August 22-2014
Inside the mind of Dreamworks’ visual development artist Griselda Sastrawinata Lemay

“Practice makes the man perfect” is a well known proverb.

But Griselda Sastrawinata-Lemay who is an illustrator and visual development artist for Dreamworks Animation has a different perspective to it: “Practice doesn’t make you perfect; it just makes your work look better from the previous day”.

Griselda gave tips on how the art department functions at Dreamworks

Grisleda was the highlight of the last day of Anifest India 2014.. She highlighted the various engagements and contributions that the Dreamworks Art department has to make right from projects not yet green lit (called PODs) to those being pre-produced to those under production and finally to those under post-production.

And she did this by showcasing the various prop sheets, Illustrations, the thumbnails, concept paintings, references, illustrations that she had prepared  over the years   or films like Penguins of Madagascar, The Croods,  Puss in boots- Three Diabolos, Shrek 4, among some others.

“Shrek4 was the first big film I was associated with right from PODs to pre-production to the end,” she disclosed. “My process goes like this: I am thinking normally thinking about shapes. These go on to become the thumbnails, the penciling, and from there I will go on to sketch in the details. The last step is Photoshop as we have to show the cleaner version to the producer.  What is the impression you want to give, primary colour,  the tertiary colours. It took me all of five and a half months for Shrek 4, when it could have been done in a month or so by me individually. The reason was that it had to get clearances from the art director, the producer, the director. In Dreamworks, that takes time.”

She added that  “it’s very important to work outside your own studio and when you work for any film.  You should always consider yourself as part of the story.”

Grisleda pointed out that different projects at Dreamworks have their own challenges. “Sometimes at the POD stage, you have put in so much, done such great art work, and it does not get picked up  – it can be heartbreaking. But once you get past all that, you have time constraints, you have to work within that, specially where you have to feed other departments. Movie making is organic and it evolves at Dreamworks,” she said.  “The prop sheet is the most challenging. We are constantly sprinting. We have to ensure that the art is constant throughout the film, the sets, the environment.”

She let out a secret which she has used at Dreamworks to get what she wants. “We always give a higher budget to get to the budget I want,” she revealed. “I throw in ear-rings, brangles, long flowing gowns, diaphanous dresses, and what have you. All these cost during animation. If some are rejected, I at least get some of the finer art elements in.”

Fine art was something which always inspired her. She volunteered to teach arts at the Art college when she was herself studying. “There is no such thing as perfection. Just draw and paint whatever comes your way. I learned drawing by using the pen. I get inspired by teaching especially when I teach kids. Aspiring artists have great energy in them and that’s the reason I just love working with them. It’s good to be inspired by great artists, you should copy them when required,” expounded Griselda.

She loves cats and like every other girl even Griselda loves the colour pink and likes to decorate her characters with designer shoes and beautiful

Griseldia kept the audience engaged throughout her session

accessories.  “When I watch good animation films in which I am not involved I just wish that I had that movie in my bag. I like to make things look pretty on screen,” she giggled..

India has captured her imagination, especially on the whistlestop . tour she had before Anifest India with her husband Normand Lemay who works with Walt Disney Animation “The colours of India totally absorbed me, swept me away. Almost in unison, you see so many women dressed in colourful sarees going to work. It is a visual delight. It is quite fascinating.”

What tips does she have to give newcomers getting into the animation space – especially animators – who are venturing into the world of production? She elaborates: “One should know the basic stuff involved while painting, like you should know how to mix black and white, that’s the basic paint technique. Wash paint is best for the beginners. Your portfolio should tell the story which should consist of at least five to six paintings. There should be one black and white painting, clean drawings, props work is a must. If you have these, then you are ready to work for any production.”

Her advice to Indian women in animation who tend to throw away their careers for marriage and family is “have that stubborn streak to fulfill your artistic dreams, your ambitions. Don’t give up.”