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Artist - James Caswell

James Caswell - A Brief Animation Biography
Born in the wilds of the Canadian North, I came to the GTA at the tender age of ten, while there I attended the Sheridan College Cartooning program (and hated it). From there, I moved on to the Ontario College of Art’s Communication and Design Illustration program. After graduating, I went into Nelvana’s commercial division, where I stayed for five years. Then, I freelanced; special effects, layouts for slide productions, illustrations for packaging, anywhere I could draw and they’d pay me. I eventually settled into storyboards and liked the style – which required flexible, fast and loose drawing to succeed. I’ve always liked learning new things, so while working I also spent time studying for academic upgrades; a Bachelor of Design: Illustration (OCADU) and a Master’s degree (Ryerson University). Earning the Master’s degree gave me the opportunity to be a full time faculty member at the storied Sheridan College in Oakville.

James Caswell


What part of Canada are you from James?
I was born in Sudbury, lived my younger years in North Bay, and then moved to Brampton when I was ten. I avoided the world of itinerate animation communities (where folks moved from place to place working on projects) by consistently finding good work here in the GTA. I’m proud to say my children attended the same grade school I did.



What inspired you to create animation?
I just liked to draw, and animation was a way for me to practice my drawing and be paid. I’m pleased to say that my love for drawing has given me a sustaining career for over 30 years.





How would you describe your artistic style?
Fast and loose. Storyboarding requires a style of quick, direct drawing that I like a lot. To modify a quote from A.J. Liebling: “I draw better than anybody who can draw faster; faster than those that can draw better.” I admire the clarity and speed of a Jack Davis or Jack Kirby drawing. Preciousness or over-rendering kills a board sketch.


Jack


Can you share a piece of art work or script segment that no one has seen before?
I’ve always liked this painting I did a long time ago. My promise to myself is to get back to this way of working soon. Again, loose, direct style, I hope.


(Detail Shot)

What role do you play in the creation of animation?
I am a storyboard artist. I was picked out of the crowd in my final year at the Ontario College of Art by one of my teachers, Bob Fortier (an unsung founder of Toronto’s animation community). At the time, Bob was forming what would become the best television commercial house in the city. I started in layout and SFX design, became an art director, and then moved on to storyboarding.  I like the variety of boarding different styles of projects, which is probably a consequence of my commercial training. I’ve also designed characters, done layouts, created special effects and worked on some live action boarding - but mainly, I’ve worked on animation production boards.

Star Command Storyboard by Jim Caswell
(click photo to see the full size version)



What is one project that you are proud to have been involved in?
I can’t single one out. I’ve had enjoyable and productive times working with several talented directors. Brad Goodchild, Neil Hunter, Matt Ferguson, Jason Groh, to name only a few. I’ve always found the pleasure for me is in producing content vs. the back-and-forth debates to determine what to create that happens on a feature or high profile property. Frank Thomas, in an interview I read recently, referred to the Disney features as “product.” This seems to me to be a healthy way to consider one’s contribution to industrial animation. As Dylan says in Hurricane: “It's my work," he'd say, "I do it for pay. And when it's over I'd just as soon go on my way.” In feature animation, as I understand it, too much energy seems spent between battling egos and not on the process of actually creating the film. I guess that’s the board artist in me. I don’t however feel that this applies to independent animation.




What project are you working on now?
I am currently working as a professor at Sheridan College in the BA: Animation program. After 8 years as a partial load faculty, I am a full professor now. I am a professor -one who professes- in the practice of story and boarding.


Who is one of your favourite Canadian animators?
Not to sound too much like a Sheridan keener, but I am continually impressed by Kaj Pindal. He has had an amazing career. He always seemed to be at a place where there was interesting work going on. He was with Williams in London, Korty in San Francisco, and of course Lamb at the NFB. He still has valuable advice to share with Sheridan students and faculty.


What is one of your favourite animation books? 
I promote Alexander Mackendick’s" On Film-Making" as a good resource for storyboarding and filmmaking in general; both the aesthetic and practical. Rowland B. Wilson’s "Trade Secrets" has a lot of information too. Both are a little dense, but good reference to read and dip into occasionally.



I also follow Mark Kennedy’s "Temple of the Seven Camels" blog. (http://sevencamels.blogspot.ca/) I find his reference to comics and story and boarding particularly helpful.

And of course, "Mayerson on Animation" (http://mayersononanimation.blogspot.ca/) always has good timely animation reviews and business observations.


Who is an up-and-coming Canadian animator that everyone should check out?
There are so many very talented artists I have met through my time at the college, if I start singling one out, I’ll miss too many. And the internet literally tumbles with numerous new inspirations daily.


Are you involved with any animation organizations in Canada?
Currently, no. I was a member of T.A.I.S. through the 90s until it seemed other folks could take the reins. I did the newsletter-in print and mail out days, was president for a while and even designed the logo they currently use. I was briefly a member of ASIFA but found it too Montreal centric at the time. I am pleased to have been the first speaker at AnimaticTO, an organization I support wholeheartedly as a way for folks in the disparate animation community to connect and discuss issues face to face vs. Facebook to Facebook.


Have you written any books or blog posts about Animation or Canadian Animation?
I have an infrequent blog at: https://jcasual.wordpress.com/

And I add to my blogs for my 3rd Year courses at Sheridan: http://thirdyearstory.blogspot.ca/ and 3rdyearstorylab.blogspot.ca/. Those are good samples of what I like in the current week.

Do you have other posts on the internet where you were interviewed about your work in animation?
Animation Insider: http://www.animationinsider.com/2013/06/james-caswell/


For more information on James and his work in animation, check out the links below.

Main Website: www.caswelldesign.com

I developed an online project at part of my masters thesis from Ryerson University:
www.monstermashuptv.com. My goal is to learn more coding to develop these further.

IMDB Jim Caswell: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1061099/

IMDB James Caswell:  http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2811616/


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