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DreamWorks animator JP Sans will hold a sketching seminar at the Mac

July 7, 2022 Updated Fri., July 8, 2022 at 2:18 p.m.

When Mike Judge was on a film panel at South By Southwest a quarter century ago, the creator of “Beavis and Butt-head” revealed that he was not ready to share his animated series when it initially aired.

“It was crudely drawn and not ready to be seen,” Judge said. “But MTV didn’t listen to me when I said it wasn’t ready. They aired it despite how I felt about it.”

“Beavis and Butt-head” became a hit due to the quirky tandem that remains forever in an arrested state of development. The show worked due to the unique characters, not courtesy of the animation.

JP Sans can relate to the anecdote. “I totally get that story,” Sans said.

The personality of a character transcends aesthetically pleasing draftsmanship in the world of animation, Sans said. That’s the most significant lesson Sans will teach when he visits the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture on Friday and Saturday during its exhibit, “DreamWorks Animation The Exhibition: Journey from Sketch to Screen.”

The DreamWorks animator and director will lead a sketching workshop Friday for older teens and adults. The following day Sans, 37, will discuss his career at DreamWorks and he’ll screen the animated film, “The Bad Guys,” for which he served as the head of character animation.

“What I look first and foremost with a drawing and animation is personality,” Sans said from his Los Angeles office. “It’s not just about drawing a character but being able to capture the personality of a character and that’s not easy. If a sketch is beautiful and has no personality, it’s not a good sketch. It’s a fascinating thing. I see artists try to draw the perfect line but for me it’s about being able to tell the story of the character and it starts with the art.”

Sans, who was born in Venezuela but raised in Florida, vacillated between becoming an animator and an actor. “I loved acting but like my mother once said, I was born with a crayon in my hand. Animation is what I love most and I’ve learned so much at DreamWorks that I want to share my knowledge and enthusiasm with those in Spokane.”

High school students with an interest in art and/or animation are strongly encouraged to attend to see if animation should be considered as a career. Casual animation fans can check out “The Bad Guys.” The film, which was released in March, is a comedy-heist flick, which is loosely based on the children’s book series of the same name by Aaron Blabey.

“It’s a fun film,” Sans said. “I’m looking forward to just being around an audience to see how they react to the movie.”

Sans will field questions after the screening. “I have so much to share with anyone who has any interest in what I do,” Sans said.

Sans will stress that it’s not about the tools but the person crafting the art. “Some people get caught up with buying expensive art supplies but I have a story about that,” Sans said. “There was a great artist, I can’t remember his name, but he used a basic pencil and paper when he created. People would ask him why he bypassed using all of the great supplies that he had at his disposal and he said that he used a crappy pencil and basic paper because if what he did worked with that, he knew he had something. He wasn’t going to get fooled by the better pencils. The lesson is that you don’t need much to get started in art. You need desire and passion and you go from there.”

Sans, who has never been to Spokane, is looking forward to connecting with aspiring animators. “I do a lot of outreach here at DreamWorks and in Los Angeles and so I think that’s why I was asked to come to Spokane,” Sans said. “I want to tell people everything I know. It’s a fascinating world I’m in. It’ll take three years to make a movie. I give a lot of my life to these projects but it’s so rewarding when we finish. I think the people that come out to see me in Spokane and see the film and the exhibition might be inspired and surprised that they can have a career in animation. The first step is coming out to an event like this and it’s happening in their own backyard. I hope a lot of people take advantage of the opportunity.”

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