In 2009, I took my pitifully inadequate portfolio to Victoria Ying, one of many talented concept artists who work for Disney. After many “hmm’s” and “hurr’s,” she told me that I was off to a good start (probably a bold-faced lie, looking back) and that I could really stand to develop my skills in color and value. To get a really good grasp of it, she said to study straight from photographs and live-action film. “Do one value study and one color study per day from photo reference.”
Young and cocky, I ignored that advice for two years before I finally realized that, while my animation had improved vastly, my concept design was flat and boring. And really, what’s the point of animating something if it can never have good design and color as well? I set my animation aside for a while and focused on my drawing and painting skills.
These are some of the practice runs I did with photographs before tackling some from imagination. I showed them to Victoria again, and after affirming that I’ve at least made progress (she’s so much nicer to noobs than many) she told me that I was going about learning the right way, but I needed to do much, much more. I still feel like I’m struggling a lot with color, but hey! I struggled just as much with animation when I started out. This is the start of what can only get better.