What is your name and your current occupation?
KAUKAB BASHEER,Freelance artist: Character Designer, Character Layout Artist and Traditional Animator.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Selling door-to-door magazines, distributing fliers, and labor work in garment construction factories.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
“Tom & Jerry” shows for Warner Bros Animation in the US. And “Chhota Bheem” and four-part movie series “Krishna” for Green Gold Animation (GGA) back in India.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m originally from the city of Hyderabad in India. I grew up in Dubai (UAE) and went to high school in Canada. I got in to animation at the age of 22, without a college degree of any kind (some ten years ago), after randomly walking in to a very small but promising animation studio (GGA) in India, and applying for the position of Character Designer (I’ll never forget that job interview, haha).
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Back at GGA, I quickly grew in to a prominent key player. Every day was a long, busy one which involved constant drawing, handing out corrections to my team, helping lead other teams, attending production meetings for deadlines, and then more drawing. I even frequently took work home with me, which wasn’t a big deal since I was working on shows for TV networks (Cartoon Network – Asia and the Disney Pogo channels). These days, comparatively speaking, things are the slowest they’ve ever been in my career, ha. Despite having won a couple of student film awards and worked on a few “Scooby Doo” and “Tom & Jerry” shows in the US, I’m still relatively unknown here. But that’s alright. I’m looking for something solid to sink my teeth in to. I’d love to give this interview again a few years from now!
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Oh, there are so many things I love about animation. I wanted to draw cartoons and make films since the age of four (I didn’t know the actual term then). I love designing characters, crafting personalities, and then telling their stories. I enjoy learning from established masters in the business, asking questions, helping solve production problems, and working in a thriving studio-environment with other passionate artists towards a single, common goal. I also love inspiring others to believe in themselves through my art (I experienced this when I started teaching). Animation is a people-centric profession, and I love that about it.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
I find it interesting how job applications and portfolios are being reviewed these days in general. The process seems more alienated and some what impersonal. I’m not exactly sure why. I frequently helped hire animation artists in-house on my team back in India, so I think I can safely make this comparison. I wish the industry would improve for the better in terms of how projects are planned and produced, and also how talents are hired and paid. I am old-fashioned. I believe creative people must help hire other creative people because artists “get” art. Also, the kind of films that are being made now for the audiences, don’t really impress me a great deal or even inspire me. I don’t hate anything or anyone, please don’t get me wrong. I just feel we need more creative thinkers and thinking artists in our business calling the shots. More animators need to educate themselves and consider setting up their establishments (big or small) and/or collaborate with those like themselves on a profound scale to give us all new things to look forward to. We should really be the change we want to see. I’m in the process of building some good, long-term alliances myself. I know what I want and what I wish to be a part of. It’s never been about money, fame, connections or prestige for me. I’m in this profession for purely, deeply sentimental reason; always have been.
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?
I’m not sure if I could survive without my crummy iPhone, beat up HP scanner and my Wacom HD Cintiq and trusty pen, haha. Definitely, technological advancements have impacted my job phenomenally. I’ve seen a drastic change in the animation production pipeline in terms of a boom in global outsourcing, smaller in-house teams being the new normal, and changes in budget handling and salary disbursements. Technology has made us more productive, impressive, and efficient. But it has also messed things up in other aspects. Professionally, I’ve animated both digitally (Flash and Toonboom) and on paper. On personal projects, I still prefer working on paper because I just have more fun that way. I try to keep a constant, online presence going but some days it’s hard to do so. I use Photoshop (love it) and After Effects, and am working on teaching myself some TV Paint (totally looking forward to it).
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
I’m still in the process of finding a foot hold in the American animation industry. Despite my work experience, the fact remains, I am from another place, so I may have to prove myself all over again and this could take some time. Heavy work load doesn’t scare me, I am not afraid to work. Job uncertainty is an issue though. I’m married and intend to have a family of my own some day. I’m an artist but I also wish to be a good provider for my family.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I got married, left GGA, and relocated to the US in 2007. I was very fortunate to learn many things about both life and animation from veteran NYC animator and good friend, Howard Beckerman, instructor at the School of Visual Arts. I also had the pleasure of meeting and briefly speaking with the legend himself, Richard Williams at an event in NYC five years ago. These days, I’m under the apprenticeship of one of my biggest childhood idols, the veteran animator and character designer, Dan Haskett – nothing short of a dream come true for me. I’ve also recently gotten to know legendary sheet timer, James Tim Walker (courtesy of Dan) who is such a remarkable guy. I look forward to meeting more animation geniuses, young and old, here in the US, and hope to work with them on projects down the road.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I’ve had a handful of incredibly tough and rather troubling moments in my life. They are much too personal to share. What I will say is that my faith, my love for animation, my single-parent mother, my younger siblings and more recently, my wonderful husband have all helped me become the strong woman and confident artist I am today.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
Quite a few actually but they’re in the initial, developmental stages. Two small books, a comic strip, and two short films. Personal projects which my husband (software engineer and animation enthusiast) is also loosely involved in.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Managing a feral cat colony, rescuing animals, and doing TNR (trap-neuter-return) field work with my husband and other volunteers. Animals and Animation; they’ve been my love for as long as I can remember.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Cherish the past, and all the wonderful things that have been discovered before your time. Equip yourself with those key lessons and pair them up with the impressive resources of today to become a better artist. In addition to being a good actor and draughts-person, you also need to develop the right attitude and cultivate solid work ethics early in your career. Being respectful and humble will take you far. Be someone you yourself would like to work with. Don’t be afraid to think out-of-the-box or connect with new people. Curiosity is a good thing to nurture. I strongly believe that having hobbies or interests outside of drawing and animation is a sensible thing; healthy for the mind and sharpens the creative skills. Speak up when you feel you really must. Look to your life experiences for ideas and inspiration. Your characters and animated stories must mean something to you, before they can mean something to somebody else. Oh, and you can sometimes be your own worst enemy (I can certainly vouch for this one), so learn to go easy on yourself now and then; you’ll need it. It’s wise to surround yourself with people more motivated than you or even better than you. Having a solid, supportive circle of family or friends will keep you from falling in to acts of self-doubt, despair or even childish resentment. And remember, don’t lose your identity, that creative-voice. Without that you’re completely lost. Know what you want from your career, from yourself. I hope I’ve helped you in some small way. All the very best to you!