Mariano Gabriel Vidal is an animation artist. He is also the character designer behind the 2018 International Emmy Kids Awards Nominee show Mini Beat Power Rockers. The best part is that, by his own admission, Mariano also got into the industry by pure chance.
It goes to show that you never know where your life is going to take you, nor when the spark of creativity will ignite to send you off on an amazing and successful career. One would think that Mariano is full of little secrets and insights into how to hone your creative process, how to perfect your portfolio and such... which is certainly true. But his deepest secret is that Mariano loves to start working on any project... simply by taking a deep breath.
For this Member Spotlight, we are getting to know an extremely talented animator with a marvellous and unique style. Someone who simply finds inspiration in the beauty of little things.
How did you get into the industry?
I got into the industry almost by chance. In fact, I was completing my last year at college (in Buenos Aires, Argentina) when I saw this ad in a local newspaper about an animation course. That was back in 1995 (I obtained my architectural degree in 1995 and became a licensed architected in 1996). And even though I loved Architecture (my interest in it has never waned) it’s important to say that my passion for drawing and telling stories have always been with me, ever since I can remember… I guess it has always been my calling. So I took the course, and after a few months I was already working in a new animated series for TV, down here in Argentina.
Where are you based now and who do you work for?
Right now, I’m based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Prior to that I had the chance to live and work (as an animation director) in the United States of America. After a while I decided to return and I’ve been mostly working as a freelance animation artist since then, doing stuff for the local and Latin American industries, as well as for the US and Europe, of course (directing, designing and animating countless pieces for TV commercials, promos, animated series, gaming, etc.). More recently, I’ve been working as a Lead Character Designer and therefore asked to design the whole pack of characters for the ‘2018 International Emmy Kids Awards Nominee’ (and Discovery Kids’ #1 animated series in Latin America), MINI BEAT POWER ROCKERS. The show is produced by Argentina’s most important animation studio, ‘Mundo Loco CGI’, founded and owned by the ‘Oscar’ winning director, Juan José Campanella.
If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?
Well… I would have probably pursued a full time career in Architecture, I guess. Although I would have loved to be a professional tennis player, too! Anyhow… God only knows!
Can you explain your creative process?
In true earnest, I wouldn’t quite know how to explain it… I mean, I’m not exactly one of those typical artists that have like a special routine or way of doing things. If I had to be completely honest with you I guess the first thing I do before laying hands into any kind of project is simply taking a deep breath… and go from there. I study and analyse what it’s being required from me, and therefore try to ‘visualize’ the whole thing in my mind… maybe I’m asked to create some characters designs, or perhaps inspirational and concept art… maybe I have to animate, direct or whatever… the task doesn’t matter, really. Whatever is it that I need to tackle, it first needs to ‘unfold’ itself inside my head.
How would you describe your style?
My style… well, one thing you do learn over the years is to be able to adapt to different styles. Because, when it comes to animation, there is not just one specific style. Neither when it comes to overall visual designing, nor when it comes to animating. I mean, back in the old days (not so long ago, really!) you used to refer to (or even catalogue) any potential project as a ‘Disney’ style project, a ‘Warner’ style project or else a ‘Hanna-Barbera’ style project. Those were kind of the ‘big three’ references for every animated production/idea to be developed. Each of them implied certain skills, complexities and goals to be achieved… and different budgets, needless to say.
But having said this, I believe the most important thing for an animation artist is to nurture, improve and perfect his abilities the way animation artists did back then: learning drawing, colour, sculpting, composition, lighting, design, perspective, and so on and so forth… even music! All of these enhance and widen the artist’s scopes. They are but the sole foundation in an artist… they are the pillars of any visual form. In other words, what we usually refer to as ‘old school’. And besides, there are thousands of artists you can learn from and look up to. In my particular case, part of my architectural studies demanded a thorough knowledge in the History of the Arts.
And that gave me a deep understanding (besides a profound interest) in the nature of things, styles, movements, periods… because it is only then that you get to discover the true origins, principles and fundamentals that guided the great Masters of the Renaissance, Mannerism, Baroque, Rococo, Neoclassical, Romantic, Realism and all other periods that came along with it, encompassed in what we refer to as Western Art History. Such principles and fundamentals will enable you to succeed and excel in your craft.
Which individuals do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?
It’s not hard to tell (and based on my previous answer) that the great Masters of the past are one of my wells of inspiration. But, of course, I do have ‘heroes’ in the industry which are a never-ending source of inspiration, too. Those would be: Milt Kahl, Glen Keane, Sergio Pablos, James Baxter… exquisite and incredible animators, Every single one of them. Likewise (and when it comes more to visual development, inspirational and concept art), I would add Ryan Church, Pascal Campion, Raphael Lacoste, Le Long, among so many others. And of course, Brad Bird… and amazing director. Some of the best stuff (animated features) I’ve seen over the years has been directed by this incredible artist.
If you had to pick one ideal client/employer, who would that be and why?
If I had to pick an ideal client/employer it would definitely be one who could trust in one’s experience, knowledge, skills and capacity, providing whatever is it that one might need in order to tackle the project in hand. But at the same time, an ideal client should encourage you to constantly raise the bar in your work… to do your very best! Furthermore (and in addition to it) if time and money are not an issue… well, that would really be something else!
How has technology affected the way you work?
Of course, technology has changed many things during these past years. When I began my career in animation most of the stuff was still being done on the animation board… 3D animation was not quite there yet. Not to mention 2D digital animation. But again: animation principles and fundamentals apply to them all, regardless of the technique and/or technology being used. On another note, technology has certainly enabled us to connect with the world out there. Countless possibilities are there to be found (in order to carry out our projects, or just work remotely/overseas instead) which weren’t there before. Back in the 90’s I remember shipping my hard-cover portfolios and demo-reels (VHS video-tapes) to some of the most important studios in the US via FeDex or DHL. Imagine that! Nowadays, anyone, anywhere in the world, can get in touch with you within a single click.
What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?
Enjoying things that I like doing in life, besides my job and professional career. Spending time with my Family and friends, practising sports, setting goals… my Father in Law always remembered the ‘grand essentials’ for Happiness: ‘someone to love, something to do, something to look forward to…’ I guess inspiration and motivation are a mere consequence of those. But sure, of course: if it’s strictly work we are talking about, then learning, admiring and enjoying other artists’ works are definitely a constant reason for inspiration and motivation, as well.
What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?
An easy answer for me would be: the one I haven’t done yet. In true earnest, I wouldn’t know, really. It is as if I’m always striving to outdo myself… so, yes (and in Sinatra’s words): ‘the best is yet to come and babe won’t that be fine…’
How do you recharge away from the office?
Family, friends, sports, going out for coffee, watching movies, reading…
What is one tip for other aspiring creatives looking for work?
First and foremost: Love and enjoy what you do. That would apply to any type of job… ideally, at least. Nevertheless, if you choose an artistic profession then you ought to love what you do. And please, never give up. You’ll find hurdles along the way… but embrace those as an immense opportunity to learn, improve and move forward. Try to learn from those around you. Learn from great artists… have an open mind for new stuff and different styles in order to expand your skills and abilities. Be humble, but desirous of getting better and better. Be sure not to get depressed whenever you come across some fantastic artwork which is not yours… on the contrary, strive to get there and, eventually, raise the bar even more. Responsibility: being an artist does not exempt you from it. I cannot stress this enough: be responsible, committed and always try to stay positive.
What is the one thing that you would change about the industry?
Ha! Dear Lord! I could say a quite a few things, as a matter of fact… but, for starters… let’s just say I would remove some producers here and there.
Any websites, books or resources you would recommend?
Internet is an endless source for anyone curious enough to learn a bit more about animation (and all that comes with it). I would definitely recommend anything related to the artists I previously mentioned (a few questions ago)… just google them and plenty of stuff will show up. If I had to recommend one book, though: it would definitely be ‘The Illusion of Life’ by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. As for websites... again: there are thousands in the internet realm. Anyhow, if I had to recommend a couple or so, I would say the following: