Leigh Arrandale interview about my work –
1. You have the job that most people only dream of having. Was it always a mission of yours to work for Disney?
Yes, It has always been a goal of mine to work as a Disney artist in some way.
As a freelancer I have the benefit of working with many different
studios and companies as well as the separate branches of The Walt Disney
Company. I have my dream job.
2. You are obviously very talented both in your freelance and Disney work, has it always been a natural talent/skill or have you had to learn the art of paper cutting/sculpting?
Thank you. Although some of it’s talent or skill, most is from hard work and
dedication to learning my craft. I study traditional, hand-drawn animation
techniques such as anatomy, strong silhouette, layout, etc. The more I study
the great masters before me, the better I become as an artist.
3. You must love going to work each day with your job? Does it feel like work or a privilege to be doing what you love?
I love my job, and I feel very privileged. I work from home, so it’s the best
of both worlds—creating artwork for an industry I love AND being there for my
family when I am needed most.
4. With the growing number of paper artist’s out there, what keeps you at the top of the pile?
I don’t know if I would say I am one of the top paper artists. I can say I do
know who is, and I work very hard to move up that ladder daily.
5. What are your tools of the trade? I have tried so many different knives, paper, card etc, but I just can’t seem to settle with one type. Did you or do you have the same problem? If so could you share some trade secrets please?
Jeff Nishinaka, a professional paper artist for over 30 years, uses an X-acto
knife and Elmer’s glue. Calvin Nicholls, another professional paper artist,
prefers a scalpel. I personally use an X-acto knife for most projects, but I
may try a scalpel in the future.
I would say that finding the right glue is the most difficult problem for paper
artists. I own many types of glue and each project calls for something
different. I am constantly buying and trying acid-free glues. I would like a
company to make an acid-free glue for the hot glue gun.
6. Obviously with Disney’s standards, do you get to have much input into the display you work on or is the decision making left to somebody else?
I am not sure about the question, but I will answer the best way I can.
Disney has very high standards. All of the artists’ work must go through an
approval process to make sure the artwork is “on model.” Once the concept is
approved and the final product is made, the piece goes through approval again.
The final artwork is then delivered to the printing and framing company, and
then it is sent to the store. I use custom acrylic cases, so my process is a
7. Do you have many people working under/for you or do you work completely alone?
No, I work alone. I like working on a creative team, and I would prefer to, but
working freelance is best for me and my family right now.
8. Have you ever created a character in your own work that Disney has ever used in an animation/film?
No, I haven’t. For Disney, I create paper sculptures of their copyrighted
characters designed by their previous Disney animators. I have
made backgrounds, characters and scenes, but they were not for any animated
I am currently working on character designs and paper sculptures for other
studios and clients.
I enjoy going back and forth between nostalgic characters and scenes I
remember, and creating designs I conceptualize from scratch.
9. I have followed your work with great delight and I was just wondering how long a piece like let’s say the tree for the Mary Poppins piece you did a little while back, take in hours? would you attack this tree in one go or do bits at a time?
It takes more time when I create a new piece. The tree took 3 weeks or more.
It had an entire scene built behind it to hold Bert and the Milt Kahl fox,
which was technically difficult to achieve.
I try to stick to a 9-to-5 work schedule, but some projects I get excited
about, and I don’t eat or sleep until I am finished.
For a client, I start with making a white maquette. Once that is approved, I
re-create the piece using colored cardstock. Depending on the size of the
artwork, the entire process can take a week to 6 months or longer.
10. Have you ever gotten towards the end of a big piece of paper art and then made a huge mistake? (I have), if this has happened, what did you do?
Yes and no. For my style, I am not cutting into one large piece of paper, so I
don’t have to worry about mistakes like that. There have been many, many times
that I have spent 40 or more hours on a piece that ends up in the trash. At
first, I would fight to make something work that I have spent so many hours on.
I am quicker now to see when something isn’t working, and I just get rid of it
and move on, despite the time I have put into that piece of artwork. I have
come to realize it’s just part of the process. The painful part.
11. Who or what has been or is your biggest inspiration that keeps you doing what you do to such high standards?
I would have to say the other artists before me. The ones I read books about,
the ones who write books, and whom I have had the pleasure get to know.
I am a critic of my own artwork, and sometimes I thirst for the constructive
criticism of those mentors.
12. Most of influential artists like yourself usually have a phrase, quote or motto that they like to work by, do you have one?
I have many. The one that I live by, “Choose a job that you love, and you will
never have to work a day in your life” (Confucius). Each of us is given some
passion or gift to live our life in such a way that brings us the most joy. I
have found mine, and I only hope others will do the same.
13. Who has been the most famous person you have met within the art world?
From the rest of the world’s standards, I have met many famous people within
the entertainment and art industry. But for me, it meant the most to meet John
Musker. He is the writer and director of The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules,
Treasure Planet, Princess and the Frog and Moana (2016). Without writers and
directors like John, the animators I admire most would not be able to work and
I have met Andreas Deja, The Bancroft Brothers (Tony and Tom), Nik Ranieri,
Rick Farmiloe, Ron Husband, Floyd Norman and many more animation legends. Buy
their books, take their classes and annoy these men and women for their
autographs and advice. In this world of technology, we have direct access to
the wisdom of these giants of industry.
14. Now that you have an established style to your work which obviously is fantastic, do you continue to try other methods/styles to maybe add to your style?
Paper is my main medium. As an artist, I do have some weird quirks and creative
inclinations to use different mediums at different times. I think these
attempts will contribute to my work in some way. I try everything from painting
to acid-etching on mirrors. I draw with a pencil quite often; but only for my
personal sketchbooks or concept designs before sculpting.
As far as different paper sculpting methods, I do try many.
15. Finally, for a student like myself who strives to be as good as yourself, what three most important pieces of advice can you give?
I don’t think I am qualified yet to give such feedback. I can tell you what has
worked for me, and you can take it from there.
Like most people in the entertainment industry would tell you, it’s more about
who you know. Talent and hard work has to be there, but I think networking
is as important—if not more so.
At this point in my career, the best advice I can give is to be professional.
Answer emails on time, be dependable and don’t be late on projects. It seems
simple, but it’s harder than you think.