What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Stephanie Olesh and I am currently a freelance visual development artist.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Nothing too crazy. I’ve been a cashier and a shelf stocker, and I can operate a copy machine. One summer I had a job reading submissions for children’s books at a major publishing house. Another time my job was to keep arcade machines filled with prize tickets.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I’m really proud for having worked on numerous projects at Gas Powered Games. Working there as a concept and UI artist was really the best postgraduate education I could have asked for. I loved working as part of that team, and I think we made some really unique work.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from Omaha, Nebraska. Although art school was a natural choice for me, it didn’t occur to me right away that I could make a living in animation. Once I made that connection however, I fell in love and have been pursuing ever since.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I still do quite a bit of job hunting on a day to day basis. That aside, I’ve just finished some art for a mobile game pitch, and now I’m designing characters and environments for an animated short. There is no typical day!
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
The part where I’m still trying something different with every new project.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Sitting all day. I may need a better chair.
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 use photoshop and a tablet everyday, which is a big technological leap from the charcoal and gouache of art school. The use of screen sharing programs to work with people in other parts of the world has also been really amazing!
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
There is definite uncertainty about where this industry is headed, and it’s natural to feel anxiety about it and where one fits in the picture. Controlling these feelings can be hard some days. Doing something productive is usually the cure.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I think everyone in animation is great! But I did get to say hello to Brad Bird at an early screening of the Incredibles.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Moving back to Nebraska after college to live with my parents was demoralizing and a little scary. Jobs were hard to come by, I had few connections and no experience. Finding my place as an artist has been years in the making, and is still a work in progress.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
In my spare moments I noodle with character designs and storyboards for what may be a picture book or comic someday. I’m also constantly working on personal paintings, for the sake of having constant practice.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I’m a fanatic for Dance Dance Revolution! But classic mode only, please.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business? Don’t be shy! You need your friends. Make time for art every day if possible, and constantly refresh your portfolio.