Mettle Interviews Gary Bird – Winner of the Superman Design Challenge
Kenya. Seychelles. England. Australia… A father whose artwork was gifted to the Queen of England… An advertising apprenticeship in Cyprus… These are just some of the surprising influences in the life of Gary Bird.
Nancy: Congrats again on winning the Superman Design Challenge. You did a great job. 🙂
Gary: Thanks… I was so surprised to win given the standard of the other entries.
You’re too modest! Obviously many people liked your entry. So we know that you’re located in Perth. Are you Australian by birth?
I’m a ‘British colonial mongrel’, born to English parents in Kenya, then following the sun to Seychelles, back to England for boarding school education, then Cyprus, then Perth where I’ve been for the last 31 years.
Wow! That’s quite the circuit. 🙂 How has living in Australia affected the way you work?
There’s an open-mindedness here that allows for any kind of creativity and a ‘just-get-on-with-it’ attitude. And Perth’s isolation has historically encouraged extra effort!
What is the motion-graphics industry like there?
Fairly small – unfortunately most of it seems to be done on the east coast in Sydney and Melbourne.
So is there a specific style that emerges, or does it mimic other geographic areas, like the US or UK?
In motion graphics, we tend to keep pace with the US, Canada (!) and Europe, without a really specific Aussie look. The beach/sun/surf-lifestyle does come through occasionally.
What type of training did you do? Are you self-taught or did you go to art school?
My dad and older sister were both ‘traditional’ artists – dad was a successful sculptor as well, a couple of his pieces gifted to the Queen and Prince Charles on their visits to Kenya. I was always fascinated watching and trying to copy them. I had basic secondary school art and got my ‘A’ level in it to get into university, but chose an ‘apprenticeship’ instead with BBDO Advertising in Cyprus as a junior designer. In my first 9 months I learned pretty much everything – airbrushing, typography, calligraphy, layout, fashion illustration, typesetting (before computers!) from some of the best people in the industry at the time. The best on the job training I could get.
The tech came later with early Macs, which I took to like a duck to water, luckily. But I had to learn on the job again, by myself. Which actually forced me to experiment and learn more.
How long have you been using After Effects?
10 years. A co-worker suggested I try it back in 2002, after seeing me stumble around trying to animate in various primitive programs. I took one look and ran for the hills, completely intimidated at first. Then I crawled out and started gingerly prodding it around, and sort of fell madly in love the next day. Can’t be without it now.
Beside AE, what programs do you use?
Illustrator, Photoshop – the usual suspects, plus lots of plugins (Mettle’s amazing ShapeShifter and FreeForm Pro, Element 3D, Trapcode, etc.) and a huge font library. I have a love of fonts. I started on Macs then moved to Windows in 2003 and actually prefer it – better video cards available, lower cost, more resources out there.
Thanks for the compliment. We’re happy that you like our plug-ins! Tell us what type of work do you do?
Most of my work is educational/corporate, so I augment that with heaps of very short experimental stuff, exploring different styles and motion design techniques. I’m not really an illustrator or photographer. I don’t have the patience! I prefer using type, colour, shapes, depth, texture, lighting, sound and motion. Favourite projects for me incorporate those elements to convey some sort of emotion to the viewer.
And what inspires you in your projects?
That extends from Caravaggio and Klimt, through to art-deco and nouveau, Bauhaus, European travel posters of the 20s and 30s, sunlight, water, clouds, leaves, signage, beautiful music, etc, etc!
That’s quite a range! Whose motion graphics work do you admire?
Marcus Eckert, Brightphoton, schoenheitsfarm production, Conran Design Group, Christopher Guinness and too many others to list.
Can you give a link to a piece that you really like?
Brightphoton’s 2010 reel: https://vimeo.com/10578969 because it’s a reminder of what can be done and what I aspire to do.
Who do you work for? Can you tell us how you’re set up?
I work for the Department of Training here in Perth, and occasionally freelance for my own small business when I have time. At the department I work in the Audio Visual section, with a couple of editors, cameramen, producers, and sound engineers, using Avid editing systems but now moving to Premiere Pro, etc. thankfully! I have a couple of Windows desktop PCs running old XP and Win7 64 bit, Adobe’s Master Collection on both. Personally, I dislike laptops and pads, but will probably move to pads at least in the near future. I have an Intuos 5 touch tablet at work.
Can you explain how you work through a project? ie. Do you start by sketching? Or do you go right to the computer?
I get a brief (sometimes VERY brief) and mull it over, sometimes doing a very rough sketch or storyboard, for myself only (!) so I know where I’m going I have to admit, most of time nowadays I jump straight onto the computer and go from there. I tend to work solo on most projects, so have more control, which is nice. Best ideas wake me up at 2am! Inspiration can come from the smallest things – a doorhandle, a creaseline on a car, someone’s shirt pattern, an old book cover.
It sounds like you truly have an artist’s eye. What activities do you enjoy outside of work? Australia is a very outdoors-oriented society. Do you participate in that lifestyle?
I read copiously. I used to be active in amateur theatre on and off stage a few years ago – another creative outlet, but one that became too much to handle with a full-time job. And yes, I used to be very active – cycling, beach runs daily, jogging, weights, etc. Perth has some of the best beaches anywhere. But I’m getting lazy in my old age, so much less of that now. I blame computers 🙂
Now for my last question: If you were an Australian animal, what would you be, and why?
Great question! An Emu. With my surname I seem to have an affinity with the feathered species. And they are very curious, inquisitive creatures. Not too good on computers, though 😉
That’s a great answer! Lucky you to be in Australia and get to see an actual Emu in its native habitat. Thanks again Gary, for participating in the Design Challenge. And thanks for using our products.