will be mad about. But you know, like my my second book, there’s a part of it that takes place in New Orleans. And part of it is went out years ago, and I worked on Princess and the Frog. They sent me to New Orleans to spend several weeks out there. And I was so taken by the culture and the people and the architecture and, you know, all this stuff, it had such an indelible impact on you know, my first book is set in Chicago, I’m from Chicago, you know, and so, it was a bit of love, a love letter to where I grew up, you know, kind of thing. And so those things have a huge impact, you know, on the worlds that create, you know, in the art, as well, you know, it’s sort of like, when I made the first book, when I ended up making the final first book, it wasn’t something super stylized, like how it’s set up, originally. And what ended up happening was when I started to make the story, I started realizing this was more of an adventure story, like a young teenage boys adventure story. And so remember to when I was a young teenage boy reading Treasure Island, illustrated by NC Wyeth. And I’m like, oh, yeah, I really and I went and started looking back at the illustrators of the 40s and 50s. That made illustrations for adventure stories like Robin Hood, Robinson Crusoe, you know, 20,000 leagues under the sea. And, you know, so like, I picked a specific art style that reminded me of the golden age of illustrators doing adventure stories for young voice. And I said, that’s what I’m going to do, right. And so there’s a lot of that sort of inspiration in this work. When I did, I’m writing a short story. Now it’s a horror story. And I put it out on the internet, like, there’s an image for this, this girl and this vampire kind of thing. And I remember when I did that, I wanted to, I want to make something that felt like, if you end up looking at that painting, at some point, I want to make it feel what the background looks like, it was something out of Bambi. Like it was some like a soft watercolor thing. And part of it was because I wanted to sort of juxtapose the things that were scary against this world that was sort of soft and beautiful, kind of thing. So I pull inspiration from all these different things that I’m fascinated by, you know, and sometimes it’s by things that make absolute sense like picking NC y for adventurer. And then sometimes they make no sense like picking Bambi for a hole, or image, you know, but in that case, it was because it was contrast, something seems that much more scary when it’s set against something that seems so nice and soft and beautiful, you know, kind of things, but it’s life. I think that like, the best thing in the world is actually letting life be an inspiration. I love Google. I love the internet, but nothing ever beat. I’m sorry, I’m jumping around a little bit. But another place I went on Prince of Egypt. The studio sent us to Death Valley out in the desert for a couple of days to paint in, like 120 degree. Yeah, and you know, what it shaped my experience, you know, she had life, life shapes your experience, I think life is the best is the best point of reference, Google all that stuff. Great. But to go out and live life to, you know, and, um, you know, inhabit shape you, you know,

Iva Mikles  

because also, when you’re on location, if something really smells or there is a strong glider like blinding you, you remember that? Right?

Armand Baltazar  

Right. Yeah, you remember all these things? And it’s, and it’s unexpected? You know?

Iva Mikles  

Definitely when you are on location, how do you kind of note maybe, what do you see? Or these experiences? Do you take pictures? Or do you just write notes? Or do the scribbles or are you just remember

Armand Baltazar  

a little of everything, you know? Because sometimes it’s funny. Is that, okay? When you taking a picture obvious, that’s obvious, like, Oh, I like that, that looks cool. You shoot a picture of Earth. You know, in some cases, what you do in your sketchbook is actually more important, from the sense that when you have to draw something out, you have to slow down. You have to really look at what you’re drawing and getting you started. Because here’s the thing, it cost nothing to take a picture. Yeah, I want that. That looks cool. That can be useful click, that can be useful. Click right you’re giving it some. I mean, sometimes you’re giving a lot of deep thought but a lot of times you can get it very What do you call loose with, with why you’re shooting something because like I could use that maybe I can’t, I mean, they can when you’re sketching a lot of times because you know, it’s going to take you some time to sit down set up, you know, figure some stuff out, you know, you Making a lot of considerations on why you’re sketching whatever is just catching. And so if you’ve put in that time, you’re like, well, this thing is really important. I could see using that and you sketch it. And while you’re sketching it, because it’s fast, it takes longer than this click, you’re thinking the whole time, while you’re sketching, you’re thinking about the possibilities of what this thing could be what sparked this idea, that idea, and then you’re also writing notes about what it means to you, you know. And so, I find and then the third component, your memory, is something that is interesting and elusive. Because this can happen, literally, like, after you finish the sketch or an hour later, sometimes it can be years later, you know, kind of thing. I remember that, you know, when I like my first book, you though, timeless, right? There’s all this stuff that takes place on different islands. And I remember as a kid, my mom, my mom, and took me to the Philippines. And she took me to this island, and it was called this, the 1000 Islands, this area in the Philippines. And it was gorgeous. It was like tropical paradise, right. And we’re all in the water and swimming around and stuff. And then I noticed that none of the guides were swimming in the water, or jumping off the boat. So right now the guys who are like, just looking around, but not among getting water, and I’m like, finally got back into boat. And I’m like, why aren’t you swimming? This is so gorgeous is paradise. There’s like, a whole place is full of sharks. I don’t know what he goes, Oh, yeah, this whole area is infested with sharks. The tourists love it. So we always take them here. You know, and we come up with God. You know, I didn’t know that. But the thing is, I remember it was It struck me, you know, it struck me when I was a kid. And you know, that splits can be so beautiful. How could it be dangerous at all, you know, sort of thing. And in the story, the kids in my story, they end up going to this beautiful, gorgeous Island, you know, and ends up being the home is terrifying dinosaurs, right? That they sort of take for granted even today and be careful. But it was the the feeling and the design and the luck and all that stuff that I wrote and I painted, came out flooding back from memories of me being you know, I went there later on as an older person to the same place my mom took means. And I’m like, it was different. I looked at the place it was still is beautiful. But I couldn’t experience it the same way. Right. And so but years later, because this happened, I was like six or seven, you know, I’m 50 now. So when I was about, you know, 47 years old, that experience as a little six year old, came back into my head, you know, I could look I was there, I could see everything. And I put it into the artwork, and I put into the storytelling, you know, so sometimes it’s, it doesn’t happen from the photo doesn’t happen from the sketch, it happens from you recalling a powerful memory of a place that connects with you deeply, you know?

Iva Mikles  

Definitely. Because then you can relate to it in a different way then, like, now, or it was before, right? So yeah, definitely. When you were like, learning about the techniques, like how to render water and the different lighting conditions, it was all during the time in the studios, or did you study like alongside on the way do you have some cool resources? You know, you would recommend like, Oh, this is nice way to study.

Armand Baltazar  

No, right? Yeah, no, it’s, here’s the thing, you never end up stop, you should never stop learning, right? You’re always in a constant state of learning. One. So I’ll talk about the past. I’ll talk a little bit about the present in the past. You know, when I when I ended up going to school, the first school I went to for advertising was very specifically trying to teach me the tools that would help me for advertising. And when I went to school, again, to be a book illustrator, one of the things that was a big plus for that school was that they had a very, very broad kind of foundation, like, so it’s kind of like figure drawing, you know, perspective drawing. Yeah, it was color theory. It was also graphic design photography, there was like all these things that had nothing to do with specifically what I wanted to do. But they ended up being really helpful in the end that I could not see, you know, graphic design. This was immensely helpful. I’m like, I’m gonna draw pictures of dinosaurs and people why do I need to know about type and, you know, composition for page layouts and stuff was usually helpful. You know, it’s also a lot of discipline, photography, immensely helpful, you know, well, I need to know is how to click and shoot but it was really, really helpful for me. The other thing is, is that I constantly sought out people who are good at something I specifically was weak at. So not only that, I want to go I want to know how to render better I wonder how to use better but I would specifically at the top of my list always put the things that I was the worst at trying to the top and that was hard because it sucks to take a workshop or a class ask where you know, you’re really not good at that on purpose, you know, because I remember because I would just take classes I was good at. And you’re like, I started noticing I wasn’t getting any better, you know, kind of thing. And so it meant, it meant taking people that were tougher, and you know, being willing to be stuck down lower. You know, for me, it’s like, I love color, I struggled with color. You know, when I was starving, I struggled, struggled, struggled. And so what I did was I started seeking out people I wanted to study with who are great at it, you know, you know, as I said, that’s one of the things I would say to do. I wasn’t specific about the resource, but I’m talking about more of the approach and attitude. Pick the thing first, that you know, you need, and work on it and bring those things stronger. And in the end, as an artist, you end up having the things you’re great at, like phenomenally great at, and you’re probably phenomenally good at it, because you love it to death, right. But it’s worthwhile to try it, and to shoot for being good. Being really, really good, because you’ll take good and you’ll constantly push it up a little higher, right? But worse is to say I’m not good at this, and then ignore it. And this concentrate on things you aren’t good at, because this will come back and haunt you in the end. You know, I remember a girl give a couple things that were really, really helpful for me. One of them was the the illusion of life, you know, the book on animation. And the way holding animation works is a sort of broad education, of like sweeping education of animation. That’s a phenomenal resource. I think that I can’t speak enough of my former mentor, friend and colleague, Marcus Patel, who has a book called framed ink out, which will tell you speak to you volumes on composition, and lighting, and his companion books, which is the thing perspective frame perspective, one and two, are also phenomenal, in that sense of being able to get down to good foundational skills. Now, what I’m talking about specifically, is storytelling related, you know, kind of things like, in most cases, in animation related, but there are other things too, that I think are really, really helpful. But in context of what we’re talking about what I’m doing now, I think those are really, really great. Another big thing that was a huge, huge,

Armand Baltazar  

it had a big impact on me was when I was at DreamWorks, I took a cinematography class, and, you know, basically learned about why you compose something for storytelling on an image that will be on screen for three seconds, four seconds, five seconds, right? There is a method of thinking in your approach of what why you take a picture, why you frame a picture for something that’s going to then move cut to another picture, right. And so one of the best introductory things, I think, for me, was a film called visions of light. So it is a it’s a film. It’s a documentary, on like 10, or 12 of the most influential cinematographers from like the 60s through the 80s, or 90s. And a lot of these guys are still working now. So these are the same directors that are a cinematographer that worked for Alfred Hitchcock to Martin Scorsese, and Steven Spielberg, and, you know, a lot of the visual directors from the past and the present. What do you call it, Stanley Kubrick, all these guys. And here’s the thing. What’s interesting about this particular documentary, is these cinematographers did not look at their cinematography is making painting or shooting pictures, they thought of, they were making paintings, they were making visual paintings. And they thought about their approach to visual storytelling as making visual paintings that moved in time and space. And so it was, it was really a phenomenal eye opener for me right to now look at films differently. After seeing that film, and get on the advice of several mentors. One of the things I started to do as I started to watch my favorite movies that were visual, or maybe move me emotionally, or from a story standpoint, my soul movie started over again, turn off the sound. If you turn off the sound, the thing that you’re going to realize that happens is you start to look at it objectively. You start to remember, okay, in this scene, you shouldn’t be looking at it more objectively. Here’s a scene where, you know, the kids, kids dad dies, right? And you go, what happens actually, missy, right. And it also you see the choices that director made that cinematographer me, here’s a kid the dad is pulled back, you know, and pushing closer, pushing closer, pushing closer. Finally, the dads like brothers a kid’s head, we’ve gotten really close and then we have them both in frame, you know, and they’re really close and feels intimate, it feels great, you know, and then the dad throws the ball kid misses it, and he goes off screen and then you see them be further and further further further apart. The dad has a heart attack, you know, kind of thing. And he’s further apart. And he’s all in silhouette. I’m talking, this is a scene out of a movie called the natural, right. And it’s one of my famous favorite cinematographers, but he uses the pictures to tell the story and the framing and the cutting and the editing, every single thing is firing to make you. As by the way, every shot is gorgeous. But you forget about that, because you’re like, Oh, my God, the kids, dad, you know, you care. You know, he’s using his tools to make you care, right. And so I want to watch this illusions of light. And then some of my mentors at DreamWorks sort of pointed these things out to me. And I was like, Oh, my gosh, these are, I never watched the movie again, the same way, right. And so it was an immense part of my education. That translates Whether making animation, whether or not making a single scene, a one off piece of artwork, just from myself, or from making something like a book, you know, not to tell us a bunch of visuals to connect is ultimately, whether you’re making a gorgeous landscape painting or a portrait painting, or you’re doing something in a book or something, anatomy and film, your goal is to connect, you want to connect, you want to make you want to make the person who’s experiencing your artwork, just, you know, be on that adventure with you, you know?

Iva Mikles  

Exactly. And just to emphasize the things right? Are they you are supposed to feel when you are watching it, if you don’t have sound and someone they just listening to something and then you are like, Oh, okay, that means like you’re listening and emphasizing the acting right? In some scenes even.

Armand Baltazar  

I mean, look at what we do like what you do, right? I mean, the thing is, is that, because we’re talking about are you the one of us are like, Oh, I’m gonna go I’m at, you know, I mean, you might, but I know, but you’re an artist, you know, you draw you paint. So what it is, is that by taking out the sound, you’re now taking this visual art form. And, and putting it on on a playing field that’s closer to the way that you connect, right kind of thing. And then if you end up working in film making animation or or design for film or books, you’re just basically learning from yet another master. Yeah, you know, I always tell kids, you know, I’ll tell you one of the things that disappoints me, you know, so I’m gonna go off onto a personal note, what sort of disappoints me a lot of times when I’ll look at kids posting their artwork up, and they’re like, oh, you know, I’m doing a master study of so and so who did the same three months ago, and I’m going nothing against the person you’re doing a master study. But you know, Michelangelo, John Singer, Sargent, masters, right, you know, somebody who happened to do a cool piece of artwork a couple of weeks ago, kind of thing. It might be masterful, but you needed to sort of go to the source and learn, you know, what’s masterful, you know, kind of thing. And what I mean by that is, I’m not trying to take anything away from any of these artists are trying to emulate who are alive today doing something of a couple of months old. But what I’m saying is too many times, like when an animation artists goes, How do I become a better like designer of worlds, and ask them what they’re looking at, like, you know, listening like 10 animated movies that they look at, they go Yeah, that’s great. Now let’s go to the museum started looking at, you know, these paintings by temple and start looking at these sort of big landscapes buy, you know, give them a list of a bunch of different painters who do paintings that I’m like, Here, a bunch of different movies, go look at these movies. But that one’s all in Chinese is a foreign film. Yes. So I’m not asking you to learn Chinese, I’m asking you to look at how they shot the landscape. And looking at how you know, the meaning that you take all you take it all in, you don’t just go to like, I like animation. So I’m just looking at animation, you know, no, look at all the things that are going to make you a better artist for what you want to do. And I think that’s, that’s, that’s, I don’t know how it isn’t answering the question. But that’s something I think is huge in that you have to let yourself take in the beauty and the majesty and the mastery of all these other art forms that are also visual, that can help make you distinguished, and much more capable as an artist.

Iva Mikles  

Because sometimes we can be influenced too much by the social media because every like young artists or new artists that are now growing up in this influence, and then that’s all you see, and it’s just too much maybe sometimes.

Armand Baltazar  

Right and I love social media taught me wrong, I think it’s great. I think it’s absolutely great. But you know, the thing is, is that sometimes it’s easy to take these things for granted. You know, it’s like my son plays guitar, right? And I see how hard he works at trying to do something well, and if I just do nothing but put on YouTube videos of kid geniuses playing guitar, I can easily forget how hard it is, you know how much hard work it actually takes to be that good, right? And I think that sometimes you know, we when you when you go through the internet, you can do nothing but just look at just only the best stuff ever. And just be like, Oh, this is what’s good, because you’re only looking at what’s being shown to you, as opposed to going out and trying to find it yourself to and find it in other places, you know. And I think that when somebody creates something new, they’re not going to be creating something new by simply emulating something that someone has already done. I mean, obviously, it makes sense, right? When you hear it said out loud, it’s like, Well, yeah. But you know, they’re creating something new by going out and looking at something and internalizing it and making it important for them. You know, so, you know, and that’s what’s important. It’s funny, you know, before we had our interview, my wife was kind of looking walking through my room here, and I showed her an interview you had with? Oh, my gosh, I totally mispronounced her name all the time. Louise, you know, her her short name, right? Yeah. Because there was no, no. Yeah. The most like, all her work is beautiful. It’s like, wow, I see a lot of people who do her look, and I go, Yeah, you know, that’s my, you know, that’s, that’s a thing. You know, I remember the meeting, I getting a portfolio review, and I had all these kids who want to do environment design. And I’m like, going, every other kid was basically making something look like Craig Mullins, you know, or one of the other big people out there and I go, Well, that’s great. You show me you can copy somebody, you know, but show me that you can solve a problem, you know, kind of thing. And a lot of times, when I’ve taught visual development classes, I will force students to work on us. I’ll do something like this. I’m like, great. Here’s the story. I’ll give him a story like Little Red Riding Hood. Right? Okay, you’re going to illustrate Little Red Riding Hood. But here’s what you’re going to do when you illustrate or design for it. You have to pick another culture, you have to like pick Chinese, or African or Eskimo like and give them like no district choice, you have to pick one of these three cultures. And you have to set it in this century. Right? So I’ll get kids who are good. It’s one of the Sci Fi stuff. I’m like, Well, you know what, that’s not your being you’re trying to get a design job, you have to think like a designer, you have to think like, I mean, create the coolest design for the story that someone wants me to create, you know, and what ends up happening is, then they can’t go to the internet and go, all that this is how somebody does a spaceship. Oh, here’s, you know, they have to actually go and research and problem solve and think for themselves. And it’s good to know, I’m not saying anyone who likes to do sci fi stuff that they should stop doing that. No, no, not at all. I love doing sci fi stuff. But you have to force yourself to be able to think like a designer who happens to love science fiction, rather than just what I do. This is all I do. Because you’re limiting yourself to how you can grow, you know,

Iva Mikles  

solving a design problem. Yeah. Definitely. And if you think about actually the art career, and what was maybe your most difficult time, and what do you learn from it, like the key takeaway, if you can share that story?

Armand Baltazar  

Okay, well, I’ve mentioned the director of the project. But I had an opportunity to work on a really cool project with some cool folks. And it was a project that was almost doomed from the start. It was story was, okay, wasn’t very, very great. The amount of time and resources we had to do with it. Were ridiculous and too short, you know, but we’ve decided to do it. Anyways. And at the point where I worked so hard, I pretty much put myself in a hospital where I got so sick, you know, like I had placed the value of work higher than my own health. Right. And the thing is, is that you it’s it’s hard to be objective, especially when you’re a young artist. This isn’t this isn’t have when I was a young artist, but it wasn’t an old artist either yet. I was probably in my mid 30s. So when I started my career at DreamWorks, I was in my mid to late 20s, I’d say maybe mid 20s kind of thing. But the thing is, is that when you’re in your 20s and you’re thinking I can work 80 hours a week, you know, kind of thing you’re like, okay, yeah, and I did I’ve done that I’ve done that in my career every artist is working in animation has or in film, but it’s not sustainable, you know, kind of thing because if you look at what 80 hours a week is, like you’re talking about like, okay, working at like seven in the morning till two in the morning, seven days a week, right? And the thing is, is that that’s not sustainable, you’re going to get you’re gonna get hurt and you’re gonna unhealthy. The other thing is, is in the bigger scheme of things, you’re not doing yourself or your industry any, any service either because a lot of times what ends up happening for young artists is they work for free, because they think oh, this is a way to keep the job. This is a way to make the best impression. But in the end And you’re undervaluing yourself, and you’re sort of leading the way for people to take advantage of you, right. So, I know it’s not specifically an art thing, this is more of an art career thing, a common mistake, because people don’t value enough what they do. And so, like, for example, I find in the gaming industry, this is the worst sort of examples where you have game companies calling out specifically, but what I’ve seen time and time, again, with some game companies, is that they will keep their senior staff and they will just basically hire out a crew of kids right out of school, working to death and very little, and then let them go. And if I hire another set of kids do the same thing, let them go, you know, kind of thing. And if, as artists, we allow ourselves to be taken advantage of, we don’t value ourselves ourselves enough, you won’t have the career that you set out to make, you know, and you’ll end up being very angry and paying a terrible price for it. And no one deserves that. Because you know, what, what we do is one of the hardest and most rewarding things in the world to be able to, you know, if you’ve got the calling, you gotta call, you started drawing with a pencil or paintbrush. You weren’t thinking at any point ever, as a kid, oh, make a lot of money doing this kind of make a lot of money doing? No, you know, and the thing is, is that you’re doing it, I’m doing this now, because I’m not that good at any other things. I mean, we’ve got a few things, but I don’t love anything else. Like I love this. And so if you take that for granted, if you don’t treat it with the respect, your passion, your dedication, sort of deserves, you’re doing, you’re not doing yourself any favors. So hold yourself in what you do with the highest regard, and treat yourself with respect, that is the thing, because at one point, I forgot that at one point, I thought making someone else’s project happy. Here’s the thing I didn’t in the end, I didn’t even really like the work I was doing. Because I was working so hard. I wasn’t enjoying it, you know, kind of thing. And then I’m like, you know, my wife is like, Oh, my God, you went to the hospital, you had pneumonia, you know, it’s like, it’s something, it’s not even something that is mine. Like my own project kind of thing. So that’s it. That was the lowest part in my, in my artistic journey is when I put myself in hospital from working. We’ll try not to do that again.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, that’s, that’s a good thing right now. And then you know, how to plan and what is your, you know, like plans for the future? And I would like to know what that what is your maybe dream scenario in 10 years? And what would you also be like to be remembered for in 100 years?

Armand Baltazar  

You know, the thing is, is that right now, just, I basically live every day in shock. Because when I was a little kid, I wanted to, I wanted to make up some marine 20,000 leagues under the sea. And I remember thinking, I want to make a cool story like this. And I want to make really, really cool art. I want to make up stories and make art. That’s what I wanted to do as a kid. And now, you know, almost 50 years later, I had a chance to do it, you know, and I was like, Wow, it’s amazing. And it’s hard. But it’s amazing what I’d love to be doing in 10 years. I’m hoping to be doing the same thing, you know, because I have never felt you know, this isn’t about money or anything else. But I’ll tell you something, you know, I’m having a hard time putting this into words, I’ll put it to you this way. I would go to different conventions and things. I bring my artwork from Disney and DreamWorks. And Pixar men show people are calm, and that’s amazing. And then, at the time, when I was first job working on this book, I would have maybe six or seven paintings from my book, this thing I created, I put that up next to my portfolio. And when kids and adults were all going, what’s that about? I want to know more about that, you know, kind of thing and they weren’t asking me about the next Pixar film I was working on. They wanted to know what story was that I was creating what the characters were, they were like, what’s going to happen next. At that moment that that happened was a moment this is tying into our live your last question was the moment that I realized that hey, something that I make, has value to other people. Not something I made for, you know, Pixar, not something I made for DreamWorks. But me little me sitting in my studio, drew and painted this thing came up with this idea. And people like like that. They want that and they want me to do it like oh, it was it was the greatest thing I ever felt. And it was every time I go in and meet a kid who was like I read your story. I love your character. What happens to him next? I was so scared I was a little bit while I’m going, oh my gosh, you know, notice, I can you know, it made it there, I can do something that makes a difference. You know that because I made it. So I’m hoping I’m doing that in 10 years. And in the end 100 years from now, I hope that any kid 100 years from now can pick up the same thing, and still have that same experience. That to me will be success, not not money or anything else. It’ll be if a kid can pick up my book 100 years from now. They go whoa, that’s cool. What happens next?

Armand Baltazar  

Yep, tell me.

Iva Mikles  

That’s super nice. Yeah, and before we say goodbye, maybe you can share last piece of advice and key takeaway, and then we will slowly finish.

Armand Baltazar  

Okay, you know, animation, film all these things, there amongst the greatest sort of pursuit you can have if you want to do those things. And the thing, and if you want to make your own stories and your own images, you know, it’s a you know, my hat’s off to you, it’s going to be an amazing journey. And the thing that I will say about the journey, no matter which way in which of course it takes, is be willing to be completely fearless in your passions. Be willing to be fearless and accepting that you will sometimes fail. And knowing that every single failure, if it’s in your heart to move forward, brings you that much closer to your next victory to the ultimate victory, your success, the only one that matters to you inside. So fail to fail to achieve. You don’t fail to learn and each with each learning, you get closer.

Iva Mikles  

Definitely, totally agree. And yeah, thank you so much, again for being here with us tonight.

Armand Baltazar  

You’re very welcome. Thanks for having me.

Iva Mikles  

Thank you. And thanks, everyone who joined today as well and see you guys in the new episode. Bye. Bye, bye. Hey, guys, thank you so much for listening. I really appreciate you being here. You can find all the resources mentioned in this episode at artsideoflife.com. Just type a guest name in the search bar. There is also a couple of free artists resources ready for you on the website as well. So go check it out. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher so I can reach and inspire more artists like you. If you want to watch the interviews, head over to artsideoflife.com/youtube. Continue to inspire each other and I will talk to you guys in the next episode. Bye.

Announcer  

Thanks for listening to the Art Side of Life podcast at www.artsideoflife.com

Hi, I am Iva (rhymes with “viva”). I am an artist, illustrator, founder of Art Side of Life®, and Top Teacher on Skillshare. Since 2009 I've worked as an illustrator, character designer, art director, and branding specialist focusing on illustration, storytelling, concepts, and animation. I believe that we are all creative in infinite numbers of ways, so I've made it my mission to teach you everything I know and help either wake up or develop your creative genius. Learn more about me.

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