After living in Zimbabwe, Canada, Argentina and Norway, Lorraine Alvarez Posen returned to Cape Town where she now works as a freelance designer and professional visual development artist for feature animation and film. Here we find out more about her, as well as the various things her day job consists of.
Please tell us what your official (or unofficial) job title is:
I am a Visual Development artist/illustrator…and also occasionally a lecturer.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
When I was growing up it was actually a toss-up between becoming an animator at Disney or becoming a paramedic, quite the contrast I know. I did pursue my art intensively in high school, and was surprised when I was asked to take my A Level art two years early. Made me think…okay, I guess I have a shot in the artistic direction. I then obtained basic and advanced paramedic certificates…which helped me decide that animation it was!
What and where did you study?
I studied in Toronto, Canada. First for 3 years at a traditional animation college (which has a funny name – Max the Mutt College of Animation, Art & Design). During that time the animation industry started to move from hand drawn into 3D, so I decided to study 1 year post grad 3D Animation at Seneca College of Technologies. It was during my studies that I realized Visual Development/Concept Art was where my passion was. It was all self-study from there on in.
How did you come to be where you are today? We’d like to know more about your journey so far…
After college I returned to Africa and started off working in advertising agencies and also teaching animation workshops at schools. As I continued to hone my artistic skills I moved onto freelancing, continually developing my portfolio. A lot of this was helped along by friends in the industry that were working in big studios. They would show my work to the art department and I would get absolutely ripped apart. Which at the time was ‘ouch!’ but I was really grateful as it taught me to not be too precious about my art.
These days when I finish a piece I’m already looking to the next one trying to figure out how to push myself as an artist. Here in Cape Town I met up with a company called ‘HERO Concept Art’ and worked as their lead designer on various projects. Through HERO I also put together a few fun masterclasses in designing for game/film.
The next stop was travelling to Norway with my husband as we were head hunted to help a design technology school called ‘Noroff’ open a new branch in Trondheim. There I helped develop modules in Visual Development and taught both in their Vocational School and University College. We recently returned to South Africa.
“Visual Development artist” is a term you don’t hear every day. Could you tell us more about what this does, and could, entail?
Visual Development art is like concept art. You are responsible for designing the look of the film (whether it’s live action or animation) or any other project that needs visuals really. Designing elements such as characters, environments, props, creatures, mood, colour, costumed etc.
What characteristics and skills does it take to do what you do?
To work as a Visual Development artist you have to try learn quite a few disciplines. You need to have a good grasp of life drawing and human/creature anatomy to compliment character/creature designing. You need to learn perspective drawing for environment design. You need to know your principles of colour and light for illustrating story beats and colour keys. You also need to be comfortable with collecting lots of reference material as you are sometimes asked to design for period pieces, different cultures etc.
Overseas you are more able to specialize in one discipline within the department, like being a ‘character designer’ only…but in South Africa you do have to be a jack of all trades. And let’s not forget having a great imagination. You are paid for your ideas.
What do you love most about the work you do?
I love the variety of things I get to design which can keep me on my toes. For instance one moment I’m designing crazy high fashion lace shoes for an advert, or helping design grungy environments and props on ‘Dredd’, and the next I’m creating expression sheets for the quirky Zebras on ‘Khumba’.
How would you describe your style or aesthetic? How has this developed over the years?
My style really has developed A LOT from when I first started out. I used to be more into gaming so my portfolio used to have more fantastical environments, creatures and armor design. Now it has evolved to fit more with feature animation/children illustration styles, which I am absolutely loving. I am also currently going through what I like to call a digital detox with my art. Enjoying illustrating with traditional mediums again, getting back to basics and concentrating on quality of line and colour.
What are some of your current influences?
Difficult one! I really find inspiration in anything sometimes…great photography, travel, other artists. Currently the work of famed old school illustrators like Al Hershfield, Aurelius Battaglia, Alice and Martin Provensen and Mary Blair, to name a few.
What are you working on at the moment, and what are your plans going forward?
Well I have just moved back to Cape Town and have started working on my first exhibition, which is keeping me really busy. Also putting together an online shop to sell prints of my work. For more on the exhibition or when my shop gets launched keep an eye on my blog or Facebook page!
I am also currently looking for more social initiatives, giving back to the community through my art, I love what ‘See Saw Do’ and ‘1000 Drawings Cape Town’ are doing and I’d like to contribute to more projects like that in between work. If anyone has suggestions please feel free to contact me. Otherwise, I’m freelancing until I move onto the next production.
Do you have any advice for those who are looking to do what you do?
Even though I find I am still continuously learning myself, there are a couple tips that hold true with the industry. Traditional art training is a must and learning anatomy is important. A lot of people these days grow up on their computers and forget the principles of traditional drawing. Keep your portfolio current and fresh.
Be a team player! Sometimes you are with a team of artists all working towards the same goal. Don’t give up, there will always be times of frustration with your art, (believe me I have had them), be open to learning to draw lots of different things.
And finally don’t hole yourself up in your room with your computer and digital drawing tablet. Go outside with a pencil and cheap sketchbook! Observe the world around you, it’s extremely rich with wonderful characters and environments!