What is your name and your current occupation?
Jesse Aclin. Freelance Character designer currently working on a project with Reel FX.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Crazy ey? well, working in the toy design field was a bit crazy for me.. I also had a gig where it was my job to create label art by moving around existing images and changing the layout based on where a certain stores price tag and logo go. That was fun!
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Working with Reel FX on “Turkeys”, as a character designer. It was my first real gig doing character design, so it was sort of like a dream come true for me and I got to design a lot of characters! Right now I’m fortunate enough to be working with them again on “Book of Life”. I’ve worked on some fun TV commercial spots with Nathan Love, designing characters. Those are cool because I get to have a heavy influence on the style. Working with Titmouse was a heck of a lotta fun and an amazing learning experience as it was my first animation gig. I was hired to work as a character layout artist on Disney’s Motor City. I ended up working on a bunch of projects there. Good folks there, and I learned what it is to be a professional working in the biz.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from a town called Goshen, NY. It’s about 1.5 hours outside of city. My path into the animation biz is a bit of a strange and round about one. I always drew sort of well and I knew I wanted a career in the arts. So, taking my fathers advice I went into college for advertising because he new the perils of going into a creative field all too well. I switched majors in a week, opting for illustration instead.. that was closed, but fine arts was open. I joined fine arts knowing you could relay an associates into Toy Design. Toy design sounded neat and had the reputation of being the toughest major and whipping artists into shape. So for the first time in my life I had to take drawing seriously. However. I shortly realized I wasn’t that crazy about coming up with toy concepts, I liked the drawing side of it more. One day a professor brought in an “art of” book.. I think it was corpse bride. I think that was the smack in the face moment for me, after seeing all the beautiful artwork that goes into an animated film I was sold. A few not so great jobs later really helped cement the fact that I needed to get out of my current industry and into animation. I began discovering all the great artists in animation and started working my butt of to get a portfolio together that I thought could compete. I was applying all over the place. It was very hard to get my foot in the door, having no degree or prior experience and very few companies being around here in NY. Luckily, I landed a gig at Titmouse NY.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I get up early, make my girlfriend breakfast then walk her to the train. I then go through emails, look at blogs and books for inspiration. Then it’s work time! if I have no work at the moment I will go to the cafe and sketch or work on a personal project or continue to try to beef up my portfolio. Then I annoy companies by letting them know for the fourth time that month, that I am ready and available for work! Next up, I sob uncontrollably when they inform me that they are still not hiring. A few times a week I will try to go life drawing and yeah, just basically draw all the time.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I love designing characters. When a client comes to me with an idea and maybe a little write-up, but no image, (or an older image they want me to jazz up) that is the scariest, most difficult and most rewarding part of my job. Its a lot like solving a puzzle. You have to think of the body type, the shape language, and perhaps define a style for a whole project. You think about actions they will preform and acting they will need to do and you have to design them into that role. Bringing to life a character or characters is truly the bees knees.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
I am not very well established yet so I have take on a lot of not so glamorous jobs to keep the lights on. So I do some things that I’m not so proud of… nothing illegal, but nothing too rewarding. I still give it my all though! I am kind of a perfectionist. Oh, and not having work, I like that part of the job the least.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis, how has technology changed in the last few years in your field and how has that impacted you in your job?
Mostly Photoshop, some sketchbook pro, Illustrator and Flash. I am kind of new in this industry so I cant really say how things have changed.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
It is an amazing business filled with sooo many talented people, so standing out and creating work that you are proud of and sets you apart and gets you gigs is, I’d say, the most difficult part. If you are too much tied to one style people may think you lack diversity, but if you’re a jack of all trades they may think you don’t have your own voice. Towing the line between being able to function as someone they can plug in at different roles to fill a need (which is important) and being the person that can define the look and feel of a whole project is tricky stuff.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I saw Glen Keane speak at CTN and I was inspired for days! and I look at great artists work everyday but I don’t brush with them.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Trying to transition into the animation industry was actually something that was incredibly tough and trying for me. I was halfway through toy design when I realized that I was in the wrong industry. It took me years to work up the skills to even be considered for a position in animation. I sent some portfolios off in the early days that I would like burned now! I spent many a night questioning if i would ever do anything in this biz. I’ve lost and a lot of money working on my portfolio instead of taking paying gigs. Pursuing your passion is not easy. I lost some friends and gained some tendinitis and back n neck aches. But I can say its definitely all worth it.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
Yes, I am working on publishing my first sketchbook! Everyone does it so I figured why not? It will be a collection of sketches I did while at cafes, on trains, at life drawing and other places. Look out for that, coming soon. I will have details of it at my blog.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I can make opposite rotating concentric circles with my hands.. try it, its really hard.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Oh man… prepare for some hard work and lot of days and nights questioning if you really have what it takes to make it. The learning process never ends but that can be be the fun part. You definitely need a drive because in this industry there is a butt load of amazing artist so learn the basics real well but also think of ways to establish your own identity. Self promotion sucks but it is something you must do.. If you feel like this is your passion than just go for it 100 and 25 percent and try to outwork everybody.. and have fun!!!