I come up with my own ideas and stories, either using my own experiences as inspiration or I create a story that’s completely new.
Then I have fun designing the characters, their world, and scenes with the characters interacting.
I also love drawing fanart!
If I’m really into a book I’m reading or a television series I’m watching, I’ll draw the characters from it. Harry Potter is my favorite book series so I’ve been creating Harry Potter fanart for many years.
Is a college degree required to get a career in animation? How much do you think can be learned just from the Internet and self-study?
Art school isn’t a requirement to get a job in animation, and most art schools I’ve heard of are extremely expensive.
I didn’t go to art school myself. The most important thing is a great portfolio.
I believe if you have the drive to learn and practice on your own, art school is unnecessary.
But if you’d like teachers to guide you and give you deadlines then art school might be a good option. Plus some art schools have networking opportunities for the animation industry, which would have been helpful!
How important is it to practice from life for someone looking to do cartoons & animation? How would you say life drawing practice translates into non-realist work for animation?
Figure drawing is essential for character designers!
Drawing from life in general, whether it be in a life drawing class or at a coffee shop, trains your eye to translate 3D to 2D and teaches your brain to recognize proportions, anatomy, and how foreshortening works.
Even if you end up drawing in a cartoony style you still need to understand how anatomy works, especially when it comes to drawing turnarounds and animating characters.
Plus if you’re able to draw in more realistic styles as well in very pushed, cartoony styles, you’ll be more hirable.
So currently you work on Disney’s Tangled series. How did you end up working at Disney and what was it like on your first day?
I had been posting my art online for a couple years and gained a following on Tumblr, and artists at Disney found my work.
I was working as an artist at Nickelodeon at the time and I randomly got an email from Disney offering me the Tangled job.
My first few days on the job were really fun. The show style was still being developed so I got to have a hand in creating the background painting style.
I had never been on a show since the beginning so that was a first for me.
Can you share a typical “day in the life” working as a BG painter?
I’m a background painter so I’m the last step in the pipeline before the artwork is sent to animation.
So background painting is the step after layouts are drawn. Once layouts are drawn, groups of layouts are assigned to the background painters and handed out to us every two weeks.
The number of backgrounds I have to paint varies, but it’s almost always a two week deadline.
Each background has a scene number and I watch the animatic to find where my background occurs.
Then I find the scene on the color script which gives me a rough idea of what colors to use. Then I paint!
I paint pretty much all day every day along with an hour long lunch break.
How important is connecting with artists for a job in animation? Any suggestions on how to meet people or get your work out there?
When I first applied and got interviews at animation studios, it was all based on my portfolio. I didn’t have any connections.
If I had gone to an art school where networking is an option that might have been a plus.
But it’s not necessary to know someone in the industry to be considered for a position.
Your portfolio is the most important thing!
Even if you have a ton of connections in the industry, if your portfolio isn’t great, you won’t get hired.
I think connecting with other artists online is a great way to make friends though. Twitter has been awesome for meeting other artists with similar interests.
You do great on all your social media accounts—any advice for artists who haven’t done a lot of social media before?
Thanks! I think the most important thing is to post your art online regardless of whether or not you get attention from it.
I didn’t gain any followers until I had been posting art for over a year on Tumblr.
Once I gained a following on there I decided to make an Instagram and Twitter. Numbers are encouraging but they’re not the most important!
Plus with the new algorithms on Tumblr/Twitter/Instagram your posts no longer appear chronologically so it’s not your fault if no one’s seeing your artwork. Just keep posting.
It’s really important to have a log of your art across social media because you never know who will end up seeing it.
Plus if you meet someone in the industry and want to show them your art, it’s nice to be able to give them an Instagram handle where they can see all your art in one place. And they can follow you too.
Social media is a great supplement to your professional online portfolio. For building a following you should post great art!
Draw things you like and draw a lot, and put those drawings online.
The best way to get your art seen these days is with hashtags, posting at the right time of day, and retweeting or reblogging your own work.
I actually made an artist advice video called “how to gain followers on social media” with a bunch of these tips.
Your YouTube looks awesome and the videos are such high quality. How’d you get the idea for launching your awesome channel?
Thank you! I first wanted to start my YouTube channel to answer questions from my Tumblr.
I get a lot of questions and it’s really hard to respond to each person, so I thought I could answer all of them in one video.
I also knew filming myself would help me get over my fear of public speaking. I still get nervous talking to the camera every time I film a video, but it has helped with my anxiety a lot.
Producing videos is so different than sharing photos on Instagram. Do you think it’s worthwhile for artists to get on YouTube & how much work goes into your videos?
There isn’t a huge niche for animation on YouTube so I wouldn’t say it’s worthwhile for artists to make videos.
It takes a lot of time and work, so I’d only do it if you have a passion for making videos.
If you do love filming yourself drawing or painting then starting a YouTube channel for speedpaints would be a great idea.
My videos on YouTube haven’t helped me in my career (yet) but I really enjoy making videos so it’s worth it to me.
A lot of work goes into my videos though.
Since I work all week, I have to film a couple videos every weekend in order to upload weekly videos.
If I am busy one weekend I film several videos in a row on another weekend. It can be exhausting!
I also have a massive list of videos that I still want to make, it’s mostly having enough time that’s the issue. It takes me several hours to edit a just one video so I edit my videos most nights after work.
I love to watch high quality videos so it’s important to me that my videos are also high quality.
In your opinion is it possible for someone in their 20s or 30s to pick up art from scratch & still break into the industry?
I believe anyone with the drive and passion to become a great artist can do it.
If you’re super passionate about drawing it’s probably something you’re doing all the time already. Hone those skills with drawing from life to train your eye, taking figure drawing courses, and practicing a LOT.
There are artists in the animation industry who didn’t start until their 30s.