It was 1987. Bill Greenhead was sitting there working at Pizzaz, an animation studio. He was doing the in-betweening – drawing the cells in between key frames created by a lead animator – for a shot featuring a dancing musical note. “A monkey could do this,” he thought. Meanwhile, the soundtrack to The Singing Detective was playing and Bing Crosby was singing, “Don’t mess with the in-between.”
Already confident in his drawing skills, it was the impetus Bill needed to jump ship and he soon landed a couple of illustration jobs. Today, besides being an illustrator he’s a writer, an animator and an artist who lives in Kent with his wife and three children. He enjoys running and photography, and often travels to Romania to film his whiteboard animations. While away, he plays online games with his sons.
Bill spent a year doing graphic design at Croydon College, but it wasn’t for him. Many of his professional skills were learned on the job, working at Brian Stevens Animated Films and then Pizzaz Pictures. Shooting cels on a rostrum and the special effects work he did back then were great preparation for the computer software he works with today.
Starting with the brief, Bill thinks about both the imagery that would interest him and what his client would like to see. Sketches are scanned into Photoshop, and then he works up an image digitally, often using After Effects and Illustrator as well. His animation work is done using whiteboards and a rostrum camera, along with a suite of digital tools.
Bill delivers a variety of styles. He’s an animator at heart and his cartoon style resembles that of Tex Avery. He does caricatures and business illustrations using a more serious cross-hatch style in black and white. For children’s books, he either works in a soft-rendered style, or something that’s super slick with flat colours. He can produce work with a Lichtenstein look to it as well as in a Jamie Hewlett style.
Some of his biggest influences include the 70s Spider-Man artists Gene Colan and John Buscema, Mad Magazine, Beano and the lightsabre duel in The Empire Strikes Back.