Jackie Droujko: A Day in the Life of a Professional Character Designer
Netflix character designer Jackie Droujko talks concept art, what makes a good character, and more!
Art by Jackie Droujko
Jackie Droujko graduated from Sheridan college with a degree in animation. Since then, she has worked in character design, concept art, animation and visual development; she currently works as a character designer for Netflix. Her short animated film Bang Bang! has recieved numerous recognitions including official selections at the Ottawa International Animation Festival (2018), Toronto New Wave Festival (2018), and Palm Springs International Animation Festival & Expo (2018). She has also worked on projects such as: Dreamwork’s Cleopatra in Space, Deathstroke, and Star Wars: Galaxy of Adventures.
1. First off, the question I ask everyone! How did you become a professional artist? What inspired you to take this up as a career?
I went to school for a bachelor in animation at Sheridan college to start my career as an artist. I always loved art growing up but I never knew it was a real career until grade 12 when my best friend told me “Did you know about… animation?” So I put together a portfolio, sent it off to Sheridan and there we go!
2. You’re a character designer and visual developer for Netflix! Talk about a cool job! How did you get to where you are now?
Yeah, I love it! I’ve been out of school for two, maybe almost three years now. Before this, I worked at Titmouse in Vancouver. There, I worked on Dreamwork’s Cleopatra in Space, Archibald, Arlo the Alligator Boy and a little bit of design on Deathstroke, Star Wars: Galaxy of Adventures and a few things that are still secrets. Near the end of my last contract, Netflix reached out to me for this new position on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Art by Jackie Droujko
3. For those who don’t know, what exactly does a character designer/ visual developer do?
I primarily work as a character designer, which means I figure out how the characters will look like in the show. I work alongside an amazing team, so we figure out what the visual style will look like translated to 3D. I make concepts first, then when a design is chosen, I put it in a packet for 3D. I make turnarounds, hand, pose, and expression sheets, as well as break down the entire costume and hair for the modellers.
4. On a similar note, what does an average work day look like for you?
I usually get up (pretty late since I’m working from home), work on some designs, have lunch, go for a walk, pack some Etsy orders, work some more, watch tv and go to bed. Sounds a bit sad now that I’m typing it out. I find it really difficult to find motivation while working from home.
5. Do you have any activities to destress/recharge from drawing?
I like watching shows, socializing, and working out. Oddly enough, after working a lot I usually end up drawing more personal art. It’s difficult to balance work and all my side hustles, so I think I feel burnt out a lot.
6. Talking a little bit more about character design, what is the process of designing a character
like? How many rough drafts do you go through before a character design is finalized?
For personal art or when I do small freelance gigs, my first design is usually my final. I’m not very patient and I usually have a clear vision when designing characters so I don’t worry about it too much- especially because I know this isn’t my last character, so I like to move on from piece to piece quickly. For work, however, sometimes I spend weeks or months designing a character. The designs have to go through the art director, the production designer, the executives, the director, and the client- so it’s a really long process.
Art by Jackie Droujko
7. What do you look for in a good character design?
I love me some good shapes! I’m always trying to push my shape design and make a SICK silhouette. After I'm happy with shapes, I focus on line, colour, and texture. Those are most important to me.
8. In your opinion, what is the relationship between a character’s design and personality? What about the relationship between visual design and story?
It’s everything! When I'm designing for work, I'm always trying to shine their personality through their face, hair, costume, posture, etc. A lot of character design is inventing their personality when the script hasn’t been written yet. So if the character I’m designing
is into TV, for example, I have to think of how I want people to see that when they take their first look at him: Is he a gamer? Into old games? An e-sports champion? Is he into manga or anime? Maybe he’s into pop culture and comic books. Whichever personality I end up giving him drastically changes the design.
9. Do you have any favourite types of characters to design?
I think it’s obvious when you look at my work that I love drawing hot girls. I love the shapes I can play with and the hair and fashion. I love feminine girls, masculine girls, dark girls, light girls- there’s so much you can do!
10. Your pieces are so vibrant and fun! Is there anything that inspired this art style?
Thank you! That’s a good question that I always have trouble answering. I follow a lot of strong artists on instagram that definitely inspire my shapes and colours- either my fashion inspires my work or the opposite.
Art by Jackie Droujko
11. I was wondering if you could talk a bit about your animated short Bang Bang! What was the inspiration behind this project? What was the creation process like and where can we watch it?
Art by Jackie Droujko
Bang Bang! was a short film I made as my thesis for my last year at Sheridan. I was having a hard time thinking of what to make because Sheridan is very much story based, but I didn’t have a story I wanted to tell. I just like sick aesthetics and cool music. I always loved badass women in music videos, so I decided to focus less on story and more on a sick music video where women can unapologetically be criminals. I was inspired by "Bitch Better Have My Money" by Rihanna, "Look What You Made Me Do" by T Swift, "Telephone" by Gaga, “Bang Bang” by Jessie J and a whole bunch more. You can find my film on youtube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqz0cheoiWY
12. Another piece of yours that really stands out is your Narnia re-imagined series! I was wondering if you could talk a bit about that! Why Narnia? What’s your new vision for the series?
Haha- I just put that together because my portfolio didn’t have anything new in it! Last year, my contract ended and I didn’t have work for a few months so I was trying to beef up my portfolio. I loved Narnia growing up and I haven’t seen a lot of revamps of it so I gave it a shot.
13. Do you ever want to create your own comic/series?
We’ll see! ;)
14. What would you say is the hardest thing about being a professional Character Designer/Visual Developer?
Definitely keeping up the creative energy. Because I’m using so many creative juices during the day It’s really easy to feel burnt out. But I was SHOOK when I found out how many personal days/sick days Netflix gives out. It’s almost December and I still haven’t used any of them!
15. What about the best thing?
Being able to draw all day is truly a dream
come true. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else as a career. It’s so challenging and fulfilling to me. I didn’t think I would be able to design for a big studio like this so young, so this position is such a blessing.
16. You studied art at Sheridan College, right? For aspiring artists still debating whether or not to go to art college, what was your own experience attending one? What would you say the benefits are? Any drawbacks?
I have a lot of opinions about college, and it’s all about what you’re looking for. I went to college because I grew up thinking that it’s just the next step in life. Honestly, everything you learn can be found online, you can take courses online that are a fraction of the price. But the thing that was the most helpful was being surrounded by like-minded peers. I learned so much more from collaborating on projects with other students and pulling all-nighters with them. For me, the classic college experience was worth it because of the memories, friends, and connections I made. I don’t know if I personally would have had the same motivation if I took online courses. Especially because community is so important to me, but that just might be the quarantine talking haha!
17. I see you have a patreon! What do you have available there?
That's right! I have lots of neat stuff there like exclusive sketches, tutorials, process explanation, exclusive prints, personal critiques, and more. Check it out if you’d like! https://www.patreon.com/Jackiedroujko
18. Any final advice for aspiring artists?
My advice that I give to everyone is to never compare yourself to other artists, compare yourself to how you drew yesterday! Who cares if someone else is so much better than you at whatever, because they can’t draw the way you can or vice versa. Everyone’s on a different path and everyone will learn at their own pace. So believe in yourself and be kind to yourself!
Join us next week for another Artist Interview!
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