Artist highlight

Henry De Leon

Henry De Leon

Henry De Leon is currently an Art Director at a motion graphic design studio focused on Commercials, Main titles for Film and Television. Through Elastic he discovered a love for character work, and their ability to tell stories and create worlds. 

CGMA Classes

What educational experience/background did you have coming into CGMA?

I went to school as a graphic designer focused on typography and branding. It was not until later on in school and my first years working in the motion graphics industry did I discover character design, visual development and world building. I find it incredibly valuable that I can incorporate my work as a graphic designer into character work. I can't begin to tell you how amazing it is to see a project come together from multiple facets such as branding, typography, storytelling, design and world building. The result is something really attractive to companies. Also, there's a great sense of accomplishment when you put together a story, a cast of characters in a world you've built. It's fun to play a creator!

Why did you decide to take CGMA classes?

It all started when I was given a "Art of Kung-fu Panda" book for my birthday in 2008. I had no clue what "visual development" was, and the amount of work that went into a film before going into production. Most of my work at that time was typography until a director Andy Hall gave me shot at designing characters for an Arrowhead job. It opened up a new world for me. Since then I started taking classes in Pasadena but it was too difficult finding the time to get to a physical classroom. In LA it's difficult to get around quickly so I was always stressed out about making it to a class let a lone taking one. But with CGMA it was just so much easier and more convenient. I can focus on the class and the assignments rather than dealing with the drama of getting there. Also the talent of the instructors attracted me, to receive comments from working professional really gives you a sense on where you are as a developing artist. Knowing where you are and what you need to achieve to get to when you want to be is humbling and helpful.

What classes did you take and why did you choose them?

I've taken all of Nate Wragg's classes; Character Design for Animation, Character Design for Production and Art Direction for Character Design. I've started taking them because I needed to see how other artist who went to school for illustration see character design. They speak a language specific in communication and I wanted understand how I could make that part of my work. How do I attain clarity? It has pushed me to continue in taking classes and go into Environments and Visual Development.

How did taking classes help you refine your craft and help you along your artistic journey?

The classes have created a greater appreciation of what goes into making cool drawings of characters, props, and environments. I see how they can feed off each other to say something. I really feel I put more of myself into my work since I'm able to integrate ideas I came up with into what I'm drawing. In a way CGMA has taught me how to project and share how I view the world in a concise clear manner.

What was your first big gig and how did you get it?

My first big gig was designing the opening main title sequence for "Game of Thrones". I had no idea what it was and I've never come across the books when I was young. I had no clue how big it was, or how big it was going to be, AT ALL! It was just me and another designer and Art director on the project. At first, I was to work on the Logo and the typography. But because they knew I could draw, I was asked to design the carvings on the Astrolabe which became a story-telling device depicting the downfall of the Targaryen's. It was an amazing experience! It was scary at first, but when you're given a chance like that you focus on the task in front of you and don't overwhelm yourself with project. I was put on this because I had a specific skill set, but because I had other talents it takes the right person to give you a chance. "Luck favors the prepared" is what I've learned from this, so since then I'm always looking for things that stimulate me and who knows, it could lead to an opportunity that could be scary at first but life changing if you take it head on! It could open up so many more doors for you and lead you to a career you thought you'd never have. Always keep learning!

Why would you recommend CGMA to another artist?

I would recommend this program to anyone with a thirst for doing visual work. All the concepts you learn in the classes are applicable to a variety of different projects. Time is always of the issue, but with CGMA there are no more excuses. Cost? yes, but what you get back when you put your all into it gives you so much more. CGMA makes it easy to manage your time and make room for personal growth when it comes to your body of work. You'll also rediscover the LOVE and FUN you had for this work when it's only for you! Sometimes when we do work for clients we take for granted why we do this type of work. But, "why are you complaining? You draw for a living!!! How fun is that?'' Work is best when you are doing what you love.

Why is having professional feedback important to you?

In a physical classroom you won't get the amount of attention to your work. There are so many factors that could lead to getting a poor critique or worse getting overlooked. The feedback is so important for personal growth, having the instructor's undivided attention could improve your work and can help reveal things to you about your work that you're probably not aware of. Having that critical objective eye has helped me as a designer to grow, develop and be a successful communicator.

What's up was your inspiration to creating a specific character?

Most of the time I'm given just a script and a few references when starting out on a project. As I get into researching I really gravitate towards what makes the character interesting and draw shape language, color, poses, expressions from that. Even material, what it's made out of, can influence how a character looks and moves about the world. I try to find connections to influence my design so it's overall look doesn't feel arbitrary, random or generic.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

It's been a fun journey so far I really recommend trying CGMA you can only get better!

We would like to thank Henry De Leon for sitting down with us and sharing his CGMA experience. To see more of Henry's artwork you can visit his Behance page at​