What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Sam Rusztyn, and I’m currently working as a background painter on the children’s television show Arthur.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I haven’t really had many crazy jobs before animation. I used to do data entry for a dental transition company and I also used to help out with children’s craft sessions at a local art gallery. Working with kids, painting and creating was very inspiring!
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Aside from working on my student film, one of my favourite projects was working on The Adventures of Chuck and Friends. It was my first job as a matte painter which is why it is special to me. I learned a ton working on that show, and I was given the freedom to experiment with colour and lighting and I really loved that aspect of my job!
How did you become interested in animation?
Since I was little, I drew and painted constantly, watched a lot of Disney movies. I think I was 11 when I realized that working in animation could be a job. When I was 15 I was able to take a few classes at the Disney Institute for classical animation and from that day I knew that was the field I wanted to work in.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from St. Catharines Ontario, and I got into the animation business after completing my four year B.A. in Animation at Sheridan.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I get up pretty early, and I start work right away. I currently work from home, so it’s convenient to work and then take a break when you need to. I begin by seeing what backgrounds I want to work on that day, and what else I have to accomplish, whether I have retakes or fixes that need to be done, and also how many backgrounds I want to finish on that particular day. Sometimes things don’t go as I plan, and it can change from day to day but that keeps it interesting. After I finish my paintings for my job, I then move onto other projects, which could be working on my own projects and paintings, or working on projects for others.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I love learning new things. So when I started working on Arthur, there were a lot of new techniques to learn, and also new software. I love a challenge, and Arthur has given me the opportunity to further develop my skills. Also when you work with new people, you can expand on their knowledge from working in the industry, and that really helps to grow as a person and as an artist. I’ve been trying to absorb everything like a sponge, since technology is constantly changing and people are always willing to share tips or advice on how to expand your skills.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
My current job is quite different from my last job because it’s freelance. I work remotely, so I don’t have the interaction with people in a studio. It was an adjustment to get used to at the beginning, because I had always worked in a studio environment. With working in a studio, I liked being able to go over to a colleague and ask for advice or an opinion for something you might have gotten stuck with. When working remotely you still have that, but in email form, so I guess it’s just different.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Currently I work with Photoshop and Flash and a tablet. I also have a widescreen monitor as I like a larger work area. I know a lot of people like using Cintiq’s but I prefer having a tablet and a wider monitor.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Finding work after you finish a contract can be frustrating and you can lose your confidence quite quickly if you can’t find a new job. I definitely questioned my skills and ability, but was driven to work harder expand my skills in order to find new work. I have gone through this a bunch of times now, and it’s easier the more it happens. Now I look at it as a breather to re-evaluate my next move.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I’ve worked with a lot of great people, and met some very talented people along the way. I haven’t met anybody I idolized from a young age, but someday I hope to be able to meet some of them.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I think everybody goes through tough situations in life. I’m not really sure of a specific situation to describe that has happened to me. I know that tough situations I’ve had in life made me focus more on what I really want in life. I know that I became more focused at a younger age on the career path I wanted to take because of something that happened to me. I’ve learned that over-coming adversity makes you a stronger person, and witnessing or experiencing difficulty can make you a more compassionate human being. So while everybody goes through tough situations, I hope that mine have made me a better person.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I’ve been working on a collaborative short animated film. I also have been working on my own animated short, which is still in its initial stages. I have a lot of paintings on the go as well. I always have a lot of side projects on the go outside of my fulltime job and tend to bounce between them.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Not really unusual talents or hobbies. I’ve played piano since I was 5 and I also have a horse and ride dressage.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
I think the most important advice I can give, is what I’ve learned myself. I’ve learned that it is important to listen and trust your instinct. You have to believe in your ability and work really hard to achieve your goals. If it’s your passion then it won’t be as difficult to find extra time to work outside of your day job or school because you enjoy what you’re working on. There will be times that it still can be frustrating even if you enjoy it, but those frustrating times will make you a better artist. Draw (or paint) as often as you can, and enjoy the journey, while still focusing on the destination.