Where illustrators get inspiration from – a lecture by Evgeni Tomov to the students of ARC Academy

Art director Evgeni Tomov shared his experience and professional path in a lecture to the students of ARC Academy Sofia and IDEA Academy Rome, which took place at the end of last year. The moderator of the meeting was the co-founder of the two educational institutions, Anthony Christov. 

The tone of the conversation was informal and friendly, and this is not surprising, considering that Evgeni and Anthony have known each other since they were 15 years old. Professional engagements took the two outside of Bulgaria – to Montreal and Hollywood, where they built successful careers. An interesting fact is that two films of which they are artistic directors – “Trio Belleville” (Evgeni Tomov) and “Finding Nemo” (Anthony Christov) – were nominated for an Oscar in the category “Best Animated Film” in one and the same year – 2004. The award went to Finding Nemo.

Tomov shared that his career in the film industry started by accident. When he immigrated to Canada 31 years ago, he wanted to be a freelance illustrator and graphic designer. In 1995, he applied for a job as a graphic designer. The studio replied: “We are currently working on a film and your portfolio matches its dark Eastern European feel,” Tomov said with a smile. Thus began his work on The Old Lady and the Pigeons, a surreal short film that received Oscar and Cesar nominations. “This predetermined my path,” shared Evgeni. In 1999, he started working on The Triplets of Belgium. His portfolio also includes a large number of children’s series created for the Canadian studio CINAR Animation.

During the lecture, Evgeni Tomov and Anthony Christov raised the question of where illustrators draw inspiration from and why it is necessary for students to have knowledge of art movements that are not related to cinema and animation, as well as basic knowledge of art history and psychology.

“We all stand on the shoulders of giants before us, and sometimes those giants are entire cultures. We need to know what is art deco, art nouveau, expressionism, etc.,” Tomov said.

He shared his perspective on the difference between working for a major and an indie studio. In the big studios, there is an established system that, on the one hand, helps, but on the other hand, limits creativity.

Students from both academies asked a number of questions, which Tomov answered. Here are some of them:

Where do we get inspiration for our projects?

When you’re designing for a game or movie, the goal isn’t to show off your talent. You usually get direction and references from the producer. Everything you do should support the story and enhance the player or viewer experience. That’s why it’s really important to understand the story first. Get out of your comfort zone – it will make you a better professional.

How to analyze style?

It is necessary to have knowledge of different styles and what defines a style to see what its rules are. The approach is analytical, cognitive, and intuitive. Don’t give in to inertia, try different styles.

Evgeni Tomov’s lecture was part of a series of inspiring meetings with professionals that ARC Academy students have the opportunity to attend during their studies. The initiative will continue this year as well.