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Illustrator and animator Hannah Ayoubi combines her quirky style with her passion for character design, her adorable dog, and her favorite veggies in each of her works. Take a deeper look into her world by visiting her blog and perusing her illustrations and award winning animations.
ToonariPost (TP): How and when did you first start practicing your art (are you traditionally trained or self-taught)?
Hannah Ayoubi (HA): I can’t remember a time I wasn’t drawing. Ever since I could hold a crayon I was spending hours and hours in front of the TV watching cartoons and tearing through stacks of copy paper with drawings. I copied a LOT of stuff: cartoons, illustrations from books, comic books, advertisements in magazines…I also took lessons in an art school when I was a kid, which was great for learning how to handle different tools and mediums properly and learning things like proportion and value. When I was a teenager I took a class that taught Photoshop, which was REALLY valuable.
TP: What mediums do you use for your art work? Which is your favorite and why?
HA: I love the aesthetic of watercolor, it’s definitely my favorite…but I actually don’t use it that much! I think it’s just because these days I’m just too lazy to get out paints and bother with cleaning them up and stuff, so I just use Photoshop and have some brushes and techniques to make drawings look like watercolor. I wish I used real watercolor and Prismacolor pencils and markers though…nothing ever beats the real thing! Most of the time these days I sketch in moleskins with whatever black pen I have on hand. Now that I think about it, I haven’t drawn with a pencil in a long time!
TP: What piece of your work is your favorite and why? Which one are you most proud of why?
HA: I don’t know if it’s my favorite or not, but I really enjoyed drawing the “Chicken Farmers” I designed. I love farmers, I love families, and I love chickens!
What I’m most proud of is the animation I made at my second year at CalArts, “Vampire Gastelbrau“. It was super, super fun to make, because I was really attached and excited about the world and its characters. Everything about it was inspired by a trip I had the summer before to Romania–it was a 10 day missionary trip with my church. I absolutely fell in love with the atmosphere and the people. Gabi (the little girl) is inspired by a real little girl I met there with that cute haircut.
And Gerta (the grandma) was inspired by the MILLIONS of adorable old babushka women that were everywhere you went. I wanted to feature a vampire because Dracula is from Romania, and my mom came up with the name “Gastelbrau” (she was talking about our last name, Ayoubi: “I don’t understand why people can’t pronounce it! It’s not like….uh….Gastelbrau or something!”) and I loved it.
I also had the best tasting tomatoes of my life in Romania. So I just kind of combined all of these inspirational ingredients in a pot and made this short. The animation itself is pretty sloppy and full of cheating (not my strong suit!) but I’m pretty pleased with how it came out.
TP: When you first started did you ever hit any bumps in your art process? What were they and how did you overcome them?
HA: Oh, yeah. When I was in elementary school and junior high, especially. I remember getting really frustrated a lot when drawing, like it was so hard to translate what was in my head on paper, and nothing ever came out right. Like, I’d try to draw a character and I’d end up drawing the foot over and over and over a thousand times and never get it how I wanted it, things like that.
The only way to get past that blockage is just to push through and keep drawing. Also, copying is important! Draw everything. It’s how you study and grow. The more you draw things you see and observe the more you’re building your artistic arsenal, if that makes sense.
TP: Who or what are your inspirations and why?
HA: As far as other artists’ work I really love Jill Thompson‘s work, especially “Scary Godmother” and “Magic Trixie“. Her pen work is really fun and her full watercolor comics are so gorgeous, on top of the fact all of her characters are just super lovable. I adore Milt Kahl‘s animation, also all the old UPA cartoons. I love John Bauer‘s illustrations, too. There are tons of artists that inspire me all the time, I wish I could list ‘em off more easily! Oh, and Sailor Moon was definitely my first huge inspiration–need you ask why? She is awesome.
TP: Have you ever had to deal with a situation where someone else took credit for your work? How did this art theft make you feel?
HA: Someone once took one of my drawings and was trying to sell it on a t-shirt on ebay. I was flattered that someone thought my work was good enough to make money, but also annoyed that they didn’t ask my permission or anything like that.
TP: You do graphic novels and animations in addition to your other art works. Is there one of these formats that you prefer over the others?
HA: I think graphic novel is my favorite. I love animation, but the actual process of animating is a struggle for me. I prefer capturing moments in a single story-telling drawing. It’d be a dream for me to make a living doing graphic novels and illustrated books. I need more practice though; it’s very time consuming!
TP: Can you tell me a little more about the work and process that goes into making your animations?
HA: The first thing that happens is a whole lot of thinking. Lots of thinking, lots of brainstorming, then sketching ideas out into little vignettes. Then writing out a really rough script, if you even want to call it that, just to organize sequences of a story to tell. Then storyboard, try to get it reviewed by teachers and classmates and make adjustments to shoots and ways scenes can be made funnier or more effective.
Then pop it into after effects and time it out to make an animatic…then animate! I use a combination of flash, after effects and Photoshop to animate.The way I animate is really weird and not practical or professional at all (seriously, like I said, not my strong suit) so I won’t even get into that!
TP: Outside of a class assignments, would you consider drawing your own comics? What ideas do you have for them?
HA: Yes!!! Like I said before, I really love making sequential art. Honestly, I’d love to continue the “Gastelbrau” story through comic form. I have a lot of ideas for those characters, including more vampires, some of Gerta’s back story, and even a werewolf (of course!). I actually have a lot of ideas floating around in my head to make comics out of…I also have an idea about a family of kappa (Japanese water spirits) but we’ll see if that ever gets anywhere.