What is your name and your current occupation?
Carolyn Guske Freelance: Background painter, visual development, character painter, illustrator, fine artist
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Gave horseback riding lessons, night manager at the Pottery Barn.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
The Black Cauldron, Tazmania, Roger Rabbit, The Little Mermaid, Prince of Egypt, Eldorado, Spirit, Surfs Up, the Tinkerbell books
How did you become interested in animation?
My neighbor growing up was Al Wilzbach a Disney animator, he always encouraged me to live a creative life to draw and paint.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
Born and raised in So. Cal., Van Nuys. When I was 19, Al told me the studio Animation Camera was hiring for Ink and paint that I should tell them I could do it and they would train me. Pam Heider hired me and her sister Vicky Jenson trained me. In the 80’s when Ink and paint was heading overseas I went back to art school for many years and learned Illustration and how to paint backgrounds.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I have a full home set up so if I’m doing freelance I take care of correspondence first thing in the morning. I do my fine art until the afternoon then work on freelance late into the evening. If I’m in a studio environment I’ll work all day then do my fine art at night.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I love taking a simple line drawing and pushing and pulling the paint until you have a really nice painting that works with the style of the show your on. I’ve always loved working with color and how that brings an amazing dimension to a great drawing. Working with such talented artists where your all pulling together to make something original and unique that will be around for generations to come there’s nothing else quite like it.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Months of overtime, it’s very difficult to stay creative when your tired and overwhelmed.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Finding consistent work. If I’m working then trying to find jobs for the other great artists I know who are out of work.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the best artists and directors in the world. Robert Zemeckis made it a point to meet and encourage every artist even us ink and paint girls on Roger Rabbit. I met Roy Disney and had the opportunity to thank him for all he had done for Disney animation.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
At 22 I was diagnosed with Myasthenia Graves and told I would be in a wheel chair by the time I was 40. At the time it did make me get serious about being an artist instead of a horse trainer, figured I could still work sitting down at a desk in animation. I’m happy to say after major surgery I’ve been in remission/cured over 25 years. 2009 was a bad time, my husband and I lost everything we owned in the wildfires in LA. We had 5 minute notice and got ourselves and animals out alive. I lost all my personal paintings plus animation cels from movies I had worked on plus cels Al had given me as a kid from Alice in Wonderland and Peter pan. Between losing everything, battles with the insurance co, battles with LA county about rebuilding, moving 5 times in 2 years and trying to find long term employment, it’s been tough.
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
I paint Heritage Farm animals that are becoming extinct. I’m trying to raise awareness about these rare beautiful breeds through my paintings so they won’t disappear. I visit farms and take photos or use farmers photos to do my drawings then paintings from. You can see my paintings on my website. I still ride horses, own a black Morgan gelding and my husband has a leopard appaloosa.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Can tie a cherry stem…
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Keep working on your art, draw all the time, visit art shows take seminars from artists you admire, keep growing. Share what you know, be kind, don’t be afraid to start at the bottom to get your foot in the door. The animation business is like a big family, try very hard to get along and play well with others.
Great interview, Carolyn. Sorry to hear about the hard times. Glad you’re OK. God bless you!