What’s your current job title, and what path did you take to get there?
I currently work at an animation studio called Blinkink as a Layout Artist on a show called Deadendia and to get here, I have had a lot of education in the arts. At college, I studied Btec: Art and Design and went straight into university without having to do a foundation year. The university I went to was The Arts University at Bournemouth (previously known as‘ Arts University College at Bournemouth’ (AUCB), ‘Arts Institute at Bournemouth’ (AIB)) and studied animation production which lasted 3 years.
When I finished, it took me a year or so to “get me foot in the door” in which I started off doing clean up and animation assistant roles. Soon after I had my first role as a background artist on a show called ‘Poppy Cat’ which I really loved and since then I have had the privilege to keep on the design side on animated shows.
What influences you and how does that feed into your work?
So many things, life around me, the impressionist artist like Van Gogh and Manet in my early art years. In animation, I fell in love with anime, especially the backgrounds. The feeling and the emotions conveyed in studio ghibli's work especially encouraged me to focus more on this area in my career.
At university, I liked to practice my digital painting to understand colours and lighting. Over time I have really loved the cinematography in films (more recently in how darker skin reacts in certain light) and I’ve recently gotten into children’s books too because the traditional feel in their digital work is beautiful. I believe that I’ll never get tired of adding colour in my work that pops in some way.
If I’m doing a portrait I like to make it feel soft and delicate but if I’m making a story or working for a client my work becomes more simplistic and childlike. My personal work focuses on people a lot as I really like to explore different features from different races but in my career, I have a lot of Background art roles I’m slowly beginning to combine my skills in background and characters to create compelling illustrations.
What’s one of the more frustrating things you’ve been asked by a client?
To make the dark skin tones lighter and having fewer Black and Asian people in my work. As a black female, I’m very conscious of what clients think but I’m hoping that with the current climate that we are in that people become more aware of stereotypes and maybe consider what the Illustrator feels like after these comments.
Colorism is the child of racism and asking to have lighter skin tones doesn’t help. I understand if a project is based on a particular place and the client comments on the features needing to change, however, if the illustration is based on a theme like science and health I think it’s important to show different groups of people.
Can you tell us something unexpected that you’ve learned? This may be something that you’ve experienced in the making of an animation or within studio life.
Make sure that you speak up in a meeting, even if it scares you or no one will be able to guess what’s on your mind. If you ever get stuck and need advice don’t be afraid to ask for help, you’re there (or online) as a team. People aren’t there to catch you out and the question you have might be something another person is also struggling with.
Also, layers and tidy files are more important than you think, especially when working with a team for animation. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is when you are on a deadline to open a file and you can't find something because it's named ‘layer 1083’.
What’s the best bit of advice you’ve been given?
Learn to live your life. At first, I was so caught up in doing personal work in my spare time and yes sometimes we need to practice but it’s so important that we take breaks away from your artwork and learn and experience new things. Taking on a new hobby can bring you closer to family, friends and make new friends.
Explore your surroundings (with a mask these days and keep your distance) so when you go back to the drawing board not only are you refreshed you’re also inspired and your stories become richer.
From your experience of the animation industry, are there changes you’d like to see?
I would like to see more opportunities for people to get into the industry from a minority background. I think since the BLM movement it’s highlighted a lot of things in the industry that Black people and POC experience.
I want to see changes all across the board from junior to directing roles. As someone who has been in the industry for a few years now, I want to have more opportunities to pitch ideas but the process is still very blurry for me. I think it would be great if small and big companies had HR teams and diversity workshops so we can all create a safe environment for everyone.
Tip of the month
Do you have a software tip that changed your world?
Since I’ve started layout positions, I really can’t stress enough how helpful the rule of thirds has been for me. For each show, the rules can be strict or relaxed but it can help you be aware of negative spaces and what to focus on, on the screen. Add it to an illustration and it can help you with your composition.
If you can afford schoolism, Nathan Fokles class “Pictorial Composition with Nathan Fowkes” is really good at explaining this. Or if you want it in a book get “Framed Ink: Drawing and Composition for visual storytelling” by Marcos Mateu-Mestre.
It’s not quite a software tip but if you do want help on the perspective tool, you can make the polygon tool into a star with lots of lines, or if you have an iPad on Procreate you can easily make this in the Actions tab> Drawing guide.