Artist Check-In: Animator Jessie Greenberg

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We love chatting with artists across the spectrum – writers, visual artists, performers, and more. Everyone has a unique story about why they create and what speaks to them. And we all love a good story.

Welcome this week’s artist, Jessie ‘Velociraptor’ Greenberg, a storyboard artist currently working as a Production Secretary at Disney TV Animation. She lives in Burbank, spends a decent amount of time at Disneyland, and has a roommate who is kind of like a cat.

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When did you realize you had a passion for drawing and illustrating? Were there others in your family that shared a similar interest or was it a skill you mainly fostered independently?

I’ve always been drawing! I think at some point after you’ve been giggling at your doodles on the side of your homework for ages – you finally show your best friends, and it makes them laugh. Suddenly, you’re hooked! That’s how it always seemed to go for me – I wasn’t the best at drawing, but it made me happy, and it made others happy. I have a few family members that are artistic in the fine arts or performing, but no one that specifically worked in animation. We just really loved movies and cartoons, and I basically grabbed onto that idea of bringing laughter and entertainment to people through drawings.

What other animators/illustrators’ work convinced you that this field was one you could definitely see yourself getting into in the future?

My friend Sarah Mensinga was the first person I talked to that had a style I loved and looked up to, but she was also one of the first industry people to tell me I could do it. Later on, storyboard artist & writer Aliki Theofilopoulous Grafft and I sort of adopted each other in a mentor/mentee relationship, and she’s the first person that really gave me a chance. She looks at my work and knows exactly what I need to work on, but she’s also an amazing person to collaborate with, and an amazing person to look up to. She’s the one that proved to me – you can be a woman, be a force of awesome in the animation industry, and still have a family. These ladies, as well as many others, both artistically & personally convinced me this is the field I need to be in.

How do you describe your animation style?

I’d say my biggest animation style influence is from the movie ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’, which derived from a lot of UPA styled cartoons (for example: the 1950 short ‘Gerald McBoing-Boing’). I also picked up style influence from the video game ‘Psychonauts’, as well as various 90s & 00s cartoon shows and plenty of Disney films as well. I try to be as versatile as possible, but I really love expressive stylized characters and playing around with their shapes.

What are your favorite things to draw? Why do they speak to you?

I love drawing people interacting, and I especially love drawing funny story moments! I’m hoping that people will connect to the story moment or the character, whether it be for a funny or emotional connection. Sometimes it’s simply a character struggling to open a jar, sometimes it’s a personal emotional story, and sometimes it’s just my roommate and I watching TV and saying stupid things.

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What can be said through animation that can’t be said through words or text?

In animation and film in general, you can get so much across without a single word, and as a result, every age and culture can understand it. You begin to notice the things that tie humanity together without language barriers, and whether it’s meant to be serious or funny, it’s beautiful to see people connect like that.

How do the people you work with inspire and motivate you?

Every studio I’ve worked for has been full of the nicest and most supportive people! Many of them have been working in animation for decades and on so many projects I have loved over the years. Their stories are inspiring, and watching their work come alive in front of my eyes teaches me so much more than I could ever hope for. They are all wonderfully encouraging, and that really motivates me to keep moving forward with my own personal projects.

What project [personal or otherwise] are you excited to be working on currently?

I am working on a short film called ‘Pickles!’, I’m the lead artist for an iPhone game, and I’m regularly working on my storyboard portfolio!

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What’s the hardest part of your job?

The hardest part about working in story is actually the best part of working in story – every project has new challenges, new characters, new worlds, and that can be a lot to balance. It’s exciting though, I love when I get a chance to work with others and discuss potential ways to problem solve. When you have a great team of people together – people that will offer suggestions you may never have thought of previously, and people that will also listen to your ideas and find a way to find some fun compromise – it’s the best feeling in the world!

What advice would you offer someone who wants to pursue a career in animation?

Always carry a sketchbook, remain positive every step of the way (even when things aren’t going the way you planned), always let everyone know what you’re passionate about, don’t be afraid of approaching people you admire, and above all – in everything you do, be genuine and polite.

I would also suggest going to events like the CTN Expo in Burbank, where there’s so much opportunity for making new friends, showing your work, and learning from the pros. There’s also some wonderful and supportive communities online – through twitter or tumblr – where you can chat with all these amazing artistic folks and get some great advice. 🙂

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Thanks Jessie! To check out more of Jessie’s work, pop on over to her site and say hello.

You Havin’ A Laugh: Can a 200 Year Old Joke Still Hold Up Today?

They say a good joke is timeless. Does the adage apply to those clever quips thrown around at Jackson during his chaos-riddled presidency? The bull-headed, quick-to-anger, and strongly opinionated leader was criticized from all angles about his inability to just calm down and follow the rules. But that wasn’t AJ’s style.

The political discourse at the time went a little something like this:

“Let the National Bank alone Jackson!”

Nope, going to challenge it until its a crippled and gutted version of what it once was.

“Stop hiring all of your friends to serve as your Cabinet!”

Haha good one. These positions are simple enough that a “common” man can do it. And if they start screwing up, I’ll throw them out.

“You should probably stop acting like a supreme leader whose word is law. Ever heard of justice?”

If you don’t like how I run things, you can get up and get out. I’ve made this land open to the American people by relocating thousands of others, and this is thanks I get?

Let’s hope that Andrew had some sense of humor about himself and could appreciate the attitudes of those that attempted to laugh at the situation. These old-school political cartoons of Jackson are intrinsically charming. The flood of text presented to help get the joke across? We’re a bit less wordy nowadays. But nonetheless, they give a clear idea of some of the impressions of the president during his reign..I mean, presidential term.

Shows how Jackson’ critics viewed the man’s enthusiasm for using his powers as president. Many sought to limit his influence by pushing for states’ ability to reject federal decisions.

Jackson vs. the National Bank. Andrew Jackson opposed the Second Bank of the U.S. because he believed the bank concentrated too much power in the hands of a few wealthy men in the Northeast.

Jackson, somewhat blinded to the situation (spectacles up over his head), as his Kitchen Cabinet, here depicted as the rats (John H. Eaton, John Branch, Martin Van Buren, and Samuel D. Ingham), abandons him. His foot is planted firmly on the tail of the Van Buren rat. 

Andrew Jackson is roasted over the fires of “Public Opinion” by Justice herself. He was under pressure for the controversy surrounding his removal of federal deposits from the Bank of the United States. Note the pig leg.

Image Source: Library of Congress

How Cartoons Can Jolt You Into Being Creative

Hugh McLeod is a cartoonist. But his drawings on the back of business cards are more than just doodles – they are miniature keys to personal creativity. His novel idea got noticed and before long, he put together a book entitled “Ignore Everybody” with his own view on how to keep creative in the modern world.

This book presents 40 of his own tips on creativity, accompanied by a business card illustration. A few of my favorites are below:

 Ignore everybody.

The more ori­gi­nal your idea is, the less good advice other peo­ple will be able to give you. When I first star­ted with the cartoon-on-back-of-bizcard for­mat, peo­ple thought I was nuts. Why wasn’t I trying to do something more easy for mar­kets to digest i.e. cutey-pie gree­ting cards or whatever?

The idea doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be yours.

The sove­reignty you have over your work will ins­pire far more peo­ple than the actual con­tent ever will.

Put the hours in.

Doing anything worthwhile takes fore­ver. 90% of what sepa­ra­tes suc­cess­ful peo­ple and fai­led peo­ple is time, effort, and stamina.

You are res­pon­si­ble for your own experience.

Nobody can tell you if what you’re doing is good, mea­ning­ful or worthwhile. The more com­pe­lling the path, the more lonely it is.

Keep your day job.

I’m not just saying that for the usual rea­son i.e. because I think your idea will fail. I’m saying it because to sud­denly quit one’s job in a big ol’ crea­tive drama-queen moment is always, always, always in direct con­flict with what I call “The Sex & Cash Theory”.*

*THE SEX & CASH THEORY: “The crea­tive per­son basi­cally has two kinds of jobs: One is the sexy, crea­tive kind. Second is the kind that pays the bills. Some­ti­mes the task in hand covers both bases, but not often. This tense dua­lity will always play cen­ter stage. It will never be trans­cen­ded.”

Every­body has their own pri­vate Mount Eve­rest they were put on this earth to climb.

You may never reach the sum­mit; for that you will be for­gi­ven. But if you don’t make at least one serious attempt to get above the snow-line, years later you will find your­self lying on your death­bed, and all you will feel is emptiness.

If you accept the pain, it can­not hurt you.

 The pain of making the neces­sary sac­ri­fi­ces always hurts more than you think it’s going to. I know. It sucks. That being said, doing something seriously crea­tive is one of the most ama­zing expe­rien­ces one can have, in this or any other life­time. If you can pull it off, it’s worth it. Even if you don’t end up pulling it off, you’ll learn many inc­re­di­ble, magi­cal, valua­ble things. It’s NOT doing it when you know you full well you HAD the oppor­tu­nity– that hurts FAR more than any failure.