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Interview with Ryan Lang

Walt Disney animation visual development artist, Ryan Lang, whose concept art helped to realize the incredible world of Wreck-It Ralph, talks to us about his past practicesand processes.

Walt Disney animation visual development artist, Ryan Lang, whose concept art helped to realize the incredible world of Wreck-It Ralph, talks to us about his past practices
and processes.

Fresh out of college, Ryan Lang let his portfolio do the talking and achieved what many aspiring artists only dream of, by getting accepted into the training program at Walt Disney Animation Studios. This then swiftly progressed into a full-time role as a visual development artist.

Ryan couldnt believe it when he was thrown into his first project there and got to help bring the incredible world of Wreck-It Ralph to life!

We caught up with Ryan to talk favorite Disney characters, Wreck-It Ralph highs and lows, and what he gets up to when hes not making amazing concept art.


Hi Ryan, thanks for taking the time to talk to us! For those who dont know you, how would you describe yourself and how you got into the industry?

I guess I would describe myself as a visual development generalist, who tends to focus on designing and painting environments. After I graduated from college, I was hired for the trainee program at Walt Disney Animation Studios, and was offered a full-time position after I completed the program.

Ryan recreates the incredible hulk

What was it about digital tools that made you want to work with them?

The turnaround with digital work is very quick, and most companies now lean towards digital tools. That, and the whole undo thing is pretty awesome.

Could you tell us a bit about your creative process and the software that you use?

I mainly work in Photoshop. Sometimes Ill sketch out thumbnails or draw on paper, but eventually it ends up on the computer. I look at a lot of references as well, for detail and color inspiration. Once I have a good compositional thumbnail and a solid base of reference, I just start painting.

This is a demo for Ryans class for CGMA on: The Art of Color and Light

Do you have any advice for aspiring artists wanting to start a career in the industry? Any portfolio dos and donts?

Let your portfolio be an accurate representation of what you want to do professionally. Dont just put stuff in because you think people want to see certain things. You dont want to be hired based on something that you dont like to do.

If you could be any Disney character, which one would you be and why?

Goliath from Gargoyles. An animated movie needs to be made. Whos with me?

Ryans Wreck-It Ralph visual development for Walt Disney Studios

When you arent working on digital art and concepts, how do you enjoy spending your time?

Playing videogames, watching cartoons, or drawing/painting.

I love the color combinations you use in your work. How do you achieve these palettes and what brushes do you find yourself using most in your work?

I try to go out and paint from life a lot, and I do a lot of studies. Sometimes, I can remember a certain palette, or sometimes I need to find a photo for inspiration. I dont color pick because Im trying to understand whats happening between the light and the objects in the scene. As far as brushes are concerned, nothing too fancy; Ive been using solid opaque brushes more often than not recently.

A scene created by Ryan for Disneys Wreck-It-Ralph

I thoroughly enjoyed Wreck-it Ralph! What was it like working with Disney on this title? What were your favorite moments and which parts did you find a struggle?

I couldnt believe my first job at Disney was working on videogame-inspired stuff, so it was awesome. I think my favorite moment was seeing the first bits of animation trickle through, and the biggest struggle was keeping up with the amazing group of artists on the show.

You achieve wonderful lighting in your images. Whats your technique and can you give any advice to us to accomplish the same quality?

Observation over formulas. Formulas can get you started, but observation of little nuances, how light interacts given specific circumstances, is where the money is at. Once you start relying on formulas, you stop observing, and it will show in your paintings.

A fantastic, almost-edible scene from Disneys Wreck-It Ralph, created by Ryan

Where do you draw your influences from for your personal and professional work?

Traditional and digital painters, my co-workers, live action films and animation.

Could you tell us about any projects you are working on at the moment or in the future?

At the time of this interview, I was working on Big Hero 6, which came out in 2014.

Related links

Check out Ryan Lang's Tumblr
This interview was originally featured in 2dartist magazine issue #93
Get your hands on a copy of Beginner's Guide to Digital Painting in Photoshop Elements

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