Barbra Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: We met last year at Long Beach Comic & Horror Con, where I had the chance to see your amazing artwork and sketches. When did you begin your work as an artist, and what intrigued you about working in animation?
Olga Ulanova: Thank you, Barbra! You could say what got me into animation is curiosity. I grew up on a diet of great Russian animation from the '50s and '60s, and I always liked the medium, of course. I just never imagined myself being able to do anything like it. In fact, just a year before getting hired at WB, I heard wild tales of what it’s like to be on a show, and I told myself, “Wow, I would never work in a crazy place like that.” Just goes to show, never say never!
Four years ago I didn’t even know what storyboarding was. Eric Canete, who is the triple threat of comics, storyboarding, and design, told me about the job and what it entails, and I got intrigued. And, I came down to California for a class and the rest is history. The reason I stuck with it is because at its core storyboarding is about storytelling. Yes, we all want to board a beautiful sequence with amazing shots and badass action. But, all of that is to tell the story. It made me realize what I’ve been wanting to do with my art all along, I just didn’t know how to express it.
BD: Your recent artwork, including retro art prints of characters like Robin, Batgirl, and Korra, has taken on an art nouveau style. Do you prefer working with different art styles and/or mediums (ie: pencils, inks, paint, etc.) or do you find that one style or medium defines your art?
OU: I definitely gravitate toward styles with clarity and organization. I love strong design elements, and perhaps it’s no wonder I was drawn to animation where the subject matter is distilled to its essence. And, these days, time itself is of the essence, so I tend to go to tried and true Photoshop that lets me realize the idea quickly. I really miss the organic qualities of working on paper, but getting the idea out is more important than figuring out a new medium. (And, there is that undo button.) That being said, I would love to master watercolors.
BD: What are the most challenging aspects of being an artist?
OU: The same as being a person, I suppose. :) Just trying to balance all areas of my life and enjoy the process.
BD: Given your experience as an animation storyboard artist, do you feel that the animation industry has changed since you first began, and, if so, in what ways.
OU: I am relatively new to animation, but if there’s one thing I learned in my 4 years - it’s that the industry is always changing. I think it’s reflective of the larger patterns in the entertainment industry and our society. Media is evolving very quickly right now, and the kind of stories we tell are changing. The unfortunate nature of large animation productions is the time it takes to make the product. By the time a show makes it on TV, a year or two could have gone by! It’s pretty hard to stay relevant. I’m sure there must be better ways of getting the stories to the viewer, and I am excited to see what innovations the future will bring.
BD: Are there any new pieces or projects on which you are currently working, and would you care to share those projects with our readers?
OU: I am currently hard at work on book 3 of Legend of Korra. I would love to share details, but I don’t want to get disappeared in the night by Nick PR. XD So, I’ll just say we’re having tons of fun creating the best show for you to enjoy. If you thought Book 1 was good . . . ohoho.
BD: Being that we focus on all things “geek” at Fanboy Comics, would you care to geek out with us about your favorite cartoons, movies, or comics?
OU: Oh cozins, what a good time to be a geek, am I right? Personally, I cannot get enough of Adventure Time. Love me some unconventional storytelling, and when this show nails it, it really blows it out of the water. In fiction, I’ve been immensely enjoying Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga. It’s a perfect blend of adventure, comedy, sci-fi, and drama, and hits all the right notes. On the movies front, I am getting pretty excited for After Earth and the Star Trek sequel. And, oh my gawd, Ender’s Game is coming out this year! Truly a great time.
BD: What is the most important piece of advice that you can offer to artists of all ages who aspire to work in the animation industry?
OU: Just three words - follow your passion.
Figure out what you want and then go for it. Fastest way to get to your dream is to do it now. Don’t wait for a guy in a building to give you a diploma that says you can be an artist. If you want to be an animator - animate. If you want to do storyboards - draw some storyboards. If you want to character design - design some characters. With Google at your fingertips, all is possible. No matter what, please don’t listen to anyone who would deter you from your dream, or tell you that animation is an impractical career choice and you should grow up. Follow your passion, cozins, and the entire universe will conspire on your behalf.
BD: On that same note, which creators have inspired your work?
OU: The old masters - Mucha, Mackintosh, Dulac and Rackham. And, the modern masters - Colleen Doran, Dustin Nguyen, Adam Hughes, Clio Saga, Sasshi, Phil Bourassa, Sean Murphy, and Eric Canete. Many, many more young masters continue to inspire and amaze me every day.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about your artwork?
OU: Please check out the fruits of our hard, hard labor - Green Lantern: The Animated Series, Young Justice, and coming sometime in 2013, Beware the Batman. I also invite you to stop by my blog or DeviantArt gallery: east-27.com :: olgaulanova.deviantart.com.
Thanks for reading!