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