What is your name and your current occupation?
Jennifer Adkins – Freelance Artist/Animator
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I was a junior processor for a mortgage company just before the bubble burst. It was interesting to say the least.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I worked on a HTTYD build your own dragon promotion game. It was a fun time of cutting out dragon parts and then putting them back together again to make them fly and breath fire. My current and most ambitious project is a animated interactive computer based training for a non-profit hospital. It has been a trial of endurance but very rewarding.
How did you become interested in animation?
From very early on I loved to draw. I watched Disney and Don Bluth movies repeatedly and note every movement. I had plans to create my own films, I would write notes and draw characters and even assign my friends to voice roles. I still have that goal, but it takes a lot longer to achieve than I originally thought.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I currently live in Atlanta, Ga, but I’ve lived all over. I guess you could say I got into the business by brute force. I couldn’t afford animation school so I ended up in a junior college learning graphic and web design in 2000 where I was introduced to Flash. Overall the class was slow going, so I spent a lot of time in class animating little characters. As I read more books and became more intimate with the software I quit my job and ventured to take contract work. At first it was mostly for websites as it was the easiest work to find, but now I am more selective in my work and try to focus on the character art and animation side of my business. It was a trial by fire but I survived and now I’ve been self employed for almost 5 years.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I get up at about 8am, make a cup of coffee, check my emails, pet the dog and then get to work. Then I take a break, hop on the elliptical, look at my little garden and then back to work. I work in my pajamas, it’s lovely.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I get to draw for a living. Something I like to do already and someone is paying me for it. It still blows my mind. That and the pjs.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Well my career is fun but not exactly what I want yet. I haven’t worked on an actual television series, but I know there are studios around and it’s only a matter of time. I think Atlanta is ripe for a new animation scene. We have our own flavor over here. I’m not saying I would turn down an offer from over there in California, but I want to see the animation culture thrive here in this amazing city I’ve made my home.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Switching up between projects actually. Of course right now because of my freelance lifestyle I’ll be setting up a WordPress one minute, animating in Flash the next, and creating characters or mascots the next. So sometimes it takes a minute to switch the gears in my brain and I think it slows me down a little.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Adobe products and a Wacom tablet on a desktop PC. I also use pencil and paper and occasionally a scanner.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Well, I’m friends with Don Bluth on Facebook? But, really though, I’ve talked to a lot of pretty awesome people in the industry that have had advice or encouraging words for me. The internet makes it a lot easier to ask the right people questions and generally I find they are extremely helpful.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Well, after quitting my job at the mortgage company I struggled pretty hard for a year before work started becoming steady and I really got the hang of it. I wouldn’t recommend taking that leap unless you are comfortable with eating ramen and beans and have a fall back plan.
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
Well I have this project I’ve already planned out fairly well that is just going by the working title of “Space Knights”. Its a parody of the toy-selling shows from the 80’s and 90’s in a Filmation-like style. I find the rotoscoped detailed style mixed with sloppy small budget animations particularly hilarious.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Hmmm…Do I? Well I do have this strange ability to use puns subconsciously. Often people actually have to point out that I made a pun because I’m completely unaware of it until after I’ve said it. And it happens all the time.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
I think the animation industry is pretty intimidating from the outside. It actually takes a lot of work just to figure out the right channels to go through and how the industry works. My advice is to seek out people already in the industry and just ask the questions you have. Get on forums. Read other peoples experiences and become friends with other animators. Keep working on your techniques and trying to better your skills. If you put your best work out there and talk to the right people eventually you will land the work. Also I would like to suggest a book that has helped me understand it better: Creating Animated Cartoons with Character. I think Joe Murray does a fine job of outlining the general process and his story of breaking into the industry is very compelling.