What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Danielle Powers and most recently I’ve worked on a freelance project doing visual development and before that I worked at Nickelodeon as a texture artist apprentice.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Nothing too crazy. I’ve worked at Taco Bell, Albertson’s, and my college library to name a few.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
The Penguins of Madagascar was my favorite project to work on. I was on the show for nearly a year and I’m proud to say I was a part of it and I worked on it from the very beginning, before there was even an art director. I painted A LOT of textures for the character’s habitats which were used in the pilot episode and I see them show up in many current episodes and even Penguins toys at Toys R Us.
How did you become interested in animation?
When I was five, the Little Mermaid had just been released and I was obsessed with it. I remember bringing the video tape to kindergarten to watch in class and feeling very proud that I was the first kid to own the video. As a kid I was always drawing characters from animated movies and shows and making up my own stories and characters. In junior high I had the opportunity to make an animated 30 second commercial with a group of kids. I love it and decided I wanted to be an animator. Of course, in college I changed my mind a few times about what specific job I wanted to do in animation.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from San Diego and I graduated from the Art Institute. After graduating, I applied at many game and animation studios and got hired at Nickelodeon. I then moved to Los Angeles to begin a career in animation.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I’m currently working at home on a few personal projects, while taking care of my three-year son, Royce. When I wake up, Royce and I eat breakfast and play during the morning and usually run a few errands. He goes to pre-school at 2:30 until 6. While he’s in school I work on the computer. Sometimes I also have time to work in the evenings when my husband comes home or after Royce goes to bed.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I love the freedom of working on my own projects in whatever style I want and still spending a good part of the day with my son. Being able to do so keeps my life balanced and I don’t seem to ever get burnt out. I also feel like I have the freedom to fully express my creativity.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
The bad part about working at home is being isolated. I’d much rather work with other artists to learn and stay inspired. Being fairly new to the industry, I think it’s important for me to be surrounded by professional artists who have mastered their jobs. Instead, I make sure to always get my work reviewed by a senior artist in the industry who I trust and respect. I look forward to being in a creative environment again.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The most difficult part for me of working in animation is the difficulty of starting out and establishing a reputation. The bad economy makes it even harder to find work. There are a lot of young artists graduating from school and not enough work for everyone.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I do a lot of digital painting, mostly using Photoshop and a bit of Painter. I haven’t done much 3d lately but at Nickelodeon I used Maya everyday to render and set up the textures I painted.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I’ve met some really great artists in the industry. At the premiere party of Meet the Robinson’s I met Dan Cooper, an art director and amazing painter who I admire.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
In my last year of college, I went through a tough divorce that left me practically homeless and I struggled just to keep two jobs and continue going to school. It was the most difficult time of my life but I managed to get through it and maintain a 4.0. I was determined to finish school no matter what and get my dream job in animation.
Any side projects you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
I’m currently working on artwork for the fairytale Hansel and Gretel. I plan to write and illustrate a book based on the original story which will also become an interactive book for the iphone/ipad. Eventually, I’d like to make it into a movie as well. I started a blog about a year ago dedicated to Hansel and Gretel.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I’m double-jointed. I can bend my fingers back further than anyone I’ve met.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Never give up, always stay inspired, and seek out a mentor already established in the industry to guide and teach you. It’s also important to get your name and work out in the world as much as possible by meeting people, going to networking at events, and using the internet to your advantage. Get a blog or website, put your best work up on it and show it to anyone and everyone that you can. Get LOTS of feedback on your work from great artists in the business and never stop learning and growing. The more skills you develop and the stronger you are, the better your chances are of finding the job you want.