What is your name and what is your current occupation?
My name is Daphne van der Zanden. I’m 23 years old and proud Junior Game Artist at GamePoint, which is stationed in The Hague (The Netherlands). I’m the first female tribute to enter GamePoint’s art department. Such princess, so much sparkles (such an annoying-talky-talktress)!
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Well, I’ve actually had multiple jobs which seem almost too horrid to be named. I started some of them out of interest, and some of them out of desperation or for financial reasons. I had a very interesting job at the local theatre when I was 16 years of age. I was having a tough time and didn’t want to wear girly clothes. They managed to put me in a fancy hostess outfit and instructed: “Attend your post near the exit and be pretty, pretend you’re important”. It was a simple job of repeating “welcome” and “goodnight” to all of the theatre’s guests. However, this job seemed to have a very positive effect on me. When I walked trough those humongous doors, I suddenly transformed from a scruffy tomboy into a true lady. I had several jobs scooping ice cream. I didn’t mind working hard with blisters on my hands, but my boss yelled at me and didn’t treat me very nicely. One day, for example; a little 3-year-old came to the salon with his parents. After checkout the little boy became so excited he dropped his ice-cream. I’ve never seen a kid go from ecstatic to heartbroken so quickly. I gave him a new ice cream with an extra scoop of strawberry top. “On the house! Because you have such a pretty smile! Can you give me another one of those smiles?” His tears suddenly disappeared and he laughed “Thank you!” My boss was doing some paperwork in the back and overheard the commotion. He dashed into the saloon and yelled ” You can’t give away free ice cream to ignorant kids! It’s their own fault if they drop it!” He fired me the next day.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I’ve done an assignment working for Belle-Laide Events in Sydney. They briefed to design & draw stage pieces in digital format. I loved drawing an extensive series of digital background decor pieces of Fairfax media’s Christmas event themed ”Escape to Neverland”. A giant 3D illustrated Peter Pan book set the scene. A four-meter-tall paper pirate ship sailed at the back of the dance floor, while paper mountain ranges loomed over the Lost Boys; even the Pan crocodile appeared on the first floor. Of the nearly 1300 guests attending, about 98 percent were in costume. People were dressed as Snow White, Smurfs, Mary Poppins, Super Mario Bros, the Hulk, crayons, pirates, 101 Dalmatians, superheroes and fairies.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m a Dutch girl from a town in the south of the Netherlands. I managed to get involved in the wondrous world of game design even though I wasn’t raised with videogames at all. I was brought up in a woodland environment. I’ve spent a lot of time outside building tree houses and treasure hunting across imaginary seas. I was a very introverted kid armed with a playful imagination. I spend a lot of time drawing during classes on high school, actually… a little bit too much. My math teacher approached me one day “Ok Daphne, I see you drawing all the time. I’m going to rip all the pages out of your math notebook that include your silly drawings!” … These wasn’t a single page left. I guess he had a point. It wasn’t so difficult to choose a college program; I went to Saint Lucas University and graduated as a graphic designer. Whereas I did learn a lot of things about drawing, it wasn’t quite the working environment I needed. I started freelancing afterwards and practised my conceptual skills out of interest. New people noticed my work and hired me on the spot! It just… happened.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
My job includes a phenomenon called ‘tickets’. My manager assigns them to me with a description and references. These tickets could be anything; commercial advertisement, in-game design, campaigns, features, upgrades, adaptions, or concepts. Some tickets keep me occupied for weeks, some just a few hours. I enjoy the fact my executives trust my judgement and don’t interfere with my creative process too much “Daphne, just draw a pretty picture, we’ll see what happens!” Best. Job. Ever. There’s also the ‘hoover-challenge’ when a manager from another department hoovers inside our territory and he “needs something very quick! NOW! No wait… he needed it YESTERDAY!” I feel appreciated and useful when I’m able to help out in such situations.
I prefer Adobe Photoshop, but we design/develop our characters & landscapes in Adobe Illustrator. There are tickets requiring a lot of creativity and digital painting and less creative tickets which include composing existing images with typography. It seems fair to balance them out and work on two projects at once so you have the opportunity to switch once in a while.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Being a part of a creative community and having a purpose. It feels rewarding that my ideas and artworks are fully appreciated! It’s an amazing thing to be a part of a team and contribute to a project. When I was selected to visit GamesCom in Köln backstage for 3 days to represent my company, I couldn’t be happier. Representing the company I work for is a thing I see as an incredible honor. My job enables my financial independence and for that it gets my unconditional gratitude, cooperation, loyalty, and creative homemade muffins in return.
A friend of mine didn’t understand what all the exploding excitement was all about “What’s so exciting about that? It’s a short trip and you have to sacrifice your free days for this event”. I couldn’t care less about my holidays, I’m grateful for every small opportunity I’m given to experience new adventures.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
I still need to get used working 9 hours a day at an office. Even more difficult: 9 hours on a single chair. I have some difficulty keeping my focus at times – usually caused by working on a monotone, long-term project, extreme temperatures, thunderstorms (panic attack alert!) or extreme lack of sleep. I was used to a very liberal lifestyle before I got a job at the office. I spent two hours at the gym every morning, started drawing afterwards from noon until night with a lot of walks on the beach in between. Sometimes I just need to take a walk outside or do something more physical instead of laying eggs all day long. I’m an adventurer, not a yuppie!
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis, how has technology changed in the last few years in your field and how has that impacted you in your job?
Working with my Wacom tablet in Photoshop. It’s been a epic battle, but I think I’ve finally defeated my impatience. I also have this funny habit of being too used to the CMD + Z hotkey. When I’m putting on make up and make a mistake “Oh shoot! CMD + Z… oh wait. It doesn’t work in real life”. My fingers make the keyboard motion at those awkward times. It happens when I spill a drink, drop my ATM card at the checkout, or even choose the wrong shampoo bottle in the shower. On my first day of at the job, I choose to bring my own Wacom Bamboo to the office. “You never know, maybe they don’t have enough equipment”. Boy, was I wrong! My new co-workers noticed my silly little Wacom Bamboo in my backpack “Awh! That’s so adorable, bringing your little Bamboo! Aaaawh, so cute!” They gave me a large Wacom Intuos Pro in return and I’ve never again wanted to switch back to my old ways. NEVAH!
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The difficult part for me is being highly underestimated. Because something’s fresh or innovative doesn’t mean my initiatives should be shot like its turkey-hunting season. It’s a joy to invest my time, energy and unconditional love into a project if I’m being taken seriously. I’ve witnessed an unhealthy dose of pride and prejudice in the creative field. When operating in team projects my ideas were frequently called ridiculous. When someone else came up with the exact same idea – one week later – it suddenly transformed from “foolish” into “BRILLIANT”. Instead of releasing a giant octopus to consume their souls, I figured it would be smart to choose my battles wisely.