What is your name and current occupation?
My name is Andy Clark and I currently work at Nickelodeon Animation Studio as a Background Painter on the cartoon series SpongeBob SquarePants.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I guess I would have to say serving in the Marines. There’s nothing quite like blowing stuff up and having people take pot shots at you.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I have had some really interesting jobs working in editorial illustration and development but the highlight has be my current job on SpongeBob.
How did you become interested in animation?
Hours and hours of Johnny Quest, Hong Honk Phooey and Scobby Do.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I am originally from Phoenix and I settled in Los Angeles after I finished my commitment in the Marines. I actually never planned to work in the entertainment industry I just kind of land here. My intention throughout art school was just to focus on being a proficient draftsman and painter. Somewhere around my last year of art school I realized I was up to my neck in debt and needed a job to support my family. All my classmates were getting hired by Disney and Dreamworks at that time so I started shopping my portfolio around and landed a gig at Hanna-Barbera painting backgrounds on Gendy Tartakofski’s show Dexter’s Lab.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I usually meet in the morning with the Art Director to discuss the current episode we are working on to get his notes and then it’s all about painting.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I would have to say it’s the people. To be around such fun loving and talented creative individuals is nirvana. It keeps you young and pushes your creative comfort zones. It’s the closet thing to being back in school.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Office politics. It’s an inherent part of the industry but one I try to steer clear of like the plague.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The turn around of jobs in the business is pretty quick and that can be a challenge. Unless you are under contract with a major studio and then maybe you have some longevity. As an artist working in television you are lucky if the production you are working on is around for a couple of years and then you are scrambling to locate your next home. Networking and maintaining good relationships is paramount. I have been very blessed to have been in one place for so long. And it’s probably time for a change.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I paint traditionally with acrylic and use Photoshop extensively.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I guess that depends. I consider many of my colleagues to be great at what they do but they are not famous for it. If you are asking for names I would have to say Steve Hillenburg, Butch Hartman and Barry Jackson to name a few.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I think there was a time when I had just gotten out of the Marines and I was working in retail as a manager of a mens high fashion clothing store and I was up for a promotion for regional manager and I decided to turn down the promotion and follow my dream of being an artist. That was pretty scary. I had a family at the time with a new born baby and I was basically walking away from a steady paycheck and a promotion to follow a childhood dream. I remember my wife at the time wsa not altogether thrilled with my choice but I was compelled to do it. I made a decision very early on that the best investment I could make for my future was in me and what was going to bring me joy. It was a little like running away to join the circus.
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
I am currently working on two cartoon ideas that I will be pitching at Nickelodeon this fall. I am also working to make my mark on the gallery market here in Los Angeles with my personal paintings and drawings.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I have tried to impress a few ladies with the cherry stem trick but I only end up drooling like a St. Bernard.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
There is no better investment you will every make other than in yourself. If animation is where you want to be then surround yourself with like minded people, stay focused on your goals and don’t be swayed by the naysayers or the occasional setback. I’d also say reach out and pick a few brains. There is no room for shyness or false modesty in this arena. You’d be surprised what can happen from a cold call to an Art Director. Be a little audacious and have the eye of the tiger.
Treat every encounter as a student and learn as much as you can on the way. Like much of life it’s the journey not the destination. So much of the business is just being at the right place at the right time. Put the time in and keep at. I think about the book Outliers and how to be a master of anything takes ten thousand hours.
When it comes to applying for a job I think of it in terms of an audition for a part in a play. If I don’t get the job it just means I wasn’t right for the part and something else is around the corner. That’s not to say it’s not competitive out there because it surely is. You absolutely need to have the chops to make it. One of the biggest mistakes I see is animation students and artists alike forsaking the foundations of drawing and painting for the panacea of the computer. Nothing can replace a competent draftsman or painter with a solid vision. There is no Photoshop filter for that I’m afraid. The computer is just another tool in the artist’s arsenal and not a replacement for good solid design and a solid foundation in drawing and painting.