Dave Zaboski, founder of Laetro.com expounds on insights that led him in his journey and even to start the venture.
Dave Zaboski is a classically trained artist and former Senior Animator at Disney during the Second Golden Age of Animation, having worked on movies like Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Aladdin, and others. He’s created several children’s books and is the co-founder of Laetro.com
How did this journey as an artist begin for you?
Dave Zaboski: My journey to becoming an artist seems like it began long before I was born. I picked up a crayon when I was two and I never put it down. I have done a universe of drawing in my life and have always been interested in turning thoughts into things. And I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t making something. Art, sculpture, mischief.
What motivated or inspired you to become an artist?
Dave Zaboski: I’ve always had a deep appreciation for beauty. Art was always a passion but not always accepted as a profession. I come from a large Jewish family in Los Angeles that often said, “David, you can be anything you want to be in life. So… What kind of a doctor or lawyer is that going to be?” It was funny. I loved drawing and making art growing up and, when I finally took an art class in High School, I got a D+. One of my friends noted that a D+ was, kind of, a “Happy D.”
The thing was, I could draw pretty well at the time. My grade was mostly because of my tendency for making as much mischief as I did art. So I put thoughts of art away and it was only after college, where I got a job in one of LA’s largest law firms, that I realized I actually needed to explore what it would take to be an artist. The law firm was a stultifying place, where creativity was corralled into forms; squeezed into procedures, and marbleized by precedent.
A future in law was not for me. So I resolved to go the way of the artist. I drove around California, collecting the drawings and paintings I had done over the years for friends and family – because you can’t get a D+ on a birthday present –and took them all to Art Center College of Design, where I was immediately accepted. I was 25 years old and so began my education towards becoming a professional artist.
How did you get into the animation industry and how was the experience?
Dave Zaboski: At that time, Disney Feature Animation recruited from the top art schools in the country, looking for rare positions the animation department would open each year. They would accept about 50 portfolios from around the country for review; invite the top fifteen to a 3-month internship and then, of those, hire two or three who made the cut. I failed twice at making the internship.
But on my third try, I not only got the internship, but I got the job. My first movie with Disney was Beauty and the Beast. My job title was known as a “Rough Inbetweener.” It was a great place to start and a magical experience. I felt like I was working in Charlie’s Chocolate Factory. I had the privilege to work with the best artists in the world and be a part of a storytelling machine that changed the culture.
Tell us about your experience at Disney and in movies like Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King.
Dave Zaboski: Each film is a different experience. However, you’re aware you’re in the big leagues. You know what you’re working on is going to be a big deal. So you teach and learn as much as you can, constantly. You strive to hone your skills and sensibilities – not to compete with the artists you work with, no, those guys are your allies – you strive to get good because you’re competing with history. With legacy.
You have a responsibility to the artists who have come before you to uphold the reputation they carved with their unparalleled excellence. It’s an ethic I still carry with me today as I create both works of art and works of the business. I honor the creations that have come before intent on making the world a better place each day.
What is your vision as an artist and how do you think Laetro.com, the company you co-founded, can impact society?
Dave Zaboski: Art is an expression of the consciousness of its time. Every era solidifies its cultural philosophy in its artworks. If you want to know the consciousness of our time, look to the artists. But further, look at how they are treated. Visionaries, those who hear the coming waves and wonders, are not always cared for in a society. When our creators thrive, everyone rises. That is why we are building Laetro. To see artists flourish.
Any words of advice for young artists, keeping in mind your vast experience in this field?
Dave Zaboski: Be good. Learn to go deep into something you love and wide on everything else. Remember that every master throughout time, in any discipline you can imagine, became excellent because they had a love for it. Love is the prime driver of everything.