Elliot Cowan

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What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Elliot Cowan.My main gig for the past year or so has been Master Lecturer at the University of the Arts in Philly and other teaching appointments around Manhattan.

What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
One summer I worked for an accounting firm moving all their paperwork from one style of manila envelope to another.It was deathly boring.I spent most of my time making barnyard animals out of Acco fasteners and shooting them off the top of the photocopier with rubber bands.This is the only job I’ve ever had outside of media (I directed live action television commercials for about 10 years).

What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Uli Meyer Animation in London were working on an animated feature project called Monstermania! Uli brought me on board initially to design a nightmare sequence but soon I was doing all kinds of great stuff.My proudest moments have been

with my own short film series “The Stressful Adventures of Boxhead & Roundhead“, a zero budget labor of love that has resulted in 9 shorts, several of them award winning and most of them busy at festivals around the world.


How did you become interested in animation?
I’m not sure.It caught my eye as a kid and I’ve been obsessed ever since, although I was possibly more interested in puppetry at the time because I couldn’t even begin to imagine how animation was made.

Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from Melbourne, Australia.I studied illustration and graphic design at University because at the time the only place to study animation was a post graduate class at the Victorian College of the Arts School of Film and Television.I did my year there then worked at a couple of Melbourne animation studios.I didn’t do that for long before I moved to the island state of Tasmania to work for a small multi media company (do multi media company’s still exist?) where I animated a bunch of television commercials.I bailed on them and went to work for the local television station where I stayed for about 10 years directing low budget commercials and animating a couple of commercials a year.

What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Being a typical member of the New York animation community, it rather depends what job I’ve got on the go.We all tend to do a bit of everything over here. If I’m animating I usually get up, make a cup of tea and start work early – seven or eight o’clock.I usually take a break around eleven for a shower and something to eat and then plough on until the evening.When teaching, I get up at 5am to get the LIRR to Penn Station then the Amtrak to Philly.I guess it’s a typical day teaching – consulting, harassing, advice, pushing students along, that kind of thing.

What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I particularly enjoy boarding.It’s shooting, acting and editing all in one go.When teaching, I get a real kick out of pointing out small but very helpful things that they didn’t know before.

What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Actual animation, probably.There are so many people better than myself and there are so many things in the process that I am much better at.These days commercial work leaves so little time for the animated portion of the proceedings that it’s often not entirely satisfying, either.

What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The lack of stability.Well freelancing is all fun and games when you’re single or your partner is making good money (and is very understanding), but once you have a family you need to support it blows big time.

What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I use After Effects, Photoshop and Painter almost every single day.I do all my drawing in Painter because I think the drawing tools are nicer, although I really only use one or two.I work on a Wacom because I don’t much like the Cintique (nor can we afford one!).

In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I’m not really tempted to rattle off a list of names because I’m more interested in stimulating company than any kind of greatness.

I’m not really a very reverent person either, so greatness doesn’t mean a lot to me.
I’ve fallen into some lovely friendships with some extremely talented and interesting people and they know who they are without me having to crow about it.

Describe a tough situation you had in life
Um….I snapped my Achilles tendon once.That was a bitch.

Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
Sure.We’re currently developing the Boxhead and Roundhead series into a low budget feature.At the moment I’m waiting for my father to arrive from Australia for a visit that should give us a free babysitter for a few weeks and free me up to do some rewrites that I’ve had trouble finding the time to do.As for hobbies, my work and my hobbies are all the same thing.Mostly I draw when I have time, or watch movies.

Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
I always tell my students that there are 3 things they need to do.1) Learn the software.2) Draw better.3) Learn to network and hustle.Unfortunately number 3 is more important that the others, I believe.Ultimately, being a professional artist is about expression, so I’d suggest you work out what you want to say and find a way to express that.

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  1. LOVE the monkey guy on the pole and the fish guy! Great stuff Elliot!

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