Exclusive Interview: Marcos Mateu-Mestre
Accomplished animator, graphic novel artist, illustrator and best-selling author Marcos Mateu-Mestre is the man behind Framed Perspective Vol. 1 & 2. He has over 20 years of experience in the entertainment industry with impressive credits like Balto, The Road to El Dorado, The Prince of Egypt and How to Train Your Dragon 2. We had the opportunity to chat with him on his new instructional book series, his insider’s advice and greatest experiences!
Framed Perspective Vol. 1 & 2 – Now available on the shop!
As intimidating as perspective may seem, Marcos Mateu-Mestre delivers each lesson in an accessible and informative way that takes the mystery out of achieving successful scenes. These books include extensive step-by-step practical explanations of how to build objects and environments of all sorts, taking that first sketch to a fully rendered artwork with many of his finished illustrations as examples. Explore imaginative scenes in great detail and discover invaluable drawing techniques—from how to capture the essence of a character with one gestural line, to using clothing folds to further define the shape and volume of a character—to help you drastically improve your drawings.
What was the turning point in your life when you knew you wanted to pursue animation as a career?
To be honest, I always knew I wanted to do this as a career since I came from a family of artist. It was just really a matter of knowing what kind of art. Animation was always something I considered doing. On the same scale, I also considered graphic novels. I just knew I wanted to work in visual storytelling in general.
Tell us about one of your greatest experiences or projects working as an artist:
There’s one that’s very special to me which is The Prince of Egypt. It’s hard to choose just one because they’re all dear to me. When you invest that kind of time in your life in a project and the people you work with, they all become part of a big and significant experience. If I really had to choose just one though it would be The Prince of Egypt because it’s a beautiful and epic historical movie right before the time things were transitioning into 3D and it was my first project in America when DreamWorks first started. Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg were both involved and it was a very special time.
What inspired you to start writing your own instructional books?
I think there are two ways to go about the world of art. When you work in movies, you work with big teams and learn a lot. You have a phenomenal experience and the projects you work on have a worldwide audience. Still, I like to keep a personal corner for my own point of view and being able to do my own artwork that’s separate from what the larger audience sees.
For movies in general, you work on a lot of inspirational designs and you’re all working towards a big final product but your own personal work is never seen unless it’s in a “Making of” book. I started writing books because I wanted to put my work out there and share how I understand visual storytelling.
What do you think is the most important thing for artists need to develop to succeed?
Empathy. Being able to put yourself in your characters’ shoes and see what’s happening from their point of view. You need to understand what the story and characters are about. No matter how proficient you are in a technical aspect, if you don’t use this vehicle to reach your audience on an emotional level, it’s not enough.
They are both equally important. Technique without emotion is limiting the value of your work and without technique, it just doesn’t work properly in my opinion.
Is there anything you learned in the industry that you didn’t expect?
I haven’t had any big surprises because I was pretty much aware of how everything was. I just try to get personally involved in what I do and give my best shot. I think one thing I am very aware of is that my ownership of a project in animation is limited. It’s not a bad thing but that’s the way it is. Even if your contribution to the movie is big, it’s still within a big orchestra of animators. A single person can never make a single grand production. It’s just important that you know where you are at any given time.
Any final thoughts or advice?
I was once giving a lecture through Skype and a student asked for advice. I talked about finding your voice. I remember having seen one of those singing competition shows that was popular at the time. I can’t remember which one it was now but I was watching and it had gotten down to two finalists. One singer had an amazing voice and a style that was comparable to some of the top singers in the world. The other one was a more awkward singer who sang in a way that I wasn’t particularly keen on but that was definitely different than anyone I’d ever heard before. While they were opening up the envelope to announce the winner, I was sure that it was the more awkward and different singer that won and he did. That’s all to say that it’s about finding your voice and communicating something special about yourself and the way you see things. It can be completely different from everyone else or only a little bit different but whatever it is, you need to find that thing that will set you apart.
I remember when I was very young, I saw an article in a magazine where they were interviewing graphic novel artists. The magazine had asked them to name their favourite artists and I was disappointed with the answer from one of my heroes at the time because I hadn’t understood. His answer to the question was, “whichever artist I can identify just by looking at some of their work.” Now though, I understand what he meant. Imitating others just becomes tiresome and doesn’t really open any new doors. You need to get an audience excited about your work.
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