How did you get your start in the animation industry?
I got my first job in the industry at 9 Story (Now Brown Bag films) in Toronto. At the time I was struggling to find my place in the world of professional artists when a friend of mine from college recommended I apply for a position at the studio he was just hired at. I sent them my portfolio and they gave me an animation test to complete.
I didn’t know how to use the software well at all, but I worked tirelessly on it and luckily they saw potential and gave me my first job as an animator on “Spliced!”. Spent a lot of late nights working on that series, but it was well worth it, and the show was a joy to work on as my first project.
What influenced you to become an artist?
I was inspired to become an artist at a very early age. I spent most days drawing with my older brother and coming up with crazy stories and characters. Like most kids, I was a big fan of cartoons, but my perspective changed when I watched Katsuhiro Otomo’s “Akira”. I was entirely too young to watch such a mature film, but at a base level it made me realize that animation did not have to be cartoony and fun all the time. It could be serious, frightening, political, violent, sad, surreal, introspective….
I began to look at animation and art as a means of expression and storytelling and that stuck with me up into adulthood. With my family moving frequently and having to change schools and friends more than I would have liked, Animation, comic books and illustration became a way for me to navigate the twists and turns of life and formed a space where I could be myself.
What projects have you worked on? and what was the most memorable?
So many! I’ve worked on so many TV shows from Max and Ruby and Daniel Tiger’s Neighbourhood to Wildkratts, 101 Dalmatian Street and pilots for Gravity Falls and other shows I can’t even mention.
I enjoyed working on Wildkratts a lot for the educational value and the unique twist on the character designs each episode. It was fun learning about animals as I animated them. I had to study their movements and motivations. The main characters also had new costumes that mimiced that episodes’ animal(s). We got to animate them charging like rhinos, flying like falcons and so many other things.
How has the industry changed since you started?
Artists are being a lot more open and honest about their experiences, which is great, and I’m seeing a lot more diversity. It’s rough starting out because you’re new and have so much to learn about animation and working in a studio environment. That begins to get better as you improve, but it’s good to hear about other peoples’ experiences, especially for the younger artists. That sort of knowledge is important for them to make better decisions about where they want to work and what to expect.
When I starting in the business, I saw very few people who looked like me that were on the floor animating and designing, and much less as supervisors, directors or producers. In a way, it’s hard to picture yourself getting there without having mentors you can identify with doing the thing you’re aspiring to. I still feel a special kinship with the people of colour that I see and/or meet in the business.
Anything else you’d like to mention that I didn’t ask?
Animation has been a great industry to be a part of. It’s not without its low points but it can be extremely rewarding. After ten plus years, I’m still finding challenges and new opportunities that push me creatively.
Art for me has been so much more than a career choice. On my own time I work on my own projects and I think that’s important. Right now I’m working on a graphic novel called “Direwood” that I just completed the Prologue issue for. I think every artist out there has something they want to say or do, and we shouldn’t lose sight of that.