What is your name and your current occupation?
I’m Travis Overstreet and I’m the lead designer and animator at Crawford Media in Atlanta, Georgia.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
For the most part I waited tables to put myself through school but there were a couple of interesting odd jobs sprinkled in. The most interesting one would have to be the steel fabrication shop I worked in for a summer. I was raised in the south but I never really picked up the culture so I stuck out like a sore thumb. We had to be there every morning at 4:30am and being the smart person I am I went to see the midnight release of Star Wars 3. Needless to say I didn’t get any sleep that night and during my shift the next day I dozed off while using a machine and fractured a piece of metal sending a small fragment into my forearm. Even though I hated the hours I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to work with.
How did you become interested in animation?
Cartoons were the best things on television. Cartoon network didn’t come along until I was in middle school so cartoons were a precious commodity. If I wasn’t watching them I was drawing them in my notebooks. I started becoming more interested in the making of animation in high school. Luckily I had the Atlanta College of Art in my back yard so I started taking Saturday classes. For the most part they offered fine arts classes like figure drawing and painting, but every so often I picked up an animation course. I don’t know when it dawned on me but eventually I realized that I might be able to get paid for animation. Needless to say once I learned that I could do animation everyday and get paid there was no way I was going to do anything else for a living.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from Atlanta, Georgia and my entry into the animation field was part hard work, part talent, and part luck. My school was offering a class that was partially lead by a local creative studio (Crawford Media). The goal of the class was for teams of 2-5 students to produce a finished animated short. At the conclusion of the class I applied for an open position with Crawford and was offered a position.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
It’s always a bit of a toss up for me; due to the fact that we take on a variety of projects and that I wear multiple hats. I usually spend the first thirty minutes checking and answering emails. After that I’ll usually start in on modeling, boarding, or animating.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I like the fact that we’re always getting in new projects. Every piece we make is different and offers its own unique set of problems. I’ve only been here a year but I’ve had to develop a lot more as an artist. I actually enjoy it when a client comes in with certain stipulations for a piece because it forces me to be even more creative. By adding in what seem like obstacles you’re forced to think of a way around them or of a way to use them to your advantage.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
The worst thing in the world to me is a client who doesn’t trust me creatively. Staying on brand and getting the right message across is one thing, but telling me how to do my job is another story. Its like if I took my car to a mechanic and asked him to fix a certain part on my car and then proceed to tell him/her how to install it. Needless to say I can’t even change my oil so I probably wouldn’t be driving out of that shop.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
My bread and butter is Photoshop. I still have a physical sketchbook but that’s usually only used for travel. Almost every project I work on starts in or uses Photoshop. For 3-D my favorite program is Z-Brush. I love its new dynamesh feature that lets me sculpt on the fly. I could sit and sculpt for hours.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The most frustrating thing about the business to me is that I can’t work on my own work. I think that seeing your own ideas come to fruition is the ultimate goal for any artist; and to be able to make a living creating your own work is ideal. I feel like I’ve jumped one hurdle by being able to do the things I love for a living but my next goal is to get paid to create my own original content and get paid for it.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I’ve been really lucky in that department. I went to grad school at Savannah College of Art in Design in Atlanta and I still can’t believe the quality of faculty they have there. One of my most influential professors was and is Matt Maloney. He’s an incredibly successful and brilliant independent animator. He’s currently working on a new film and you can watch his progress at angry-animation.com. I’ve also had a few geek out moments at SCAD. My first animation professor was Gregg Azzopardi who was animator for Disney throughout the 90’s. At one point he brought in a ton of pencil tests and sketches from Tarzan and Pochahauntus and I lost my mind. Lastly the head of their stop mo department is Becky Wible Searles. Her company did the stop mo bumps and ads for Nickelodeon in the 90’s. They’re all extremely humble and helpful people and I am truly fortunate to have learned from them.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Life is tough in general, especially being in this industry. The trick is learning to enjoy the challenge of it all and learning to make it work for you. If we didn’t go through hell every now and then we wouldn’t have anything to make art about. I was watching a tutorial by Iain Mccaig recently and he pointed out that in the history of religious painting all the really interesting scenes are of hell and evil. All the depictions of heaven and angels are relatively boring. People just want a taste of happiness but what they really like to see is the struggle; they want to see the triumph. Whatever you’re going through just keep making art.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I started working on some live action film making with some friends lately. We just finished a short and we’ll be posting our next short on Friday August 3rd. You can find us at http://www.facebook.com/ChorusFilms. Other than that you can keep track of my own work at travisoverstreet.wordpress.com.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I can do a split. This may not seem impressive at first but I’m a 6’4” 250lb guy. I did karate growing up and the flexibility thing never really went away. If you watch The Chorus’ new short on their facebook you can catch me doing a split.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Be honest with yourself and be persistent. Find people who are doing what you want to do and look at their work. Find out how they approach their work and learn from them. Other than that it’s just about making work. It doesn’t matter how “good” you think you are, its all about making work.