Jay Shuster: On Inspiration

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jay shuster pixar production designer

One of our favorite things to do is grab a bunch of camera equipment and trek out to visit artists in the spaces where they create or places that inspire them. There’s something extra special about the items and memories people surround themselves with to stoke their creativity, and it’s not hard to get people to talk when they’re on familiar ground.

Jay Shuster draws all kinds of cool transport and machines; we love his sketchy industrial design influenced style.

Last time around we visited Ken Lashley in Toronto to learn about drawing comics, but this time we only had to take a short hop across the bay to visit Pixar Production Designer Jay Shuster in Oakland at the California Airframe Parts Company, where he likes to dig down and uncover pieces of industrial design on a grand scale.

He doesn’t just draw machines. Jay’s sketches some great street scenes with simple, straightforward tools.

An industrial designer of characters

The son of a General Motors’ car designer, Jay talked to us about his design-filled childhood, which was papered with blueprints and filled with machines and models of all kinds of mechanized transport. It’s fitting that he’d feel at home in a graveyard of old B-52 bomber parts, especially considering his talent at character development for such monumental properties as WALL-E, Cars, and the Star Wars prequels. His work is all about adding character to machines.

An early sketch of a "Waste Allocation Loader Lifter Earth class" from Jay's blog (before he was given a love of old musicals like Hello Dolly).
An early sketch of a certain “Waste Allocation Loader Lifter Earth class” from Jay’s blog (before that machine was given a romantic soul).

Interview with Jay

Thumb through his childhood portfolio with us and find out how his off-the-beaten path approach led him to combine a love of art and machines to create some of the most memorable characters in animation.