Interview With an Artist

Ever wonder whatDebra004 happened to that kid in school who used to doodle all day long?  If they’re lucky, then they may have found their way into a job where their artistic talents can truly flourish…. Like working at a mascot shop!

The artist plays a vital role in bringing your mascot to life. Some may even argue that a mascot is “conceived” when an artist touches pencil to paper, however, there is much thought put into a mascot even before this point. An artist’s sketch is usually based upon a combination of research, concept consultation, and in depth conversations about design and construction.

Although we use modern animation techniques when warranted, we still Debra Close upbelieve that an artist’s linear pencil drawing is the best starting point from which a completely unique and authentic character can be developed! You won’t find our artist, Debra, using a copy/paste function here. Check out our interview with Debra to learn more about her processes, inspiration, and more!


Where do you draw inspiration for your sketches from?

I often get inspiration from clients’ sketches and logos. I try very hard to capture the essence of the logo so it translates well into a three dimensional live mascot. Also clients’ drawings, no matter how simple or rough, conveys a lot of information so I know what direction to take the mascot design. If the client has no image or logo, I start researching at the source, whether animal, object or human. For example, if I am designing a lion mascot I first look at real lion images, even if the client wants a cartoony looking lion. This way I feel I can continue to stay fresh and create each design to be an original.

 When did you decide you wanted to be a sketch artist?

As a young child I decided I wanted to be an artist. In fact, in public school other children recognised that I was a good drawer and they would ask me to give them “tattoos” on their arms. Don’t worry! I used a soft magic marker.

 What is your favourite thing to sketch? (i.e. animals, birds, people?)

I favour sketching cartoony animals and muppety creatures when designing mascots.

What is your favourite artwork medium?

I like pencil and paper. I love getting ideas down fast, sketching out several ideas first and then focusing on one to get the detailing right.

 What’s the difference between how you sketch now vs. how you used to sketch at Walt Disney Animation Canada?

There is not much difference! I use the same process Disney artists still use. Even the most complex digitally enhanced piece of artwork produced, started off as a pencil sketch that was researched using images of real objects, animals or humans. The one difference is that I now see the finished product or mascot much sooner. At Disney, it took years to see any of my efforts on screen and my work would be mixed in with many other artists. In our company we have a small, close knit group of artisans who complement and help each other. My sketch is the blue print and the starting point that the team continually references. When I see the finished mascot a few months after I have designed it, I am always thrilled to see my sketch come to life.

 What else in your artistic background helps you to sketch mascots?

Besides experience in animation and cartooning, I love to sculpt in clay and Papier-mâché.

 What advice would you give aspiring sketch artists?

Draw, draw, draw! Draw anything and everything you see and always carry a sketchbook with you. The more you sketch the better you become.


We hope you found this interesting! Please stay tuned for future articles from Debra and please feel free to give us a shout if you’d like to start consulting on artwork for a potential new mascot.


Debra Pugh is one of our current artists at Sugars Mascot Costumes. Debra attended Sheridan’s Animation College, and years later attended Centennial College for Digital Animation. She has spent time working at Nelvana, Don Bluth Studios and Walt Disney Animation Canada (That’s right! We said Disney!) Debra was also selected as an artist for the prestigious Toronto art exhibit “Moose in the City” in 2000. 

 Debra joined Sugar’s in September, 2011, and has been an integral part of the team ever since. She works along with the creative team at Sugar’s as well as the production team to capture the essence of every client’s vision, and sets the foundation for the mascot that you will eventually come to call your own!