What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Jeff Ermoian and I teach Digital Media Design at Texas StateÂ Technical College in Waco including Character Design, 2D animation, andÂ storyboarding.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting intoÂ animation?
Cabinet Power Sander (@ a speaker manufacturing company) and ArcadeÂ Tech. (human change machine)
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been aÂ partÂ of?
When I was in the Air Force I helped develop the congressional briefingÂ to get funding for the C-17. That aircraft has a lot to do with ourÂ current airlift capability. I also started a television show called TheÂ All You Can Eat Texas Music Cafe with my brothers that featured unsignedÂ singer songwriters. It was aired coast to coast in the U.S. and carriedÂ internationally in over a hundred foreign countries.
How did you become interested in animation?
I can’t recall when I wasn’t interested in animation. I remember WileyÂ Coyote holding up signs I couldn’t read and being angry that I wasÂ missing the joke. I remember seeing a cartoon reel before the featureÂ at the matinee and at the drive-in. I remember running all the wayÂ home from school to see cartoons on our first color tv.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
The easy answer is that I’m from America. The detailed answer isÂ Philly, Detroit, Chicago, Indy, Memphis, Waco.Â As I learned to draw, I copied cartoon characters from coloring booksÂ and comic books. I got hold of Water Foster books around that time andÂ later discovered Andrew Loomis. Those things had a profound effect. Â Maybe I was influenced by going to the Bozo show in Chicago as a kid orÂ seeing Disneyland in Anaheim. I did my first animations on a QuantelÂ Paintbox in the 1980s and in the 1990s on a Mac. Those were usuallyÂ short looping animations, effects or small animated segments of largerÂ video productions. I learned some 3D animation in the early days andÂ met John Lasseter (VP Creative, Pixar Animation) at a SIGGRAPHÂ conference in Atlanta. I’ve always loved animation but it’s always beenÂ only a part of my career in media.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Get to work and check email. Check the Animation Educators NetworkÂ group on LinkedIn. Unlock the lab. Lead the students in reciting myÂ affirmation, “I believe that practice is the only thing that will makeÂ it easy for me to do what is impossible for others.” Go over theÂ assignment objectives. Pace back and forth looking over peoplesÂ shoulders to see how they’re doing. Offer advice about (could be nearlyÂ anything) and finally remember to take attendance. Lots more pacing,Â talking, helping, then collecting student work and starting back towardÂ my desk. Stop in the lobby to hear why somebody likes or hates the newÂ movie/game/graphic novel/character reintroduction to an olderÂ series/media legislation/academic change etc. Remember I have to makeÂ copies before my next lab starts, start the next lab, make the copies,Â take roll, start back toward my desk, talk to more people about moreÂ media stuff, go back to lab, remember what I needed from my desk, answerÂ some email, return phone calls, write a new lab lesson or lectureÂ section, change some test questions, brainstorm with a colleague,Â collect assignments, give a lecture, lock labs, lock building, work onÂ writing my book, make a list of the things I need to do tomorrow, decideÂ if I have time for food or sleep, go home.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
The coolest part of my day is spending time with people like myself butÂ younger and less practical. They remind me constantly about what I likeÂ about myself, hate about myself, recall from my past, wish for myÂ future. They teach me how to teach creatives.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
The administrative junk like reports, grading, meetings and stuff.Â This is maybe because I am really just a performance artist portraying aÂ very inspiring and effective teacher. I would rather be doing the workÂ I have my students doing.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The emotional part of my business is the hardest part for me. The costÂ of letting yourself give a damn about people is that they break yourÂ heart. I have to watch people I care about make nearly all the mistakesÂ I have made and warned them about. I have to hold them accountable andÂ some aren’t a bit used to that. I have to fail lots of folks who didn’tÂ want to fail.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Hammers, chisels, candles. Nah, just kiddin’. We use cross platformÂ computing and lots of Adobe software. I most often work with myÂ favorite tool, the ADO (Advanced Digitally Operated) 2.0 Word and ImageÂ Processor featuring small or large print (manual Control), user definedÂ styles, polished wooden cabinet, deletion of graphics words or entireÂ phrases with the flick of a wrist. You may know this device better byÂ it’s common name, the pencil, but it’s still great technology.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
If you mean can I drop any names, then yes. Bill & Joe in St. Louis.Â Yes, THAT William Hanna and Joseph Barbera selling animation art at aÂ gallery. Watching the rabble gushing and boot licking, it was obscene,Â but then it was my turn.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I got to experience a few learning disabilities before we ever gotÂ round to inventing them. In the 70s the smart thing to do was hide itÂ since the only medication I was ever offered was pine. It was applied toÂ the seat of your pants and it was nasty medicine that didn’t really evenÂ work. My advice to ADD sufferers who aren’t on meds, stick to what isn’tÂ boring for you, like drawing. Make lists. Realize what you stink atÂ and then decide not to be okay with that, get better.
Any side projects you’re working on you’d like to share details of?
The drawing book I’m authoring now is about the technique I use andÂ teach and will be called Perceptual Layering. This will be availableÂ through TSTC Publishing some time next year. I’m also wanting toÂ organize a series of webinars for animation students. I’d like it toÂ feature folks from many animation disciplines including; backgroundÂ artists, voice actors, timing supervisors, storyboarders, writers,Â colorists, in-betweeners, directors, camera operators, and evenÂ occasionally some animators.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student orÂ artistÂ trying to break into the business?
I like what Pixar’s John Lasseter tells newbies, “Tell good stories!”.Â Even 3D animation can’t save a weak story. I’d also add, “Know whereÂ your passion abides, then chase it down, kill it with your bare handsÂ and eat it raw. There’s no stopping that kind of ambition.”