Q: What were the pivotal moments in your career?  How did you get to where you are?

A: My first job out of school was a software test pilot gig at Alias/ Toronto on the then fledgling StudioPaint 1.0. A StudioPaint sketch I produced for Alias marketing ended up on the February ’94 cover of Computer Graphics World magazine, inside the issue was an article on California-based video game start-up, Magic Edge, whose principles took note of said cover art… a pivotal moment. I moved to The San Francisco Bay area and spent nine months at Magic edge working on an immersive entertainment center design for a fighter jet sim-game in Mountain View. I jumped to another video game start up, Rocket Science Games, in Berkeley and contributed art for their graphic adventure game, Obsidian. I interviewed with Doug Chiang in late 1995 for a position on Ep.1. I sent him a Christmas card. I quit Rocket Science and freelanced for a couple months. (I boarded a TGI-Friday’s commercial with Corvette Summer Director, Matthew Robbins!) Tax day of 1996 I started work on Ep.1. I took the year 1998 off to assist my girlfriend in recovering from three brain surgeries attempting to remove a tumor. I worked on Ep.2 until late 2000. I freelanced off and on for three years. During this time I built some furniture out of airplane parts. I was discouraged and ready to throw in the dish towel on the movie thing. My exceptionally talented buddy Dave Gordon encouraged me to submit a portfolio to Pixar. Two interviews and a year and a half later I hired into the CARS art dept. I completed work on my second Pixar film, Wall-E, in mid 2008. I am currently on a project for 2010. Pixar salvaged my faith in movie making and my job remains fresh to this day, almost 7 years on.

Q: Where do you find inspiration?

A: Because my day is dominated with drawing I tend to channel my after hours energy building in three dimensions. It’s a much needed break from constantly working in the virtual; a character or environment design will evolve over multiple, month-long iterations before a final build happens (cycles can last years) So it comes highly recommended to have projects in ones non-work life to keep a personal momentum.. where you conceive, organize and execute designs of your own. Really, it maintains ones sanity! The benefit is cyclical- your work at work is at the mercy of  so many different arms of the production (story, production design, technical, budget, scheduling etc.) On the other hand you get home and, in a couple days, you dream-up and scratch build a modified float plane that’s been haunting your sleeping hours. You have a finished product that fills your personal cache- it makes going to work and dealing with the start/ stop nature of production much easier. The design/ craft work you do in a less restricted environment will (in some form, at some time) infiltrate and inform your work at work. During Episode 1 a few of us from the art dept. used our ‘credentials’ to gain access to a small, family-owned ex-NAVY supply depot across from the Oakland airport in the East Bay. Some of the internal volumes of this two warehouse complex resembled that last shot in the first Indiana Jones film- where the arc is boxed up and buried deep among vast terrains of concealed, countless booty. The parts prized from the containers at the depot were beautifully preserved jewels of fifty-year-old aeronautic engineering. It was a feast for the eye, for the camera and for an insatiable appetite of precious, formed, cast, stamped and welded metals. The mechanisms that make any plane work are experiments in lunacy: elegantly blunt, heavy aluminum armatures actuated by intricate, dedicated systems of pulleys, struts or a ridiculous muddle of hydraulic pumps and plumbing. Just holding one of these milled, polished.. perhaps anodized parts in your hand satisfies and provides real, lasting sustenance for a design brain.

Q: What you do on your free time… does it affect your professional work?

A: Buying truck loads of this stuff from the airplane scrap yard, I’ve built various pieces of furniture over the years: a dining table using the rear horizontal stabilizer wing tips off of a Lockheed Constellation prop-liner from the 40’s. A day bed consisting of two radar dishes and landing gear parts, a variety of smaller storage unit pieces.. all absolutely functional and used around the house. The conceit behind this furniture is: honor the design/ craft of the part and build simply. I strive to combine these parts meant for different planes and applications into what looks and works like a piece of true aircraft engineering from a parallel universe. I don’t garnish the pieces with lame wood trim or spend my time polishing the aluminum to a mirrored finish.. all this distracts from the absolute-utilitarian nature of the parts.


continued at:



42 Responses to “About”

  1. vermondans2008 Says:

    Hi there!

    congrats on the quality of your sketches.

    I’m particularly impressed by the 3D quality of your sketches. Great sense of space. It looks like you’re sketching with a 28mn lens 😉

    Your sketches also look very “nervous” and controlled.
    What can I say? Inspiring work!


  2. shublog Says:

    Hey Thanks! yeah- i guess the line work is a bit, er- helter skelter? .. a matter of just laying them down with the spastic energy of a chicken or some other animal that has poor machine code and or motor skills.. it’s actually due to having to draw on a 10 inch square surface on a blustery, chilly SF day. I’m a bit more composed on a table in a climate-controlled environment. It’s like the Hulk- I transform drawing styles slightly with a change in the weather or if someone gets on my case and jumps up and down on it.

  3. pat Says:

    Hi Jay! nice to see your stuff again. I particularly liked the yonge street art. I miss toronto. Hope to see you next sketch crawl.

  4. shublog Says:

    I can’t say it’s exactly Yonge St.! but it did appear in the dream like that.. thx pat.

  5. jacqui Says:

    yay for jay! great to see your schtuff. it always takes me back to being 14 years old on the bus with my sketchpad and realizing you were drawing too. j

  6. shublog Says:

    Jacqui?! HA! what the?! What’ve you’ve been up to? Are you still on The Yucatan Peninsula sheering sheep and carving dried yam portraits?

  7. jacqui Says:

    mowing dogs o’er here in carcinogen (WALL-nut) creek in consulting purgatory – last week it was Lola f3 cars- next week its QAing craft projects for tots with hewlett packard.
    trying to stay off the yams- they revolted, got potato guns and self destructed-besides they were all starting to look alike.
    go jay. (oh yeah ive taken up goth cheerleading too).

  8. Kiel Bryant Says:

    Hello Jay,

    Longtime admirer . . .

    I wonder: did you get to walk up an touch any of your actualized designs?

    Keep inspiring!



  9. shublog Says:

    K; Yeah- a few times. I worked a couple days at Leavesden (UK) during Ep.1. They were building Sebulba’s, Anakin’s and a few other full-size podracers and prepping them for paint. I laid tape down for Anakin’s chariot graphics and another that borrowed heavily from German fighters circa WW1- a repeating geometric pattern mapped over it’s fuselage.

    Most recently I was involved in the building of the full-size working Wall-e that’s been making the promo tour recently. I should say in an advisory role- though I’d gladly, preferably build.

  10. Kiel Bryant Says:

    I’d keel over, dead, I think. Astounding. (Seeing them onscreen had to be mind-exploding, too! Then toys . . . !)

    I blacked out at “full-size working Wall-e”. What! Good gods and all their glory. I thought my theater’s full-size cardboard cutout was impressive. Chh!

    You know, I almost met you. But Iain Morris said my portfolio “could use more environments”. 🙂

  11. shublog Says:

    Iain Morris? Dk books Iain Morris? We called him the ‘Tower of London’ in our crazed lunchtime volleyball matches at Skywalker. He’d just stand at the net, arms raised- the ball had a 3 percent chance of getting past that guy. Hilarious!

  12. Kiel Bryant Says:

    Fantastic stuff.

    Well, not to completely overrun your About page. I’ll take my leave.

  13. shublog Says:

    I appreciate the fact ANYONE checks this thing out.. The blog let alone this page!

  14. Kiel Bryant Says:

    Oh, cool! In that case . . .

    Did your designs ever draw on Horten-esque flying wings (nurflugels)? (Ignore the pun). I’m still gaga over this model kit box art,

    Over sixty years old and looks more futuristic than most scifi space ships.

    Also, eons ago, the Star Wars site posted these —

    I wonder: did you get to keep most of your sketches? Copies, at least? TyRuben Ellingson tells a horrifying tale of a freak fire — at ILM — destroying all his Alien 3 marker sketches. Back when ILM was making a bid.

    Finally, when you arrived into the Lucas fold, was “The Droid Works” ancient history? What were the stories, if any?

  15. Brett Fischer Says:


    Been following you through Pete mainly… first saw your professional work when the Star Wars Exhibit came into Houston. Cars was incredible… my sons favorite (4)- and one of mine.

    Do you still have your Koala Pad and the Atari 800?

    If you ever in Houston and want to check out NASA JSC, let me know. I have actually proposed to Boeing 4 years ago that the aerospace companies should fund a Pixar film about Space exploration.


  16. shublog Says:

    right on Brett! I’ve upgraded just a bit from the koala pad.. And the 800. Sweet mother of pearl those things were more mechanical than electro/digital. I’m down with Houston. We spent a day at JPL for Wall-e ref. There are a few of us here who’d throw ourselves at an industrial film-esque space exploration piece.. Inspired by those Disney films with Von Braun etc.

  17. Kiel Bryant Says:

    Didn’t you guys have Princess of Mars? Read that somewhere.

    Not a Ron Cobb NASA aesthetic, I know, but Frazetta might also be fun.

  18. Kiel Bryant Says:

    Hm, wrote you a fairly substantial number on the 18th. Still says, “Awaiting moderation”.

    It needed moderation?

  19. Brett Fischer Says:

    Love the pinewood derby machines. Those belong at the Henry Ford Museum. The Engineering Directorate at NASA JSC had an outdoor family party… one of the events was a pinewood derby that was announced 2 months prior – there were 67 entrants, including the one I labored on for my wife Beth to race. I must have spent 80 hours on it. Built a 10 ft long alignment track in my garage to tune it. Well worth the effort… I think I was the only legal car within the rules and smoked all the engineers. They couldn’t understand how a marketing guy beat the best engineers NASA had (who happened to utilize all the labs building their cars). Never mess with car guy from Detroit was my reply.

  20. Eric Bansen Says:

    Hi Jay,
    I don’t know if you remember me or not but I attended CCS with you back in ’88 and ’89. I work with a friend who just graduated from CCS and he told me that Steve Shock (an old friend)is a professor there. It got me reminiscing about the old days. He asked who else I knew then and your name, among others (infamous Chrysler Design King Ralph Gilles)came to mind. He told me your name sounded familiar and recalled the work you did on Star Wars Episode V from the “Art of” book. I looked you up and came across your blog and interview over on the Alias site. You have done a great amount of work. I always liked your sketch technique and renderings, you do some awesome work. I read through your blogs and really enjoy your writing and explanations of your travels. Have you ever written stories or books? You should look into it, I think you might have a second calling.

  21. shublog Says:

    Brett; Hell yeah. We must distill-down the ingenuity of the car designer culture spawn into a potent solution for Detroit’s current woes. Beating the NASA engineers at the family picnic? priceless.

    Eric; Cheers. I just may ditch this whole movie thing and go into some hybrid form of graphic novelization of design via written word.

  22. John Portman Says:

    Don’t tease us — the word “NASA” staplegunned my retina to your page. Have you any NASA-clobbering SPACE-THEMED concept work? For example, my dream of dreams — a Martian colony? OR, nearer your heart: a Martian car?

  23. James D Says:

    I just came across yoru blog and thought to say hello. We interned together at Prince in Holland, Mi.
    I’m in socal and working in movies as well. Maybe we will cross paths again some day!

    Glad to see your work out there, it’s fantastic


  24. patrick Says:

    hey jay!
    it’s patrick your long time ago “mentee”. glad to see you have a blog! keep postin’. it would be great to catch up.


    kind regards,


  25. shublog Says:

    Thanks to all the goodly positive things people have to say and or just greetings from friends. Apologies for the lack of posts these days as the next film is weighing heavily on the mind. The blog has taken a retro-spect turn. Non-production work is a rare commodity at the end of the day. Cheers and soon. very soon.

  26. Andrew M Says:

    Hey Jay, you don’t really know me but we met briefly at Autodesk University (couple of times, actually).

    Nice to see some new things on here. I know how hard it can be to update a blog with non-work art. I have a (slightly out there) question to ask you. Is there anywhere that I can see the video that you showed at the end of your presentation at AU?

    I know this will sound corny, but it literally brought a tear to my eye seeing a place where joy and perfection are both sought so energetically. In a world of “good enough”, Pixar is a shining beacon in the pursuit of “better”, and it’s something that I’d love to be able to use as continuous personal inspiration and determination.

    I’ll probably never be a good enough artist myself to work at Pixar, but I’d love to be able to occasionally watch that short video and keep that stick dangling in front of my eyes.


  27. Mark Selander Says:

    Hey Jay,

    It’s Mark Selander. We met years ago when you hosted me for a weekend while I was in San Fran. I’ve kept up with some of your work over the years on the Pixar films and it’s great to see you pushing the marker to it’s alcohol fueled funny car limits. The sketches on the blog have some great graphic composition. I have a website up http://www.machinesandhumans.com although the blog hasn’t been updated in like 2 years, ouch. I need to start scanning in weekly napkin drawings.



  28. Jean Lannen Says:

    Hi Jay,

    I’m a fellow CCS Alumni, and Seaholm and Derby person! I live in Pacifica, CA – near you. I’d love to connect with you….my work can be seen here:

    Congratulations on your success! Do you know a Christine Freeman that works at Pixar…in library/archives.

    Smiles, Jean

    • shublog Says:

      Whoa- Nice. A hat-trick of southeastern MI education! These were quality institutions! Nice work.. and, yes, Christine is still rocking Pixar! -J

  29. rob Says:

    awesome awesome awesome

    and it was good to see pics of Les…

    keep rockin’ it, HARD.


  30. Katie McCann Kelley Says:

    Hey there from another CCS attendee. Love to see your amazing work- but not surprised- you were always talented. Pixar seems like a company with great energy- I am happy for you. Do you ever run into Ed Natividad? Just wondering what he is up to. I look forward to see what you do next. Cheers, Katie McCann Kelley

  31. Tyler Velarde Says:

    Dear Shuster,

    Hello, I’ve recently just been looking into art directors. Gotta say I’ve joined your fan club. Loved your work in Cars, Wall•E, and hopefully will see more great work in Cars 2. I actually stumbled upon this article online, (http://oudaily.com/news/2009/sep/04/pixar-art-director-inspires-students-dream/) and really liked what you had to say. I’ve also been researching how you became an art director with Pixar. How you first started designing cars, then to Lucas films, and now Pixar. It’s because of this unique track record that I chose you for the subject of my project, that is to interview you as an art director. I hope to one day work in the animation industry, but my aim is also in art directing in film. If you could answer these questions soon that would help me so much. Did You enjoy your schooling? Any tips? What is included in your work day as an art director? What personality characteristics do you think are important for this career? Are there a lot of openings for this type of career? What do you like most and least about your job and why? Do you feel that there are any misconceptions that people have about this line of work? Is there any critical information that you think I should know before going into this field? Do you spend a lot of your time alone or in groups? That is all the questions I have, and if you do happen to reply before April 1st, 2011, then could you please contact my professor confirming I have interviewed you, either at this number: (602)-471-3269 or by email: audra.wolfe@cgcmail.maricopa.edu

    Thank you for your time, and wishing you well,

  32. Dou Hong Says:

    Dear Jay,

    I am an aspiring character/animation designer and as you are a professional in the industry that I am interested in, I was wondering if you had the time to answer maybe one-two questions that I have?

    These questions are related about portfolio. ^^

    Thank you for your time,


    -Dou Hong

  33. Inbal Madar Says:

    Dear jay,
    I love your work! Very inspiring, animation is something that I was always amazed by; you are doing an incredible job.
    I just had some questions about your work with Pixar. As an Artist, do you feel you have freedom to create whatever idea that pops in your head? I have read that employees are encouraged to experiment different ideas, and should never be afraid to fail, do you agree? When pitching a story, do you feel that everyone have a say? How is the environment (I’ve seen pictures of the studios, amazing!) contributing to the innovation and creativity of your work? Is there a hierarchy in the workplace, or it is an open environment for communication? Do you feel you can talk to higher management as freely as you talk to the rest of the crew?
    Thank you for taking the time to give me your point-of-view. I’m a big fan.
    Inbal Madar

  34. Adam Says:

    Hi Jay

    I’m a toy designer and have had a look through your work, love it! Especially the Wall-E sketches, great line quality and detail.

    I’m working on a Master Toy license (playfor my company atm and I’ve interned at Little Tikes in Ohio (I’m from England) – all of which leads me to ask – can you add me on LinkedIn? My name’s Adam Borton, I’d be unbelievably grateful!



  35. Barry Says:


    Met with Andy and Ricky at Pixar last week to design a “class ring” for Monsters U.The cardboard backpads of my tablet are not immune to mindless sketching, and upon seeing this,Andy replied that we had similar tendencies. Sure wish I could have met you and witnessed that “voodoo that you do” in person! Maybe I’ll mail you a card via snail mail-take care and keep up the great work.

    Barry at Jostens
    Frozen tundra of the Twin Cities

  36. Spenta Wadia (@Spentaculous) Says:

    Dear Jay,
    I’m a big fan of your work. You had come to Calcutta (India) once to give a talk and you inspired me a lot. 🙂
    I’m an animation student and I will be in California for a few days in June. I’m really hoping to get a chance to tour Pixar Animation Studios. Unfortunately I don’t personally know anyone who works there and I’ve asked around without much luck. I was hoping you could help me out in some way? Please?

    Thank you 🙂

    – Spenta

    • shublog Says:

      Hi Spenta; What are the dates for your visit? I’m sure we could schedule sometime for you to come by and see Pixar. J

  37. stacey Says:

    Hi Jay! I just came across your blog and really enjoying it!

    My oldest son is about to leave for college and we are also trying to convey the message that he needs to follow his dreams whatever they may be. When he was younger he would spend all his free time creating comic books and illustrating them too. His friends would pay him a buck to get a copy ;).

    We are making a once in a lifetime trip out west (we live in NJ) before he leaves for college this fall. I myself am a preschool teacher and a mom of 3 boys (ages 17, 13 & 5). We are a big disney loving family— always enjoyed seeing the pixar movies in the theatres as well as several trips to disney world. In fact on the holiday of Purim, we usually as a family dress up as a gang from Disney- and often Pixar. (Pixar ones we’ve done are Monsters INC, Toy Story and The incredibles). They are always a hit!

    I know this is such a long shot, but I got to try. Is there any way we’d be able to see Pixar studios on Monday morning July 21st? Even just a half hour would be amazing and an unforgettable experience and may be life changing for my oldest.

    If there’s anyway you can help us out, I would be soooo appreciative!

    have a great day!


  38. stacey Says:

    Hi. I tried e mailing back, but not sure it went through. Our family would absolutely love to be there 2PM Monday the 21st. My boys are freaking out! ;). Do I ask for you at the gate, how does that work? Thank you!

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