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The Art Comes First - Cabeza Patata

By Adam Korenman

When Katie and Abel didn't like the traditional path to success, they made their own.

With a tent as wide as the Motion Design community, it can be tricky to determine your personal path to success. There are so many disciplines and styles to try, sometimes we get overwhelmed with choice and forget that—even after you decide on goal—there is still a lot of work ahead. For one dynamic team, they decided that the traditional path wasn't for them. The art had to come first.
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Katie Menzies and Abel Reverter founded Cabeza Patata in Barcelona, Spain in 2018. There, they consider themselves artists first and motion designers second, with a focus on inclusiveness, positivity, and having a hands-on approach to motion design. Cabeza Patata just opened up their new studio where not only do they work for big clients such as Spotify and Google, but their studio is also a gallery—a place they open up to the community, teaching workshops for kids and adults alike, showing them how they can get their hands dirty creating art.
The iconic character design plays with proportions while remaining familiar and friendly. The goofy motion of the human-ish figures stays perfectly in time with the music, making each video a different dance that promotes a number of brands and products. More importantly, the artistic voice of Cabeza Patata shines through each and every project.
We know it can be tricky navigating the growing world of Motion Design to find your path. Fortunately, Katie and Abel blazed a trail that we can all use as a guide—even if you don't want to follow it step for step. Grab some granola and a handful of M&Ms, we're charting a path with Cabeza Patata!

The Art Comes First - Cabeza Patata

Show Notes

Artists

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Transcript

EJ:
All right, Katie and Abel, welcome to the podcast. It's amazing to have you here on the School of Motion podcast, and I know we've been talking on Instagram for a couple years now, and just been such a huge fan of what you are doing at your studio. I'm kind of geeking out. I'm such a big fan. I'll try not to be too geeky about this, but yeah, welcome.
Abel:
Oh, thank you.
Katie:
Oh, thank you. Thank you for having us here. Yeah, we're super excited to talk to you, after ... Yeah, we were saying before, it's been like a year or two of chatting back and forth with you, and we're excited now.
EJ:
Yeah.
Abel:
It's a bit as well for me, because I watched your videos during years, trying to learn different techniques, and it's so ... Sometimes it's surreal what happens in this world of motion graphics, that you end up meeting people that before, you were watching them a bit as if they were superstars that you were watching on TV. And it has happened a lot, especially through the last couple years, going to festivals. And it's super fun. But definitely you were an amazing inspiration, because your way of treating motion design with an approach that was much more colorful and focusing on design was something that we really like. So yeah.
EJ:
Oh, wow. Well, man, I'm starstruck, and I think we just end the podcast right now, because that was beautiful. Well, again, thank you so much for being here. I guess we'll get into it, and we'll start with ... You are team Cabeza Patata, which is so funny to say. It's like hakuna-matata. I'm not sure what ... Cabeza Patata, that is potato head, right?
Abel:
Yeah. It doesn't really have a lot of thinking behind. You can explain a bit, Katie. You are like ...
Katie:
Yeah. Everyone always asks, obviously, what it means, and we wish that that was a really fun story to it. There's not, really. When I was learning Spanish, when we were going to move to Barcelona from London, one day, I just asked, "Oh, is the name of Mr. Potato Head, from Toy Story," I said, "Is he called Senor Cabeza de Patata?" And Abel found this hilarious, because he's not called that.
Abel:
No. We just call him Mr. Potato. I think they call him differently-
EJ:
Mr. Potato?
Abel:
Yeah. That's in Spain. In South America, they have another name. It varies. But nobody calls him Cabeza Patata. It's just absurd name. It doesn't even make sense, because in Spanish, you would say Cabeza de Patata.
Katie:
And some people do. Some people misread it here in Spain, and I find it even funnier.
Abel:
But I definitely think it sounds something like hakuna-matata, and it sounds cheerful and fun. And I think that's why we used it.
Katie:
Yeah. And it's just kind of silly. And everyone laughs, and then everyone remembers the name. And they call us the Patatas. And it's nice, it's like our approach to our studio, I think.
Abel:
Yeah. You were mentioning hakuna-matata, and one of my plans, we've never done it, but it will be on a festival or on a talk, to recreate the song, Hakuna Matata, but saying, "Cabeza Patata, Cabeza Patata." To have some smoke or something, with us coming out, like on the stage, with that song. That's going to happen one day.
EJ:
Let's do a big concert.
Katie:
No one's going to expect that.
EJ:
That's a bit ... You have all these characters, but you have not made a Potato Head character yet, have you?
Abel:
No.
Katie:
Yeah, that-
EJ:
No?
Katie:
I don't know why we've been avoiding doing that.
EJ:
You can make a music video with your Potato Head wearing a really cool Gucci jacket or something. I don't know. Sunglasses. Yeah. Well, you mentioned how you studied Spanish, Katie, and both of your backgrounds are so different, I feel like. They're not necessarily a traditional path to getting to where you are right now. It's a real variety of backgrounds, and I think that is really reflected in the variety found in your work, and I just want to know more about the origin story of how Cabeza Patata came to be, starting with Katie.
And Katie, I'd love to start with your story. We do stalking of people on LinkedIn. That's kind of how we find out more info about people. And I saw, Katie, you studied illustration in college, which, okay, that doesn't sound weird or anything like that. That's fairly typical. But you also studied French and politics, which is really interesting. Can you tell me a little bit more about your college experience, studying those subjects?
Katie:
Sure. Yeah. I'm from London, and I went to uni, and I did, as you say, French, French literature and language and politics at the University of Bristol. I guess I don't really know anyone that studied illustration or art or anything, so it just never really occurred to me, I think. It was like a hobby, that I always did on the side, that was a lot more focused in academia and stuff.
So yeah, I studied for four years there, and then when I finished, I was like, "Okay, now I for real do want to do illustration." And now I had started to meet some people like Abel, who had studied design, and who were working in design, and I thought, "Actually, this is definitely the career I want to follow." So we moved to Barcelona shortly after, to do a master in illustration. So I spent two years in college here studying that, and learning a lot about the industry as well, meeting other illustrators, and really realizing that that's really where I want to be.
And then, at the end of that two years, which is all actually quite recently, which is only two years ago now, Abel and I started working together, but just kind of playing a bit, making things together, started making these characters, came up with this silly name for a studio. And from there, it's just exploded, really. I definitely never expected that. But ...
Abel:
Yeah. It's funny, with your transition, Katie, that you ... She never announced to the world that she was canceling politics and French. It was a bit more like we said ... Because we're a couple as well, and she said, "Oh, I would like to go to Barcelona." She also wanted to learn more Spanish. And this is-
Katie:
And Catalan as well.
Abel:
Yeah, and Catalan. And she wants to come to Barcelona, and it was like, "Oh, I'm going to do this master's degree, [inaudible 00:10:05]." And people, I think people-
Katie:
And at the same time, I was teaching in a school as well, at the same time. So it seemed a bit like a kind of gap year after uni or something. I think that's what everyone back in London thought I was doing. They were like, "Oh, that's sweet. A year off."
Abel:
Yeah. And then it was a slow buildup. When we made the studio at the beginning, when we started working together, without being a proper studio or anything, just creating characters, I think it felt like, when we were going back to London, people didn't even know what we were doing.
Katie:
No. No, but I think that-
Abel:
It was like two different lives.
Katie:
Yeah, that almost helped for it to grow a lot, I think, because there were really no expectations from anyone, which sometimes I think is really useful, because it helps you to really push boundaries and do more crazy things that you might have otherwise been a little bit more embarrassed to do or something, if your family really understood.
EJ:
I find that very interesting, where you're saying, "Don't feel pressure to try to figure out exactly what you need to do." I think these days, it's almost like you have a specific career path that, like, "Oh, I see this studio. I want to work for this studio. I want to work for The Mill. I want to work for that." But when I was in college in like ... Oh man, I'm going to date myself. I graduated in 2004, and motion graphics wasn't even really a thing. My dad and my uncle, they were graphic designers. So I knew I'd like to draw and stuff like that, but I had no idea of what's a career path look like? And we'll get into this a little bit later, but I find that so interesting, that you just said that, because of how Cabeza Patata as a studio actually is. It's very groundbreaking. It's not your typical studio, which I absolutely love. But I like your parents were like, "Get your stuff together. You're studying French and politics? You're wasting your time with those subjects."
Katie:
Not in a cruel way, though. I think they were all for it. They were like, "Oh, that's lovely. You've been working hard at uni. It's nice to have this year or two off." That, oh, I guess one day we'll come back. I don't know. They were very sweet.
EJ:
Yeah. French and politics, but you're drawing a lot. Where's that fit in?
Katie:
Yeah. I don't know. I'm not trying to build it like, oh, very difficult parents or anything. I think everyone was just very nice and supportive. But it was just, they don't know anyone with this career.
Abel:
It's very complicated.
Katie:
And still don't.
Abel:
Yeah. In my case, my family doesn't have ... I don't have anyone in my family that was into design or illustration or anything like that. But my family comes from the side of science, my parents being engineers. And everyone always focused ... Like me, when I was smaller, they always thought what I wanted to do was science, doing maths, or physics, and that type of subjects, that I always liked. But at the same time, I always liked the artistic side of things. So when it was my time to choose to do a degree, I found this quite new degree, it's called comunicacion visual in Spanish, which means media studies or something like that. It's super generic. You study a lot of things. It's not a total focus on illustration or design.
But it was good enough for me to go to Madrid. I come from a small city in Spain, and then suddenly arriving to Madrid, that has like 5 million people there. And it was an explosion of meeting a lot of people that were doing ... Some people wanted to get into direction, some people liked acting. It was a mixture of a lot of different people. But that's when I started working and doing an internship as a video editor. Because by then ... That was 2008, 2009, I think. And I didn't even know that motion graphics was a thing. It took me a few years until I discovered the term.
EJ:
Really?
Abel:
So I knew a bit about After Effects, so sometimes ... I always wanted to do the intros in the job I had while I was in university. I was video editing some content for the university, and I was doing the intros. And I got an internship, just when I finished university, in London, in a small digital TV channel in London. And I was doing a bit of video editing, and a tiny bit of motion graphics, but without knowing that you could work full time on that. And I met a guy in a party, James. He's from Australia. And he told me, "I'm a motion designer." And I was like, "What is that?" It was incredible. He was like, "I just do that all the time."
And I said to him, "But don't you have to do some Final Cut, or some video editing or something?" He said, "No, no, no, no. I just only do the titles." And I thought that that was the coolest job ever. It went quite fast from there, because I decided to change my title to motion graphic designer, and apply as a freelancer in the studios in London, without really knowing much about ... I knew how to use the computer, but I had never worked in a team or anything like that. I had no idea about what was the process? So the first few jobs I got as a freelancer, where it's super stressful. When you arrive as a freelancer, people want you to work. And usually, in London, they want you to go to the office. So you arrive there, and everyone gives you a lot of footage or something, and they say, "Okay, you have two days to make this." And yeah, I remember those days at super tiring.
EJ:
But Abel, you started as video editing at all these studios? You've worked at, I saw on your LinkedIn, your career history and stuff like that. You've worked at a bunch of studios. And some very tiny studios that I've really never heard of, like Territory, We are 17, Mainframe. And that's crazy, because I feel like everyone in London would kill to try to work at one of those studios, and you've worked at all of them.
Abel:
Yeah, like-
EJ:
So did you start with doing video editing at these studios, or where-
Abel:
No.
EJ:
Did motion graphics start to become part of your tool set?
Abel:
The first job I got is a production company that is not big. It's called 3angrymen, and they do content for companies in London. I was working there after my internship in London. I got a full-time job there. I worked there for a year and a half. And I was doing video editing and also motion graphics. And motion graphics, by then, meant mainly doing after effects. There was not much 3D in my job by then. It was quite separated. Right now, it looks like everyone needs to know how to do everything. But by then, it was the 3D people and then the after effects people. So I was doing after effects, a lot of it. And at one point, I decided to leave and start working as a freelancer.
And then, my first ... I think I left my job on a Friday, and on Monday I was already working at Territory, because they got me for a job that was really different to what they usually do. It was a much more colorful job, promoting English learning. And I think because I was so excited when I arrived there, I really liked everyone that was in the studio, they were doing a lot of film stuff, motion graphics for films. And I really put everything into doing it very well.
And it was funny, because my style before I started freelancing, it was much more like what I do right now, much more colorful stuff, cheerful characters. But then, when I got into these studios, like Mainframe, Territory, they started calling me for more my skills, using the programs. So slowly, without realizing, I started working and doing UI for films. I was doing stuff for video games. And I was doing stuff that was looking super high tech, which is really not my style. But then I think I was adding cheerfulness to UI, that I think was giving a nice mixture to the team. The last year with Territory I did was I worked in Blade Runner 2049, so I did many of the screens from the film.
EJ:
I've heard of that. I've heard of that film.
Abel:
That was super fun. Because there was a lot of stuff that was very organic, and that's something I really like to make, so I enjoyed so much working on that job. But at the same time, I was feeling all the time a bit like a fraud. Not like a fraud, but I was feeling I was on a job that I wasn't enjoying enough, doing that type of stuff. I wasn't enjoying it enough for how many people wanted to do it. I felt like other people that wanted to do it more should be the ones doing that. And I wanted all the time to do more characters and those cheerful things. So at some point, I decided ... No, it's not at some point. I think talking to you, Katie ... It's not like I was complaining all the time, no? [crosstalk 00:19:28]
EJ:
Yeah, let's hear from Katie. Was it complaining?
Katie:
No. I think you're right, that you had that kind of guilt, which is completely understand able, I think. It's that you're doing something that objectively is so cool, and whenever you tell anyone, they're like, "Wow, that's amazing." And you're like, "Yeah, but I kind of want to draw characters. No one understands me." But I guess it just naturally went away a bit.
And as well, it was just after Blade Runner that we came to Barcelona for the first time. And that, because then you were working remotely, I think it was a bit easier to not be getting into so many of those projects. Or if you were, it was more like, "Okay, I'll do three weeks of this project, but then I'm going to have a week off and do a personal thing." So I think that you slowly started to change. And then, as I started studying illustration more, and having a bit more of a defined style and understanding, I think the two started to influence each other.
Abel:
Yeah. I think every time now we start remembering the change that created Cabeza Patata, it was really coming, physically leaving London. Not because London wasn't allowing us to be creative. It's because we had our life working there, with I have my jobs there, all the freelance stuff that was constantly coming in, and you were studying by then, and everyone knew that you were doing politics and French. And suddenly, to be so far away from everything, I think it was a great moment for us to reinvent ourselves, to try to do what we really wanted to do.
Katie:
Yeah. It was very freeing, for sure.
Abel:
And I remember, by those days, Barcelona has some walls, that the city council has this app, that you can sign up, and they give you walls that you can paint, legally, because those are some walls that are near construction sites, or walls that belong to the city, that they want people to decorate. So you can legally paint them. And we used to go on the weekends, and we started painting characters. We didn't even have a name by then, but it was super fun to start making all these characters, and we were inviting friends. Sometimes friends were coming that were not even painting. They were just drinking beers. And-
Katie:
Yeah, it felt like a million miles from London at that point, I think. Just for that relaxed atmosphere and the ability to, I don't know, to go to events and to do that type of thing, like going and painting on the weekend, without having to really plan in advance, or expect that there'll be tons of people there or something.
Abel:
Yeah.
Katie:
Everything felt a little bit more undiscovered.
Abel:
And then I think we've been discovering, during these last few years, a lot of improvement comes simply from repetition, from doing something, and then doing it again, and being a bit playful, and doing variations on the same subject, again and again. And I think sometimes when you are working under a lot of pressure, if you are working for a client, and if you are doing a lot of commercial stuff, you can improve, but you're never going to get into those parts of your, I don't know, of your creativity, that come from feeling free to do.
Katie:
Yeah. and just feeling excited about the work, as well, I think.
Abel:
Yeah.
EJ:
That's so interesting, that you're working on Blade Runner, and you're just like, "Why am I not ... I should be really stoked about working on this kind of stuff, but I'm not." I wonder how many of our students out there, whoever's listening to this podcast, are feeling that same, "Why am I not happy?" Motion graphics is this all-encompassing thing, and you don't have to like every single aspect of it.
I can tell you, I don't want to do green screening. I don't want to do roto. I don't like that side of things. I don't like hyper-realistic nature stuff that I feel like you see an Instagram all the time. And that's okay. And I think it's that permission to let yourself find out what you enjoy about this giant motion graphics tent that we all live underneath. I just think it's really interesting about your story, and that you said that.
Katie:
Yeah, for sure. And I think as well, it's just try everything, because then I think it's not about forcing yourself to do different things, but I think if you try everything, as soon as you realize that you're doing one thing a lot more than others, it's going to be the thing that you're going to get good at, because all you need is to like it. And then as soon as you like it, you're going to be practicing all the time, and you're going to be improving. But if you're not really enjoying it as you're doing it, it's probably not really the thing for you, so just try something else. Don't get really stuck in something just because you think, "Oh, I must be this type of motion designer or illustrator."
EJ:
Right. Yeah. Yeah, I think we can get so caught up with just working on client work, and then maybe our personal work isn't actually the work we like to do. And it's like, well, if you're not doing the things you like to do in your own time, then what are you doing at that point? So Katie, you studied illustration in school, right?
Katie:
Yeah. Yeah, I did the master's. Yeah.
EJ:
At what point ... You guys knew each other before Cabeza Patata became a thing, of course. But were you still in school when you were illustrating? How did the characters become a big part of the art that you were creating?
Katie:
Yeah. We met a long time before Cabeza Patata. We met in London, actually in a design course at St. Martins. I was studying French and politics, and then during the summer, because I was like, "I don't really want to do this," I decided to sign up to this design course, to see what that was about. And then that's where Abel and I met.
Abel:
But it wasn't illustration. It was like a really theoretical design course, about the principles of design.
Katie:
Yeah. I was like, "I don't want to be a designer."
Abel:
Because personally, I loved it, because I have a bit more background. But I think Katie, in the course, it was a bit confused.
Katie:
I have to say they called it beginners in graphic design, and nobody there was a beginner. Everyone was there, "I've been working six years as a senior designer." I was like, "I'm studying French." It was really, really over the top there. Yeah, and my confusion was that I don't want to be a graphic designer. But I think it shows how little I really knew about the whole world or anything. I'd heard of graphic design, so I thought, "Okay, I'll do this course."
Abel:
But the characters, I think, the first moment they arrived ... When we moved to Barcelona, when we did this transition, and Katie started doing her master's degree in illustration, one thing she started doing a lot was embroidery. Because Katie has a secret life.
Katie:
I don't know if this comes up on LinkedIn.
EJ:
Oh, it does, I've seen everything.
Katie:
Oh, okay. Well, there we are.
Abel:
Because she has an account on Instagram. You don't update it a lot.
Katie:
Yeah. Because who needs to?
Abel:
It's called La Katie. But she has a lot of embroidery there. And the characters first starting appearing there. We were doing sometimes, like painting some walls with them, but the main thing was in the embroidery.
Katie:
Yeah. The main thing was embroidery. But definitely that came a lot from ... Because in this master's course, every two weeks, you did a different project. So sometimes it might be scientific illustration. Sometimes it might be trying to make some small animations in After Effects. And it was just trying different areas of illustration, to see what you might be interested in. And I always enjoyed the teachers and the projects that were more character-based. And I thought, "Okay, I really want to draw characters and make characters." And then just kind of started. And then, like I said, if you like something, you just keep on doing it. So I decided to, every day, try and draw a character. And they just really evolved from there.
Abel:
Characters is like ... I think I struggle to understand why people don't only do characters, but only because we love them. Because there's such variation of things you can do with them, and express so much. Obviously, I like other people's work that don't do characters, but it's so difficult sometimes to express emotion and to express things. And with characters sometimes I love how ... We don't even put mouths, most of the times, on them. And they don't have eyebrows or anything. And we are able to express feelings with their bodies.
Katie:
Characters are so difficult as well. I think that's what I love about them, is they look so easy, and then they're actually so difficult to make a sweet, nice character, that just hits the mark.
Abel:
I think you have that thing in which, behind that simplicity, there's something quite complex, and you need a lot of iterations to get that perfect position. And I think that's what we learned through repetition. When we started doing more and more characters, now we see what we were doing at the beginning, and we think it was lacking on ...
Katie:
On intention, really. And I think that you can see that quite often when you start doing something, and when you look at your old work. Or you look at someone's work that you like, and then you try and do something in your style. And you're like, "Why doesn't mine look like that?" And I think it's because you don't have the intention behind it. You don't know what you really want to make. You just know that you like the way that that person draws. And really, you actually need to find the way that you draw. And then as soon as you find that, I think, suddenly is when you are on a roll, and everything's going to start looking better and better. Which is a bit what happened with us, I think.
Abel:
Yeah. Or basically, if someone is a student that has listened to this, they are going to be like, "Yeah, but how?" Because it always happens, and I remember thinking the same.
Katie:
Yeah. I felt exactly the same.
Abel:
But I think my advice has always been, through practice, repetition, and doing what you like, you can get way farther than you think. It's amazing how much [crosstalk 00:29:42]
Katie:
Yeah, and just trying to think what it is that you want to express, and why you're doing this thing. Not just trying to emulate someone else's work. Because they have already thought about what they want to express and what they like.
EJ:
Right. And I feel like everyone's style is a collection of what they like, and someone kind of made it similar to having a wardrobe. You get to choose all the different pieces of clothing, which is very apt for Cabeza Patata's work, because there are a lot of clothes and wardrobes involved. But then, you are the one who takes all those clothes, and you decide what hats goes with what pants, and is it wearing glasses? Stuff like that. But for your style though, what were the major influences that kind of influenced the design of your characters? Because like you said, there's no eyebrows, there's no mouth, and I feel like if I considered my character style, it's just giant eyeballs. And that's just where I'm trying to... Where can I take this?
Abel:
I think it's one of the main... At the beginning, was the drawings that were influencing the characters at the beginning, and all the embroidery had a lot to do with the body position. Not how the characters were, or what really were their expression with the positions. But I think a lot of the background that made this, the style to look how it looks, has to do with the clothes and the craft behind them. And with that, I've been learning a lot from Katie in the last few years, but she, as well, is amazing and making real clothes, and right now I think... I mean, now you don't have that much time, but in your uni days, in her uni days...
Katie:
Long time.
Abel:
Yeah, more than half of the clothes you were wearing, she would be wearing, they would be made by her. And it's amazing because you learn so much from physically making them, no?
Katie:
Yeah, for sure. I think you learn what's comfy as well, and I think that that's a big part of how our characters look, and feel, comes from the clothes, and comes from the fit of things, and that in turn influences the modeling of the body shape, as well. Whether it's about the actual size of the limbs, or whether it's about the position that they're in. Because sometimes we can look at something in the morning and it looks completely finished, and... I think it's like this in many mediums, in animation as well. It looks completely finished, and then to the untrained eye, you can spend another six hours working on it, and it can look exactly the same, but actually there's so much difference in just the gesture, and therefore the way that the character feels.
Abel:
The funny thing is that the thing with the clothes came... I think by the time we started making clothes, we use a program called Marvelous Designer to make the clothes, but then the program, we had no idea about it. We started doing the characters without knowing about the program, and then by then we were in Barcelona sitting next to this studio called Six N. Five. They make incredible 3D... I don't know if you know them, they make amazing interior design pieces, but not at all what we do. So different, this beautiful stuff. And they were using Marvelous Designer to make fabrics on sofas, or if they were making beds.
Katie:
Yeah, or just cotton flying in the breeze, or something.
EJ:
Okay.
Katie:
And so we said, we were seeing them using the program, we were like, "Oh, what's that thing?"
Abel:
And they told us, "Oh, it's Marvelous Designer," and we started looking at it. They have a trial version, and then you could pay monthly, or something. So we got it for a month, and then it was so confusing, the program at the beginning. Right now, then a lot of videos appear later. There's been, here and there, videos of people explaining how to use the program, but by then, most of the videos were in Russian. It's amazing-
EJ:
[crosstalk 00:34:07] And not French or Spanish, Katie couldn't help out.
Katie:
Not at all.
Abel:
So we were trying to discover it, but luckily the program is not that difficult. It's difficult if then you want to export automations, and things like that, but the program to use wasn't that difficult. And then once we learned how to use it, I think that's when we saw that we were onto something very interesting. Because it opened a door into creating all these different pieces of clothes for characters, and to make characters that would have different body shapes, and then having the challenge of making clothes that would fit very well on them. That's something that... I cannot say for a fact that, "Oh, nobody used Marvelous Design in this way before," but definitely we haven't seen it when we did it.
And then, it was so amazing. Because you can find on the internet, references of a pattern for a shirt, because like tailors, they use them to learn how to make shirts. All of those patterns that you could find on the internet, they wouldn't work for a character like our characters because they have the proportions are completely broken. So you would get these crazy shapes from when we were making the clothes. And it was so much fun, but it's still, they would fit well.
Katie:
Yeah. I remember when we started using it, actually, I was being a bit purist because I was coming from making them for real. I was like, "No, patterns need to be symmetrical, Abel." We started using it, and obviously they couldn't be symmetrical at all, because sometimes just because of the way the characters arms were. One arm, even if they look the same, it might be massively bigger than the other, and you'd be like, "What? It doesn't look like that on the character." But then when you create the pattern, it actually has to have a much larger arm hole, and one needs to be a lot baggier to read the same way, and yeah. That was just super interesting for me, as well.
EJ:
Yeah. I was going to ask what came first? Did you discover Marvelous Designer, and you're like, "Ooh, I want to put all these clothes on these characters!" But it's very interesting that you had that idea all along, because I think you're right in that you started doing these kinds of characters two years ago or so?
Abel:
Yeah, almost three now. Yeah.
EJ:
Three years?
Abel:
Yeah.
EJ:
I know on IDesign.com, I have a Marvelous Designer tutorial on there that another amazing artist did, but I feel like it's only recently that I started seeing this explosion of all this Marvelous Designer stuff. And I see it for a lot of hyper-real looking stuff, proportional characters, realistic characters, but I think both of you really kind of trailblaze as far as, "How can you use this software that..." You said this other studio used it just for architectural, indoor kind of stuff, but using it for more motion graphics kind of purposes. And I just think that's really, really interesting, because you've opened up a whole... I mean, you look at your characters, and you're like, "Oh, that's Cabeza Patata." Or if you see something that's like that, it's like, "Oh, I know where I've seen that before."
Katie:
Yeah, for sure. I think we will see a lot more, definitely. But I think the main limitation right now is the program is not really ready for the places that we want to take it. I mean, it's so difficult to use in animation. In illustration, it's incredible what sits well, but in animation, it's funny because quite often we get comments from people being like, "Hi guys, how do you actually do it? Because I'm finding that it just breaks on every frame." And it's like, "Oh yeah, that's just because it does."
Abel:
I think-
Katie:
We don't have any tricks.
Abel:
I think very big studios, they've been finding super difficult to use it on their workflow, because it breaks so much. Cabeza Patata, when we are in the smallest size, is just us. When we expand the team, we can be up to 10, 15 people, but it's always us making sure that everything is going through us for the final delivery. So, it's fine, because we are a smaller studio, and we can make sure that everything goes well. We make a lot of masks to cover problems that we get into Marvelous Designer. So we use After Effects to cover it, but I think if you have a really big production, and you need to make sure that everything is spot on, and the other program is a bit wobbly sometimes.
Katie:
Yeah, you need to be able to be a bit more flexible, I think, and quite patient.
Abel:
But I think on the other hand, it's something that we like, working in this. It's like crafts. It's like sometimes things work, sometimes they don't, and I think we like how organic it is. We have a client that one day, every time they were asking for changes, and then they would say, "Oh, now we don't like how the tissue is folding this time." And we were telling them, "Oh, this is a simulation, so we don't get to choose how the tissue is folding." And it was difficult to explain that, because usually, when you are doing digital stuff, it feels like most of the stuff we do, you have complete control over it. But with these type of simulations, you are adding that randomness, and I think this has given it something very beautiful, and I think it connects a lot without all the craft stuff that we like to make.
EJ:
Yeah. I guess that's got to be one of the biggest kind of disappointing disconnects there, where you hit that simulation button, and the artistry is out of your hands. I haven't used Marvelous Designer that much, but it seems like you bake it, and that's basically done. You import it as a FBX file, or whatever, and then you're kind of stuck. It's not like you do sculpting on top of it to really edit the simulation that much.
Abel:
We do a lot of masks. In the job for Spotify, it's incredible, the amount of masks on After Effects that there are.
Katie:
Because those animations were crazy, as well.
Abel:
The clothes were crossing on the geometry all the time, and at some point we could have gone frame by frame, like doing sculpting, but I think one thing I learned, and I think somebody told me super early when I was a freelancer in London, because I was trying to do something perfectly in After Effects. I tried to align something mathematically and because I have quite a mathematical way of thinking, I was trying to do it perfectly, and somebody told me, "Look, if it looks fine, it's okay. If you need to mask it, and cover it a bit, it's fine." And I think sometimes it's good to do things well, but especially when you're getting to the end of the process, I think sometimes the best way is to jump into After Effects, cover it with a few masks, and if it looks good and nobody can tell, it's completely fine.
Katie:
Yeah, trying to look at everything as a whole.
Abel:
[crosstalk 00:41:12] The whole picture.
Katie:
Yeah.
Abel:
Oh no, because I was thinking, that's exactly what happens when you're making physical objects. Like when we are making a little sculpture in wood sometimes, accidentally, you rip a bit of wood, and then you need to live with it, and kind of solve it.
Katie:
Yeah, and I think that that's kind of where the beauty comes from. I always say, if we're making handmade things, it's like, "Try as hard as you can to make it perfect, obviously, but the fact that it's not going to be perfect, because you're not a machine, is the thing that makes it beautiful."
EJ:
Yeah. I was going to say, even with all of your like actual, tactile, real characters that you're crafting, you bust off a piece of wood, like, "Oh, we're just going to it up with some paint," or something like that. No one will ever know, you can do that digitally as well.
Katie:
Yeah, pretty much.
EJ:
And I just got to say, not only the texture of the clothes that your characters have, it just looks so real that you don't know what's real, like a real craft, or what's digital. But talking about texture, there's so much texture in the animation of your characters, it's amazing. I've always thought that the character animation that you do is... It's feature film, like animated feature film-worthy, and it's just insane. Like the Spotify spot, which you mentioned, which we can get into a little bit later on. I think that was... I even asked my wife, I was like, "I'm interviewing these people on this podcast, and they did the Spotify ads." "Oh, with the little..." I'm like, "Yeah, that's that." It was like, "Oh, that's so cool!" But I think that was... Everyone knows your characters now, because of that Spotify spot. How did you get into... Because the character animation is just crazy. How did you get into character animation? How'd you get so dang good at it?
Abel:
So cartoon animation, something like in the Spotify job, we were expanding the teams. It's a combination of many really good people that we were super lucky to be able to put together, including doing [inaudible 00:43:24] for the characters. And also, I think what happened with the Spotify, and on top of the cartoon animation having a lot of love, I think it was the client didn't change it. And instead of change it again and again, allowed us to improve it more and more.
Katie:
[crosstalk 00:43:42] It was amazing. It was maybe the only time that's ever happened. That someone was just like, "Oh, I love it."
Abel:
And I think it's like-
Katie:
It was incredible.
Abel:
Because the character animation, when you have something like in this, in the Spotify project, that you have animations that have so much energy inside of them, if you start doing changes, and changes, and changes, things lose that like initial energy, like that intention that they have at the beginning. But when do you allow the animation to flow from the beginning to the end, and then you only improve it more, and more, and more, that's when you get... We know we do sometimes cartoon animation, only us in the Spotify project, some of the best animations, we have to give a shout-out to Raúl, and Laura, Pablo.
Katie:
Daniela.
Abel:
Daniela. A few people that were working on the project made incredible things, but like Laura, is lady_caballo on Instagram. She's an incredible artist, and she's was really good at reading the characters, and also communicating, coordinating, what we wanted to get there with the animation. And then Raúl, he's an animator from Valencia, from Alicante, from Spain. Yeah. And he was directing all the animation teams on that project, and he's amazing. I think it's like... I don't know, sometimes I think about that project, and I agree, there are so many things in that project that went well. And as well, I think there are projects in which there's very good character animation, as well, where you cannot see it because it's covered by so many other things that are happening on the screen.
But on this project, we have this completely empty background, and the characters are moving there, and the clothes are simulated on top of that beautiful animation that... As while the animation is happening on twos, that the clothes are simulating ones. So that's also what is making your brain go a bit crazy, because you are getting this kind of 12 frames per second animation on the character, but the clothes is moving. So you go frame by frame, you get these weird moments in which the character's completely still, but the...
Katie:
The clothes are kind of catching up.
Abel:
The clothes are catching up, and it works. We were not sure if it was going to work, but it really did work. The reference that Raúl had for that was the Spider-Man film, that Sony Animation, the Sony Pictures Animation did. And I don't know if you've analyzed that film, but they do really weird things in that film in which sometimes they are in 12 frames per second, but in certain moments they add an extra frame, just to have fluidity, but like only in certain moments. So it's like playing with your brain all the time. It's not 12 frames per second, it's not 24, and it's something in between. We did that in certain moments of the animation as well.
EJ:
Yeah, I loved learning about all of that in Spider-Verse, how they did that to show different things like, "Oh, the inexperienced Spider-Man, he's going to be animated on the threes or fours, or whatever, because he's so discoordinated, and looks so out of sorts," and I just thought that was super clever. Honestly, I'm watching one of the Spotify spots right now with the... It looks like a Green Giant dude, and he's trying to catch his headphones, and it's just like... Yeah, it just really works, and it looks like you're rotoscoping an actual human being that has weird proportions, and these realistic clothes are on top of it. It's just-
Abel:
But definitely, nothing... Many people asked, but actually, nothing was like motion tracked. Everything is being animated by hand, and I think, even if, sometimes, using motion capture can save you in a scene in which you have a lot of characters, I think when you are focusing on cartoon animation, you need to make it by hand, and I think that really shows in the end. It's impossible to fake it, but obviously, it takes much more time, but it's so worth it.
EJ:
Right, yeah. No, I think there is a lot of people that are... I think Mixamo, and sites like that are great, because... Especially for me, I always felt rigging and character animation was definitely... It just seemed like a monumental task, and I think that just to get characters, even to begin using characters in your motion graphics, I think Mixamo is great. But you're right, where if you really want to inject emotion and inject personality and your style, you really have to do it by hand, but oh man. I could just... I don't want to pay for Spotify, just so I can keep seeing your ads. That's where I'm at with your... Just, your animation is just so beautiful. So I guess we're on the Spotify topic. I guess what I would say is, how did you land such a whale of a project? And to the point where they're just like, "Hey, do your own style." I feel like that's every artist's dream job is to get hired by this massive client, and, "Hey, you do what you're known for doing."
Katie:
Yeah. It was-
Abel:
[crosstalk 00:49:11] It was really a dream project.
Katie:
A dream, yeah. And it kind of came a bit like a dream. I think they're just a really modern, forward-looking company, that has a way of doing that design that is really modern, and quite a lot of other technology companies have this. And then they have their in-house design team who are all young, cool, diverse group of people, who are looking at different designers on the internet, and then when they find someone that they like, they can approach them, and work directly which is also-
Abel:
So originally they contacted us, I think it was by Christmas, the Christmas before we did the project. It was for something else. They sent us an email, typically email that comes into your inbox is like, "Oh, I work for marketing departments at Spotify, or whatever, and we have a project," and then they completely disappeared. I remember telling Katie, because we send them an email, they wouldn't reply. I was saying to Katie, "We need to continue insisting, because this is Spotify, it's such a cool client. We have something within the company that has seen our work, let's continue. At least, I want to get an official confirmation of the thing not happening."
So we did it, we sent many emails, and then it took a couple of months when they said, "Oh, this is not happening anymore, sorry guys. We went that other direction." But it was a small thing. I think as well when they said that, maybe they copied someone else on the email, but it was like, "Okay, we have a few more contacts here in the company." And then they came to us months later, I think it was like six months later or something like that, and they had been... This project had been having a pitch phase with biggest studios in the States, and in Europe.
I'm not giving information that they ever gave us, but this is things I've been hearing in parties here and there. Like from people, and when we went to festivals. I know that the project was in pitch phase in other places, and they couldn't find the characters that would fit completely to this project. It's quite a complicated thing for them, because they need a character that fits every single market. So they had these thing that they couldn't have a specific race. They needed a character that works in Asia, as well it works in South America, and it works in the States, and in Europe.
They were trying to look for that, and when they approached us, they told us about the.. They explained it, and it was so much bigger than anything we've done before. I feel like we kind of... They told us to make a little document explaining what we will do, and I don't know. It was so big that we didn't even get nervous. We thought, "Oh, let's do this."
Katie:
Yeah, we were like, "This isn't really going to happen, but we'll obviously go for it anyway."
Abel:
Yeah. Because we knew... I think maybe by then we knew that some really big studios, like in London and in New York, were trying to apply, to try to get that job. So it was obviously not for us, and then it happened. And as well, I remember in the... Because we thought like, "Oh, obviously they don't want our characters specifically," so in the pitch we made, we made a variation of our characters, like something a bit different. And then when they came to us and they gave us the job, they said, "We want your character." And we were like, "What? Do you want our character like it is?" And they were like, "Yeah, we've been testing it, and it works very well, so we want your character." Then from then, we had to turn our studio into something much bigger, organize the team. It was a crazy time. That happened at the same time that we were... Because that was after one year of running the studio, where we had signed up for so many events. Like we had a talk at our festival in Barcelona, we were going to Pictoplasma in Berlin that we were doing a talk and running an exhibition there at the same time. So we were like running the exhibition, and at the same time we had our laptop in a hotel in Berlin, and we were coordinating the people working on the project remotely. So super intense time. I remember usually when we go to festivals, we were socializing, and having beers with everyone, and staying until late. And we said, "Okay, during the process of this project, we are not going to drink a drip of alcohol."
Katie:
We're like "We can only do this if we literally don't drink anything, and we're in bed at 10 every night, and we're going to be up the next day, up at seven, working."
Abel:
So we were trying to be super cheerful in the parties, and then at 10 we were like "Out of here, let's go to bed."
Katie:
[inaudible 00:53:58].
Abel:
But it was super fun, and then when the project was finished, it suddenly was like so much work we [inaudible 00:54:10] had, we were exhausted. I think we got ill when we...
Katie:
Yeah, we were kind of manic from having such a busy time, that we spent like the following two or three weeks working really hard on-
Abel:
[crosstalk 00:54:20] On random things.
Katie:
On random things.
Abel:
We couldn't stop, yeah.
Katie:
And then we're like, "No, we just need to go on holiday, or something."
Abel:
Yeah, but it was really something that I think... The studio has been growing, and now it's becoming a bit more normal to get big offers for big jobs that sometimes happen, sometimes don't, but by then, definitely, we were playing on a completely different league. But I think the fact that, for example, myself, I have been on those bigger studios, freelancing in London, and that meant that I knew how to behave, how to write a brief pitch, how to explain things to clients. We know the language, we know how to...
Katie:
Also, actually, we've met with their team from Spotify when we were in New York last year, and we said to them, "Did you have any concerns ever that we're quite a small studio, and that actually, you haven't really seen any animation work from us until that project?"
Abel:
They had seen a bit, but-
Katie:
[crosstalk 00:55:26] A bit, but not in a big enough way to give us the whole animation campaign. And I expected them to be like, "No, you completely fooled us," and they were like, "Yeah, of course."
From what they said, and I think this is really true, and really cool of them, as well, was that they knew that all of our work has a very high quality, so obviously we're going to give a good quality. And also giving a campaign like this to us, they know that it's going to mean a lot for us, and we're going to put everything into it to make the best result, because it's not like, "Oh, just another huge project." We're not another kind of Buck, making another massive ad campaign.
Abel:
Yeah, for us it was the most...
Katie:
Yeah, we're very choosy about...
Abel:
Not suggesting that Buck wouldn't have done it amazingly, like-
Katie:
[crosstalk 00:56:13] Oh, obviously.
Abel:
Obviously.
EJ:
Right.
Abel:
They just were the example of our favorite studio ever. What she meant is the fact that, we are... Sadly for us, it was like our lifetime opportunity. We were literally not going to even drink alcohol during the time of the project. That was the full commitment-
EJ:
[crosstalk 00:56:32] That's huge!
Abel:
We only drink-
EJ:
[inaudible 00:56:36] Drink at a party? Seriously.
Abel:
We continued doing a sport, we started doing last year. We were doing body combat, which is like this mixture. We did dancing and punching the air. I don't know if you've ever seen a training, or body combat. It's a bit funny, no?
Katie:
It's quite funny.
EJ:
[crosstalk 00:56:55] No.
Abel:
Yeah. So we started doing it in the gym that we had near home, and I remember, we were working like 10, 11 hours and then running to the gym, punching the air, and it was such a way of getting the stress out. But I think that was the only activity that was really releasing...
Katie:
The constant nerves.
Abel:
[crosstalk 00:57:15] The constant stress during that time, because then the talks and everything were taking a lot of stress as well. But yeah, that passed.
EJ:
I think that's a huge thing to talk about is just mental health, especially with large projects. I know me, I jog every single day, and especially now, with everything going on. But I'll have my creative blocks, and I think like the only thing that will help me break through is to just not be around the computer. And I feel like for Cabeza Patata, some of your work is so craft-based anyways, that it's got to be really nice to get away from the computer, even when you're like, "I got to build this character, let's build it out of craft first."
Katie:
For sure, yeah. I think our idea now, actually, having our new studio space, is to work on the computer only in the mornings, and then in the afternoons work on any other craft, or more physical pieces. Just like you're saying, to try and get away from the computer a bit, and focus on something else. We also learn from that.
Abel:
Yeah, we think it influences a lot, as well, like the rest of things we do. We've been experimenting with that bit of stop motion animation and stuff, and like making physical pieces in general. Our latest project was we made a three meters tall gigantic doll that we have here at the entrance of the studio. We are on the street level, so every kid that passes by... Right now, I can see kids passing by, looking at the toy, because they are leaving school, and they go crazy. Because it's just so big, it's gigantic, and it's made a bit of, like with the feeling of a cushion. So it looks a bit like Woody from Toy Story, or something like that. It's really fun.
EJ:
We'll share links to your... I see it on your Instagram page, and it looks like Katie's laying down on it, and it's hilarious.
Katie:
Aw, someone's literally just crossed the road to come and show their baby.
EJ:
Got to charge admission.
Katie:
If it wasn't... Of course with the COVID right now, we're not open, but as soon as things are okay, again, we can't wait to have kids allowed to come in, and have a picture with her.
Abel:
Yeah, because we wanted at least to be able to give them a sticker or something, but it's not the time right now, but in the future we will. But yeah, the idea of trying to... In general, we have never been into like crazy amount of hours, or hours of work. The only time was during this Spotify project, to be fair. In general, we work Monday to Friday, 10 to 5, 5:30. Reasonable times. And then we stopped, because I think works much better for mental health and you get ... It's impossible to be creative if you are super tired.
EJ:
You're right.
Abel:
With the physical pieces, I don't know. It's so much fun and you can learn so much. When we are ... I think one of the problems sometimes, when you are only in front of the computer ... And especially because we are using more or less in the computer the same tools everyone is using, we have the combination of the Adobe programs like Photoshop and Illustrator and After Effects.
And then, we have Cinema 4D, and then we use Octane. So, almost everyone is using ... In the motion design world that we are into, everyone's using those same tools. So, if you don't get more inputs, things start looking similar. And I think when you do crafts, you will realize how many textures and things you can add to your ...
Katie:
For sure.
Abel:
To your pages.
Katie:
Yeah. Yeah. And all of these. We just bought this machine that does like cutting paper and cutting different materials. And we were joking because if you look online, all of the tutorials in showing you how to use the program are for making either little slogans that you can print and put on your wall, or for printing pieces to make models of airplanes from the war and stuff like this.
Abel:
Yeah, but they are no designers using it for-
Katie:
Yeah, but no one's using them for design and no one's making characters with them. So, suddenly it's like taking a machine that's not really used in our industry and tying it up.
Abel:
Yeah. And we love trying new machines. We both love it. I love using it. Katie loves reading the instructions from top to bottom when we get there. And I like just pushing the buttons and check how it works, just by practicing. But we love. And have so many now, that we have this space and we have the workshop area in the back. It means that we can use them without making a mess at home.
Because one of the problems when you ... With a computer that you can work from home. But if you are doing something physical to put it on your dining table, to have the still motion stuff means that you need to have dinner on the sofa every day. And it just gets ... At some point, it was getting super full of random things everywhere that we were both like, "Don't touch it. Don't touch it because I still need to take a few more photos tomorrow."
So, now it's so much better. When we leave the studio, everything stays like it is. And then when we are at home, it's like a home that ... As well, we are trying to take Cabeza Patata away from the home, not to have even our characters at home to keep them in the studio. So, then when we're at home, we have ... Even the art we have on the walls is from all those people. So, it feels like ... Yeah. I think it's a bit more refreshing. Yeah.
EJ:
Yeah. You have that psychological break from work mode and home mode.
Abel:
Yeah.
EJ:
I feel like when you work from home now, you need that more than ever. You know?
Abel:
Yeah.
Katie:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). For sure.
EJ:
Now Katie, I saw when you were working at Talking Design Studio, you did your stop motion hand embroidery, which I found through stalking on LinkedIn. Was stop motion your introduction into the world of animation?
Katie:
I guess. It was kind of the Fest thing that I really enjoyed, I think, and had a lot of patience for doing. I think I kind of have infinite patience with stop motion, and then often people say ... Because we show a time lapse of moving a character bit by bit or the same with an embroidery, doing one stitch at a time and people say, "Oh, wow. Such patience." But actually, I find the animation in 3D takes just as long or sometimes even longer if you're doing a gloss simulation. And you don't always get the same wow factor in terms of that.
So, I actually really enjoy that. Yeah. I think that, that was kind of the first thing I really liked. And I love stop motion films as well. I love all of the Wes Anderson films, and I've always been obsessed with that. So, yeah. Yeah. And embroidery, I think again, it was a little bit of trying something that I hadn't really seen before, trying to ... Because I was all the time trying to modernize embroidery a bit, because I would do it everywhere I went and all these old women would come up to me and be like, "Oh, I used to embroid my husband's sheets," or something.
And I was like, "This is quite depressing." So, trying to put cool messages in there or make animations like this, or generally just try and bring it into the modern day, which there are loads of amazing embroideries I'm doing as well right now.
EJ:
Yeah. I saw at the Pictoplasma Festival last year, I believe, you really ... If you want to see Cabeza Patata and how they experiment with other mediums, this is the show to look at. And I think it's on your, The [Behance 01:05:01] site as well, which we'll have in the links. But you had such a variety of media. You had 3D printed characters. You were getting the 3D prints of your actual characters with the handmade clothes, wooden sculptures, and what looked like a Paper Mache head that someone was wearing in some of those pictures, which was really funny.
Abel:
Yeah. That's a Paper Mache head, yeah. And we had as well and some ... We did some laser cut on acrylics. So, we have these hanging videos from the ceiling. We painted a wall. We gave the stencils to people to make their own characters. We also had mental reality. We don't have it on the Behance project because we didn't have the videos of it.
But we did our mental reality stuff from some of the pieces, so people could scan them with a phone and get some secret animations. So, we did a lot of stuff. It was like ... It was the first time we were doing a physical exhibition, and it was quite a big space that we had for ourselves. And we took the opportunity as a way of just really seeing where we could get the parts as doing physical pieces.
And I think we realized how much we were enjoying it while we were doing it. And when we finished it, we thought like, "Oh, this is really a way to go." We think it's like the idea of doing physical stuff. Right now, we haven't really like found how we are going to turn that into like a Bible business. Right now we are, let's say, working for clients, doing digital images, they pay us, and then we spend that money on buying machines and doing business stuff. Then we don't want to sell to anyone because we like them too much.
Katie:
And so many clients, they'll come with their project they have, and we'll be like, "How about we do it in stop motion?" And they're like, "No, we don't ... No, we like your 3D stuff." And we're like, "Ah."
Abel:
Yeah.
EJ:
And you get a free figurine if you do it now. Yeah.
Abel:
So, right now we are in this phase and we really don't know where that's going to go. We definitely ... The idea of mass producing pieces is not what we want to do. Also, we don't know if it ... Getting into like high art and super big art galleries is something that is for us at the moment.
So, I think the idea of having our space and our gallery means that in the front of our studio, we can put them there and nobody needs to judge if they are good enough for a gallery or not because it's our own gallery. So, we are the ones that are going to put them there and for people to enjoy. And then, I think with time, we'll discover [crosstalk 01:07:39] together.
Katie:
Yeah. We didn't start off start working together wanting to make a design studio. It just kind of happened because we were really excited about it, and I think people were seeing something fresh and new. And I think again, we're really excited about making more visible pieces. So, I think that it probably will lead somewhere. I think generally, if you're really into something and you work really hard at it, it's going to take you somewhere.
Abel:
And physical pieces. We've seen so many things. Gigantic cards is something we really like. But we really like as well the area of making super tiny worlds. The toys we have are really small.
Katie:
Either really big or really small.
Abel:
Yeah. But then [crosstalk 01:08:17].
EJ:
No middle ground.
Katie:
Yeah.
Abel:
Last year, we went on a bit trip around Asia, and we saw characters, incredible characters all around. Like in Japan, they have so many characters. And some of them ... We saw traditional characters. What was that city?
Katie:
In [Imoda 01:08:33].
Abel:
Imoda. They had these characters that they make. They make these wooden structures inside. And then, they use wire to kind of create the geometry. It's not 3D. It's not done with a 3D program, but if you see them, they look like they have faces from a ... Like geometric faces, like if they were made in cinema 4D or something. And for that, they use a wire. And then, to do the faces, they use paper.
There's a Japanese paper that is translucent. And then, they put lights inside of them. How they call the figures? Probably use Google. Yeah.
Katie:
I think they're called [Nabuto 01:09:17].
Abel:
Nabuto?
Katie:
Yeah.
Abel:
I think it's Nabuto. Yeah. Or Nabuto?
Katie:
Something like that.
Abel:
It's so pretty. It's like ...
Katie:
Yes. So, watch out. [inaudible 01:09:27].
EJ:
That's what I loved about going to Japan, is that they anthropomorphize everything. Like the little road cones that they have, our characters, little anime looking characters, everywhere.
Katie:
Oh, my gosh. Yeah. There were so many frogs and rabbits and stuff.
EJ:
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And I just ... That's what I love about Cabeza Patata as a studio, is that what you're doing is really trailblazing. You have your studio space, you're treating it as a gallery, you're making physical objects, and you're really showing what a studio could be. And almost like, I think what you're doing is showing how you should consider yourself an artists first and then a motion designer second.
I feel like a lot of us treat ourselves as like we're just a service-based industry and we're just going to do these work for clients. And we don't know what the heck emotion design career should be because no one's retired yet. So, we just ... We have our limited view of what a motion design career should be. And it's like, well, I guess you ... Like what Abel did.
You go and you freelance at a bunch of studios because you need to gain all those insights in how you work, because then that helps you land a big project like Spotify. But then it's like, well, okay, well you either start a studio or you freelance forever. And then, I guess you just keep with that. But it sounds like you're really trying to figure out ... Like, there's more to that than just working on a Spotify gig or freelancing at studios, which I think is really inspiring for students or anyone listening to this to hear.
Katie:
Oh, thank you. Yeah, definitely though. I think especially after Spotify, but meeting so many other people in the industry at their festivals and things. And everyone just assumed that we were going to get a space, probably go back to London, employ a few people full-time and just like make a ton of projects, like you do traditionally to build a studio. And everyone was a bit like, "What? What are you ..." And actually, at that point, we just left our shared studio space and we were basically just traveling around.
Abel:
Yeah. With laptops.
Katie:
With laptops, and kind of seeing and not really committing to anything, which I think it was very confusing for a lot of people as well. And for us as well, obviously.
Abel:
I think it's for many, from even ... We decided at some point of ... Only at the very beginning, when we started as a studio, we got a few representation agencies representing us in different places. But then, because of exactly what you were saying, it felt like the representation agencies were putting us through these routes that they considered that that was the way in which we had to go.
And then, we never felt that that was right for us because we felt like they were pushing us and they were saying, "You're going to be so big and we are going to turn you into a ... In five years time, you're going to have 50 people in the studio." And we will look at each other and I'm thinking like, Is that what we want right now?"
Katie:
There was such a disconnect, and they kept saying, "If you're so lucky, and one day you might do this huge ad, and your characters can be the face of Google code," or something. I twas like, "But is that even what we want?" [crosstalk 01:12:54].
Abel:
Yeah. We were not really sure.
Katie:
It was so presumptuous that that's a new startup, that's what you're going to want. It's like where you begin and end.
Abel:
And I think it's like, obviously you need to do things that give you ... Allow you to like eat food and pay rent and all of that, but when we get opportunities like the jobs that we've been doing lately that has been giving us good money, the idea of like growing seems to be the only way, when then you can grow in many different ways. And to have a gallery and to have a workshop is different way of growing the studio.
We think it's obviously not going to make us ... Not multiply the amount of money their studio makes every year for the next 10 years. It's not going to turn into Monster, but we're happy with it.
Katie:
There's no business plan.
Abel:
There's no business plan. But there's ... At the same time, there's no business plan. We are being conscious. We haven't been spending money we don't have.
Katie:
No. No.
Abel:
And we think as well that, especially with this pandemic that has been accelerating certain processes, like people working remotely, teams being smaller, I think the idea, like more and more clients ... And you see that on the Spotify, but you see it with many of the big technology companies, like you say Google and Microsoft. Many of those are going directly to good artists and asking them for their work and paying it quite well.
So, it's not necessary to be under the umbrella of a massive representation agency or to be freelancing for a production company. It's not always necessary. You can make a voice for yourself and have a good living and decide who you work for, if you are getting those direct connections. Obviously, it doesn't work for everyone. But for us, we were finding that allows us to explain ourselves much better.
Sometimes even, we have clients that they say, "Oh, we want you to be making the characters for us for the next two years." And we have said in the past, "Oh, we really don't feel right now giving you such a big commitment, because we are a small team and we don't know we're going to want to commit to two years of something." So, we tell them, "Why don't we try something smaller?" I think it's like that direct communication that we can have being a small studio. It's what allows us to do what we do.
Katie:
Yeah. And to control our entire image as well, and to not have any third parties sharing other work on our behalf or talking to other potential clients on our behalf or anything. Yeah, I think like Abel, because it helps us to explain ourselves and ask that the unusual route made easier.
Abel:
Well, it's almost like wish your route was more accepted. It's like working for a studio. I've never worked at a studio, full disclosure. And it's because of just what studios are represented as, at least from the people that I know that work at some of these studios. Just seem burned out all the time, and it's just you're on a hamster wheel that only goes faster. And that's just what you're expected to do.
And I think with everyone going freelance, people have taken their career and their future in their own hands, which I think is really powerful. And I think that's exactly what you guys are doing. And I think that's why. It's like you can take time, you can do this massive project, you can have a small studio in Barcelona. And I'm not sure how much cheaper Barcelona is than London, but I'm assuming quite a bit, to be able to do something like that.
But then with not paying the London rent, you get to travel and you get inspired. And how does that push your creativity even further and open up more possibility?
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. This is exactly how we are. Even right now. And it's a much more relaxing way. And also, another thing that I think is very important when you were mentioning, when we did our own ... The work in our own hands and we decide what to do, it's as well ... A thing I realized with Cabeza Patata is, the value of our work is ... The value that it's going to produce for the client is not a daily rate or anything like that.
So, if we have a big client that is going to use our characters for a baby campaign, they're going to have to pay it. And that money is going to be used for then us producing all the art and everything that is surrounding right now the studio. And there's nothing wrong about it. I think my problem with when I was freelancing in London is that I just had my daily rate, and it didn't matter if I was doing a little thing for a local brand or if I was doing the UI for Bladerunner.
It was always more or less the same day rate. And I think it was creating me the feeling that I was never in control of how to value my work. I couldn't say, "Okay, I only want to give you the ..." or, "I've been working on this style for a long time and this has a value." It was more like they were paying for the hours I was physically in the space, pushing buttons. And I really like that that's not like that anymore. And I think it gives us a lot of ...
Katie:
Yeah. Yeah. And I think that it helps people to value the artwork a lot more as well, and to not see it as a ... Even if a lot of clients still to do, but to not see it purely as a kind of, "I want this here, there and push that button," the kind of lack of understanding of the whole ...
Abel:
Yeah. I almost wonder how much of your craft work and thinking of your art as art, versus something that's a commodity that is just, "This is the fixed price," how much that actually is informing what you're doing now. And do you see ... You said you really don't have a business plan, but it's got to be even more freeing to know that you do have different alternatives. Right? If motion graphics, like you could ... Maybe that we don't need to be doing motion graphics all the time for income.
We can be doing this other stuff. We can be doing crafts. We can be teaching classes. And I think I would love to see so much more of that in the motion graphics community, because I think it's almost like we're ... I'm seeing we're becoming more and more disconnected from the fine arts of everything. How many 3D artists do I know, they're so heavy in 3D, and they don't know how to draw anything at all.
And I'm guilty of that too. I went to college for fine arts because I love drawing. And I draw all the time. I'm embarrassingly awful at drawing now because I've just neglected it for so long.
Yeah, definitely. And also, I think being connected, for us, the different ways of running the studio on income, being as well with ... Not only teaching how to use a computer, but teaching art or ... We were having the idea when things are open again to run workshops for kids in which we can teach them really, really basic stop motion, for example. So, we can have ... Because we have a few figures that are fully rigged from Cabeza Patata here.
So, we could have the kids come in, and they could try to animate a little scene and see how it moves. And I think that type of thing is very rewarding for us, like trying to show and open our studio to people living in the neighborhood, trying to be a bit more local. Because I think as well, with everything going completely online, we need a bit more of that connection. At least Katie and myself, we're feeling that.
Katie:
Yeah. We've been enjoying having this space so much now because people just pop in all the time, which is really nice. It's obviously something you don't have when you're working from home. So, it's been kind of extreme to go from the lockdown and everyone completely at home, to suddenly be here and be able to ...
Abel:
To see the street all the time.
Katie:
Yeah.
Abel:
We're just in front of a designer school of Barcelona. So, it's full of students and you can see them, like the breaks, going to get their coffees and then coming back. And it's just so good just to be connected to the city. And I think, yeah, the idea of considering what we do as a more of an artistic thing, I think it's not something that we are obsessed with, like trying to elevate a lot of what we do.
But definitely, we don't want to turn into ... We are people that make characters for companies to sell whatever product they want. We don't only want to do that. We think it's ... We love the characters too much for that.
Katie:
Yeah. I can get a bit soul destroying at a point as well, I think, when ... And especially because people might not always treat the project with as much respect as you might be hoping for. And at least if you get into a project and you're a little bit disappointed by it or something, at least you know, "Actually, okay. In the afternoon, I'm going to go and work on something else. And this will end. It's not my be all and end all." Because I think probably the majority of commercial projects, we do end up not feeling as excited as we do about personal work.
Abel:
To be fair, we always say when a client puts reference ... Besides the Spotify job, I think most of the references, they are looking up and they talk about our stuff we did personally. And even if you look online, Spotify stuff comes from stuff that we were doing as personal work, because I think it feels so fresh. People, I think sometimes, they have a different ...
Sometimes it looks like agencies, when they imagine how creative work is produced, they kind of imagine that if you sit like a team of people around the table for enough time, having a lot of lattice, they're kind of going to come out with the perfect image. And that's not how it's made. When me and Katie are working on something, we just sit down, we talk for a tiny bit, and then we try, and then we meet an hour later, and then we comment on what we like. And then, we continue working. And it's so much more dynamic. It's less words and more stuff, more action. You know?
Katie:
Yeah. Seriously. Yeah. And sometimes it will just come from like, "Oh, hey. Well, I just did this little sketch." And you'll be like, "Oh, that's so cool. How might that look in this other form?" And you're like, "Oh, let me check that." And things just naturally evolve and develop. It's not like you make an entirely finished image, and then someone's like, "Oh, actually, I think it would be better with these trainers. Let's change the trainers." And then, you're kind of digging backwards, which I think can happen a lot.
Abel:
That's Avenger as well with the personalized clothes. Sometimes we don't even want to tell clients how much we can personalize them, because then things will start being about really personal opinions in which someone likes more a denim jacket and someone will like this leather jacket with this little metallic [crosstalk 01:24:28].
Katie:
Yeah. Just because it's exciting that you can see it being made.
Abel:
Yeah. But sometimes it's [crosstalk 01:24:32]-
EJ:
I really want overall.
Abel:
Yeah. But it gets frustrating when you change something three times and then ... And it takes a long time to change things. So, when then we finish a commercial project and we start working on something personal, we love just going for it. Sometimes it's just this feeling of, "I'm going to do it. Nobody's going to tell me what to do." And then, we start working on something.
And sometimes it's like ... I think that's why we get these moments. And then, we get that project ... When we finish a project with a lot of tension or it's something difficult, then we always release a personal project a few weeks later.
Katie:
Yeah. Always a week.
Abel:
Yeah.
EJ:
That's awesome. That's a really good creative method, almost. You refresh. You recharge your batteries and do something personal. And I want to stick on the personal work subject for a little bit longer. And it has a lot to do with your ethos. You go to your website and the description of what Cabeza Patata is, is you're a full service creative studio specializing in character design. Okay.
But we care about diversity and female empowerment, and we join forces to create a world of playful, yet strong characters, full of energy and positivity. And Holy cow, could we use all the positivity we could get right now? But I just think that's such a great message for a studio. And I wonder if that politics background that Katie had kind of informed some of the personal work that I've seen, because you've spotted all ... You go to your Behance page and ... Or Behance. I'm not sure how we are supposed to say it. Behance, Behance.
Abel:
I don't think they even know either.
EJ:
I don't think they know either. But I go all the way to the bottom and I see you did a personal project. Not for a fake Nike client or anything like that, but you did a piece about a hundred years of women's suffrage. And I also see the team Patata piece where you highlighted women in sports. And I just think that that is such a really cool thing, too. If you're doing personal work, I love that it has something to say. You know?
Katie:
Yeah, yeah, totally. I think that those projects are both from the very beginning actually. And now as well, I think we do try to bring a lot of politics into the client work as well, even if sometimes it's in a bit of a subtle way. But like to try and challenge people's preconceptions and the prejudices that we all have. And I think as well, I think we feel a bit of a responsibility to be doing it as well.
Especially, I do. I think that there's so few women in the industry. And when we go to talk and festivals, sometimes I'll be one of the only or the only woman speaking in a festival. So, I think it's really important to highlight those things and call people out on facts like that.
Abel:
Yeah, the motion graphics world, it's true. It's completely ... I freelanced in London in many studios and women were less than 10%, probably. Not in the production department, but people doing the art, it's definitely ... There was massive disparity. And I think as well when people say, "Oh, but they are in the production department," but I think we need to understand producers facilitate creative works.
So, if we are only having women facilitating men doing the art, I think that's not curating a balanced environment. And I think from the very beginning too, it's something I think Katie is always interested in. Like some diversity and feminism and female empowerment. Like these glasses you put on. And then, once you have them on, just as seeing the world through that lens, and you realize how much crap you're all the time consuming that is given really horrible messages all the time.
And we are assuming that it's normal. I think we always talk a lot about the ... I know this is can be controversial because everyone is doing it. But in the 3D world, in the motion graphics world, there's a lot of these images of naked, bold women that are surrounded by glowing lights and things like that. I don't know if you know the images I'm talking about. Usually, if it's a man, they put an astronaut. And then with the women, they put these naked women.
EJ:
Right. They're naked all the time, yeah.
Abel:
And there are images that are extremely violent. And I think people ... Kind of like we go to a point in which we think that somehow that's artistic, because a naked woman kind of is a bit like art in the art world. No?
Katie:
Yeah, I guess. But, yeah. It's a really classical image because it's always male artists.
Abel:
Yeah. So, I think very interesting to try to challenge that and try to make something. Because I know that many people creating those types of images that are pushing stereotypes are actually not doing it on purpose. They're doing it because they are copying the [crosstalk 01:29:42].
Katie:
Yeah. It's like de Troupe of your ... When you're beginning to learn 3D, what do you see? And you tend to repeat what you see. But if you're like, "Oh, I want to make a 3D illustration. I want to make a 3D poster, as we did right at the beginning." And I was listening to the radio and they were talking about how it's a hundred years since some women got the vote in the UK. This was a couple of years ago. We said, "Oh, that's a perfect moment to commemorate." And then we looked at old posters from the suffragette movement and they had this amazing, powerful character stance. We were like, "Oh, that's so cool to try and recreate that stance in 3D." Obviously, you can do that and you can put the poster there, because it's from a 100 years ago. It's not under some copyright like this.
I think it actually is very cool and artistic to recreate it in your style and to reference it completely and explain the cause. Whereas, if you're thinking, "I want to make an illustration," and you're looking what's being done in the most technical contemporary art, and you're like, "I'll do that," actually, I think you're really not creating anything unique or interesting, or pushing any type of boundaries in the work. I think it's just going to fall there into Instagram and continue to be quite damaging as well.
I think, as a woman, I'm not on any of the Facebook group for Octane. Or, someone else was telling us, "You have to join this Slack group about 3D artists," and then he started talking about how it's all about the porn that's coming in VR. It's like, what the hell? Why does the 3D world have to be like that?
EJ:
Sign me up, I guess.
Katie:
It's not inviting, and it's not surprising that there's such a lack of women in 3D and in the industry in general. From the position I'm having, I think you need to be extremely strong and have to put up with a lot of shit, to be [crosstalk 01:31:37].
EJ:
Yeah, sure.
Abel:
I think this year, with everything that's been happening and with the movement of Black Lives Matter, for example, and diversity, the conversation, that obviously it's been happening much more in the US. But it came here to Spain as well. We've been talking a lot about diversity in the illustration and design industry specifically. I think it's a similar case, in which sometimes people think it's a natural occurrence that we don't have diversity in the industry.
When you allow minorities to start speaking about their personal experiences in the studios of how they felt, then it was like, in the last few months, I've been really listening to so many stories of people that tell you things that make you realize how uncomfortable they felt or what was wrong in certain moments. I think for me, for myself, as a white male, when I was in London freelancing, I never felt any of that. I was completely comfortable. But I do even remember you coming for drinks in London and telling me, "Wow, this is such a macho environment you're having in here." I think we need to be super conscious of that. Again, now everyone's working remotely, so some of those-
Katie:
Yeah. Or, I come into the studio and everyone would be like, "Oh, his girlfriend is there," if Abel comes meet me,, but then imagine if a man came to meet another man in the studio, people would be like, "Oh, is that a director in from another place?" It's that instant assumption. People aren't even trying to be rude, but you just have this prejudice.
EJ:
It's like, "Whose boyfriend is that?"
Katie:
No, of course. I think it's really shocking when you start to realize that you're doing those things, because I think that way as well because we're all really living in that and programmed to think like that. As soon as you start realizing it, you realize how much you're doing it. I think you need to untrain yourself to try and change.
Abel:
At least it's been a year with diversities, a year in which stories have been hard. People have been talking about it. I think sometimes, because we are the design world and we are also young and modern, we think that we are evolved, what is happening in society. We actually are in the middle of it. Not only with who makes the arts and who is in the studios, but also the type of art we produce. That's why we have it there on our website, because we think having it on the description, it means we don't want anyone to get any surprises. We put diversity in our illustrations. We don't want to push stereotypes when we do those types of things.
Katie:
Yeah, which we really frequently have to say no to. Sometimes, when you challenge a client, they also realize the prejudice and feel bad about it too and we discuss it. But then, sometimes you can run into arguments really in the end, which has happened to us in the past, which is really absurd to have to happen. But I think I really do feel a responsibility for the position that we're in. We're able to have that argument. If a project falls apart, it's okay for us that it falls apart, economically. I know a lot of people can't march into their work and say, "I'm not doing this," and tell their boss that.
EJ:
Sure.
Katie:
I think that if you are in the position in which you can, you really ought to.
Abel:
Yeah. We have decided as well, a few months ago, to start putting that little requirement. It's not something super fixed, but we get invited quite a lot to do festivals. Last year we did a lot of different talks at festivals. We decided that from now on, every time we get invited to one, we're going to ask the festivals what are they doing to address gender inequality and having minorities speaking. What are they doing in general to have more diversity in the festival?
We've been getting good response from it. We talked to a festival and we explained that this was going to be our approach. They explained what they were doing. It was really good to see that they were on the same page. I think it's something that if we say it to a festival and they reply saying, "We really don't care about that. We are only putting the people we want or the best-"
Katie:
Or people love to say, "We're just color blind."
Abel:
Yeah, stuff like that.
Katie:
Or, "I don't see gender." It's just a coincidence that everyone is white [inaudible 01:36:17].
EJ:
Right, yeah.
Katie:
I think it's just someone who we will not speak.
Abel:
We'll do it politely, but we are in a position in which we don't need to do every single festival we get offered. It's good if we can make a little change through that.
EJ:
Yeah. It's almost this time that we all have, where we're having to stay home and we can't go to these festivals. It's a really good time to self reflect on, especially for festivals, how can we educate ourselves more? How can we do more outreach? How can we shine the spotlight on, be more inclusive? I think that's a good thing. We want to come out of this thing better than we went into it. That's what I always hear and that's what I hope that we all push towards.
I just love that your work... I mean, if we don't do it, if the people that are making work now, if we don't make an effort to depict inclusivity... I've seen some of your work. It has disabled people, all genders, all races, and that might have also maybe helped you to score that Spotify job, because you had to create characters that everyone could see themselves in.
Katie:
Yeah. I think as well, a lot of this different way of thinking, these companies like Spotify or Google or Apple who have their in-house creative teams, often those teams are really diverse as well. It's not just like, "Spotify wants to score points making their super open campaign." Maybe at the top, there are very cynical bosses thinking that, but also, I mean, within the team, you're looking at a really diverse group of people who do want to have different types of characters on display, who genuinely believe as well. I wouldn't feel completely cynical about it. I feel quite positive that that is the way that a lot of these companies are going, because it's really the change through generations.
EJ:
Now, as far as your personal work you're going to do in the future, is that a goal of yours, "If we're going to do personal work, we should shine a light on something or have some message?"
Abel:
We have certain things that I feel like we really care about. For example, with disability, one of our best friends, she's in a wheelchair. She's Nina. She's the best. For explaining so many things, we've been traveling with her around Europe and through her, you start understanding, again, the world through someone that's on a wheelchair, on how to analyze if you can get inside a restaurant or you cannot, and if you can do something or you can not do it, depending on if they are adapted for a wheelchair. I think when you start living life through her eyes, and she explains how life is for her, then it was absurd not to translate that into our illustration work.
I think when we did that, then you realize that you can have interesting things coming out of that. We were doing a personal project in which we were having a card on a wheelchair. We made these stairs that would come in a-
Katie:
Spiral.
Abel:
... spiral. And then, at some point, we said, "If we are having the card on the wheelchair, we need to make a lift as well, so the card could go up." Obviously, it's nothing. It's a fake building. We didn't even completely model the building, but it was quite fun that suddenly we're having these ideas. I'm trying to put this level of realism about something we care into the illustration. I think then you realize how people... Even sometimes you get messages from someone in a wheelchair saying, "Wow, I have never seen an image like this," because it's not a campaign promoting these new brand of wheelchairs, or anything like that.
It's simply an image that you made and you're representing the diversity that you're seeing in the street. If we were all to see it right now, I'm talking right now, all the time you're looking through the window, because we have people crossing by on the street. The amount of different people you get in an hour crossing in front of our place, if you represent them all on illustrations, you will get so much variety. It's so many different-
Katie:
Yeah, and really enrich illustrations as well and have more interesting just by virtue of having more diversity in the work.
EJ:
Yeah. I've always been a proponent of, you want to reflect the world we live in and you don't want to just have it through your lens or be really exclusive or anything like that. I especially think that for students or anyone listening to this podcast, I would just really encourage people... We're only going to see the inclusivity if we make it ourselves. And so, it's up to us to not contribute to the echo chamber that we see on Instagram, where it is the astronaut renders, or it is the naked women with neon lights, and all that stuff.
One quote that I always love to fall back on is that art's a language, and even though you've learned the language, it serves no purpose unless you have something to say. That's one of the reasons why I love what Cabeza Patata is doing. It's not only beautiful work and it's amazing style and really aesthetically beautiful and the characters just have so much energy and positivity. I think that's what we need in the world right now is definitely more of Cabeza Patata and what you're doing.
I think what I'd like to close out with is on the subject of, you guys have a very distinct style. I want to get your take on style in general. A lot of artists, I think we sell ourselves short where we think we can't have a style or having a style is somehow limiting, or it's a cage, a lot of mixed emotions on what a style is, or should I have one, or should I not have one?
At least from my point of view, I think that having a style reflects your personality and what you believe in. That's especially for what I think Cabeza Patata stands for. It means the art you make, and it says who you are as a person and represents what your personality is. I think almost not having a style is almost like not sharing your personality. You're cutting that off. What do you think about having a style? Do you ever consider having this specific character style being limiting in any way? Or what do you have to say to that?
Katie:
I think the opposite of being limiting, actually. A style is a vehicle to make all of the work that you want to make, whatever medium it might be in, or whatever message that you want to project. If you have a style that works and looks beautiful and is balanced well, then you know that whatever you decide to make it, you know it's going to look good. You don't have to only be worrying about the design side of things, but you can also be thinking about the message, what you're trying to put into it and portray. I think that that definitely helps. I think that that's why we were saying we make personal projects sometimes really quickly because the style already really works. And that's really fun as well, because you make something and it looks good-
Abel:
Many times we are changing maybe the medium. Suddenly, the challenge, when we do personal projects, is to make this with paper. And then suddenly it's a project in which we need to adapt. All of our cards is to be made with paper, but sometimes maybe the computer as well, but we say, "We are going to try to mix 2D shapes with our 3D cards. And then, we go for it. We've been playing on those different styles a lot. Sometimes we'd say, "Okay, now we're going to go away from these saturated colors, and we're going to go for a really autumn style. It's going to feel like a photo shoot for a fashion brand."
And then, we look for a few references and then we mix it with something that is already existing. It's giving us this anchor point all the time. It makes us feel comfortable. I remember before having that, it's like, if you feel a bit lost all the time... Especially when you're freelancing, like when I was in London, sometimes people would ask. They would put a few references from different people and they will say, "Do something like this," and you will have to adapt your style to that. I think you learn a lot doing that, but at some point, if you really want to enjoy it, I think you're going to get to a point in which-
Katie:
Yeah, for sure. I think when I was in university, like I was saying, how we did a different project each couple of weeks. In my first year, I tried to use a completely different style for every project, to try how it would be more in pencil, try something digital, try something in watercolors, just because I'd never really done it and I wanted to really try out everything.
And then, it was basically really finding what one of those things stuck and worked best, and then working at that more and more on it. I think through that, you do find a style and find what you like. From there, it's true. When you try and adapt it to anything, you already have something that's working. Right now, we're doing a lot paper cut and it's nice to start with something that works because otherwise you're like, "Where do I even begin here?"
Abel:
Saying that, I think you need to be careful not using your style as, I don't know, like a jacket that is very tight and you cannot move. You shouldn't have a style, especially if you do it really at the very beginnings, you shouldn't say, "My style is that I only use the color blue and I only use one brush." It might be that [inaudible 01:46:46]. If you haven't gotten there yet, don't limit yourself that much.
Katie:
It falls to the side.
Abel:
Because I think sometimes that happens, and I've seen it on people that I really like their work. Sometimes we have some people that, like I've said to you in the past, Katie, "This person is really cool, but I feel like there's not enough variation or things to explore in this style. I think they should open a tiny bit more." Together, try. I think for us, we have the advantage of liking every single craft. I think that gives enough variation because as soon as you change the materials, it's so different to be cutting wood and to be doing 3D printing. Even though you are making the same character, it's going to look completely different.
Katie:
Yeah, and you go through areas as well, I think, of different colors, for example. Sometimes, we didn't think that or we don't consciously make a decision to make everything in blue. But if you go through just the Instagram feed, you'll be like, "This was a really colorful period. And this was a really pastel colors period. Here they really only used peach backgrounds."
You can see these unconscious changes as you move through, just because when you do something and you like it, you're like, "Okay, I'll do it again and I'll do it again." And then you get a bit like, "That's probably enough of that peach. I'm going to move on to something else."
Abel:
And then, it's when a client comes and they want that peach, and you're like, "Oh, no."
EJ:
Of course. I thought I was past this.
Abel:
Yeah.
Katie:
Yeah.
EJ:
I want to do blue.
Katie:
We've done so many 2D shapes lately.
Abel:
If you see on our Instagram, that's the thing every client suddenly wanted. We made this, we called it music and shapes, the project. It's a project of different musicians playing instruments. They're these colorful shapes around them. They are all made in 2D. I don't know, every client wants that right now. It's incredible. Every client wants exactly that.
Katie:
Yeah, we need to do something else.
Abel:
Yeah.
EJ:
Well, I mean, that's the goal, right? Is you want to do this personal work and then you get hired to do it. You want to do the work that you want to get hired and get paid to do. It's a good problem to have, I would say.
Abel:
Yeah, no, no.
EJ:
[inaudible 01:49:03].
Abel:
It's not a problem at all. It's a bit funny because sometimes-
EJ:
Sure.
Abel:
... they come to us and they say it almost as if they had the idea. They say, "We have this idea. You could make a musician with shapes around." We're like, "That's just what [crosstalk 01:49:18]."
EJ:
We found some references. I think you've heard of this place before.
Abel:
Yeah. It's definitely, it's fun when that happens. we make something and then a few months later we are making a commercial project based on it, it's really good.
EJ:
It looks like that was direct inspiration for a lot of the Spotify stuff, which is crazy.
Abel:
Spotify, the biggest difference that we have was that the skin colors were not real, were like this. That was so scary because when they first told us that they didn't want to use real skin colors, and we had started trying them, everyone looked like aliens.
Katie:
We're like, "This is not going to work."
Abel:
They looked so weird. And then, we started experimenting with these translucent materials with lots of the subsurface scattering. It was feeling a bit like jelly. It looks a bit like those jelly bears.
Katie:
Yeah, gummy bears.
Abel:
Gummy bears.
EJ:
Yeah, gummy bears.
Abel:
That's when it started being a tiny bit more [crosstalk 01:50:21].
Katie:
A bit more toy-like.
Abel:
Yeah. Because before, if you see the first, first, first render, it doesn't look good. I don't know why, every first render we make of everything, it always looks a bit sweaty, shiny. I think in 3D, your tendency, for sure you have the same style, but the tendency is always to make something very shiny because it looks so pretty. It's so amazing that you can make shiny materials, and then with iterations you start thinking maybe not everything should be shiny.
EJ:
Right. I mean, with Octane, everything just looks amazing as is. It's hard. It looks like a lot of your characters very diffused and just the clothing adds so much texture. Even though the skin of the characters don't look like that much, some of the Spotify stuff looks very heavy subsurface scattering. It almost looks glowing. But I think just the contrast with the clothing is just so unique and it just works so amazingly well.
Abel:
Oh, thank you. Thank you. One of the cards in Spotify, how is it called, optimistic? No. It's-
Katie:
Energetic.
Abel:
... energetic, sorry, the energetic video. It's a card that has a glow in the spheres inside. Literally, they have. We put spheres inside the rig and we put light emission inside them. Those spheres are shining through the clothes, which again was a bit of a nightmare because sometimes the clothes were going a bit too high and you could see the spheres of light, but that was very fun to make that one.
EJ:
Yeah. I'm seeing one. It's an air guitar-
Abel:
Yeah, exactly.
EJ:
... with some shiny spheres through the clothes. I mean, you talk about iterating of a style. You do stuff that, have lights inside the clothing, and you just got such a totally different look to that.
Abel:
Yeah.
EJ:
I'm going to definitely leave a link to your Instagram and some of the specific things we're talking about here, because if, anyone listening right now, you've never seen any of the work of Cabeza Patata, you need to treat your eyes to some of this stuff. I guess we'll just wrap up here. I think you've already given a lot of really good advice to students and just people in general about what they think they should do next.
I think some of the things you said so far, like not feeling obligated to do the traditional route, the career route, motion design or something like that, that it's okay to chart your own path and experiment and discover things on your own and try different things until something works. Do you have anything further to say on that? If you had any advice to give to our students who are just trying to figure out what they should do next, what they should learn next, if they need to develop their own style or what?
Abel:
I don't know. I will have to listen to the way I said it before, but I'm always worried that if we sound very negative or very cynic about the world and the clients and everything. Actually, we are in a really nice industry and it's full of really nice people. Besides all the bad things, there're really, really good things to learn here. It's beautiful that we are learning things all the time. It's super exciting. Computers get faster with the year, so it's more and more enjoyable. You don't need to be waiting for render times.
There's a lot of people to meet in the industry that are adorable and they're going to help you to learn and to become better. And then as well, if you are scared because you haven't done it before, another thing I can say is you can make a living out of this. Because at the beginning, before I started getting into this, my family was thinking, "Is Abel going to become an artist? Is he going to be living at home with the parents all his life, because he's never going to be able to make a living?" It's not like that. You can make a living. You need to find your own path. It's fun and enjoyable.
Katie:
Yeah, exactly. I would say, a bit answering off of that, as well. Just do things. Like Abel's saying, you can make a living from it quite quickly. You can try working freelance, see what jobs come your way, and at the same time, you can do other things. There's so many people to meet, places to go to, meetups, do workshops. Right now, there's a bunch of workshops online and a lot of them are free, and a lot of talks to watch and so many places to take inspiration from.
I think it's just about really doing it because I think you see it quite a lot. We were watching Pictoplasma last week. And I was just thinking, "God, I want to be doing that. I'm so jealous," or someone else we were sitting with was like, "That's so cool. I wish I was doing that giant display decoration."
It's like, yeah, but they've just done it. They're just doing it. That's the only difference between me and them, is the actions-
Abel:
Yeah, going for it.
Katie:
... That they've put in the effort and they've done it. I don't really have any excuses to not having done it.
Abel:
All the info is out there. You can just go and do it.
Katie:
Don't talk about it, just do it.
EJ:
Well, it's been an absolute pleasure to have both of you on here to learn a little bit more about Cabeza Patata, how came to be. I'm super excited to see where your studio goes in the next couple of years. I mean, it's still crazy to me that you've only been around for two and a half or so years. I'm just super excited. I just want to thank you both so much for taking the time out of your day. I know you guys are probably really, really busy, but come here and chat with all of us.
Katie:
Thank you. Such a pleasure. Really nice to talk to you.
Abel:
Yeah, so nice.