Well, damn. I was editing this post and ended up hitting publish. As a result, I’ve been scrambling to upload pics to accompany this wonderful Q&A by one of my very favorite Art Department denizens. In an effort to introduce you all to the many, many people who work behind the scenes to bring you Stargate, I’ve taken it upon myself to badger these individuals into taking part in some fun fan Q&A’s. Today, it’s the lovely and talented Kate Heslup…
AussieSGFan writes: “Questions for Kate:
We are curious, and *very* interested in what you do!
This may seem a little silly, but what *does* a Draftsman do? Is it like drafting out the set-up of a scene or episode?
How much time do you put in for each one?
Thank You for answering our questions.”
Kate: That’s not a silly question at all! And you’re right, I do draft sets. For the most part, I take the production designer’s illustrations and turn them into architectural working drawings that our construction department uses to build from. Other departments use the drawings for different purposes. For instance the set decorators will use them to determine the type and size of furniture they’ll need for a particular set, while the lighting department will be able to plan the lighting for the set before it’s built. The amount of time per drawing depends on the size of the set – it could take anywhere from a day to a week or more.
Wolfenm writes: “Qs for Kate:
What’s your artist background — self-taught or schooled, previous gigs, ect?
Did you specifically seek out your current career, or did you have something different in mind when you decided to be an artist?
If you can, describe your typical process, from start to finish. If you please, include what sorts of things you do to get your creative engine running — things like listening to music, going for walks, threatening people with swords, ect — and what sorts of media you typically use (acrylic paint, copic markers, photoshop).
What advice would you give someone who wants to work in an art department in the television/film industry?
What has turned out closest to what you imagined (be it set or prop or overall scene), and what has turned out least like what you expected?
On a slightly different note, what has been your favourite and least favourite things to work on?
Who are your inspirations in the world of art?”
Kate: Hello, Wolfenm. I started out my schooling in fine arts in Vancouver and then got my degree in Industrial Design at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto. My goal was always to work in film, although when I was younger I loved making clothes so much, I thought I’d work in costumes. I decided on Industrial Design because it covers such a broad spectrum of design, which ended up working out well for film work. My process always begins with research, and involves listening to loud music to tune out the rest of the art department, which can be a pretty busy place! As for materials, besides sketching out ideas on paper, I use Vector Works, which is a drafting program, almost exclusively. I also use PhotoShop and Illustrator, especially when I’m working on graphics, which I do when the need arises.
Interestingly enough, the set which turned out the closest to what I imagined and the one which was the least like I imagined was the same set, and happened a couple of weeks ago on one of the new Universe builds. The construction of the room was exactly as I pictured it, but it was a completely different color than I’d imagined J My favorite projects are the ones that really challenge me, which would probably surprise my co-workers, considering how stressed out I can get about them! Everything I’ve done for Universe so far has been great, and it’s been fun to be a part of things from the conceptual stages right through to the final sets.
Kabra writes: “Question for Kate:
Can I have your job? Ok How can I get a job like yours? I am working on my A.A. in art and I know I need more education. What other qualifications does one need to even work in the art department for such a profession?
What is it like working with Joe Mallozzi?
Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions.”
Kate: Hi, Kabra. It’s great to hear that you’re going to school for art! I think the first thing you need to think about is what area of film you are interested in. In the art department, many jobs involve either graphic design or set design, but there are also illustrators and model makers, to name a few. Set decoration and props are other departments which work closely with ours. I would suggest you continue your education in a field closely related to your desired job (like interior design, if you’d like to work in set dec, or graphic design if you’re interested in being a graphic designer). It would also be a good idea to look into film union requirements, if you want to work on union shows (like Stargate!). Good luck!
Sessy writes: “Q’s for quest blogger Kate:
From what I gather, Art department does the design for decorations of sets and such… Right?
1. It seems like something someone with this profession might be into: Did you ever play the Sims, 1 or 2, and if you did, were you an avid player? Did you download a lot of objects, did you design your own? If you did, where might we find them?
2. Did you ever have any props, costume or other department make anything for your own home, or take anything home from any set that you had (partially) designed yourself? If yes, what was it?
3. Does your home look anything like any of the stargate sets? If yes, which set would that be?
4. Do you watch the shows you work on? If so, what’s your favourite episode or moment or storyline?
5. What was your favourite project, or most memorable, most difficult, most awesome, most anything?”
Kate: Sessy – I may embarrass myself here, but do the Sims games include one where you can build your own city? I do remember playing that as a kid, but it was years ago! Although I’m sure that answered your other related questions, no, I wasn’t avid player and no, I never designed my own objects 8)
I don’t have anything from Stargate in my home, but I do have a piece of the airplane from the movie Alive hanging in my entry way.
My home does not resemble any of the sets from Stargate, although that is an interesting question!
With all the time I spend working on the show, I don’t often get a chance to catch it on TV. I suppose I do have a soft-spot for Seasons 1 & 2 of Atlantis though, which I watched round-the-clock as research for starting on the show in Season 5.
MaryD writes: “Questions for Kate:
1. What is your favorite medium to use in your renderings?
Mind: colored pencils, charcoal, & oil pastels.
2. What Art School did you attend & major?
Mind: Columbus College of Art & Design – Major in Computer Graphics
3. Is your portfolio online and if yes what is the website?
We would loved to see your work.
4. Have you worked on other TV shows or films?”
Kate: Hello, MaryD. The renderings that are done for the show are actually done by our production designer, James, but in my free time I like using acrylics, charcoal and conte. As I mentioned earlier, after getting a diploma in Fine Arts, I attended the Ontario College of Art and Design, majoring in Industrial Design. No, I’m sorry to say my portfolio isn’t currently on-line.
David writes: “Hi Kate, so apparently we are not allow to ask you out for a date, so I move on to my next question, nope guest the asking for phone number is probably ban to, so my third choice questions are:
What drawings do you do for the show, artistic or technical.
what is your favourite bit of work that have you done for Stargate/Stargate Atlantis . Have you work on any other TV shows film. Have you got any example of your work that you could share with us. What would be your dream job.”
Kate: Hey David! Good question – the drawings I do for the show are technical. And my favorite thing I’ve worked on so far is a set for Universe, so I can’t really give you any details! Other film jobs I’ve had include a couple of pilots, The Sandlot 3, The Guard (which is Canadian), The Tortured (which isn’t out yet) and the 4400. I am just coming up on working in the industry for 3 years. Within the film industry, I think my dream job (and my goal) is to art direct a feature… well, I guess I did do that, but I’d love to do a big feature! I am also really interested in the model shop and would love to work in body/ face casting and prosthetics.
Trish writes: “Is Sci-Fi your favorite genre? If not, what is?
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve worked on? I’m guessing something having to do with the wraith.
How did you learn to do what you do? How much do you think is natural talent vs. stuff you can be taught?
What are you most proud of?
What has given you the most trouble?
When you were little what did you want to be when you grew up?
Thanks for stopping by to talk with us!”
Kate: Hi Trish. Thanks for your questions! I think my favorite genre is drama, although I also like comedy a lot. As for the weirdest thing I’ve worked on, I think you’re right – it would have to be something to do with the wraith. During my first month on the show (last year in Season 5 of Atlantis) I was asked to do some stage layouts for the wraith sets. The components of the sets have weird nicknames based on what they resemble, so all of a sudden I was including “chicken feet” and “mushroom consoles” and “meat curtains” in my drawings. It was a confusing couple of days! I think I learned to do what I do 50% in school and 50% on the job. And of course, I’m still learning everyday. I feel lucky to say that I am doing what I always wanted to do growing up, although as I mentioned earlier, I was initially interested in designing costumes. I also went through periods of wanting to be either a teacher or a pediatrician.
sandygood writes: “Question for Kate: How did you start out in the business?
My daughter is in Art School and loves science fiction so this would be like a dream job.”.
Kate: Hello! After finishing school, I got into the film union (IATSE), and through contacts made there I got my first job (which was as an assistant on the Sandlot 3). I mentioned a little more about it a few questions back 8)
Peggy writes: “Questions for Kate: What is your favorite media to work with? What kind of art do you enjoy on your own time? Pottery, photography, painting, etc.?? Thanks for all the visual candy you give us.”
Kate: Hi, Peggy! I really enjoy anything three dimensional, including sculpture, ceramics and woodworking. I like working with clay, both sculpting and throwing pots, as well as body casting. My favorite 2-D art form is definitely life drawing.
EdgarDerby writes: “Everyone seems to have hit the important questions. Kate, who’s your second favorite Beatle?”
Kate: EdgarDerby, I’m going to have to go with Lennon.
Luis writes: “Kate thank you for the time do you actually work for Joe or MGM or Bridge studios?? Did you apply for the job or was it a stroke of luck to end up where you are now? If Stargate was to end production would you stay in the movie industry or move on???”
Kate: Hi Luis. I contract myself out to the production company. I was actually called by the art director last year to see if I was interested in working on the show. I came in for an interview and was hired that day. I can’t imagine Stargate ever ending production – but no matter what, I plan to stay in the film industry 8)
Sulien writes: “Questions for Kate:
First off, thanks for all of the work that you’ve done on the Stargate franchise! I’ve greatly enjoyed both series and a large part of my enjoyment has been the basic artistic designs used, especially the Art Deco look of Atlantis.
What is your personal favorite artistic style?
Did you draft any of the major set motifs for Stargate Atlantis, or the city itself?
Of the Stargate sets and items that you’ve drafted, which is your favorite?”
Kate: Hey, Sulien. My favorite artistic style is modern minimalist. I didn’t draft any complete sets on Atlantis, but I did design some set elements, for example some of the buildings in “The Outsiders” village set.
AMZ writes: “One of the things I love about your Q&A’s is that you often have people that are part of the production team who we would never otherwise get the chance to ask questions of! Kate being one of them. So here are some questions for her:
1. How did you get into props work?
2. How much creativity do you get as a props draftsman (is “draftsman” non-gender-specific, by the way)?
3. When you were growing up, what did you want to be?
4. Who do you work closely with during production?
5. What do you like the most about your work?
And finally, thanks so much for doing the Q&A! Stargate (Atlantis, Universe) wouldn’t be the same without the hard work and amazing talent of people like you.”
Kate: Hello, AMZ. Thanks for writing in! I don’t actually do much props work, which you may have discovered through reading some of my other responses. During production, I work closely with the other members of the art department (of course!) which currently include the production designer, the art director and two set designers. Outside of the art department, we work closely with construction, paint, props, set dec and the model shop. What I like most about working in the industry is that it’s always changing, especially when you’re working on films or shorter series. A lot of interesting people work in film, and it gives me the opportunity to earn a living by being creative!
duneknight writes: “Questions for Kate:
-whats the hardest part of being a Draftsman for stargate?
-How are you able to convey what the writers want in your work?
-How much of your personal input is allowed in your stargate work?
-Where does your inspiration come from?”
Kate: Hello, Dune. I think the hardest part of my job is probably working with tight deadlines. If an aspect of the set isn’t working, or last minute changes happen close to the shooting day, it can mean that drawings need to go to construction and be built that same day. As for conveying what the writers want – that’s more up to the production designer. He gets their ideas onto paper, and I translate his illustrations into working drawings to be used by the crew. My personal design ideas need to take a back seat to the overall desired feel of the set, although I have much more freedom when designing graphics.
Jinx writes: “For Kate:
What style or period is your biggest influence, & can we see nuances of it in your designs?
Can you share your background/training & what prompted you to select this avenue?”
Kate: Thanks for the questions! I hope you can find the answers in some of my other responses 8)
Shirt ‘n Tie writes: “Question for KATE!!!
Many thanks for taking the time to answer these questions:
What’s the significance of the heart on the wall (behind you in the photo)? SGU: Best gig yet? or are features more fun?”
Kate: Hello! I was standing in the production office when that photo was taken, and I’m not sure what the heart is all about. Just a random office decoration, I think. Stargate is definitely a great show to work on! I remember when I was hired, I was “welcomed to the family”, which is not far off. Many people on the show have been working here for years and have formed pretty tight relationships with each other. For me, Stargate is prefect at this point in my career, as I am learning a lot and being allowed to put what I am learning into play. With a less experienced crew, I probably wouldn’t be able to do that so much. In the future though, I’d love to get more experience on features.
Shiningwit writes: “*waves at Kate* Don’t kid yourself that we’re not interested we’re FANS for crying out loud, we devour any inside info we can get our geeky little paws on LOL.
The only draughtsmen I know work on the building of warships and submarines so its obviously technical drawing. What subjects did you take to lead you into that side of things? what qualifications after school did you take? Our draughtsmen have to serve an apprenticeship, did you? and if so where? Have you done any other work in the genre? Is Joe really the tyrant he’s made out to be?
Thank you for taking the time to indulge our curiosity.”
Kate: Hi Shiningwit! You’re right, I do draft technical drawings. In high school, I took a lot of fine arts courses, followed by fine arts in college. It was there that I first learned to hand draft and completely fell in love with it. My first project was drafting the kitchen of my apartment, and it took off from there. In the Industrial Design program I took in Toronto, we also did a lot of drafting – again all hand drawing. I later took a course in Vector Works, which is what I use now. There isn’t really an apprenticeship program for the art department – my first job in the field was as an art department assistant. And yes, Joe is every bit the tyrant you think he is! 8)
MaggieMayDay writes: “For Kate: Any Burners in the art department? If you have no idea what I just asked, then this one will do: How do you feel about primitive, naive or outsider art in relation to the very technical skill of draftsmanship?”
Kate: While I love design, I probably love art more… does that answer your question?!
Michael writes: “Questions for Kate:
Will you go out with me?
Which do you like better? Strawberries or Elderberries?
When you do go out with me, do you like French or Italian?
After the date, would you rather go dancing or back to my place to discuss world domination?
On the second date, can you try not to talk about Joe M. as much as you did on the first date?
Yes we all know he is a fantastics guy who is multi talented, but it kind of creeped me out, especially when you pulled out the locket that you had around your neck with his photo in it!?!”
Kate: Funny Guy!
Randomness writes: “Questions for Kate.
Wraith. Stuff of nightmares, or happyness?
Keep up the good work, we all care what you have to say!”
Kate: Hi! Thanks for the kind words. I think I answered your wraith question a couple back. While I found the sets a little confusing, it was always funny to see wraith in the line up for the lunch truck!
2Cats writes: “QUESTIONs for Kate Stargate Art Department Draftsman extraordinaire…
1 — Do you create the old fashioned way, using a drafting board & mechanical pencils or is there a software package you can recommend?
2 — Is a background in architectural drawing required or just a good thing to have?
3 — Can you provide Joe with some draft specs to post for us here on the blog? I’d love to see early efforts and then the final product.
4 — Do you prefer to design objects, such as props as opposed to sets and / or ship/creature models?
5 — What was your most challenging design assignment?
6 — Are you thrilled to be working on such a fabulous creation that is Stargate?
Thanks so much for participating Kate! Happy drafting!”
Kate: Hi, 2Cats!
1 – I can do both and originally learned on a drafting board, but now I use Vector Works.
2 – A background in architecture isn’t required, but many set designers have studied architecture, and I think it helps a lot.
3 – Since most of my drawings are for Universe – I don’t think they can be posted yet!
4 – So far I have only designed sets, or pieces of sets, but I think I would love to try designing props.
5 – I’m working on it right now, actually.
6 – Yes, so thrilled 8)
Airelle writes: “HI to Kate, and thanks for answering questions from the curious bloggers.
–What kind of hours do you have to work to get all that great artwork done?
–Whats your favorite dessert at Bridge? (joe says they have good ones!)
–What kind of budget do you get to work with?
—thanks again for stopping by.. “
Kate: Hello, Airelle. We work pretty long hours in the art department. We start at 7am and go until 7pm. Sometimes we work on the weekend as well, when there is a deadline looming, but so far I’ve been spared! As for desserts off the truck, Joe is right – they are amazing! I recently tried a caramel-fudge brownie which was insanely delicious.
Angelus writes: “Question for Kate:
Being you’re a part of the Art Department section of the Stargate crew I imagine you must deal with a lot of art designs for props and perhaps even film sets.
How does it feel to one day design something on paper and then eventually walk onto a live recreation of your design. Are you always happy with how it turned out or do you visit the set often and think “That could’ve been improved” or “I should’ve done that differently”
Also, I don’t know if you’ve been part of the crew on SG-1 and Atlantis days, But… If there was something you could’ve changed, And were allowed to do so… What would you have done differently?
Thanks for your time,
Kate: It’s pretty cool to draw something, and then see it in real life. I am always picking my designs apart and thinking about what I would have changed, especially when it comes to scale. Something I’ve drawn at ¼” scale looks pretty different when it gets built full size.
AscendedTauri writes: “How much time are you given to prep and finalize a typical episode? What is the most difficult aspect of your job?”
Kate: We are generally on a schedule of about 8 days of prep and 8 days of shooting. That means that when the shooting crew is filming an episode, the art department has finished its prep for that show and has moved on to prepping for the next episode. For episodes that are art department heavy, though, we can start prepping months in advance – way before we’ve even seen a script!
Jo writes: “Questions for Kate:
1) Do you always take on board somebody’s input if they look at your idea/something you’ve designed and say ‘that’s awful, you should do it this way?’
2) When you get stuck for ideas, what sort of things do you do to get extra stimulation/inspiration?
3) How often do you get to make something from scratch?
4) How often do you have to do exactly what someone else wants, because they say so?
5) How often has something fallen apart or somebody just happened to accidentally wreck it just after you’ve finished making it? (this has to have happened a few times right?)
6) When you make something that is meant to be broken during the show, do you feel sad afterward that after all that effort you put into it, it was just… broken?
7) If you were allowed to change anything about the art department, what would it be?
Is there ever a time when there are so many things going on in the department at the same time that there is no where left to work? What did you do then, if such a thing happened? (cos, to my imagination, that’t highly possible)”
Kate: Hey, Jo. Yes, I always do take other people’s advice, since for the most part the people giving me the advice know a lot more than I do! And usually their suggestions are practical rather than aesthetic, which encourages me to consider the needs and restrictions of other departments building or working on the set. When I get stuck, I usually go for a walk around the studios – there are always people around from our show or other shows and getting out the office helps me to clear my head. I also do a lot of internet research, talk to others in the art department, watch classic sci-fi films which have similar themes, or old episodes of SG-1 or Atlantis. How often do I do exactly what someone wants, because they say so?… Everyday J I have never had anything I’ve designed broken on set either accidentally or scripted, but its good practice in film not to get too attached to things. If it happened, I don’t think I’d be too bummed, but then again I would just be the one that designed it, rather than the one who spent hours making it! If I could change anything about the department, I would change our start time to 8:00am and turn one of our offices into a meditation room for the times when things get overwhelming! It can get pretty hectic in the art department at times, and when that happens I usually pack up my stuff and head into our “viewing room” (where we watch dailies) for twenty minutes. It’s quiet in there, and if I shut the door, people can’t find me 8)