PK 063: Noah Klocek on Working at Pixar and Becoming a Better Artist & Storyteller

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Noah Klocek has worked at Pixar for 10 years and says collaboration is the key to creativity

“It doesn’t matter where you are in the structure. You can be part of this process and actually make a large contribution to it.”

~ Noah Klocek

Noah Klocek has worked at Pixar for 10 years as an artist on films such as Up, WALL-E, and The Good Dinosaur. He’s also just released his first children’s book, Cloud Country.

In this podcast, you’ll get a fascinating insight into what it’s like to work at one of the world’s biggest animation studios…

Noah Klocek: His Creative Journey

Noah Klocek was surrounded by art when he was growing up. His parents both had masters in art, and they encouraged him to be inspired by books rather than television.

After going to art school on an illustration and animation program at San José State University, he got an introduction to the film industry and was picked up by Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) to work as a matte painter during his final year.

Although he enjoyed his role, Noah Klocek always wanted to be creating characters rather than painting the landscapes behind them. So, when he was laid off from ILM, he took this opportunity (although he says it was terrifying at the time) to focus on what he really wanted to do.

From here, Noah went to Dreamworks to work again as a matte painter, but he knew his heart really lay in creating characters and illustration.

Luckily, his wife was working at Pixar at this time, and an invitation to one of the studio’s big launch parties provided Noah with the opportunity to progress his creative career.

He says: “I heard people like Steve Jobs and John Lasseter talking and I just knew I had to get into this industry!”

So, he sent his portfolio to the art department and was thrilled when he managed to land his dream role as an artist. Since then, he’s worked at Pixar as an art director, concept artist, and production designer.

Noah Klocek on Life at Pixar

Noah says working at Pixar is all about collaboration.

He explains: “It’s not without its problems, but, at its heart, Pixar is all about getting the best ideas up on that movie screen. We all want to create something bigger as a team than we could have created ourselves.

“The people at the top are prepared to listen to everyone’s ideas, so you really feel that you can be part of that process. It can be really challenging at times, but, compared to anywhere else I’ve worked, it really fosters creativity from the top down.”

Noah Klocek on Becoming a Better Artist

Although he’s been lucky enough to work at one of the world’s biggest animation studios, Noah says aspiring artists shouldn’t put companies like Pixar on a pedestal.

Instead, he believes they should concentrate on doing the work they truly believe in.

He says: “It’s not about where you’ve worked or the awards and accolades you’ve picked up. Your goal should be to become the best artist you can be. Connect with people, collaborate with them, and make art that you can be proud of.

“You can’t work in a vacuum, and your success as an artist isn’t about how many likes you can get on social media. Instead, find a group of artists to collaborate with, and meet up with them to swap ideas and get constructive criticism.

“Try not to compare yourself to others too much – doing this can be demoralizing. Instead, just keep working!”

Noah Klocek on Cloud Country

Although he’s always wanted to create a children’s book, it’s only now that Noah Klocek has found the right people to help make it happen.

His first book, Cloud Country, is the result of a collaboration with author, Bonny Becker.

Check out the making of Noah’s book here:

The Making of Cloud Country Film No. 1 from Noah Klocek on Vimeo.

Noah Klocek on Storytelling

For Noah, a great story begins with research. It’s about gathering as much information as you can about the character you want to create.

Rather than scour sites like Tumblr for suitable images, Noah recommends looking at old photographs to help develop your characters.

He says: “Tiny details are so important, and you really need to understand all these small nuances. Gather references on your character’s emotional state, and start drawing from a place of knowledge rather than habit. You need to understand why your characters are the way they are.”

 

Listen to this week’s show and learn:

  • Why collaborating with other creatives is so important
  • Why you should concentrate on making the art you love
  • How to research your characters for the best results

People on this Episode:

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Mitch

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