Anca Risca Creative Director, Nathan Love

TRUST talks creative expression and the art of giving back with Creative Director Anca Risca of Nathan Love.

How did you initially become interested in character animation? What appeals to you about it? How did it come to be your chosen vehicle for creative expression?

I’ve been drawing characters since I was very little. My parents knew I liked drawing so they got me a book called The Creative Cartoonist, that taught you how to combine different funny features to make your characters. ­ It had pages of noses, eyes, ears, everything. So during family gatherings I would make a “portrait” of everyone there, giving them elephant noses, wacky hair, piercings, animal bodies… it was a hit, everyone loved it even though they were probably the most unflattering portraits they’d ever gotten. The boost I got from that potent mix of fun, interaction, and encouragement just continued renewing itself through school. ­ I drew funny caricatures of my teachers, honed my artistic skills, and most importantly, observed EVERYTHING. The nuances of expression, whether in cartoon or realistic form, are one of the most exciting things to recreate successfully in an image. It wasn’t until college in my freshman year at SVA that I decided to get into animation, switching into the BFA Computer Art program a few weeks in. Animation takes everything I knew and loved, and breathes life into it…I couldn’t resist the chance. I chose to carry the art of nuance that I value so much into that next level.

What do you find to be the most important element in getting personality, character and branding across through visual design?

The most important element to me is the initial step of production design, making everything part of one cohesive world. What kind of style would complement the brand? What colors? How much detail? If that’s clearly established first, then all the elements (characters, animation, etc.) will follow naturally with less limitations and with more of the team’s creativity landing within the scope of the design. Personality in a character, on the other hand, just takes the hand of a skilled animator. Good design will take it so far, but I really value the skills of the animators that I work with at Nathan Love. They put their own lovable personalities into the characters.

The nuances of expression, whether in cartoon or realistic form, are one of the most exciting things to recreate successfully in an image.

How does your teaching at SVA influence your work as a creative director?

This year will be my third year teaching at SVA and it’s been awesome. One way that being a thesis instructor has helped my work is that it serves as practice for being a chameleon, adapting to get into the mindset for each concept. With so many concepts being developed around me at once, I feel that I’m just getting better and faster at brainstorming, problem solving and communicating. Teaching also makes me feel old. In a good way… more “seasoned,” as they call it. For a long time, I was the young one, and it was good and bad in different ways. I don’t feel that way anymore. Now I get to see new fresh faces all the time. ­ The students really inspire me to keep growing and getting better. They just have this energy about them that emanates, like a whirling wind of excitement and possibility.

What are some of your favorite projects to have worked on during your time at Nathan Love?

NBC Peacock “Origin Story”: I love this project, not only for how it looks, but for the process. From how we thought of the concept at the lunch table, to designing the peacock, pulling it all together super fast…it was just a really fun project.

Oregon Lottery “Beardworld”: I’m so happy with how this project turned out! My second shot at directing at Nathan Love, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Froot Loops “Carl the King Crab”: This more recent project was amazing.­ After waiting over a year to find out that we landed the Froot Loops campaign, everyone was so excited for this one! We had the best team, and everyone was giving their all to the first of the fully­ 3D Froot Loops spots. Kids are going to grow up remembering this crab the way I remember the old Froot Loops commercials.

Who are some other talented artists in the industry that you admire?

The two legends I most admire right now are Hayao Miyazaki and Glen Keane. I could look at their work for hours on end, just admiring the expressions in the faces they create. The detailed notes Keane would write for Ariel’s model sheet really inspire me, and the way Miyazaki depicts a kid’s hair stiffening up a little when they’re summoning the courage to do something. Masters of nuance!