What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Ashlyn Anstee, and I’m a story artist at JibJab Media in Venice, California!
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
A few memorable summers, I worked at the Lost Kids center at an amusement park in Vancouver, BC. Basically, we would be on the lookout for kids that parents had lost (usually involving a lot of crying parents), or taking care of kids who wanted to find their parents. The latter were the tough ones, because usually they’d be with us for a while, because the parents wouldn’t want to come find them. Once, we had a kid with us for four hours, and he bit someone. We finally found his parents, but then an hour later, his identical twin brother walked into our center. We flipped out.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I’ve done a lot of work for JibJab’s new StoryBots project- lots of fun videos, and most particularly, a line of books for the iPad. I’ve had the chance to illustrate and write a few books, and it’s been amazing. I’ve grown in leaps and bounds- there are so many strong artists here. It’s fun to be a part of a new project too. It’s like a big blue sky and we can create what’s in it.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from Vancouver, BC, Canada, and of course, went to school at Sheridan College just outside of Toronto. I’ve actually always just loved stories. I read a lot as a kid, and wanted to be an improvisor for a really long time. Once I started to draw in high school, it was only a matter of time before everything collided and I decided to do animation.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I walk to work about 9 oclock. I usually grab a coffee and a tea, it helps to be surrounded by beverages, I think. I’ll check emails, give notes, and that sort of thing for about an hour, and then I’ll get into the meat of whatever I’m working on. There’s not really a typical day as far as projects go- sometimes it’s a book, sometimes it’s an ecard that I’m animating, sometimes I’m making animatics. I like the variety! Each day is different.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I love the people I work with, and how many new things I get to do each day. Because I’m pretty new to this industry, I feel like I have lots to learn, and it’s a great environment to be a part of.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
That’s a tough one. I guess the hardest thing about working in animation is deadlines. You have to eventually hand something in, even if you want to noodle it forever. It’s great, because it stops you from overworking things, but it is hard not to spend forever on something.
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 work on a small cintiq usually, and have for the last 4 years (since the last few years of school). The difference between a cintiq and a tablet for me has mostly been speed. Despite that, I still thumbnail and do a lot of my previs on paper. Printer paper feels very loose and faster than even a cintiq. So, in that stage of the process, I’m mostly a luddite. I think towards the future, I could see a more portable monitor or tablet PC making it even more easy to take your work on the road.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The hardest part for me so far has been balancing work, life, and personal art. Everything vies for time, and I think it’s similar for a lot of fields. It’s hard to unplug from work and remember that you need to go out and live a little bit! Otherwise, you’ll burn out, and you won’t like anything anymore.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
My teachers, coworkers, and friends, every day. That being said, Mo Willems once came into work, and I couldn’t speak for a few minutes. He is so cool!
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Moving from Canada to America has been a big change, and took a lot longer to adjust than what I thought. It’s hard to move away from family and friends, to a whole new place, but after the period of adjustment, it’s been great. There are so many wonderful artists in LA, and there are so many things to do and see. There are way more opportunities here to flourish as an animator.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I’m always working on something! I’m slowly working on a film about the Big Bang, and a few picture books and comics things. I’ve also been working on making gifs in the last year!
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I really love learning new things. I’ve taken a lockpicking class recently. I’m also very good at patting cats.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?I think the best advice I can give for aspiring students and artists is to enjoy what you’re doing, and share it! Whenever you make something, if you’re proud of it, put it online. Run a tumblr, twitter, blog, or anything. If no one can find your work, it’s harder for them to know you’re there! You’ll also be more excited if you become part of the art community. It’s a small world, and friends help friends in a business like this. Also, don’t lose hope. It’s tough to break in, but very rewarding when you do.