We Interviewed Jim van der Keyl - Character Animator at Blue Sky Studio and an iAnimate.net Instructor

Posted at Nov 6th, 2013 by AnimDesk.

Jim van der Keyl - Character Animator at Blue Sky Studio and iAnimate.net Instructor

Jim van der Keyl is a golden age animator, he has been involved in a lot of memorable animated films such as ‘The Little Mermaid’, ‘Iron Giant’, ‘Kung Fu Panda’ and more.

Jim was born in Toronto, Canada. Where he discovered his talent for art in a young age. Ever since moving to the United States, Jim has kept his passion for art and eventually enrolled at Boston University, where he received his BFA degree in painting.

Jim began his career in caricaturing and drawing people for a living. His caricaturing books and videos helps him buy materials for his art to this day.

He started his Animation career one day when he found out that, ‘Animation Guid’ was teaching animation in L.A (where he was living at that time). This started his career as an in-betweener in Walt Disney Studios and after several years he moved up to become an animator for top notch animation companies like ‘Warner Brothers’, ‘DreamWorks’, ‘Blue Sky Studio’ and ‘Sony Pictures Imageworks’.

Jim van der Keyl - Interview with Golden Age Animator & iAnimate.net Instructor

Thank you very much Jim van der Keyl for this interview, we would like to start with you by telling us about yourself? Where are you from, and how do you summaries the growing up part?

Hi everyone... I was born in Toronto, Canada. While in Canada attending primary school, the teachers encouraged my drawing constantly and would display my drawing in the hallways of the school. They made me feel very important and I always felt that it was my destiny to be an artist when I grew up. God bless Canada, a great country!

I moved to the United States when I was ten and once again my teachers would encourage me to keep on drawing and painting. I was sure I was going to be an artist that is until High School when my parents thought it was time for me to grow up and start thinking about a stable career.

The art thing was fun but now we need to shift our thinking, and at that point I didn't know what else to do. The thought of anything else seemed too foreign and scary.

Art was fun but now we need to shift our thinking. The thought of anything else seemed too foreign and scary.

So I convinced my father that I wanted to go to art school and with some reluctance agreed and I went to Boston University and received a BFA with a major in painting.

But I have to say without the full support and encouragement of my parents I felt a little lost. But I set sail in that direction anyway and I would see where I would land.

Growing up, did you draw a lot? What style did you like the most? Did you have a favorite artist?

I drew a lot as a kid. Constantly copying from cartoons, and drawing from everyday objects...etc. I loved drawing Popeye and the 'Hanna Barbera' characters and Mighty Mouse.

Norman Rockwell also fascinated me and I copied his portrait painting of "John F Kennedy". I remember when he (JFK) was assassinated and it somehow struck me, the marriage of emotion and art. It was a big deal and everyone was crying.

I was heavily interested in portraiture, in 8th grade I painted a picture of Robert F Kennedy after he was assassinated (I know, right?) and my history teacher liked it so much she bought it from me, for like 25 bucks... Yeah!

In high school I dabbled in caricature and I would draw the teachers and make my friends and fellow students laugh. That was another revelation that you could create a reaction like that from people by just a few well placed shapes and lines.

Did you go to Art School? Which one was it?

Boston University School for the Arts

Tell us about your caricaturing career. How did it started? Can one really make a living drawing caricatures?

So yeah, I drew my teachers in High School and one day my physical education teacher (Mr. Gordon) came to me and asked me to draw his wrestling team for the team banquet at the end of the season.

Mr. Gordon had a knack for bringing out the best in his students. That's the first time I got paid for doing caricatures and gave me some confidence that it was possible to make some money doing what you like to do.

Portrait by Jim van der Keyl Jack Nicholson Caricature by Jim van der Keyl

After I graduated from Boston University, I landed a job drawing caricatures in the Boston area. I worked for a company called 'Caricatures Unlimited' and we were hired to draw at bar mitzvahs and birthday parties and we even did some traveling to colleges all over the East coast.

I was actually making a living drawing! At some point around 1985, I moved to Los Angeles area and I found a company that worked in all the major theme parks and drew caricatures there for a $3.75 out of which we got a $1.25 per drawing and soon learned the value of a dollar.

I measured everything I bought in how many caricatures I had to draw. I ended up working in 'Universal Studios' and 'Knotts Berry Farm' and 'Magic Mountain'.

I was able to sustain myself financially and actually got married and started a family. I now have three grown up kids.

What is the 'best' caricature you ever made? And where is it hanging at the moment?

Each year I seem to get better. I am friends with many caricature artists on Facebook and have learned a lot by looking at the various styles and techniques.

Juan Campanella Caricature by Jim van der Keyl Caricature Portrait by Jim van der Keyl

I drew a caricature of 'Juan Campanella', my director for the animated movie called 'Metegol' (Foosball), that was made in Argentina (where I lived for a year). I had a print made of it and he now he has it. Everyone from the movie signed it. I like the way it came out.

How did you find customers? Did you draw for the newspaper? Did you draw random people walking by?

So, I did make a living drawing caricatures at theme parks and private parties, so I must have drawing thousands and thousands of people, but after I got into animation that all stopped and I concentrated on my career as an animator.

I never really drew for a newspaper and I had just a few commissions outside of the regular job as a caricaturist. I never really pursued going after private clients. After drawing 200 caricatures for the day somehow it left me wanting to just relax.

What I did after making the transition to Animation was to record all my knowledge of the party caricature and caricature in general into a series of videotapes and I sold them through the mail.

I actually still sell them today through Amazon. I'm 20 years younger in the videos, and it still sells well.

It started with the 'One Minute Caricature' and then the 'Front View' and the last one, 'Exaggeration and the Creative Process'. At the animation studios I was often asked to draw clients and the staff and the executives so in a way I was paid but through my salary as an animator.

I still to this day draw caricatures but it's more of a hobby. I don't really sell them. I do it for fun and self-amusement, however occasionally I will be commissioned to do one. I turn down some gigs because I am pretty busy with animating and don’t have the time.

When I can, I bring my sketchbook with me and draw random people at the airports and train stations when I travel or just go out for a walk.

In 2010 I created a book called 'The Caricaturist's Handbook' describing the many ways in which to think like a caricaturist, which culminated in all the knowledge I have garnered through the years and put down in this book.

How and when did you realize that you wanted to become an Animator?

I remember when my Dad would laugh hysterically when watching a Disney short movie with Goofy or Donald Duck. I was always fascinated with Disney and would love it when the next Disney cartoon was released.

I never really thought and made the assumption that I would become an animator. It was more; I would become an artist of some kind. I remember applying to Disney right after college, I didn't expect much and the portfolio came back with a polite letter saying they weren't really hiring but my caricature work was good but I needed more drawings of action and movement.

I let go of the idea and instead concentrated on being a caricature artist. That is until I moved to LA and discovered that the Animation guild was teaching animation courses for 65 dollars!! Wt...? People were paying thousands of dollars at 'Cal Arts University' to study animation so this seemed like a great deal and so my interest in animation was rekindled.

I learned in-betweening from Milt Kahl's cleanup artist Dale Oliver. OMG that was amazing. Dale, although getting up there in years was an amazing artist and took his job very seriously and just by being around him I could feel the history of the animation studio seeping out of his pours and I sought to soak up every bit of it.

His hand shook a little bit but when his pencil hit the paper it was sure and steady and confident. It was after that class and taking figure-drawing classes with Glenn Vilppu that I was able to get considered for employment at Disney.

They needed to finish up on the 'The Little Mermaid' and needed more cleanup people and I happen to be in the right place at the right time.

I often tell students that you may not know where you are going but just keep your sails pointed in the general direction and somehow the stars will line up for you and the Universe gives you what you need. But you have to be prepared for that moment.

You may not know where you are going but just keep your sails pointed in the general direction and somehow the stars will line up for you.

How did the caricature experience help you with animation? Was it a smooth transition between the art forms?

Because I drew EVERY DAY I think it gave me two things: the feeling that I was a professional artist, and the practice of putting pencil to paper.

Practice practice practice. So when the time came I was prepared. They say there is no luck, only preparation and the ability to recognize when opportunity comes.

My classes with Villpu in figure drawing were also a part of the transition and preparation into animation. I needed a good portfolio to get past the initial screening at Disney and the in-betweening was the technical part. Good figure drawing was essential for the portfolio and Glenn Villpu was just what I needed.

Now lets not forget that Cleanup and in-betweening were separate department, we took the animators' drawings and put on the final cleaned up line that you see on the screen.

The rough animators' drawings were not cleaned up enough and that was our job to do. I was a cleanup artist almost 7 years before I ventured into animation and by then I was already 39 years old. But with the same eye towards a goal I applied the same principle of preparation and learned the craft of animation by picking the brains of animators and yes taking classes at the Animation Guild Union school for... 85 bucks!!! (Inflation you know...)

I had the good fortune of learning from Ruben Aquino who famously animated "Ursula" from the 'Little Mermaid', and it was from there I managed to get a job as an apprentice animator at Warner Brothers.

Did you have a natural talent or was it a skill you had to push yourself to learn in order to acquire?

I guess you could say I had a natural talent for drawing but like anything, if you are lazy you will not progress. Art has rules of what works and what doesn't.

You have to learn the rules and apply them. It's quite simple. So I believe that if you really applied yourself you could learn the rules. I think that talent only accelerates the learning process.What was your first work you ever worked on? How did you get it and what company was that for?

The first animated movie was the 'The Little Mermaid' mentioned above, I worked for various smaller shops before I started as an animator at Warner Brothers.

My first animator's job was the 'Quest for Camelot'. It was my work on the Quest that caught Brad Bird's eye and he was willing to train me and gave me significantly good scenes in the 'Iron Giant', enough so that it earned me a nomination for an Annie Award for my work in the 'Iron Giant'.

Jim van der Keyl - Animator on Iron Giant

How did you end up working and animating for DreamWorks? What steps did you take?

So after 'The Quest for Camelot', 'Iron Giant' and 'Osmosis Jones', I had a certain amount of animation experience that I could "market" to the big studios.

Computer animation was getting its start after the debut of 'Toy Story' and the success that followed. What I did to prepare was to take all the short animation scenes of the "Drix" character in 'Osmosis Jones' (who was modeled in computer and animated in CG) that the regular animators didn't want, like: 'moving holds' and little reaction shots in my spare time, and from that I got some experience in production CG animation work.

Plus, I did a test using the 'Iron Giant' rig that I used in my show reel. So, armed with that, I put together a reel that had CG and traditional animation work and 'Sony Imageworks' hired me to work on Stuart Little.

My first CG project was 'Harry Potter', and I helped animate the Troll in the bathroom scene then I moved on to 'Stuart Little'.

When I had that as part of my reel I wanted to work at 'DreamWorks' on their CG projects, the first one being 'Shark Tale'. After a few trials they finally had an opening and I was hired. That was a good day.

Which project(s) did you work on while working there?

At DreamWorks - I was there for 7 or 8 years working on 'Shark Tale', 'Over the Hedge', 'Flushed Away', 'Kung Fu Panda', 'Monsters vs. Aliens', 'Kung Fu Panda 2' and "Puss n' Boots". It was a good run.

What a typical day looked like for you at DreamWorks? When did you wake up and what did you do on everyday at the studio?

Most studios are basically the same as far as workflow etc. It was a little unique at DreamWorks, because the work area was more like a college campus with Ping-Pong tables and a cafeteria, a fountain and modern buildings.

There were separate buildings that housed separate departments, and we had waterless urinals. At the cafeteria they served food for free; actually a smart move because if we had to drive to get food it would take at least two hours for a lunch break and the company would most likely lose production time from its employees.

Anyway, work starts at 9; so whatever you have to do to get there you leave on time. For some reason, living in L.A, a 45-minute commute is considered not a long time.

I live in the Santa Clarita Valley so I had to get up early, face the traffic and get at the studio by 9, which at times could take over an hour depending on traffic.

If you have animation to show you usually have dailies ('sweatbox' in some studios) that you sign up for to get feedback from the director. But before you do that you need approval from the supervisors who are in touch with how the sequences should flow and can guide you as to how the scene or scenes you have are played out.

So yeah, we sit in our lush cubicles and move the mouse around and enter the fantasy world of animation in very 'slow' motion, tweaking frames and moving the rigs around getting the poses just right at 24 frames a second.

Like I said, 'slow motion'. Animators, as described to me by an Argentinian animator, Fede Radaro, are operating in slow motion bullet time, the kind you see slowed down busting through a watermelon.

We work for three or four hours, get lunch, chat and joke around with your fellow animators then get back to work. After a week's worth of animating and when the director approves our 5 seconds of animation, we get 10 seconds of clapping! Yea! But it is satisfying or else why would we do it?

What part of your job do you like best and why?

I think the best part of the job is the brain stimulation animation gives. It is challenging and each scene is new

A new character that could be a female, or we could be animating quadrupeds, the next job could be birds, or fish, so each time there is an intellectual challenge of how things move.

Throughout your career you will have different challenges. If you don't like to analyze movement then this job isn't for you.

How animators collaborate with each other at the studio? Do you guys also bond after work?

It depends on the studio culture, but for the most part, yes. Here at 'Blue Sky Studio' where I am currently working, the crew may head down to White Plains for some after work release and discuss the challenges of the day over a pint of Blue Moon.

Someone is always hosting a get together. At DreamWorks, there was the "Secret Room" which a hidden room was created out of unused attic space in one of the buildings where after work on Fridays people would hang out in a lounge like atmosphere and decompress.

Also many of us play some sports of some kind. For me playing hockey, Ice, roller , or street hockey was a way of interacting with fellow animators after work or during our lunch hour. Often the studio would set up some event like softball or kickball or ping pong and the different departments would compete against each other.

At Dreamworks Jeffery Katzenberg liked to play poker and so we had poker tournaments and the winners got to play with Jeffrey in the final round.

As far as collaborating, it’s different at different studios. At Blue Sky for instance the sense of sharing information and tips is pretty amazing. Experienced animators share their hard fought experience with less experienced animators much more freely than I have seen from other studios.

Amongst animators the sense of sharing and the desire to make each shot the best it can be without ego involvement, is encouraged and implemented. It makes for more relaxed attitude knowing that you can discuss your work freely and people are all about making great scenes for the larger purpose - the movie.

How do you synchronize work and family? Workings on films are pretty much tedious, aren't they?

You know, this is becoming a concern lately. Before, if you worked for a studio you could be pretty assured that you could be working there for some time and you could raise a family.

I raised a family (I have three kids) in the L.A area for over 24 years. Once in a while you would be asked to do overtime and come in on weekends and such, but it never got too crazy.

I guess I was lucky because I have heard some horror stories... Even in Argentina, where I worked on the 'Metegol' movie, the overtime was not that bad.

Nowadays, I know families that split apart because the studios are cutting jobs and they have to find work in different parts of the country. If it is temporary then they can't just pack up and move each time.

It's kind of odd, because I see more and more animation films being produced but fewer jobs, especially in the L.A area. Much of it is going overseas, outsourcing the work. It almost feel like the same thing happening all over again when this happened to 2D animation.

You cannot just rely on job stability any more. If a studio feels that they don't need you any more they will cut you loose.

There's no stability nowadays. If a studio feels that they don't need you any more they will cut you loose.

Sony moved the entire studio to Canada, and DreamWorks has a whole studio in India and China. I don't know if this trend will grow or stabilize at this point, so we are in a state of flux.

There is so much competition out there and more people can animate than before because the technology is available to anyone with a computer, that if someone is willing to work for cheap, then that's an incentive for the studio to take advantage.

What are some of your favorite projects you're proud to have been a part of?

Without a doubt - 'Iron Giant'. The studio (Warner Brothers Animation department) was being left alone to die on the vine.

Jim van der Keyl - Character Animator on Iron Giant

They put no money in advertising 'Iron Giant' and had no idea the gem that they had, so we did what we wanted without the "suits" telling us what marketing trends told us what to put in the movie.

Brad Bird (the director) was inspiring to work for and he had magical way of getting you to dig deep inside you to pull out the very best that you had. He could have had a career as a motivational speaker.

What's your animation workflow looks like while animating?

  1. Study the storyboards.
  2. Get a scene launch from the director.
  3. Do the research on acting and mechanics.
  4. Make thumbnails, take notes and shoot video reference if necessary.
  5. Either 'block out' the scene in stepped curves to show for blocking approval or show the reference (to save time in wasting time trying to block out a scene).
  6. Get 'blocking' approved.
  7. Spline the animation (make it smooth).
  8. Show it to the director and or supervisor.
  9. Get the 'go ahead' to finish the scene.
  10. Finish the scene to its final form.
  11. Get final approval.
  12. Receive 10 seconds of applause.
  13. Rinse and Repeat.

Have you ever embodied the art of caricature into one of your characters? What character did you love to work on the most? Tell us a little bit about the workflow on that character

Caricature is something the '9 Old Men' from Disney talked about when discussing animation. If you walk the halls of any studio you are bound to stumble across caricatures of animators and other personnel hanging up.

It's a part of the culture of an animation studio. As a medium, animation is a caricature of life. We don't copy life; it's not a portrait (that's more the job of live action movies), but rather an exaggeration.

It could be an exaggeration of movement or personalities or both. We are character actors, not like 'Brad Pitt' or 'Tom Cruise' kind of actors.

We think more like 'Charlie Chaplin', 'Jim Carry', 'Lucy Ball', or any of the Saturday Night Live skit actors. What we do is abstract personality traits and lifts them out of obscurity to show to the audience.

We push the differences just enough to give notice and get people to recognize the character types. We can do this by contrasting between stretching and squashing, evil vs. bad, boring vs. exciting, thin vs. fat, loud vs. quiet, bright red vs. grey.

Facial expressions are pushed, mouths are stretched wider, eyebrows raised a bit more, Just enough to punch through the invisible wall of the normal and unnoticeable to get it to stand out and take notice and grab the attention of the audience to communicate a story idea.

That's what I do in caricature when I draw and that's what I do when I animate. It's the same thinking process.

Do you find yourself watching a film you've been apart of at home or friends?

Hmm, good question! I'll watch the movie if I am with friends or family that haven't seen them and then make sure they know that I animated on that scene, right there! Did you miss it? I'll repeat it for you!!

Do you look for imperfections in your work or just enjoy the film while watching?

OH yes. I wish I could go back and fix scenes that I did. I try not to be too harsh on myself.

There's a fine line between discouraging yourself and encouraging yourself. You need to be motivated for the next scene, so be critical but don't be so enamored with yourself as to rest on your laurels.

Tell us a little about the tools that you are using, what's your preferences?

At DreamWorks we used the proprietary software called "EMO", but the industry mostly use Maya, so I teach using Maya at iAnimate.net, and all the studios I worked for post DreamWorks. I really like "EMO", but Maya is fine enough as a software tool, but I found I could go faster in "EMO" for some reason.

What is your favorite 2D or 3D animated film(s), and why?

Well, I have to say that the 'Iron Giant' is one of my favorite 2D movies. How can you not shed a tear when Robot says "Superman"; Damn you Brad Bird for manipulating my feelings.

Jim van der Keyl - Animator on Warner Brothers Iron Giant

I always loved 'Sleeping Beauty' from Disney, mostly for the stylization and art design and sharp character designs.

And for pure comedy, I loved the Disney shorts featuring 'Goofy', explaining how to drive or play golf or play hockey.

What are your thoughts about Japanese Animation? Are you a fan or prefer good old American Animation?

I appreciate Japanese animation like I appreciate Picasso's Cubist period. Something about animating on these is an acquired taste. After watching a Miyazaki film it feels like waking up from a dream.

You are taken on a journey, which at some point doesn't really make sense to me but yet does. It's a confusing feeling.

What is the most difficult part for you about being in the animation business?

Always seeking approval. Each director and supervisor is different and we need their approval to move on.

We are taught that we should not seek other people's approval when it comes to self-esteem, but our job depends on it. It's bit of a conundrum.

Have you ever had a character/scene that was too difficult to animate?

No character is too difficult to animate unless the rigs are so poor that you cannot get the right pose. It really depends on proper rigging.

Saying something is too difficult means to give up. I like the challenge. When I first started to animate my big scenes in the 'Iron Giant', I was so nervous that I thought about giving up and handing in my pencil. But, my supervisor at the time Chris Sauve, who said that I need to calm down, breathe and take a chunk at a time, which is the best advice if you are overwhelmed.

That's the sign of a great supervisor, someone who can lead you and take you into new territory and help you with your self-confidence.

Which project was that on? And how did you tackle that problem?

It was the scene in the diner when Kent goes off on Hogarth about the dangers of space aliens.

I was pretty nervous about the scene. Like Chris said, I blocked it out and did some reference and took it a chunk at time, one pass at a time until it got finished.

Who influenced you the most in the animation industry? Who is or was your ultimate Mentor during the early stages?

My first mentors were Dan Wagner (supervising animator at DreamWorks) and Ruben Aquino.

I was 37, 38 years old at the time, but that didn't stop me from trying. Dan was maybe 10 or 12 or so years younger than me but I recognized his ability to animate on the 'Swan Princess'.

I was his cleanup artist for his animation so I got to study how he did things and later he would be my mentor at Warner Brothers. My goal was to be an animator by the time I was 39.

Ruben Aquino was teaching animation classes at the union and I took his classes and made some progress there. But ultimately it was Dan who had the biggest influence.

If you watch 'Kung Fu Panda' you should know that 'Po' is Dan Wagner. His sense of timing and humor is unique and he heavily influenced how 'Po' would move and behave.

What do you think about animation nowadays? Do they become harder to produce or animate due to higher competition between the companies?

If a studio can follow the 'Pixar' model and put out only a well thought out story then I feel a studio can survive. If money is the only reason then producers will end up taking over the project and dictating how it will be done.

Then it's a hit or miss. If you can consistently make good stories then people will at least give the movie a chance at the initial box office. There is intense pressure now because of the competition.

Two or three disappointments at the box office in succession can fold a studio. If it weren't for the 'Shrek' Movies, DreamWorks would have been a footnote in the animation history in my opinion.

There may be some trepidation by the studios because as soon as there is a hit, it becomes a sequel. It keeps the studio afloat while they come up with then next original content. Which is actually good for being employed.

Have you ever thought about going solo? Becoming an animation entrepreneur and create your own title?

I have seen how difficult it is to start a studio and I do not have the intestinal fortitude to battle with government regulations, payroll, the possibility of being sued, impossible deadlines ...etc.

I was not trained that way. I may however at some point, do my own tiny short if I go for my Masters degree in animation.

2D Animation vs. 3D Animation what are your thoughts on this endless battle?

Well... Here's the thing. 3D animation offers the ability for more subtle acting and live action like camera moves. The audience has grown more sophisticated with these improvements.

When you go backwards with these two improvements, 2D animation feels primitive. And I am not sure the audience wants that.

So that puts pressure on the story. A 2D animated movie has to know its limitations and work within that confine and make a great story. If it can do that then it has a chance at the box office.

The beginning sequences of 'Kung Fu Panda' were beautiful and embraced the 2D limitation and took advantage of what it does best, with great designs of flat color, squash and stretch and great drawings.

So if a movie can be done this way? Who knows, maybe it will see a comeback. But a studio has to take the chance.

If you could name one 3D and 2D animated film, what's your favorite of all time?

I like the 'Toy Story' movies. I really do, especially the third one. They were all great. 2D wise? 'Pinocchio' was great.

Do you consider yourself as someone to look up to, for beginners, friends, family, animators, artists?

I think my biggest inspiration for beginning animators that I have to offer is that I started late. When I was an in-betweener at Disney I was 32. Most of the animators that started at Disney had already had years of experience over me and were supervising at my age.

You can't let that deter you. Just believe in yourself and keep your focus on the horizon. For my own kids, I never made my kids feel that they can fail at the arts.

We encouraged them to be who they were and do what they felt they wanted to do. My daughter is at UCLA with a major in theater and my son graduated from L.A Film School with honors.

My other daughter went another route and joined the army. Who would have think!

Tell us about your online store, why did you decide to sell online products? And when did it start?

Back in 1991 I produced my first tape (VHS) on how to draw caricatures. 4 years later I made the other two, and I set up a small business to supplement my income.

I read somewhere that one should have 3 streams of income. So I did what I knew about: drawing caricatures at theme parks.

I sold those for years advertising in magazines, and fulfilling orders when the checks came in the mail. Then PayPal made my life easier along with the Internet.

I no longer had to pay crazy magazine ads prices! I liked the idea that I had my own business. I never got rich over it but I provided a beginning caricaturist a means of learning how to draw caricatures and I used to get testimonial letters thanking me and crediting me for getting them started in caricaturing for a living. That makes me feel good.

My products never got me rich, but I provided a beginning caricaturist a means of learning how to draw caricatures. I used to get testimonial letters thanking me. That makes me feel good.

When I set out to make the videos I wanted to put everything I know about caricatures and provide real value. I was the first one to do anything like this back in the 90's.

Finally in 2010 I made my book, 'A Caricaturist's Handbook', which is similar to my video 3 on caricaturing but upgraded to include more information.

My website is www.sketchme.com. You can get detailed information on the products I sell there.

Amazon.com made my life easier when they created www.createspace.com, (an on-demand publishing arm of the retail giant).

Now, all a customer has to do is order from Amazon and they will make and send out a copy on demand. Amazing. I no longer have to send out orders. They do it all for me.

Do you love teaching, or animating? Which comes more natural for you?

I got a lot of experience learning to break down the process of creating caricatures so its not a stretch that I can apply the same process to animation.

When I used to draw, I had to battle a voice that told me that drawing and painting were not serious ambitions so I would "talk" to myself almost like I was a teacher to myself that it was ok to draw and that voice showed me how.

When I learned a new concept it was like the old masters were showing me how to draw and I took note. "When you draw the eye, you see it as a sphere" hmm... that's interesting "and you can shade by using crosshatching that follows the form." wow. Duly noted.

You take these mental notes so that they become "laws" so that they can be repeated and relied upon and so you don't have to rely on instinct to draw.

It's the same thing with animation. That habit of relying on knowledge that you can hang your hat on was how I approach a vast subject such as drawing and animation. I enjoy getting students to "see" and I enjoy seeing their progress.

What can people expect to learn from your products?

Well Like I said, my goal with my products was to provide value and information that can the students can use. If one wanted to learn how to draw caricatures for parties then my first two videos are about that.

The 'One Minute Caricature' and the 'Front View'. Fast caricatures for maximum profit! Get a line of customers going and you can actually make a living drawing caricatures.

For those who wanted to draw more complete caricatures for print or commissions or just for a hobby then my book, 'The Caricaturist's Handbook' and the third video, 'Exaggeration and the Creative Process' is about that.

Tell the audience and us a little bit about your latest projects, what are you working on as for 2013-2014?

I am working on 'Rio 2' now for Blue Sky Studio for the time being, and then it's back to Los Angeles. I plan on making more caricatures and possibly have a show.

I also think it would be a great time for me to teach at a University somewhere and work on getting my Masters degree which would accomplish two things, get me to work on my own project and qualify for better pay.

If you could choose to work with any artist from the animation business, who would it be and why?

I would work for Brad Bird again in a heartbeat. Brad always knew what he wanted and he could communicate that and inspire you. I trust his judgment.

Lastly, is there any advice you can give to an aspiring animation student or artist trying to get into the animation or gaming business?

Gaming business? I don't know. Animation? Keep focused and keep learning. There are so many resources that you could practically teach your self if you have access to a YouTube videos for God's sake, all we had back "in the day" was the Preston Blair book.

Nowadays the info is all over the place. However there are a few online resources like the place where I teach like iAnimate.net.

Here, industry professionals teach you and the quality of instruction is top notch. Now you could go to the local community college or University but many of the instructors do not have the knowledge of what it takes to survive in this industry.

You can spend thousands and thousand of dollars and go into school loan debt and have a mediocre training to show for it. Investigate the instructors and where they came from before you commit to a choice. Or go to www.ianimate.net and check us out!

For last, thanks for letting me share my a bit of my life with you.

Jim van der Keyl