Interviews

How to develop a unique style, according to Marcelo Vignali

An interview with the wonderful art director and concept artist

Marcelo Vignali is a well-known name in the animated film industry. He has been involved in titles such as Hotel Transylvania, The Smurfs, and Lilo & Stitch, to name a few, and his particular way of thinking about art can give us insight into our own training as artists.

We recently interviewed him about how to cultivate a personal style and find our own voice. We also chatted with him about some ideas that we can use to market ourselves better.

How to develop a unique style, according to Marcelo Vignali 1
Marcelo Vignali

How do you think technology has changed the animation industry?

I think that it's amazing that we have tools that, for very little money, allow anyone to have a complete animation studio, such as Procreate. And I see that the talent is increasing as a result of this.

However, these days, the new generations seem a bit lost because animation is not only a collection of techniques; it is an art. Animation is a narrative, and it's not just about the talent of drawing and coloring. We must communicate something with it.

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Marcelo Vignali

Do you think that artists’ styles have become more generic and less personal?

Yes, and that is very sad. In animation, there is a trend in which very successful styles draw all the attention, and people feel that they have to imitate them. They should not.

Finding a job depends on your personality. When you show your portfolio, it will not only stand out because of your technique, but because of the feeling you've put into it. It not only shows how talented you are at drawing, it also shows your particular way of seeing the world.

If we all search for the same references in Google, we will end up drawing the same things. I always try to explain to people who want to work in the industry to focus on their original ideas first. Think about something and draw it. Then do the research that supports a more refined design. Working like this, I first draw my inspiration, my memories, and what I want to express.

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Marcelo Vignali
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Marcelo Vignali

I find it fascinating that you suggest looking for a way to make art that starts from within, especially in an era when we are exposed to so much information.

That's it. Your work, first and foremost, has to say something. What does it mean to you? How does it affect you? It is better to start with that original idea.

What do you think about the kind of contests and challenges that don't offer artists a payment but promise visibility?

If you have a talent, it is very important not to cheapen it. You should put a fixed price on your work, and consider how much your time is worth. If someone wants to work with you, they must be willing to pay.

The internet already gives us all the visibility we need. We don't need someone else to give it to us. We can boost this visibility on our own. It's better to cultivate your talent. If someone is interested in it, they need to pay.

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Marcelo Vignali
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Marcelo Vignali

Don't you feel, for example with your work at Disney, that artists that are hired become "stars" on the internet?

Yes, they are internet stars, but not from being hired. They earn it with their Instagram profiles or on their websites. It is not something that comes from winning a contest or something similar.

I remember that when I was young, I was frustrated because I saw that my work was fine, but I was not getting paid like the others. And a man said to me: Marcelo, you are only going to get what you negotiate, not what you deserve. The world is not going to pay you what you deserve, but what you are able to negotiate. Sometimes we think: "the others will recognize that I have a lot of talent". It doesn't work like that. Those who talk, those who know how to negotiate, those who express their wishes will be better off.

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Marcelo Vignali
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Marcelo Vignali

Written by Jean Fraisse (@jbfraisse), a concept artist who currently works as an art director for the Mexican studio Huevocartoon. Jean teaches three courses at Domestika, focusing on character design, illustration and concept art, where you will learn animation, scene development both for film and video games. You can follow him on Canvas, his YouTube channel for conceptual art and illustration.

You may also be interested in:

- 10 designers and 3D artists you should know
- How to promote yourself and show your work to the right people
- Domestika Diary: Joel Santana

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