What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Ana Maria Mendez Salgado and I’m a Visual Storyteller (Illustrator, Concept Artist, 2D Animator).
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
There are so many! I worked as a sales person in a brick-a-brack shop (where I actually sold my first handmade cards and portraits), as a kitchen hand in a vegetarian restaurant (where my boss told me that “making a salad shouldn’t take as long as making one of my illustrations”!), and as a waitress during the night for a weddings venue (where I learned to value my sleeping hours!). I also worked as a multicultural officer with children from non-English speaking backgrounds (which I loved), as a designer of props for storytelling time at a library (which was fun), and as a theatre attendant for music and performing arts events (which was always inspiring).
What are some of your favourite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Woods of Charol (2006), Passages (2012) Miniambra (2013), Andrés Barrientos & Carlos Andrés Reyes’ En Agosto (2008) and Carlos Manrique’s Journeys (2008).
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I was born in Bogota, Colombia and wanted to be an animator ever since I saw the making of Disney’s Little Mermaid. I became obsessed with drawing and imagining characters and storyworlds. My first attempt to complete an animation was Woods of Charol, an experimental animation that was part of my graduation project as a Visual Artist. After studying a Diploma in Children’s Literature, I felt compelled to tell stories, animated or not, and after migrating to Adelaide, Australia, I studied Illustration, 2D Animation and Storyboarding Techniques. I currently work in the visual narrative field, using metaphors and symbols to describe imagined and personal experiences, so they can be absorbed and actively interpreted by the audience. I wish wholeheartedly to be yet more involved in the animation industry, and I see every project that comes to my hands as an opportunity improve the quality and efficacy of my work as a visual storyteller.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
After working on my own for some years, I’ve studied myself enough to know that my brain works better in the mornings for creative stuff, and in the afternoons for mechanical stuff. So I usually leave projects requiring the brainstorming of visual and written ideas for the first hours of the day, and finish details, research concepts and reference material in the afternoons. I also reserve some evenings to write emails, review the artwork of my favourite artists and schedule my blog. I’m also learning to find balance, and try to take short breaks and walks… which have proved not only to be relaxing but empowering, awakening my creativity.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I love imagining. And having a strong question in my mind, a need to understand a world, a character, a story… myself; and then, without knowing how, finding the answer in a scribble on a piece of paper. There’s also a thrill in sharing my work with others and inviting them to be actively involved in it. To be able to witness their reaction is priceless, and it feels great to contribute with one more story.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Isolation. I don’t really like working by myself so many hours, every day of the week 🙁 My dream is to work in an animation / illustration Studio with other creative people around me, to be inspired by and to connect with (which, luckily, is starting to happen!). I could also use some stability. It’s not easy to have a permanent job, and individual projects come and go without a warning. So you need to always have a backup plan (venues, clients, projects, exhibitions, festivals, contests, magazines, etc), which can be very stressful because of the uncertainty of the outcome and the amount of energy required.
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 used to do everything with pencils, ink, watercolour and acrylics, adding perhaps some final touches digitally. And as years go by I’m using more and more Photoshop and Illustrator. But I still find that it’s important to have a strong connection with traditional media, and most of my sketches are made by hand on a piece of paper. For animation I use Photoshop, Flash, After effects and a Wacom Tablet. Although, again, I love traditional animation, and once in a while I doodle a sequence of images on paper.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
It’s actually Being in the business. I would love to be part of a big production some day, and learn from the most experienced animators and concept artists in the industry. It’s difficult to start, have enough self confidence, and share your ideas with industry wizards as a professional, even though I know that I have still SO much to learn. I am an emerging visual storyteller and I’m learning the tools to make my work reach as many people as possible.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Moving to Australia was very difficult. My husband and I spent 6 years without visiting our families back in Colombia, and it was strange to grow away in so many aspects, and love your people, even though you can’t recognize them anymore. And it’s always horrible to receive bad news, because you wonder if things could have been different or more bearable for you and your loved ones, if you were there.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I’m currently working on a multi-platform animated series! I’m really nervous and so excited! But I have to bite my tongue because although I’d love to share it, I can’t tell much more about it yet, sorry.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I like knitting, writing, building Artist’s Books, walking, skating, riding my pushbike, any contact with Nature, and doing Yoga… Anything that makes me connect thoughts, spirits and generations. It gives me the feeling that nothing is static, like in animation.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?1- Draw as much as you can every day, and if you don’t have a brush, draw with your brain. Observe how light paints it all, and imagine compositions around you. 2- Our favourite images connect with us because they tell us stories or make us go through particular emotions. So always try hard to communicate through them. 3- Avoid repeating yourself and don’t feel satisfied with formulas that seem successful. There’s always a new way of telling a particular story. Explore. Read about the people you admire and learn as much as you can from them. 4- Review as often as possible your strategies to find jobs and to promote yourself as an artist. Things change and you have to keep active. Investigate what’s happening out there so you can envision yourself and your work in the market. 5- Rest. Find ways in which you can get inspired and stimulate your senses so your work is full of life and energy. And remember yourself why is it that you wanted to be a visual storyteller in the first place.