I posted this a long time ago on my blog and I’ve gotten some similar questions lately - so, I thought I would repost it here with a new addition!
A nice young lady e-mailed me and asked:
"You have such an impressive list of motion pictures you’ve worked on that I just had to ask - how do you do it? How did you get there? I’m in my final months of college in the film/animation production program and I’m looking for inspiring role models to tell me their story about how they worked up to the position they hold now."
It’s a good question because everyone’s response will be different - Here’s mine:
How did I do it?
It’s all about looks. If you’re good looking you can go really far in animation and its EASY because there are A LOT of not so good looking, nerdy people in this industry!
no, I’m kidding, The fact is I’m a not so good looking nerd. :(
……….seriously now -
How did I do it?……
Edison said it best - “The reason a lot of people don’t recognize opportunity is because it usually goes around wearing overalls looking like hard work.”
The not so glamorous answer is I worked really really, hard for it. I took art classes in high school. Took as many art classes as I could at an art college (figure drawing, sculpture, ceramics, painting, etc.) Got accepted into an internship at Disney Feature Animation during my junior year - Didn’t go back to school and worked really hard to keep my job. Along the way I had some really amazing mentors to learn from and I worked hard to improve but also demonstrate to my mentors I could do it. I decided I wanted to tell stories for a living so I made a choice to be a story artist and worked until I was doing what I wanted to do. Again, more classes, more training, more education and the whole time I’ve never stopped drawing. I committed myself and never stopped working at it. So I guess it’s because I worked really, really, really hard……I believe, if you work really hard good things happen to you. You don’t have to say anything at the end of the day because your work speaks for itself.
However, I also made A LOT of mistakes along the way but, I learned from those mistakes and have tried to be a better person/artist because of them.
The true answer to your question, sadly, is I’ve never been happy or satisfied with my work. I’ve always been confident but never satisfied. I’m passionate and love it and a have a strong desire to improve and grow everyday. I’m an ARTIST which means I’m an emotional beast. I’ve been drawing my whole life and I’m still chasing that emotional charge it gives me every time I draw a line. I pour my heart into everything I do and seek out things around me to refill it. Wether it’s the simple sound of laughter, the memories of people or places I miss or even something as pure and beautiful as standing in front of Degas’ La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans sculpture, they fill my heart with energy. Trying to capture that energy and translate it is what keeps me going.
So work really, really HARD but more importantly LIVE because it’s what gives your work meaning.
You’re about to begin a journey that may take you directions you never thought you would go but, its incredibly exciting so ENJOY it! ;)
Best of luck!
Updated (Additional Advice)
Remember to say thank you. The young lady that sent me this initial e-mail never responded back to me…. :( that hurts. It’s really important in this world to thank the people who help you, inspire you and take the time to meet or interview with you. A simple note, card or message is all that’s needed but it’s a courtesy that’s disappearing and it makes me sad.
Image: Little Dancer of Fourteen Years (French: La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans) is a c. 1881 sculpture by Edgar Degas