Saturday, January 25, 2014

2013: Mission Successful!

I did a year in review for 2012, so might as well do the same for last year. Especially considering that last year I finally got my first creative job and currently still proud to call myself an animator on Disney XD's Randy Cunningham for Boulder Media.

September 2012 I made a commitment to become a full-time artist by September 2013. I posted this on facebook and also shared my journey through my blog and facebook page. I quit my job as a team manager in 2012 to move to Dublin City where I took on an easy job as a customer service rep for a start up company. I wanted to have easy access to life drawing and have a job where once you go home, you can switch off and just focus on doing art. By January I was happy with the steady amount of hours of drawing I put in and my development in gesture drawings. But while my drawing skills had gotten better, I didn't really feel I was getting close to achieve my goal. I needed to take the next step which was to get back into animation....

In 2009 I did 1 year of a 4 year degree course where we covered the basics of traditional 2D animation (yes, that's pencil and paper) and some 3DSMAX. The problem (or at least the excuse I used) was that I didn't have an animation desk, camera and paper to do handdrawn animation. And I never liked any of the digital options since lots of it seemed to be vector (Flash) which I hated. But if I wanted to get a job, I figured a job as an animator was going to be my best shot. There are many companies in Ireland using Flash for tv animation (a lot of it aimed at very young children).

Luckily I stumbled on Michael Mattesi's website who I was really into at the time for his teachings on drawing the figure. And it turns out he was doing a 10 week course covering FORCE in animation.

We would start with the bouncing ball and work our way up to some character animation.  There were a few challenges:

1) The weekly lecture with feedback was at 3am in the mornings (since he lives in the US). These are recorded, so I could watch them the next day but then I wouldn't have the opportunity to ask questions during my feedback round. So for 10 weeks I got up at 3am on Tuesdays to attend the lectures and then get ready to go to work.

2) He was only teaching about animation principles and how to use force in your work. So HOW you get your homework done was your own problem :P Which meant that apart from doing the homework I also had to teach myself how to do digital animation. I ended up using a combination of Flash and Photoshop.
3) Time commitments. The "easy" job I took on happened to take a lot more of my time than expected. We had a really heavy workload and I ended up working 10 hours a day or more on average, which obviously cuts in on the time I had for the course.

With my course finished I started to work on a series of commissions (that came to me..I didn't pro-actively go out to find them). Including a small job animating a runcycle, jumpcycle and victory dance for an i-pad game. I don't know what happened to the project, but as far as I know it never made it out to the market..but that didn't bother me. I had one piece of professional animation in Flash that I could use for my reel.

During the time I was doing my animation course I had stopped going to life drawing..unfortunately I still needed to sleep once and a while :) So in May I started going back to life drawing, started drawing in pubs, cafe's and parks and generally just loving art. Did I put a showreel together, did I do some additional animation? No...September was still a while away, no pressure right?

And then...3 days before my birthday my manager called me up and told me that I was being let go at work. The company was struggling and the market I was working for was almost non existing (and true enough I was working for the UK and Irish market 95% of the time instead of my own). That was the first time in my life I had ever lost a job...but the good news was that I was paid a full month's wage without having to go to work. This meant I had some time to try and find work without having to go look for another office job.

I was working as a freelancer and finally put a showreel together with my college work from 4 years ago and some of the new animations I did during the course. I sent an email to all Dublin Animation Studios really not expecting any reply. But then it happened, I got an email from Boulder Media who asked me to complete an animation test for their show Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja.

The test was an actual scene from the tv show with Howard and Randy doing some acting. I only used flash for my frame by frame roughs. And now I had to use clean symbol animation that looked like handdrawn animation, get them to act and do a lipsync (which I had never done). During that week there was an actual heatwave in Dublin, I remember I had to take like 3 showers a day to feel semi fresh.

From the first moment I looked at the test until the moment I sent in my result I didn't think I could do this. It was too hard, above my skill level. I should just give up and move on. But regardless of that doubt and negativity, I was determined to do my best! I didn't care if the result was crap. I wanted to at least be able to say that I gave it 100% So the last day I stayed up until 8 oclock in the morning working on some final adjustments and sent the email with my completed test.

I remember I also pointed out the things that I thought didn't work and the things I simply didn't know how to do (I didn't even know how to draw clean lines in flash). The next day I had an interview lined up with a bank for a desk job. Because quite honestly, I thought that this was it....pack up and go home.

To my surprise I got an email back saying they saw potential in my work and they wanted me to do a 2 week trial. This was not an intern but a 2 week test to see if I could do the job. While this was all very exciting, it was also the most frightening thing I had faced for a long time. At the same time I had gotten news that I could start the desk job at the bank I had applied for. So now I had a choice, do a 2 week test with no pay and no guarantee of having a job or get a well paid job and live with regret?

Obviously I did my 2 week test and the rest is history so to say :P I was offered a contract until the end of season 1 after which there would be a 2.5 month unpaid break until season 2 started... of course I didn't know if I would've been invited back for season 2 at the time (which I have). So my goal had been achieved,2.5 months before my self imposed deadline. Honestly if I wouldn't have lost my job, who knows...I might never have sent out a showreel....and would I have quit my job to do a 2 week trial? I don't know...but guys and girls....if an opportunity comes your way you MUST grab it with both hands because they don't come easy!

So now I was finally going to be able to answer a question I had for a long time. Would I draw as much if I worked in a creative job? Or would I want to come home and switch off? And I can tell you that for me, I actually got inspired to draw EVEN MORE.

My life was now all about art, during the day and when I got home. And this is what I hope my whole life will be like.

During the time off I had high expectations. I was going to do a group project and we would astonish the world with our creations. I started to read about story (pixar), analyse film, look up success stories of groups of individuals who made a name for themselves.... but all I can say is that you can't force the re-creation of those success stories.

I have specific tastes, interests and ambitions and very few people share these same ideas with me. One day I do hope to find people with the same passion and interests as me, so we could work together on a project. But that time was not now...

I also had the opportunity to go back to one of my old jobs to at least earn some money during the time off. It's easy work and I wouldn't have to worry about paying the bills. But as always, you can't take the easy I decided to try and find some freelance work, which I did. I ended up working on a rotoscoping project for the BBC.

So once again this was an opportunity that I would have otherwise missed if I did the smart thing and get a job to pay the bills.

I used the rest of my time to study anatomy and do some animation tests. I used a trial version of toonboom and really, really loved it! I'll have to get back into it, but right now I think I'm challenged enough doing animation for work so I prefer to use my off time to develop my drawing skills further and just... ENJOY..drawing.

Anyway, I totally didn't mean to go on for so long, but I hope that some people might find it useful to read about my journey. Stay inspired, stay passionate, work hard and grab every opportunity you can get!


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