What is your name and current occupation?
Matthew Tardiff,Freelance Animator/Director/Creator/etc @ Hummingbird and the Lotus,Animation Instructor @ Full Sail University focusing on Game Animation.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Hmm, that’s a tough one. Starting at age 15 I worked for a slew of different jobs; starting with fast food, construction, call center, sales, restaurant, car salesman, fast food again, stock, claims representative, art store wall flower etc. I probably left out some stuff because there were a few years there that will never return to my memory.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Jimmy Neutron ,My first legitimate animation gig where I realized how much I did not know about animation but somehow kept my head above water long enough to learn some valuable life lessons. I’m not being humble; my animation skills as a whole were shit in hindsight. Lunchables (only because I got to work @ Wildbrain in San Francisco)
How did you become interested in animation?
For as long as I can remember I’ve loved to draw, create, make things move and take objects apart. But there were several points in time that directed me to animation. The first one was in 6th grade. A class mate showed me a couple of Post it pads with animations of a Skater on a half pipe. I was floored and immediately started to create my own consisting mostly of peoples heads blowing up and lots of crazy violence. When “The Little Mermaid” came out, I was living with my Grandmother about a block from the cinema. I would escape to the cinema and watch the Little Mermaid over and over, falling in love with the movement, drawings and genius that went into the film. At the same time I picked up an “Animation Magazine” that featured and interview with Glen Keane talking about his craft. I decided this would be the creative avenue I would pursue. But other stuff came up and it would be a few years before that would happen.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
Jacksonville, Florida by way of a Scandinavian sack and a Cuban/Irish oven. At 25 I decided it was time to start tracking down my dream. So I signed up for Full Sail University and began my journey on this amazing adventure.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
We’ll look at both. As an instructor at Full Sail, I’m constantly looking for new ways to educate my students on the art of animation. With special attention applied to game engines. When I’m not in lecture; pushing over cabinets, punching desks, standing on top of tables and throwing myself against walls in the name of reference and animation; I’m at my desk working on projects, chatting with the wonderful team I share space with, or thumping around the animation hall in 4B scaring the hell out of people while I help the animators in game art portfolio break down their ideas. As a freelance artist for Hummingbird and the Lotus, the rest of my time is spent working on projects for clients. This will range from traditional animation to cg animation. I wake up early, eat cereal and check my feeds and look at The Daily What, Daily Geek and The Awesomer, exercise, play with my two corgi’s LuLu and Flynn and begin my daily consumption of coffee. Then it’s on to more focused agendas.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I love talking about animation, acting out reference and inspiring other artists to push their creativity, drawing every chance I can, talking to the other artists on our team and being inspired by them, playing games at my desk, working on projects and my class under our department leader who is hands off in all the right ways so we can work without tethered anxiety and eggshell covered land mines. With Hummingbird and the Lotus, I love starting something from the ground up and breaking into the daily consciousness searching for a way to inject my work and solidify more clients. Also navigating this adventure with my best friend/wife Claire and our two corgis and cats.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
People who waste my time and energy. The limitations of animation in game and having to fight the engine for clarity without forsaking the old timers and their principles. Dealing with clients that care very little about art and would sell their left eye to make the right one just a little better. Not in the sense of cybernetics or laser beams but something stupid like increasing the hue to something bizarre. Dealing with freelance websites.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
With Full Sail I work mainly in Autodesk Maya and Epic’s UDK engine. At Hummingbird and the Lotus, I use TVPaint for animation and a combination of Sketchbook and Photoshop for backgrounds and concept. At both of these places I use a Macbook Pro and the Asus Ep121 Tablet PC.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
There is opportunity for positive growth in every difficulty. An uphill battle can either be a strain and reason to whimper or a chance to stretch your legs and learn something fun about yourself.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Nope. One of my dreams is to meet Glen Keane but I want that too be through either bumping into him at a festival or because he saw something I did and maybe thought it wasn’t total shit but had potential to at least be a slightly smelly fart. The only animation great that I’ve come close to is a sketch of Scar by Adreas Deja written to me. A co worker picked it up from Siggraph one year. I keep it up at my desk for inspiration.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
It was growing up in darkness and turmoil and dropping out of school to help support my mom after she split from my douche bag stepdad. Life took a series of twists and turns until I nailed my feet to the ground and found the strength to walk through earth, wind and fire with a little more caution and care.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
My favorite composer and friend, Emma Wallace and I are working on an animated short that we are going to submit to Annecy this February and hopefully take a trip to France in 2013.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Study, study, study your anatomy. Practice the principles and understand how to apply them. Study the masters; analyze life, motion and mechanics in everything. Go to a university, study at Animation Mentor, or acquire your knowledge through self study. It doesn’t matter which avenue you choose, if you love this stuff you’ll do whatever it takes. And one last thing, DRAW EVERY DAY. Seriously, put a sketchbook in your car, bike and backpack. Have one at your desk, in the bathroom and/or living room. There is no excuse not to be the artist you want to be. Grab your dreams by the balls and give birth to something great.