“I’m an old-fashioned illustrator,” says Parsons alumnus Peter de Sève, renowned illustrator and animated movie character designer. His richly colored, meticulously detailed, and bitingly funny images display an intense beauty and sense of mystery that is reminiscent of 19th-century storybooks. “The work I’ve been drawn to is a bit antiquated, I suppose,” he comments, “but I love strong, firm craftsmanship.” Nevertheless, some of his best-known work is decidedly modern. De Sève has created animated characters for Ice Age 1, 2, and 3; Finding Nemo; and A Bug’s Life. That doesn’t mean that he has changed his way of working, however. “The funny thing,” he muses, “is that for all the studios’ technical expertise, I’m still the guy who’s drawing on paper.
De Sève received his BFA Graphic Design in 1980. In the early 1990s, he began working on movies when a Disney executive asked him to work on The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He quickly found that he enjoyed his new medium: “You could create a good character design in ten minutes, and I like that kind of immediate gratification,” he chuckles. He balances animation work with cover illustrations for magazines such as the New Yorker, Time, and Newsweek. Even though editorial assignments and movie jobs may seem vastly different, de Sève thinks his character design is basically an extension of his illustration. “My work has always been about people and personalities,” he says. “I’ve always observed the way people interact and move and dress. Just riding the subway you’ll see the most unbelievable characters. You couldn’t make that up!”