Diana recently worked as a puppet builder for the film The Muppets Most Wanted. Her job entailed building Miss Piggy, as well as refurbishing old puppets from previous Muppets films.
Q&A with Diana Schoenbrun:
Tell me a little bit about yourself, who you are and where you’re from.
I grew up in Mahopac, New York, just north of the New York City. I received my BFA in Illustration from The Rhode Island School of Design. I am a member of SCBWI and the Society of Illustrators. I have been living in NYC for the past 8 years and currently live in Brooklyn, NY.
Please explain what your job entails.
I am a freelance artist. I often work at my studio in my apartment or at another company’s studio. Some days I may be illustrating, building something, or working on a graphic design project. I sometimes work at the studio, Puppet Heap, in Hoboken, NJ as a fabricator. I make puppets and props for theater, television, and film.
How did you figure out what you wanted to do?
My parents always encouraged me to draw and entertain myself as a child. I read and played outside. Art became a big part of life and education. I was always making things and going to art museums with my family. I loved the Met and Museum of Natural History when I was a child.
While in High School I attended a Summer Arts program at Wesleyan University. This made me realize I wanted to pursue art in college. The creative career path was basically the only direction I saw.
Describe your style. Is your personal style different from your professional style?
My professional style is more calculated and measured. Precision is key. I have to do more research and development when working at the puppet studio. I have to match the design, style, and colors requested by the art director. I am working for a client so it tends to be more production work. If I am creating something for my own client then they usually tell me what they have in mind and reference one of my illustrations or puppets. That way I have a starting point for the direction they want. My personal style varies. I like working in 3-D and 2-D. I enjoy the process and I may change my style depending on the project. My work tends to be narrative and character based, either humorous or whimsical.
What do you love about the work you do?
I love creating art that inspires children and adults. My work might not cause monumental change but I think art is necessary in our culture.
Anything unexpected about the work you do? Maybe something you didn’t know before you started on this path.
I knew it was going to be hard but it’s much harder! There is a lot of competition and distractions so you need to stay focused. New York City is not an easy place to live financially. However, there are so many great people here who are creative and great to work with. I have learned that connecting with other artists and getting out is important, especially if you are working independently. Also keeping up digitally with technology as an artist has become very important.
Anything you’d change about your past?
I would take more risks and be more confident. I have learned when I am unhappy with the path I am taking then I need to change directions. I may have stayed at past jobs too long or been afraid to quit something.
Any interesting stories about the work you’ve done or an experience you’ve had?
I recently worked as a puppet builder for the film, The Muppets Most Wanted . Most of my work for the film was building Miss Piggy with a team. I also refurbished older puppets from previous Muppet movies.
Last year I made a puppet of the comedian Wyatt Cenac for the Daily Show at Puppet Heap Studio. I was able to meet the cast and watch a run through of the show.
How did you become interested in puppets?
I always loved Sesame Street and Muppets as a kid. I have taught workshops making crafts and puppets with children and adults. I often go to see theater and puppet performances.
What are some of the different projects you’re currently working on?
I am currently getting my MFA in Illustration at FIT, which keeps me busy. I recently finished designing puppets for a children’s tv pilot. I am also working on a children’s book. While, this summer I am hoping to finish a collaborative project with a friend. I’m illustrating a story about a musical experiment we did together.
How do you define success?
I think being happy with the work I make and challenging myself on a daily basis feels successful. I need to have work that has purpose. This sometimes feels indirect.
My role as an illustrator is a visual communicator. So if I am not communicating something then I don’t feel successful.
I went to Prague and took a class to learn how to carve marionettes. We worked hard to create beautiful puppets and it was not until we performed them that I felt successful with what I created. The puppet worked and looked nice. When we performed the show I saw how the children and parents were captivated, laughing and smiling.
To see more from Diana Schoenbrun, check out her website www.DianaSchoenbrun.net.