Disney. Pictures. Stuff. And so on…

Hello friends, here is my second interview with one of the five Design By Me Disney t-shirt contest finalists, Michelle from New York. Michelle was in first place until the end when she ended up in fourth. None of us knows what happened with the voting, and at this point it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is getting to know yet another great artist that loves Disney as much as we do. Michelle has some serious character illustration skills, and I have no doubt that she’ll someday make her way to the Mouse.

Tell us a little about yourself:

My name’s Michelle. I’m 25, a graphic designer and illustrator, and went to school for art and film. Since the age of 3 I wanted to be a part of the entertainment and art industry. I would draw while watching Disney or Don Bluth films, completely inspired. I made flip-books, comic books, and storybooks since 1st grade, and started posting my comics online in high school. Drawing was innate and has always been my passion. I enjoy traveling, reading, hanging out with family and friends, and I love video games. I have a musical webcomic online (bluestreak.smackjeeves.com), and the support and fandom make the time and effort spent on it so worth it. I keep myself creatively stimulated constantly, and that encourages me to always be productive.

I know many of you remember Don Bluth for “An American Tale” and “All Dogs Go to Heaven,” but I’ll always remember him for making what might have been the greatest arcade game of the 80’s “Dragon’s Lair.”

Ryan, one of Michelle’s creations.

What’s your favorite Disney movie or attraction?

Pirates of the Caribbean. It’s always been my favorite Disneyland/Disney World attraction, and I’ve seen all of the films numerous times. I appreciate when they feature something from the rides in the films, it’s like an inside joke for the fans. I’m also a Johnny Depp fan, and Jack Sparrow is perfect!

Why Disney?

There was always something magical about the fluidity of Disney animation that I was drawn to as an artist. I also like the Disney theme: wishing, dreaming, and getting your heart’s desire. It’s so full of hope. And with the right amount of effort, I do believe anything is possible. Disney reminds us that nothing can stop us from achieving our dreams.

Have you ever entered a contest like this before?

No, I usually don’t enter contests.

Have you ever tried to design for Disney before?

Yes, I’m currently working on obtaining my Disney license so that I can freely draw and sell Disney art in addition to my original art and comics. My Disney Princess series is circulating online. I keep finding it randomly and unexpectedly. I’m enjoying the feedback and would love to take it to the next level and make my Disney art available in the theme parks.

Michelle’s version of Snow White. Check out the rest at the link.

How did you come to your design?

The moment I saw the Design by Me contest info asking for our own artistic interpretation of Mickey, it didn’t take long for me to get straight into the drawing process. I immediately had the concept in my head, and wanted to create Mickey completely in my style to give him my original flavor. I discovered the contest very close to the deadline, so I didn’t have much time to second guess my initial idea.

Tell us about your design process:

My work is 100% digital, but I give it a traditionally painted feel. I know I did something right when people view my work and ask “How did you paint this?” I love the reactions I get when I tell them it’s all digital. I took the same approach with my Mickey design. My goal was to bring a fresh new look to his character in a painted style.

I started with a stick figure sketch, and then digitally painted over it with some paintbrush tools.

I went with a very angular design at first but it was too harsh.

I then redrew the limbs into more wiry and curvy shapes, and started to think of Mickey as a rubbery bendable figure – which is how I usually think of my characters to give them a life of their own.

Stock photo belongs to http://intergalacticstock.deviantart.com/] I pasted my design on a model to test it out. I also used this image to encourage voters to want to wear it, too. According to my site statistics, it drew quite a bit of attention!

Would you do this again?

I think after all the stress and hurt I went through, I’m done with contests for a while 🙂

Did you know about the points?

I only checked the vote stats twice a day. I was offended by the mean comments, because I was accused of something I didn’t even know about, so I just wanted to avoid the voting scene as much as possible. I voted for all of us everyday, and that was the extent of my involvement in the actual voting process. Every time I sent out an e-blast, or a video on Youtube went out, or the tweets started to spread, my numbers would quickly increase. I used every connection I have for this, so the numbers moving fast didn’t even phase me. I thought, Great! Everyone is working hard for me!

Ed’s note: I asked the next question only because so many people commented about this on the Disney Store’s Facebook page. I agree with her comments about the voting issues, Disney may have not done the best job with that. 

How do you answer the cheating questions?

We ALL had invalid votes because the website was accepting votes without any limitations. There was also no warning on the voting page about voting limits, so people who tried to vote more than once didn’t realize they were doing something against the rules – which were not available on the voting page either. I don’t think anyone cheated. I think people were innocently supporting us. And when you see a message on the voting page as vague as “The entry with the most votes by May 2nd…” without any message about how many times to vote, it can be very misleading. The voting was far beyond the finalists’ control. Unfortunately, I had to take the burn because the website was not adjusted during the contest.

Overall, it’s been a very stressful process, and ended with a letdown. I went from finishing in 1st place to getting the biggest shock ever. It was really hard to swallow, but my family, friends, fans, and people who just met me during this contest, have all been so loving and supportive. They helped me stay positive. It’s the number one lesson I gained from this experience; I have the most incredible people in my life right now, and I’m so fortunate for that. I discovered how many hundreds and thousands of people (including those who have never even met me) have my back. I feel like a winner just knowing that.

Many thanks to Michelle for taking some time and opening up about this experience. As I said before, her shirt stirred up a lot of emotions, and many times that’s what good design, or art in general, needs. There’s no question her’s was the most original take on Mickey. I wish her good fortune in pursuing her dream, and look forward to seeing her ideas in the Parks some day!

You can read more about Michelle here, herehere, here and here.


Comments on: "Disney’s Design by Me t-shirt contest finalist: Michelle" (3)

  1. Y. Matthews said:

    I was sad to see Michelle get bumped to 3rd after the “adjusted” votes…but she’s a first place winner to me! Great interview!

  2. Great interview! Michelle, you are a great sport and a gifted artist! No doubt your dreams will come true! Thanks for sharing and best of luck to you!

  3. It’s awesome that you’re interviewing all the artists! It’s really good to hear about their experiences with this contest and what drives them. Thanks, and great work!

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