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Treefox Cartoons & The Art of Animation Design
Treefox Cartoons started out as Treefox Creative in 2009, when illustrator and concept artist Todd Heard decided to market his services to potential freelance clients from Muncie, Indiana, USA. At the present, Treefox Cartoons consists of two people: Todd Heard and UK-based Social Media marketer Claudine Claudine Watson-Williams. With an impressive and diverse video showreel (see youtube video above), the company is gaining more and more clients and have plans of building a network of animators and illustrators to work for them remotely.
The Creative Post: What are your creative influences and where do you get your inspiration from?
Treefox Cartoons: (Todd) I have a large collection of “how-to” books in my office. There probably isn’t a book on cartooning I don’t have. I also like comics, but I like comics that are cartoon in nature. I have several of “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” comics. There are also several blogs feeds I follow. The internet is an endless source of inspiration. I have a ton of artist sites bookmarked. I wish the internet that is around today was around when I was a kid. I grew up in Malvern and Benton, Arkansas. I didn’t see a lot of art growing up. But the things I did have were, Looney Tunes Animations, Mad Magazine, Conan and Hulk Comics. Don Martin from Mad Magazine was my favorite cartoonist.
T.C.P.: Can you explain about a regular job creation process. Do you use traditional hand-drawing techniques or is it all digital from concept?
T.C.: (Todd) I usually start my projects on paper. For some reason, I feel less restricted when I’m drawing on paper. If I have funny idea or something that inspires me. I start with those sketches first. If I’m storyboarding I jump back and forth through the script going to what suits me at that moment. I have a couple of drawing surfaces I use. I have a large drafting table and an animation disk. When I’m doing animation, I’ll sketch the major key poses on my animation disk. I use the ACME peg system for animation. So I have to buy special pre-punched paper to sketch on. It’s expensive but it’s last me a long time, so I don’t mind using it.
After I complete the rough sketches, I scan my drawings in at a medium resolution 150 dpi. I don’t need high-resolution scans for my process. My scanner is an old Epson scanner that Epson doesn’t support with new drivers, so I use a program called VueScan as my scanning software. I’m on a iMac.
For cleaning up my drawings, I like to ink in Adobe Illustrator. I used to use the round brush set for pressure sensitivity to create my inked lines. But now I ink with the pencil tool and use the line variable width tool to create the thick and thin effect I like.
For adding flat color, I like to use Live Paint. It works really fast. The part that takes the longest is closing all the shapes, so the fills will happen. I used to animate only in Flash, but recently I started using Toon Boom Harmony. When I first started working in Harmony, I didn’t like it because I was comparing it to Flash’s workflow. But now I like it. Harmony has some powerful deformation tools for animation. It also allows you to control the thick and thin of your lines. So my animation work looks just like my illustration work. Harmony is expensive but if you have projects to use it on, it’s worth the expense.
T.C.P.: What has been your most challenging project so far and why?
T.C.: The most challenging projects I’ve ever worked on, were while I was working for Garfield. I used to create interactive games and activities for their educational web site ProfessorGarfield.org. What made it so difficult was that I had to program the games in addition to creating the artwork. The games were created in Adobe Flash using Actionscript 2.0. Creating the artwork was easy for me but programming was tough. I guess I’m not hard-wired that way.
T.C.P.: What have been your main achievements/works you’re are most proud of?
T.C.: (Todd) Before I worked for the Garfield studio. I co-designed an exhibit for the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. I was proud to have worked on that project, especially when I attended the opening. The other thing I’m most proud of was my work at the Garfield studio. Mainly because I was able to teach myself programming. Even though I never became great at it.
T.C.P.: What advice would you give someone who would like to work as a cartoon illustrator?
T.C.: (Todd)I’ll quote my friend and cartoonist David Reddick. “Draw like the wind, Bullseye!” Never stop drawing and keeping a sketchbook full of ideas. It’s your “life blood” as an artist.
Creating art is a skill that needs to be developed and maintained. Don’t let other things distract you from being the best artist you can be. Hard work, dedication and desire are more essential than raw talent.The other important thing is… seek out your inspiration, study it, take away the lessons you can learn from others. When I was younger I used to tell myself I didn’t want to be influenced, I wanted to be original. But the fact is we are influenced by everything around us. Allow yourself to be influenced and inspired by other’s work. You’re own style will take over from there.
T.C.P.: What are your future projects?
T.C.P.: (Todd) More animation. I’m currently working on a series of animated shorts for my client. So hopefully I will continue to do more. I’m having a good time making them. We’re also trying to pursue additional clients through SEO and social media. Currently I’m working on a training video for CartoonSmart.com teaching Harmony 9. That’s being going slowly since I am so busy these days.
Please see below a small gallery with some of Treefox Cartoons artworks. Click on any image to zoom in and click again to go back to the article. More info at http://www.treefoxcartoons.com