Nov. 2: Evgeni Tomov

EVGENI TOMOV is an esteemed Production Designer, Conceptual Artist and Illustrator specializing in feature animated films, animated TV series and shorts.

Born in the former Soviet Union, Tomov studied at the Nikolai Pavlovitch University of Fine Arts in Sofia, Bulgaria from which he received a master’s degree in Fine Arts and Illustration in 1986. In 1990, Tomov moved to Montreal, Canada, where he worked as an Art Director and Illustrator for various Advertising Agencies, working on accounts such as Royal Bank of Canada, L’Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal (OSM) and Lotto Quebec.

In Montreal, his interest focused on the world of animation and he began work on numerous children’s TV series for the large Canadian studio CINAR Animation. Engaged as an Environment Design Supervisor for CINAR, he developed the series Animal Crackers and Mona the Vampire. During this time he also worked as a background painter for the Cactus Animation series Fennec le Détective. Tomov’s pursuit in art direction fanned out to encompass projects in computer games as well. In 1997 his role as Assistant Art Director on the animated short The Old Lady and the Pigeons saw his first collaboration on an Oscar® nominated film.

From 1999 to 2002, Tomov worked as the Art Director and Production Designer on the critically acclaimed animated feature film The Triplets of Belleville. The film was an Official Selection at the Cannes Film Festival in 2003, and received acclaim at numerous other film festivals. Nominations and awards included an Oscar® nomination for Best Animated Feature. Following the completion of Triplets of Belleville, Tomov again collaborated with Director Sylvain Chomet in Scotland as Production Designer and Art Director for Chomet’s newly established Studio Django, working on the development of the CG-animated film Beaks!; 2D-animated film Barbacoa and the 2D-animated feature The Illusionist, for Pathé Pictures International.

From 2006 to the end of 2008, Tomov has worked in London, England as Production Designer on the CG-animated feature The Tale of Despereaux, for Universal Pictures.

Currently he is working in Los Angeles, US as a Production Designer on the CG-animated feature Arthur Christmas, a co-production between Aardman Animations and Sony Entertainment.

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35 comments on “Nov. 2: Evgeni Tomov

  1. Seeing Mr. Tomov’s concept drawings for the Triplets of Belleville was very inspirational. They combine impeccable craftsmanship with a wild and great artistic sensibility and it is amazing to me that it found it’s way to the screen of a feature film. Mr. Tomov also provided great perspective on the difference between CGI and 2-d drawn films and the process involved in putting them together and the different approaches needed.

    What was most interesting though, were his ideas on immersive backgrounds and the role they can play in the immersion of the audience. This was particularly effective in The Triplets of Belleville where the vast detail of the surroundings sucks you into the mad, surreal world of the film, making viewing it an unforgettable experience.

  2. Ruthie Williams says:

    It was really a pleasure to hear from tonight’s speaker, Evgeni Tomov. Coming from a fine arts background, he has expanded so far into film and animation, and in doing so, added a unique and innovative touch to all his projects. I always admire artists that continue to push into new territory even after they have established themselves. The variety of his work is reflected in this adventurous and pioneering attitude. It was also refreshing and exciting to hear the take of someone who started with fine art and is now primarily exploring commercial 3D animated films. It was also great to see all of the absolutely beautiful artwork from both Despereaux and Triplets of Bellville and get a detailed walkthrough of the preproduction and production processes on two very different features.

  3. Tristan Dyer says:

    It seems that there are two camps in animation, the 2D camp and the 3D camp. I liked that Mr. Tomov played to both camps. His perseverance to bring his vision to a medium that hasn’t really catered to it was pretty admirable. A lot of artists seem to be pretty protective about their work during its early stages which Mr. Tomov was also an exception to. I really enjoyed seeing thumbnails of his pencil sketches and learning that some of them went directly into the films after some cleanup in photoshop.

  4. Nesli Erten says:

    The breakdown of creative and technical processes implemented in the feature animated film I was insightful. Paintings used to conceptualize art direction in the film’s most primitive stages were greatly influenced by Flemish artistry from the 16th and 17th century. Yet, while most CG films deviate from elements present in the early stages of formation; Evgeni Tomov made it a point to hold true to his original vision and reference material from inception to completion. This is particularly evident in textures and lighting used throughout the film. His efforts are admirable and inspiring.

    On the same token, it can be argued that CG has room for improvement if its objective is to create something “organic.” I ditto Tomov in that, this is merely the beginning for a rapidly evolving medium. Its’ possibilities are endless. An increase in the number of technically savvy, skilled draftsman entering the realm of CG animation paves way for new possibilities. It is an exciting time. I am excited!

  5. Larry Lai says:

    Evgeni Tomov creates a fantastic world that is so familiar to our lives but so new for our imagination. In The Tale of Despereaux, the buildings or houses he demonstrated are very abnormal but somehow make sense to us. He uses much household stuff we know a lot to construct an animation world where we never go before. As a result, we are close to the world because we are familiar with each tiny part by which the world is built. We also take a new adventure when the things of daily life are put together in different way. Likewise in The Triplets of Belleville, the perspective and the camera angle of the landscape are exaggerated by Tomov’s hands. The buildings with a railway going around are piled up like a mountain. It seems that we know this unknown place. It does arouse our curiosity to see more about this “somewhere in time” place. Tomove uses a good method to create the animation world which not only recalls the audience’s memory but also draws their attention.

  6. Adnrew Malek says:

    Evgeni Tomov and his work on the Tale of Despereaux is a shining example of what I hope the future of CG animated films to look like. I really appreciated how Evgeni and his team worked to address and fix the things they didn’t like about CG and establish a more painterly look for the film. Seeing how one can change and effect the quality of light or a texture in CG reminds me of the enormous potential of the medium and of how we are still in the formative stages of CG.

    It appears that once modelers are able to compose and design in three dimensions I can only begin the to imagine the richness of the images we will be able to produce. That being said it is still amazing how a CG team is now able to reproduce a fully rendered painting down to the last detail. Another interesting aspect of the lecture is the conversion process from 2d artwork to 3d graphics and how loyal one must be to scale and how much detail needs to be included in the original paintings in order for them to appear on screen.

    I left the lecture in awe of the amount of work that went into the Tale of Despareaux and of how much more it cost than the Triplets of Belleville, when the images in Triplets are so rich and dense. While at the moment I feel that Triplets is a superior film I cannot help but to commend Evgeni for attempting to improve and innovate upon a new medium. His constant efforts to challenge himself and make better work are quite inspirational.

  7. Ryan Gillis says:

    Evgeni Tomov seemed like an incredibly talented, and focused artist. I’d like to appropriate his work ethic and constantly challenge myself and the medium I’m working in. Besides his talents, Tomov came off as incredibly grounded. He respected other works and media even though they may not be the area he prefers to work in.
    I don’t know why, but whenever I see something on screen I assume there is some sort of magic happening to the images in between their drawn phase and when they finally get used in a movie. Some sort of magic I don’t yet understand. But when he was showing us his Triplets backgrounds just as pencil drawings I was shocked and invigorated. They looked like impeccable pencil drawings in the movie, but for one reason or another I just assumed there had to be some other, extra technical step I was unaware of.

    So hearing what Evgeni Tomov had to say was personally enlightening, and also a good reminder of just how much work I have to produce if I want to continue developing as an artist.

  8. The first time I saw The Triplets of Belleville I was amazed by the amount of detail rendered on the backgrounds of the movie. The world in which this story was happening didn’t look like a movie set (like it usually happens with other productions) but a real place built by the passing of time and people living their lives in there. I can’t believe I got to meet the person behind such a masterpiece.

    Evgeni Tomov is an example of perfect balance between masterful technique and artistic vision.

    He provided great advice in the area of visual development and art direction for animated movies. The way he engages completely different projects with a vision and a desire to improve their look and process was very inspiring. For me, the most exciting part of 3D animation has always been the visual development and concept design of the world, and most of the time I find myself disappointed about how much of it gets lost when translated to the screen.

    I was never interested in seeing Despereaux before, but after Mr. Tomov explained with such detail and passion how the world of the little mouse came about, the references and visual treatment, I’m definitively going to watch it.

  9. Emily Chung says:

    The art style of movie Despereaux is really impress me and I have watch this movie years ago, so It was great to have Mr.Tomov from last week’s seminar. Mr.Tomov showed us lots of his concept design and character design and they look absolutely beautiful. My personal favorites art work must be the one have lots of building with an amazing perspective (from the Triplets of Belleville). I wonder how he comes out with this amazing perspective.I believe it must be requite lots of practice and years’ experience. Although I haven’t watch this movie before, but it makes me want to watch the movie after I saw lots of fantastic design art works from this movie.

  10. Cecilia De Jesus says:

    I really appreciated how Evgeni Tomov is such an open minded artist. It seems like so many traditional artists dismiss CG work so easily and try to just ignore its existence. Evgeni, on the other hand, sees CG as just another form to work in, with its own advantages and disadvantages. Instead of dismissing its validity, he tries to work within it and make it better. He takes the weak parts of CG and tries to improve it using what he has learned from his traditional background, which I think is wonderful. CG needs more artists like him to push the technology and the artistry of the form. The delicacy Evgeni brought to the style and lighting of The Tale of Despereaux was fantastic and not easy by any means.

    His drawings from The Triplets of Belleville was also amazing as well. His work and attention to detail often ignored was great across the board. What a treat to have such a gifted artist visit our class! I hope we get more chances to work and hear from him in the future.

  11. Rachel Jaffe says:

    Much to my sheepishly self-confessed regret, I wasn’t able to attend Evgeni Tomov’s presentation during last Wednesday’s seminar — and after sifting through the comments that my classmates have posted so far, I very much wish that I hadn’t had to miss out on what seems to have been a singularly captivating experience. Hailing from a European fine arts background (and having since transplanted himself into the realm of commercial computer-based or -aided animation (and production design)), Evgeni Tomov doubtlessly related professional anecdotes and sprinkled his talk with career advice in addition to screening several sketches he used to conceptualize the overall aesthetics of The Triplets of Belleville. The opportunity to glimpse the latter — ranging from minute thumbnail scrawling to elaborate aquarelles — would have been unspeakably enthralling (and, as a result, I colossally regret having been absent for Evgeni’s seminar presentation)!

  12. Eric Tortora Pato says:

    i think that the greatest piece of advice Evgeni illustrated for the would be designer (production, character, or otherwise) is to be versatile and movable in style. If you told me with out documented proof that the same man had headed up design for Desperaux, Triplets of Belleville, and Arthur Christmas, I’d be tempted to call you a liar, and this, along with the general in depth traditional arts knowledge and attention to detail) are the greatest testaments to his skill he could possibly show us (well, that, and his postively uncanny roughs). There is much to be said for thje idea that it is not the designers job to have his innate “style” come through in film, as that is more the purview of the director. Instead, one should aim, like Mr. tomov has, to be chameleon and facilitator of style.

  13. Lisa Chung says:

    To say I was impressed by Evengi Tomov and his work would be an understatement. His drafting skills blew me away. I remember watching Triplet of Belleville and being mesmerized by the background details. I hadn’t seen anything like it before. I love how a film such as Triplet, which had a small budget, no release date and no contract with commercial venues, became so successful. The art and story was not compromise because there was no pressure to release. It only reinforces the idea that a great film takes time especially an animated one that requires so many man power to create.

    I also really respect Evengi’s goal to bring an organic style to 3D. I am actually interested in exploring this area myself. So it was a real treat when he presented a whole lecture on the process of creating the production design for Tales of Despereaux. It was really cool to see how their reference to Flemish paintings translated into the animated film from hand painting the textures to creating soft lighting for his scene.

    Thanks Evengi for breaking down your development process and sharing your amazing work.

  14. I loved Evgeni’s artwork. The depth and perspective, as well as the lighting and color work was just awesome. I found it pretty slick how he was able to act as a lighting specialist in the films he worked on and direct the eye. I actually had the opportunity to watch Tales of Despereaux a few years ago so it’s great to learn about how it’s look and design was inspired. I’m looking forward to seeing more of his work on his upcoming project. One thing that I am curious about is his take on the Amazing World of Gumbal whcih features not only a ton of different animated characters made with different techniques, but all set in live action photographs. They have an interesting technique that lets the very flat-styled 2d drawing blend into the environment with it’s lighting that works amazingly well.

  15. Miguel Jiron says:

    Triplettes of Belleville is easily one of my favorite animated films, and to have Evengi speak to us was fascinating. His skills as a draftsman is impeccable and awe-inspiring. I thought he was joking when he showed us some “thumbnail sketches” that looked so detailed, tight, inspired, and complete (much less blown up on screen). It’s really great to see an illustrator and painter approach animation, especially to 3D animation. It was very insightful when he elucidated on the difference of approaching backgrounds in 2D and 3D. It’s no surprise to see him embracing 3D to incorporate more lighting and evocative texture. If anything, this makes me want to check out Despereaux, and I wish he incorporated examples of the film in class!

    Regardless, Evgeni was definitely one of my favorites this semester.

  16. Simo Liu says:

    I really appreciate the art style of Evgeni Tomov’ work. I had seen the movie the Tale of Despereaux before this week’s seminar. It is really amazing. But when I saw the film’s concept design and character design which were done by Evgeni Tomov in the seminar, I think these works are even better than the film displayed. I like the way he deals with the light, shadow and color as the impressionism style. The handdrawing ones always have more detail and color. So every colored work is like the oil painting. Also his pencil sketches are really great. His sketches are of great power and with many details. The perspective in his sketches was extremely scrupulous. I can learn lots of things from his works. I love his works!

  17. Dan Wilson says:

    What I appreciated most about Evgeni’s presentation was his critique and comparison of the strengths and limitations of 2D and 3D. Something I think a lot about and sometimes mention in relation to our seminar guests is what is wrong with CG today and what can be done that is new or interesting. Most of the ideas I’ve had are not new tools and technology but ways to use existing technology (i.e. Maya). As CG’s popularity has grown in the past couple of decades, it seems that it has been treated like a whole new medium when really the important part remains the same: the story must be told effectively. It’s still animation.

    Evgeni talked about how what he draws in 2D shows up directly, but in a 3D film, it is translated by modelers and lighters and rendering techniques. However, this is not a limitation of 3D or the software used: it is very much possible to use a hybrid 2D-3D method. It’s easy to picture Evgeni’s beautiful drawings set perpendicular to a camera within a 3D set. As he was complimenting the advances of 3D in mimicking a 2D style, it should not be hard to integrate old 2D techniques with new 3D. Not only would it be easier and more direct for traditional artists like Mr. Tomov, but, if done right, it would make 3D production faster and cheaper.

  18. Tomov has an interesting take on animation production design. He has been giving the opportunity to really shape the look of several films. The link between the northern renaissance artists and the Tale of Desperaux is very visible in the final film. It is interesting to see someone working in CG attempting to cultivate an original look and not just accept the sort of industry norm. I think Tomov’s work is beginning to shape the industry at large. Not that others are looking to northern renaissance artists, but that light and volume are becoming more important to CG features. Tomov’s career overall has been an exciting one to follow, especially for someone interested in production design.

  19. Robert Calcagno says:

    What’s interesting with Evgeni’s presentation is that he’s approached his work with the understanding and philosophy of an artist rather than someone with a technological background or someone who’s dependent on the digital aspect of modern animation.

    It was great to see how based on pencil drawings The Triplets of Belleville truly was; I’ve always noticed that concept drawings are usually used as “inspiration” rather than a direct translation. Here, they literally took his backgrond sketchings, which in and of itself had some great perspective and architecture, and just touched it up with color. Such a simple procedure for such a high quality production is definitely inspiring.

    His perspective on the potential use of lighting in CGI-animated films is something that should be one of the most important things when you create 3D animation. Even the lesser animated films can be saved by lighting, and now I appreciate that Tales of Despereaux tried to go for a painterly look than a corporate look.

  20. Yang Liu says:

    It was another great night with one of the most talented artists. Evgeni Tomov has such an ability to build a imaginary world and turn it into his drawing. He talks a lot about the traditional art works that influenced him and I was so inspired because he is also very interested in lighting and colors. I was also very surprised that he said he would continue working in 3D for the fact that he feels 3D has more possibilities. I totally agree with that. I notice some of the best traditional artists who came to seminar kept saying that digital animation is the future, and is no different from traditional tool. I don’t think the digital tool is changing the animation industry, but I do think it’s adding much much more possiblities. Evgeni Tomov is the artist with very strong hand-on skill, but with the power and assist from the digital tools, his vision and his drawing turns into a much more 3 dimensional space. I appreciate his openness to the new technologies as well as his talents in traditional drawing.

  21. Javier B says:

    Pretty cool stuff, Evgeni Tomov talk was intriguing and made me rethink the film I’m currently working on. His work is mind blowing, his quick sketches are dynamic and push the story and look of the film his works on. I think his move was wise to not be pigeon hold as a artist that work only looks like Triplets , and jump the transition to CG production design , it open more doors.

  22. Wednesday’ seminar guest was Evgeni Tomov who spoke on his career as an art director in both 2D and 3D feature films. He began his presentation with the pre-visualization process before progressing into the different jobs of an art director. Including famous Flemish and Dutch paintings from the Baroque and Dutch golden age which inspired his lighting and color choices. He went on to share thumbnails, pencil sketches, and design strategies for his work on The Triplets of Belleville. Expressionist shapes and abstracted perspective produced the richly detailed city landscapes of New York which provided a backdrop for Sylvain Chomet’s characters as the venture from France to the United States.

  23. Di Gu says:

    Last week speaker, Evgeni Tomov showed us really amazing concept design. I was excited that he was concept designer of Triplets of Belleville, which is one of my favorite animation films. The thing he inspired me is that through the work he did for different films, I can not only perceive his personal style, but also find the unique style of each work he did. I realize that as a concept designer, how to make the most appropriate project for director’s demand is essential. Also, he began his career with traditional painting, and then he use CG to improve what he has learned and has a compact combination with film industry. This is wonderful and I truly need to learn.

  24. Brandon Lake says:

    It was a fantastic seminar last week with Evgeni Tomov. If we had only looked at his rough artwork it would have been a satisfying class for the semester, but the entire talk really opened my eyes to the work put into the actual art/production designs put into films. I also respect his drive to create new and stunning visuals in the world of 3d, separating himself from the standard plastic look of the pixar following. Overall he made me want to get back and draw, which is more than enough for me to be thankful for.

  25. Chaoqi Zhang says:

    EVGENI TOMOV is a humble and great Production Designer, Conceptual Artist and Illustrator, especially so talent in concept design.
    I saw his masterpiece The Triplets of Belleville in my high school, it is one of my favorite animation film, the art style of it is unforgettable once you seen it. The exaggerated caricature art style is different from any other animations I have seen before and I was attracted into those extreme perspective background deeply, especially the ‘New York’ buildings and chasing section. Therefore, I was very exciting to have this week’s seminar presented by Evgeni Tomov , through which to see his design progress behind the film and to know his precious experience in the great work.

  26. Louis Morton says:

    As one of the few people who raised their hand at seeing the Tale of Despereaux, I can say I remember being completely captured by the warmth of the textures and tones in the lighting and design of that film. It was a true pleasure to listen to the master behind the art, Mr. Tomov this past Thursday. The Triplets of Belleville is one of my favorite animated (or any) films and it was extremely inspiring to see Mr. Tomov explain the process behind the art direction. Evegeni is truly a master of drafting and design, as becomes evident in seeing his drawings in comparison to the final backgrounds in Triplets. But perhaps what was most inspiring about this lecture was Mr. Tomov’s restlessness and refusal to settle with one style and director for his career. It is admirable that he has chosen to expand by working in CG. I agree that most CG looks way too slick, plastic and candy-like. I can’t wait to see what Mr. Tomov’s art direction and attention to natural colors and lighting will bring to CG in the future, it is truly exiting to think about.

  27. Joseph Yeh says:

    Concept art is so wonderful to see because it is pure ideation. Apart from comic book artists, visual development artists are some of the most talented. I can spend forever on websites like cghub, deviantart, and conceptart being inspiring by great talent. Evgeni Tomov was a particular pleasure because of his first hand accounts of ideation and art philosophies. What kept me interested early on was that he strove to be unique and different and denied doing what he didn’t like as opposed to aiming to being the best and satisfying an audience. It also struck me when he liked a warm palette without purple in his work because I tend to default to purple and blue for shadows. I was also very glad to see a professional artist who is adamant about doing this research. This was particularly evident in his effort to achieve the hand-made charm and imperfection of Expressionist painting and lighting

    Evgeni also touched upon the subject of money versus art. His success with Triplets that was done with much less money and his resolve to take on challenges showed his appreciation of great art work instead of money. However, sadly even though I love art, I am beginning to find money is the driving force even though it is a topic that is often avoided.

  28. Linda Jules says:

    What a beautiful and informative seminar! Evgeni gave us a great break down of the entire preproduction process, as well as story boarding and background development. His range of styles and natural talent was astounding and inspirational.

    Evgeni really got me thinking about the importance of really understanding the mood and feel that we are trying to elicit from our audience. He did not use just one or two images as a source of inspiration. Instead he took a massive variety of inspirational sources to inform his drawings and eventually the final film. Evgeni’s presentation was one of my favorite seminar’s since I started graduate school 3 semester’s ago. Thank you for bringing this wonderful source of inspiration and knowledge to our seminar!

  29. Amy Lee Ketchum says:

    I am happy to hear that everyone had such a wonderful experience seeing Mr. Tomov’s work. I was disappointed not to be able to attend this seminar, especially since the “Triplets of Belleville” is one of the most beautiful animations I can remember seeing. However, I can live vicariously through my classmates. I hope that more production and concept designers pass through USC in the future!

  30. LaMar Ford says:

    I enjoyed Evgeni Tomv’s presentation. I found his perspective on lighting interesting, and I agree lighting is one of the factors that separate a cg move with good production values from a bad one. While some studios rely on working cinematographers to guide their layout artists, Tomv uses a painter’s approach to create the film’s look. The beautiful screen grabs and concept art from “Tale of Despereaux” shows Tomv’s illustration background. It’s funny how much work is needed to create the imperfections of the cg film’s look. I’m excited to see Tomv’s work in “Arthur Christmas”.

    It was a pleasure to see the artwork from “The Triplets of Belleville”. It was great to see the artistic process from storyboard to the final compositions.

  31. Chen Huang says:

    I feel so lucky that I can take the lecture from a production designer like Evgeni Tomov…. And as I heard before, cinematography could improve 70% of the image…. and lighting is 90% in cinematography… It is really important for us to know something like that…

  32. A.W. Gammill says:

    The amount of thought and consideration Evgeni Tomov put into his designs is so impressive. The amount of success he had in bringing the look of paintings to “The Tale of Despereaux” should be commended. I feel very privileged to have seen the many stages it took to design the world of the film and how integral Mr. Tomov’s designs were to the look of everything. I am very much so looking forward to “Arthur Christmas” and am excited to know that this talented draftsman and visionary was a part of the team who brought the film to life.

  33. Lanzhu Jian says:

    Triplets of Bellville is my favorite animation since 2006 until now, I have not change my mind. I always wish that one day I could see people who made this amazing animation and talk with them when I was in China, Mr. Tomov certainly satisfied my dream and he’s concept drawings for the Triplets of Belleville was very inspirational to me, he is so humble and honestly about the process of his work and his ideas. I m just totally drown into his speech and happy with all the information.
    all of the absolutely beautiful artwork from both Despereaux and Triplets of Bellville, The lighting work is outstanding, From his work, I know that hoe importance is the lighting for animation film which I didn’t took many notice before, and the importance of finding the right resource to help creative work. I noticed that his concept work in Triplets of Bellville are very tight connected with cinema photography, including the movement and the camera angle, it is beautiful work. he was already the top artist in this aspect, but he challenge himself exploring commercial 3D animated films, which regarding from the work he represent from Despereaux , he did a marvelous job as well, I have to say, he is a very talent artist and his efforts and attitude towards his work are admirable and inspiring.
    Hope the things I learned from him will encourage me apply the same good energy.

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