“I didn’t go to university, well, technically I did go to uni for three months before I decided to quit my graphic design course,” says animator, director and illustrator César Pelizer. “I decided to take an internship at an animation studio and tried to learn about animation softwares through any online tutorials I could get my hands on back in 2008 – way before tutorials were a thing. Nowadays it’s so easy to learn things on YouTube.”
Before settling in London, Pelizer travelled around the world working in different animation studios to gain experience. “I was working on jobs that I wasn’t particularly interested in visually, but I was interested in learning the tools that would later enable me to work on my own personal work in my spare time,” he says. While he sometimes wishes he’d gone to university to see how things would’ve played out, his self-taught approach and drive to make it on his own has resulted in a portfolio that feels fresh and exciting.
Pelizer’s work is happy, bright and a little bit cheeky, and he’s been experimenting more and more with 3D, but still keeping his flat 2D backgrounds. “I think there’s something really interesting and contradictory when you try to make something in 3D that doesn’t look 3D at all,” he explains. “I love working in 3D, and like a good self taught person I love bending the rules by exporting frames from 3D and painting over details in Photoshop, or working with false perspectives that normally wouldn’t make any sense in a traditional 3D scene.”
This playfulness and tendency to switch things up means the creative can find it tricky to describe his style, so often lets others be the judge. “I’ve heard everything from childish to surreal, to be honest I suppose I’m happy with somewhere in the middle,” he says.
Inspiration comes from everywhere for Pelizer, often from music and lyrics which can spark an idea for an illustration or even a short film. Visually he also looks to architecture, sculpture, and contemporary art for references. “I feel like pretty much everything I do is an unintentional rip off of Fernando Botero’s work,” says the creative. While there are some parallels to be made with the 20th century Colombian artist, with Pelizer’s work also favouring exaggerated forms, he avoids the grotesque faces of Botero and his work overall feels cleaner and sharper due to his love of 3D.
Right now Pelizer says he’s really into animating insects at the moment, particularly flies and bees, and elsewhere he’s been illustrating enlarged, plump fruits that fill the frame, and a cast of different characters that have a soft sweetness about them.
With a portfolio chock full of illustrations and animated shorts, being able to work across both disciplines creates a richer creative experience for Pelizer. “The crossover between my animation and illustration is crucial in my work, as when I’m working on an animated commercial I usually get extremely obsessed with how all the frames link together and everything that happens in between,” explains the creative. “I like to think that each scene of an animation could work as a separate illustration and tell a story on its own.”
As well as personal work, Pelizer has also built up an impressive roster of clients including MTV, The New York Times, Businessweek, and others, and his favourite kind of brief is one that is open to possibility. “Although there’s never that much time to experiment, so you need to be quite pragmatic and sometimes the pressure helps me get things done,” says Pelizer. “Due to the lack of budget on editorial jobs, the art directors usually give you complete creative freedom so you can work on something you truly want to do.”
Despite this freedom, there are outside constraints that Pelizer has to face alongside his day-to-day work. “I think my challenges are the same challenges any creative person faces nowadays,” he says. “The challenge of the 21st century unfortunately is social media and how sometimes these days the amount of followers you have speaks louder than the work you do in the clients’ or agencies’ eyes, which is completely misleading at times.”
So Pelizer’s advice to budding creatives on a similar path would be to hone your skills as much as possible. “Watch as many tutorials you can and make the most of the free content you can find online – there’s so much out there,” he says. “I think it’s much easier to learn things on your own nowadays than it was when I first started learning Illustrator and Photoshop in 2004 when I was still in high school.”
For Pelizer, the emphasis he’s placed on developing his skills as an illustrator and animator has allowed him to create work that’s full of humour, colour and life – and lucky for us it looks as though there’s plenty more to come.