When you think of a famous artist, say, Leonardo Da vinci, most may believe that he was born with his talent. Becoming both a famous philosopher and painter, we see him as an influence on others and an inspiration to many artists that have come in from past and new generations. But, how was he able to come up with some of these great paintings and where did he get the skills for these?
Most likely, he probably wasn’t just born with those abilities. I don’t think that when Caprio first got a paintbrush, he painted a perfect rendition of the “Mona Lisa.” No. For one, he probably practiced. Two, he must also have been inspired by other previous artists.
As an artist, you gain a lot of knowledge and interest in material from your own experiences or what you are exposed to: except when it comes to animation. Most people who work in the industry and are interviewed discuss things like: “Oh, this one television show inspired me” or “I used to draw these characters from this show I watched as a kid.”
Most artists don’t have a super distinctive style right off the bat. From my own experience, a lot of my inspiration for my drawings comes from Disney and or Pixar Animation or shows I used to watch when I was younger. All artists have inspiration, and artists are able to get inspired by each other individually as well.
In this list, I’ll be looking at some artists currently working in the animation industry that has inspired me personally, inspired others, and also just sparked my interest in animation and design.
Now before I’m listing, these are mostly pure personal statements. What I’m saying may not be agreed with what you feel is the best artist, there might be other artists I haven’t heard of that also share an incredible talent as well.
If you do have an artist that has inspired you, let me know in the comments or in direct messages. The other thing is I want to focus on artists that are necessarily super popular or well-known.
These are artists that have incredible talent but I don’t think are featured in many of these lists, and this is also just a way to give them the spotlight and offer appreciation for their hard work and talents. With all being said: Let’s get Started.
1. Jason Mclean
Jason Mclean is a character designer for TV and Feature animation from Canada, best known for his works on Storybots; an animated and educational show for younger kids, and the television show Monsters at Work which is an exclusive on the streaming platform Disney Plus.
He graduated from Sheridan College back in 2016 with a bachelor’s in Animation and has made a name for himself on several social media platforms, the most popular being Instagram where he has named himself: “PorkBellyRamen.”
He also created the animated short film: “blue” which was his thesis film for his final year at his college.
Mclean focuses on mostly character design in his work, mostly focusing on creating more stylized shapes that, have seen most people call his work: “geometric.” Jason offers variety in his designs, making them from fun and whimsical, to serious and action-oriented.
Mclean was actually featured in an interview with “Character Design References,” a website and community for artists focusing on the animation industry. In the interview, Mclean states that “I love drawing people, if I can get the likeness of someone in a drawing and people can tell who it is, there’s just something special about that. Capturing someone in nothing but a few strokes of a pen/pencil is a great feeling.” The interview features some of Mclean’s personal story getting into animation and his opinions and liking of certain art forms. Highly recommend giving it a read and checking out the website if you want more information on artists and animation.
Most of his work features drawings of himself, friends, families, and characters from shows, video games, and films he admires. A lot of his work features characters from fun angles and poses to help make the characters feel alive and when looking at his work, It’s almost like they are moving.
Overall, if you’re looking for an artist that has a distinctive, moving, live, and fun style that focuses on character design and visual development I highly recommend his work. He’s the type of artist that, when you see his work, it feels like it’s alive.
Make sure to check out his portfolio: https://www.jasonmclean.art/
2. Amanda Jolly
Amanda Jolly is a character designer in the animation industry. She’s worked for studios and companies such as Sony, Disney, and WAG, and currently is a designer at Netflix. Her most well-known work can be seen in her work for the film Storks from Warner Bros. Animation, and Disney Television Animation’s Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure.
Her journey as an artist was definitely a long and inspirational one for her. Most of her story is revealed on The Bancroft Brothers Podcast “Character Design with Amanda Jolly” Which I highly recommend listening to, it’s a very interesting story from her personal story to where she is now. In the podcast, Jolly reveals when she was younger, “When I was three years old, The Little Mermaid was the first time consciously I was like ‘animation is a thing?’ I loved stories and I loved art already and it clicked in my head that: ‘you can tell stories with art, and it’s not it book it moves?!’ I never lost that fixation, it was the only thing I wanted to do.’”
Though, Jolly would find herself getting a degree in English and a master’s degree in Communication Management.” But, during the time when she graduated it was hard for her to find a job.”I searched for a really long time for work and couldn’t find anything. But During that time, my now husband asked me, ‘what if you actually went into art school?’”
She was 26 by the time she decided to go to an art school and she attended ArtCenter College of Design. This would lead her to develop her style and lead to becoming the amazing artist she is today.
Jolly art allows very unique proportions and shapes went it comes to her design. She offers fun movement and stylizations to her designs that make them feel vibrate and unique.
Like Mclean, her art feels like when it’s moving, it’s REALLY moving. There’s a lot of action in her work, even though just her creating expressions for characters, which I feel a lot of designers need to lean towards when creating characters. Her work is so good that she even won an Annie Award for Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure. If you want an artist with a funky expressional style, you’re never going to find it until you find Amanda Jolly.
Make sure to check out her portfolio: https://www.amandajollylines.com/
3. Izzy Abreu
Izzy Abreu is a character designer and visual development artist in the animation industry. She’s a born Canadian based in Los Angeles, CA recently worked as an artist at Walt Disney Animation Studios where she announced on her Instagram account that she recently worked with the film Wish, an animated film from Disney coming in 2023.
Izzy also works for clients: Netflix Animation, Warner Bros Animation, Jibjab, Smiley Guy, Yowza, Guru Studio, House of Cool, 3DTotal, Gallery Nucleus, QPop, and HarperCollins.
Izzy’s style is more of a stylized cutesy type of style with most of her character’s personalities retaining stylized eyes and pupils. Her characters, while small and simple, still offer detail and fun proportions that help add fun exaggeration but simpleness to her work.
Most of her personal work ranges from stylized fan art from shows, video games, and films to original characters and ideas. One of the best-known works in her portfolio is her reimaged version of the “Reptile Room” from A Series of Unfortunate Events.
Overall, if your looking for a style more simple and cute, but still offers a lot of unique design choices, her art is definitely an eye-catcher of whimsey and positivity.
Make sure to check out her portfolio: https://www.izzyabreu.com/
4. Justin Runfola
Justin Runfola is an illustrator, character designer, and visual developer in the animation industry, recently working for a feature at Nickelodeon Animation. Some of the projects he’s worked on in the past as well have been Apple TV’s award-winning show: Central Park, as well as: Disney Jr., Nick Jr., FOX, WB Animation, Bento Box, Titmouse, Toy design for Kinder Joy, MoonBug Studio, Hasbro, & Our Cartoon President at Late Night Cartoons Inc.
He’s a graduate of Ringling College of Art & Design majoring in Illustration. In his contact info on his personal website, he states, “I love my job, plain and simple. I’m a visual problem solver. Taking a space and creating something within it, is gratifying. Being inspired and inspiring people when I’m most elated.”
Runfola offers a wide variety of designs including both character work but also work in visual development such as trees, buildings, and even castles. His style is more focused on stylized and detailed characters, offering fun proportions and expressions.
His style offers a wide variety of shapes and volumes with his designs, ranging from cute and innocent to threatening and realistic, to even goofy and exaggerated. One of the best works in his portfolio includes his reimagined version of Alice in Wonderland. When designing a character, he doesn’t just do a few sketches. It takes almost a hundred sketches in different shapes, sizes, and volumes until Justin finds a piece he’s happy with.
If you hire Runfola, do not expect him to give you less than you expected, he’ll give you way more than you thought you were getting. If you looking for an artist who has a talent in almost anything in visual development with a good eye for design and variety in art, make sure that Justin Runfola is on your list.
Make sure to check out his portfolio: http://justin-runfola.com/
5. Jackie Droujiko
Finally, we’re leaving this off with a BANG! Literally…you’ll get it in a bit. Both popular for her art and popular on social media, we have Jackie Droujko. Droujko is a character designer and visual development based in Vancouver, a graduate of Sheridan College.
Some of her clients that she’s worked for in animation have been Netflix’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Arlo the Alligator Boy, Dreamwork’s Cleopatra in Space and Archibald, Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: Galaxy of Adventures, and Warner Brother’s Deathstroke. Some of these projects you might have guessed have been canceled due to various reasons, some of which go into detail from my last blog.
Droujko is also known for her personal work, having a set stage on social media (both with Instagram and TikTok), having a published art book (Allure: Art of Jackie Droujko Vol.1 ), and her popular short film: Bang Bang which holds over three million views on her youtube channel.
As media standards, she’s definitely been able to make a positive impact. Her youtube channel also features tip videos and commentaries on her art, offering her followers and artist advice on creating characters and illustrated pieces, that I know have definitely helped me in the past. This all goes into her creative love for creating characters and illustrated pieces.
Droujko both focuses on realism and stylization when it comes to her art, making sure her characters are authentic and realistic in design, but also focusing on composition and allowing her characters to be a part of their world. Her work can go from being cute, to realistic, to even spunky.
Her art offers a little bit of everything, offering fun proportions and personality out of her characters. If you’re looking for a designer with skills in color, composition, stylization, and sense in a variety of designs, definitely check out Jackie Droujiko.
Make sure to check out her portfolio: https://jackie-droujko.squarespace.com/
Finishing us off here, I just want to illiterate that I don’t think these are the most fantastic artist in the world or even in animation. Everyone has their different opinions there is probably a better well-known artist.
But the reason I put this artist is because they’ve influenced me. They’ve gotten me where I am today and have influenced me to keep going. Just seeing their art on social media just puts a smile on my face, and judging by the feedback and reposts they got on their social media feeds and the support they get from followers, I think it’s safe to say that they are gifted and talented people.
This is not to say that these are the five winners of animation, there are many hundreds of artists in the world that have variety in skill and design. So hopefully, when you see an artist on social media or on another platform, even leaving just a like on their post will motivate them. Thank you and I’ll see you at the next one! 🙂