What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I am short so I used to work as a mascot for various conventions and shows- any time there was some kind of costumed character with a big head. Once I dressed up as Elmo.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I am proud to be one of the 200 artists that were involved in the Manifest Hope:DC art exhibition celebrating the inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2008. I flew to Washington DC a few days before the inauguration to participate in the art exhibit and the energy was amazing. The first Obama painting I did “Unite America” was sold in an auction during the campaign. The image was also published in a multicultural calendar. The second painting “This Moment”, was published in an Art of Obama book, exhibited at the Bowers Museum and now hangs on my wall. Someone I knew was doing a brief stint at the White House and passed out a bunch of posters of my paintings to the people in his department. I was told that they were put up on the office walls. So, although I don’t have physical proof, I think I can say that my paintings are in the White House.
How did you become interested in animation?
I had always wanted to teach art but after meeting with my advisor and finding out that
I had to have a masters degree to teach art at the university level, I switched gears and looked into any art related job that I could attain without spending 4 more years of school and writing a thesis. I hate writing and the thought of writing a thesis terrified me. A lot of my friends began taking animation courses that were new to our art department. They were always having fun in drawing class and they were really great artists, so I jumped in along with them. I noticed that the animation students seemed to have a higher skill level than the Fine Arts students at my school. Rather than learning how to “paint what I felt”, I decided to change my job direction to an arena that would improve my draftsmanship. I ended up graduating with my BFA degree a year later, but continued studying animation at the Animation Academy in Burbank and at the Animation Union in North Hollywood. I took every animation course possible and built up my portfolio.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
The animation industry is small. After meeting so many people taking classes at the union and at the Animation Academy, I realized we were all trying to get a job. We were competing against each other. But the students I met were really helpful to one another. At the Animation Academy, Charles Zembillas was helpful to all of his students. He gave us leads as to what studios were hiring and if he knew someone in the department, he was great at giving references. I eventually got hired at Klasky Csupo working on the Rugrats show and Rocket Power. Incidentally, right when I got hired, I was approached by other studios as well. I was lucky that I had a choice of which studio to go with. Since I grew up watching The Rugrats, I chose what I was familiar with.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I’m no longer in the animation industry. I now work as a Figure Drawing Instructor in the Animation Department at Laguna College of Art + Design. I also work as an illustrator and have illustrated over a dozen books with Nickelodeon. My main job is running my company, OC Art Studios. We offer after school art classes at elementary schools all over Orange County. I used to teach 4 days a week, but now I spend more time teaching private lessons and I only run a children’s class once a week. I’m a stay at home mother of 3, so I do all of this part time ( ha ha… I work overtime as a mother, but my clocked-in hours are considered part time!). But my day consists of managing the class schedule, checking up on my instructors, creating lesson plans and working on my own illustrated projects…. Oh wait, I haven’t worked on my OWN project in a while now… I need to improve on that.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I love to teach. I love to draw. Anytime I can either be teaching or drawing, I’m happy. I’m really very happy when I’m drawing while teaching.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
In my current job as owner of an art school, I’d have to say that I hate doing scheduling, and I hate doing payroll. I hate doing anything with numbers, basically. And I really hate doing the stuff that keeps me from drawing.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
When I was in the animation industry, I’d have to say the most difficult part was working with people who were not easy to get along with. Some people burn bridges really fast when they become known for being difficult to work with. I enjoyed working in the animation field for a brief part of my life and hope to get back into it someday, but more on the development side.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Everything I do is analog. The most technology I use is on my PC. I use the Microsoft Suite- Word, Publisher, Excel – to manage my business. But aside from that, not a whole lot of technology. It would be nice if the classrooms that we taught in had smart boards. That would be fantastic. When I was in animation, working as a character designer, we all had talked about how nice it would be to work on computers. That was back in 2000. We used to run back and forth to the copy machine, resizing characters, layouts, backgrounds, etc. Now, it’s just so much easier with working on cintique (sp?) tablets. I’ve seen my friends in the studios using it and it’s really fantastic. I wish we had that back when I was working as a character designer.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Well, Nickelodeon flew me to New York to meet with the creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Michael Dante DiMartino
and Bryan Konietzko
. They were pretty awesome. And on the plane ride back from NY to LA I think Brad Bird was on the same plane. And as an instructor at Laguna College of Art + Design, we’re very fortunate to have Dave Pruiksima and Dave Kuhn, former Disney Animators. They are always bringing in old friends to do guest lectures for the students.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
We are working on a family collaboration called The Fuzz Budz. It started with this simple art lesson that I gave to my students about how to draw adorably cute animal characters. I had a pretty simple formula that my 9 year old daughter picked up quite easily and began to draw her own little characters all over the place. My husband suggested we create t-shirts with the critters. Then he suggested that we create a children’s book with the characters. We self-published the book and have been promoting it on our own. We’re working on a second book with a few others after that. The sheep character is my favorite, and seems to be most everyones favorite character. Whenever I do book events and draw the sheep, I love to hear the collective “AWWwwwweeee” after I draw her on the board. I think there is wide appeal in these characters and we’re working hard to get them out there.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Draw like a maniac. Study whatever you are bad at drawing and get better at it. You have to have the skills to get the job. Once you get the job, don’t stop drawing on your own. Your skills can atrophy if all you are doing is drawing for the style of animation you were hired to work on. Always be professional when dealing with people. One day your cubicle neighbor who drives you crazy could be your director. Learn to be diplomatic- it’s important when you’re working in a collaborative process.