What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Brian Hartley and at the moment I’m a Senior Games Artist for Fish in a Bottle, a creative agency based in Leamington Spa. My job covers a wide range of areas from UI design through to character animation.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I’ve been lucky enough to have been involved in games development since leaving college, so there’s not really anything crazy to report.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I really enjoyed working on the point and click adventure we designed at Fish in a Bottle to support the recent Channel 4 animated series, The Full English. It was the first Flash project I’d work on, so there was a pretty steep learning curve, but I think everyone involved was happy with how it turned out. Other than that, I still have a soft spot for MicroMachines on the Sega MegaDrive. Even thought it’s 20 years since the game came out, I still get people telling me how much they loved it.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from Stratford-on-Avon in Warwickshire, and my first job in games development was for Codemasters. I’d never really used a computer for anything creative, but I somehow managed to convince them that I was worth taking on with a couple of sketchbooks. That was 25 years ago though – I’m guessing their entry requirements are a bit higher now 😉
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
There really is no such thing as a typical day at Fish in a Bottle. We tend to work on fairly small projects with a quick turnaround, so I could be working on anything from character animation to creating assets for game menus etc. Whatever I’m working on though, it almost always involves firing-up Flash.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
At the moment I’m really enjoying getting to grips with Flash. Before joining Fish in a Bottle I worked at various games studios as an Environment Artist, creating assets for console games such as ‘SpongeBob Squarepants – Creature from the Krusty Krab’ and ‘Epic Mickey 2’. But I have always been fascinated by animation and was keen to steer my career in a direction which would enable me to work on projects that allowed me to explore 2D animation and to hopefully bring some of my own characters to life.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
I’d have to say that at times my job can be quite frustrating. Sometimes this frustration arises from not having enough time on a project to fully explore and experiment with different techniques and approaches and sometimes it might be down to dealing with clients who might not fully appreciate the development process. I’m guessing most people involved in any sort of creative industry will be able to identify with these.
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?
At the moment I spend most of my working day in Flash, but I also use Photoshop and Illustrator. The biggest impact I’ve felt on my career has not come so much from changing technology, but has more to do with my decision to steer my career in a slightly different direction. The environment work I did for console games mainly involved modelling 3D assets in Maya and texturing them in Photoshop. These days I’m more likely to be creating character animations in Flash.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
For me, the most difficult thing is trying to keep up with a constantly evolving industry. Much of the work I do at the moment is for online games and handheld devices. The way games and apps are designed and published keeps evolving and it’s a constant challenge to keep up with these changes while at the same time creating the best possible content.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Coming from a games development background, I haven’t really had much opportunity to deal with animation greatness. I’m hoping to get to a few animation festivals this year though, so fingers crossed I’ll bump into someone.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
To be honest, I haven’t really had to deal with anything that tough. Fingers crossed it stays that way.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I do undertake small freelance projects if I can find the time to fit them in. These have mostly been character design jobs for websites etc. and each one has come with a different set of challenges. I also have plans for a some short animations. At the moment they’re at a very early stage of development, but I’m hoping to get something done over the next few months. Whether they end-up being a series of unrelated shorts, or a more character based mini-series I’m not sure. As and when there’s anything more concrete to report, I daresay I’ll stick something up on my website.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Nothing unusual I’m afraid 😉
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Keep learning and keep making things – whether it’s writing or character design or animation, if you have a passion and you’re prepared to put in the effort, someone, somewhere will spot you.