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Rune Bennicke Interview
Tell me a little bit about yourself, about your life? Where did you go to school, and what classes did you study? What helped prepare you to become the artist that you are today?
I got my first job animating at A-film Denmark in 1992. I had planned to go to art school but in Denmark ( don't know how it is anywhere else ) you had to be 18 to attend the classes. I was 16 at the time and thought I'd work while I waited. I never did go to art school, I got stuck animating, first in Denmark then in London at Amblimation, then back to A-Film in Denmark, Disney in Florida and now it's 19 years later and I'm in Brazil, still animating.
I come from an artistically inclined family, my grandfather is an architect and also a very talented painter and sculptor. His house was full of drawings and painting and interesting things. He'd sit me down and give me drawing assignments, like drawing violins and copper kettles. In his house there was also a big collection of Mad Magazine with the amazing work of Jack Davis and Mort Drucker, which made a huge impression on me. Both my mother and father draw and paint as a hobby along with several other members of my extended family including a few who are professional artists.
How do you go about designing, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?
It depends on whether the character is a main, side or background character, and on a multitude of other factors, of course, but theoretically, for a " feature style " main character, for me, it's all about personality and the type. I think of it as drawing a caricature of an archetype. My hope is always to get something that is "right", something that when people see it, they go " I know that guy ". I don't worry about making a nice drawings or simplifying to start with. Good drawing and simplification will happen more or less automatically as you get closer to the character and are the easiest parts of the process to control. I do a lot of research, find as many pictures as I can, I go through my comics and books, looking for anything that sparks an idea or feels right. Sometimes I get a strong sense right away of what I want to do, and then it's just going after it, drawing by drawing, until you hit something, and sometimes I start with the default cliché design and sketch more or less without direction until something inspires me or gives me an idea.
A cliché design would be the default, everybody-will-do-it-more-or-less-like-that-to-start, something that we've seen solved many times before.
I know that sounds a little random and hit and miss, but it isn't really. Designing is a process. Few people can sit down and do something that is right and interesting in one go. I don't believe in forcing the design, just squeezing the elements into a triangle or making the character fat or tall, the same goes for too much pure inventing. I'm more of the "archeology" school of design, you have to know where to dig and, and most importantly, how to recognize something good when you see it, you have to know what is important and what isn't, but the rest is carefully searching and discovering.
I had an experience early on in my artistic development. We didn't have access to model drawing classes, so I had to fake some life-drawings for a portfolio and the only thing I had to draw from was a tape of gymnastics, at first I was annoyed because I didn't like the way the gymnast girls looked, boyish with no curves, but after drawing them for a couple of hours, I saw a different kind of beauty that I had not noticed at first. I think that the job of a designer is, at least in part, not just to repeat what we already find beautiful, appealing and interesting, but also to find different kinds of beauty and appeal etc.
What are some of the things that you have worked on?
I've worked on a lot of different animation productions, around 20 different features, some of which never got made, like Chris Sanders' American Dog and King of the Elves. For the last 6 years I've worked on a lot of Commercials with my wife Rosana Urbes in our studio here in Brazil. One of my favorite films to work on was Brother Bear on which I was the chief character designer and lead animator on Koda's Mom and Tug.
Is there a design you have done that you are most proud of?
I am very proud of how the design for Koda's Mom turned out, which was in no small part due to David Nethery's incredible cleanup work. Some of the designs that made the biggest impression on me growing up were the animals; boars, horses and dogs in the Asterix comics. They combined anatomy and caricature with the cartoony. It seemed to me that there was a love for the subject as well as a love of design. That it was important to the artist to be true to the feel and details of the actual animal. I had the same impression with the work of Franquin and especially Daan Jippes who has a kind of artistic fearlessness. I think Koda's Mom is the closest I've come to achieving that in my own professional work.
What projects have you done in the past, and what are you working on now? (if you can tell us)
I've mostly worked as an animator, but other than the animation I did visual development and character design on Kingdom of the Sun, before it was turned into New Groove. I worked with Joe Moshier on the Llamas and some of the guards. I worked with Joe again on My Peoples doing the rough designs for the 2D characters. I did Character development on Chris Sanders' American Dog and character design on King of the Elves. In between all these I've designed a myriad of characters for commercials, including rough designs for young Tiger Woods and the animals for the Gatorade Woods of Wisdom Campaign.
Who do you think are the top artists out there?
There are so many great artists, and more and more every day. It would take me days to list all o them. Some of the less frequently mentioned but no less great are - Jakob Jensen, Claudio Acciari, Rosana Urbes, Gonzalo Carcamo.
Could you talk about your process in coloring your art, as well as the types of tools or media that you use?
I used to mainly use colerase pencils and sometimes markers and various incarnations of the fake brush pen. But, as will be no surprise to anyone, lately I do all my coloring in Photoshop. I have no training in painting or colors so my process is pretty basic and involves a lot of trial and error. Recently I've started playing with painting with the lasso tool, just shapes with no outlines, which I'm enjoying a lot.
What part of designing is most fun and easy, and what is most hard?
Finding the character is the hardest part, and always takes the longest by far. Once there is a basic idea of a rough design doing the exploration and expressions and poses is the easiest but not necessarily the most fun. The whole process is usually a lot of fun, but painting is the most pure fun.
What are some of the things that you do to keep yourself creative?
Mainly I worry like mad that I'm not creative enough. I try to play around with drawings and animation as often as I can, which has not been all that often the last few years.Lately we've been trying to do a weekly sketch night when we get together here in the studio and draw whatever pointless things we feel like.
What inspired you to become an Artist?
Becoming an Artist wasn't really a choice, In my family artist endeavors of any kind were always encouraged so I was always drawing. When I was about 10 years old I discovered the French / Belgian comics like Asterix and Spirou which I've since spent countless years drooling over when I wasn't studying and copying the drawings. When I was 14 I bought a second hand copy of Daan Jippes' Tea For Two which immediately became my favorite comic book and still is to this day. By the time I was old enough to understand the an "artist" was something you could be, I couldn't have stopped drawing if I wanted to.
What is your most favorite subject to draw? And why?
I prefer to draw people and especially silly people, preferably with larger than normal noses. It almost certainly is the lingering influence of the French/Belgian comics, plus,,, it's fun!
What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?
Nicolas Marlet taught me to cook. I asked him "where did you learn to cook?" and he said ( in a French accent ) "I just put what I like". Harald Siepermann, while on the Tiger Woods job, said to me that a lot of artists forget the Character part of Character Design, focusing too much on shapes and lines and details.
What are some of your favorite websites that you go to?
You really want to know? Right here on the blog? I make the rounds and check out the blogs regularly, I blog hop with the best of them.
What wisdom could you give us, about being an Artist? Do you have any tips you could give?
Being an artist is a process and the product is you. The work you produce is only a kind of measurement of where you are in your development. Be brutally honest with yourself always, no matter what you tell other people. Be brave and playful and creative and open to new things. A bad drawing can often teach you as much as a good drawing. Fear gives you NOTHING!
That last one I tell everybody everywhere, but it's mainly meant for myself.
If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?
Anyone who wants to can contact me at - firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, do you have any of your art work for sale (sketchbook, prints, or anything) for people that like your work can know where and when to buy it?
Nothing for sale yet.
Thank you Rune.