I am an Italian-born visual development and concept artist working at Disney Publishing, and I am often asked how I got my big break in the business. I hope this brief column helps other artists who are also looking for ways to find their dream job in the animation and vfx industry.
My love for art started at an early age thanks, to my father who put a pencil in front of me even before I can even remember. I clearly recall the first time I saw Disney’s The Rescuers. I was even impressed before we played the VHS of the movie in our house. I couldn’t understand what I was looking at in terms of art, but I knew that was something I wanted to learn and do. Then when Pixar’s Toy Story and A Bug’s Life came into my life they just confirmed that I had to pursue a career in animation further down the line. I have to say that I’m still obsessed with The Simpsons and that the show’s brilliant humor is something that shaped who I am today. I was also obsessed with comic books. I loved Topolino (an Italian comic book featuring Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge and other popular Disney characters) and wouldn’t miss an issue. I was also a big Dylan Dog, Tex, One Piece and Dragon Ball fan.
I have been very fortunate to have a family who has been very supportive of my choices, so I was able to study graphic design and fine arts in Florence, which helped me tremendously with my career. I was always drawing constantly, and I recall that I always considered receiving paper and nice pencils the best gift for Christmas. After I finished my studies in Florence, I moved to London to find jobs as a visual effects artist for commercials. I always kept my goals clear and never stopped working on my portfolio. I spent most of my vacations in Los Angeles, because I knew that eventually I would love to work in this city. I worked hard on my portfolio, which I was lucky enough to show to my art director and the rest of the crew. Fortunately they loved it, and here I am now: I’m glad to be part of an amazing team of people that not only are great friends but also a source of inspiration every day and that also share very similar stories to mine.
Challenges and Rewards
Being able to visualize the scene and do lots of experimentation around that idea while meeting the deadline is definitely one of the biggest challenges of my job. The pleasant environment at the office makes a big difference and doesn’t actually make you feel too much pressure. Seeing the evolution of the work from a small sketch to the final painting is very rewarding. It’s kind of like watching your baby as it grows, evolves and gets better. You have to be ready to start from scratch many times: It’s not easy to go back from the start, but knowing that you’re doing it to get the best results definitely makes you feel better about it.
My Big Break
In the beginning of my career, I got my foot in the door by doing photo retouches and matte painting while I was working on concept art. I was learning all I could in both sectors and tried to put together all that knowledge and new things into something that was fresh and appealing. That’s still my goal today. I was able to make some contacts during the years I spent in London. I slowly started to grow and gradually, people started to know my work and I was able to get more jobs thanks to word of mouth.
A Few Words of Advice
The best advice I can give is to stay focused, never lose confidence and be open to critics, changes and different opinions. You have to work hard and try to see what’s really necessary in the immediate future in order to get you to your long-term goals. Of course, being nice to people and a great team player are crucial aspects of thriving in the business. I know it may sound like a cliché, but there are no easy short-cuts. The journey of an artist is similar to climbing: In order to reach the heights, you have to put one step after another, making decisions step by step. The journey may be long, but working in the animation art business is a satisfying process that will allow you room for much growth and a wide variety of experiences.