Dan Santat is a cool guy. Besides creating the Disney show The Replacements, he’s also a full-time illustrator with many books (both personal and c-created) to his credit. He recently talked with Rob Sander’s over at the Picture This! blog about his creative process and how he got his start in the business. Here’s the really important part:
Rob: What three things have you learned that illustrators breaking into the picture book biz need to know?
Dan: First of all, I have to start off by saying is that I hate networking and meeting art directors and trying to solicit my work. Personally, that experience for me feels like it’s less about wanting to get to know someone and more about trying to get something from someone for work and the whole experience feels insincere. I took the route of trying to expose myself as much as possible on the internet. Share your work with every site you can, and be consistent. So, my first piece of advice would be that if you’re not working on a paying job then just keep working to grow your presence on the internet. Just keep making art and be consistent about it. It’s that simple.
Second, you should share that work. Post it on your blog or Tumblr account be consistent about posting something every week. It’s the consistency as much as the quality of the work that keeps people coming back to see what you’re doing.
Third, I would advise a person to really focus on their art not for the sake of making a buck, but instead to fine tune your style until it really speaks about how you think and do things. If every illustration you do is money driven and you constantly find that you’re asking yourself, “Can I sell this?” then you’re not being true to yourself and your work is suffering because of it. When you constantly worry about being able to make a decent career in the arts many folks tend to rely on imitating the big names out there who are making a big splash with their work. More often than not, their own work suffers because it is derivative.
While Dan is primarily an illustrator, the quote I’ve plucked could be equally relevant to animators, especially those just starting out or are still in school. It’s funny how a lot of what Dan says is common sense, but is still overlooked by a lot of people.
Today’s topic of discussion is Dick Daring, the pseudo Evel Knieval father from the Disney TV show, The Replacements. Of course there’s a reason for this decision, and that’s because today is creator Dan Santat’s birthday! Happy [redacted] Birthday Dan!
Daring resembles the typical cartoonish father figure in that he’s somewhat inept (buying daughter Riley a mule instead of a horse), partially clueless but forever loving towards his family. What makes him stand out though, is his job: being a daredevil.
This sets things up for plenty of jokes as Dick attempts some truly outrageous stunts over the course of the series that, naturally,for the most part fail.
What makes Dick an interesting character is that we can compare him to another cartoon father that is partially clueless but forever loving and that’s Homer Simpson. The big difference between the two though, is that Dick’s character never changed whereas Homer’s character gradually changed over the course of the series. To that end. Dick as a dimwitted character is much more believable than Homer is.
Dick Daring also embodies many of the traits of the so-called man-child. He’s a grown man but sometimes acts like he’s still a kid. There’s nothing wrong with that since Will Farrell made a career out of it, and it does put an interesting twist on the entire family setting as sometimes it’s the kids who appear more mature than him!
Although not an overly complex or conflicted character, Dick Daring does make the perfect addition to a great show. He balances out some of the seriousness with his wild and crazy ways, and he always has a foil in C.A.R.R. the family’s British super smart car.
As far as cartoon fathers go, Dick Daring is about as animated as you can get.
Dan Santat (click through to see the hilarious fake album cover) is a name you may not be immediately familiar with. He’s created the Disney cartoon, The Replacements, and he’s illustrated a ton of books (some by others, some by himself). With all that on his plate, it’s easy to see why I am recommending his blog for you to follow.
Being the independent type. Dan is superb in expressing the viewpoints of such a career. A recent highlight was his post about a job offer from none other than Google, and whether or not he felt his career should go down that road.
He posts in a very conversational tone, as if he’s there with you and simply reading aloud his mental thoughts. That makes for easy and enjoyable reading.
On top of all that though, is the ton of great art he posts. Being an artistic type, how could he not? There are recent works, upcoming books, gallery exhibits. visits to and from friends (old and new) and of course, recaps of various literary events that he’s attended. He also post the occasional window into his work methods, including building a scene, and the many tricks and shortcuts he uses to save time.
Besides all that, there are also links to his portfolio (for which you are richly rewarded), his books and TV show.
Dan updates fairly regularly and his posts are always a delight to read.