What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Chris Houghton and I am a Storyboard Revisionist at Nickelodeon.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I’ve been lucky enough to always have a decent job. Even as a kid, I enjoyed my jobs: cutting lawns, babysitting, farm work. In High School I worked at a small gym for a couple of years but it was a cake job that allowed me to draw most of the time.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I’m most proud of the comic book series my brother Shane and I have created called Reed Gunther. It’s published by Image Comics but before that we self-published the series. We’ve poured our heart and soul into the comic over the past few years. Every small success the comic has gained, we’ve felt 10 times over.
I’ve always enjoyed animation but I became interested in animation as a career when I was 16. I met a great animator and teacher named Steve Stanchfield who really got me interested in animation. I later went on to study at the College for Creative Studies where Steve taught (and still does) and learned a lot about animation and cartooning as well as fundamental drawing and painting.
I was born and raised in a small farm town in Mid Michigan named St. Johns. I grew up out in the sticks and while we didn’t have cable TV or video games, my brothers and I were always into art and music. My parents were very supportive in anything my brothers and I pursued and still are today (luckily!).
I’ve only recently entered into the animation business but ever since I was 18, I’ve supported myself on my art (I’m 23 now). In High School I was really involved in acting and theater and always designed the play’s promotional posters. I was also doing my own short animations at home and Richard William’s “The Animator’s Survival Kit” became my bible. I read that thing front to back over and over again.
I remember reading it once at my job working at the gym and seeing an example of one of William’s paintings for a dog food advertisement. It was absolutely gorgeous and he did it when he was 17. I was 18 at the time, a year older and I wasn’t anywhere close to as talented as Williams was when he painted that ad. I figured I had a lot of catching up to do if I was serious about supporting myself on my artwork. So I quit my job at the gym and told myself I wasn’t going to take another non-art related job again. And other than painting some apartments with my wife in order to raise money to move out to LA, I’ve kept that promise and hope to for the rest of my life.
I wake up around 7 am and hop on a glamorous LA bus for my hour commute to Burbank. I head into work and meet with my director to see what’s up for the day. He usually gives me a half of a day’s work or so, we go over it, and then I head back to my desk and do the work he just gave me. After I’m finished, I go back to him and we rinse and repeat. He’s a great guy, I like working with him. I leave around 6 pm and get home around 7 pm and that’s when I can work on my own stuff.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
The people I work with. Man, they’re a funny bunch. I laugh, and I mean gut-busting laugh, every day. We give each other stupid drawings throughout the day to keep things interesting. It’s cool being able to go to the pitches and see the latest board I’ll be revising. I also like seeing the finished animation come in from overseas. It’s really rewarding to see a bit of your own work in the finished product.
The repetition. But that comes with the territory of animation. We’ll revise a board sequence and then revise it again and again sometimes. It’s not necessarily anyone’s fault, scenes just sometimes need to be changed a lot. Animation is a crazy way to tell stories because you’re creating everything from scratch. The finished product is worth it though and you usually forget how you were pulling your hair out about this or that scene.
Right now, since I’m new to working at animation studios, it’s just tough to soak it all up. There are so many ways to board, so many great storyboarders, and so much talent around you, it can be intimidating. There are days I come home and my head just hurts. But I’m learning and that’s great, the fact that you can still kind of learn on the job. There’s not as much of that as there used to be but that’s what I like so much about being a revisionist: You have the chance to learn.
I pretty much just draw in Photoshop on a storyboard template with a Cintiq. Other than that we still all draw notes on post-its and work out a lot of the “thinkin’ work” on paper.
I’ve been lucky enough to meet a lot of great artists. Not all of them are in animation but comics, design, and cartooning, yes. I’m a member of the National Cartoonist Society which is a fantastic way to meet some of the older greats still working in the business. As far as the people I work with now? If you don’t know the name Eddie Trigueros, you will soon!
Like everyone, I’ve had tough situations in my life but I try not to focus on them. If shit is in the past, it’s probably best to leave it there.
I’m always working on side projects, that’s where the best stuff happens! Aside from Reed Gunther which is currently my biggest project, I’m a member of Heeby Jeeby Comix which is a group of me and 3 other cartoonists (Bob Flynn, David DeGrand, and Dan Moynihan) doing fun short comics for kids. I’ve also done some small jobs for MAD Magazine recently and am always taking on the occasional freelance job.
I play a few musical instruments, but I’m not sure how unusual that is.
Anyone who’s trying to one day make a living off of their art should start trying to make money off of their art as soon as possible. You don’t have to wait until you’re out of school or until you’ve reached some kind of milestone to start making money off your skills. Use what you’ve got right now and find a market for it. Can you design and illustrate T-shirts? That was my first in-house art job and it was fantastic. Be creative in how you can make money. Don’t wait for some big studio to give you the “okay” to become a working artist. A lot of artists (myself very much included) have low self-esteems when it comes to our art. You can’t allow this to get in the way of applying for jobs or trying to create a job for yourself. You might not be as good as so and so but that doesn’t matter as long as you can fill the needs of your client.
My blog: chrishoughtonart.blogspot.com
The Reed Gunther website: www.reedgunther.com
Steve Stanchfield’s DVDs: http://www.amazon.com/s?ie=