Life’s Too Short to Take It So Seriously

So smile and feel free to be a little bit awkward.

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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.

Because Life’s Too Short Not To

When in doubt, remember:

Laughter heals. Embarrassments, heartaches, confusion, or whatever else may ail you. A good laugh can help combat that ever-present need to take yourself too seriously. A healthy dose of humor will always come in handy.

Apologize. Not for being yourself, but if you actually make a mistake – big or small – take responsibility and make the first step towards salvaging the relationship. Don’t let the ego get in the way of the bigger picture. Your pride is not as important as the person you hurt.

When you have no control, let go. Nothing will drive you crazier than trying to fix what cannot be fixed. Realize that some things will remain unchanged. And then let it roll off your back. Focus on the aspects of life that are adjustable. There’s a freeing feeling that accompanies the realization that the world does not, in fact, revolve around you. And that’s okay. It’ll keep on spinning, and so will you.

How to Thoroughly Enjoy Your Life

1. Sing in the car. Laugh when you realize that the guy in the car next to you is watching. Smile as he turns on his radio to sing along too.

2. Stay up too late. Fill your evening with a fury of sounds and thoughts and people before heading home. Let the afterglow of exhaustion pull you into sleep.

3. Write someone a letter. On real paper. Doodle in the margins and send it off to them. Realize that written correspondence is a rare joy.

4. Travel. Doesn’t need to be far. Get in the car and drive for 30 minutes in a direction you haven’t wandered before. Get out, explore what’s there, return when you wish.

5. Forgive someone. The person who spilled coffee on you this morning or the person that “ruined your life.” This will be the most important thing you will do.

6. Try your hand at something you never thought you’d be good at. Juggling, unicycling, baking, parasailing – pick one and enjoy the thrill of something random.

7. Look up. At the tops of buildings, birds, stars. Beam when you see a plane skywrite a message of love.

8. Eat food that makes you stop in your tracks and go “mmm.” Yes, like in the commercials. Maybe that’s homemade pesto, maybe it’s Burrata cheese. Find what makes your taste buds rejoice and treat yourself often.

9. Dance a little when alone in an elevator. Grin and nod politely when the doors open to someone waiting to get on.

10. Take time for yourself everyday. Whether its a cup of tea in the morning or taking yourself out to a meal amid the hustle and bustle of others, relish in your own company. Learn to befriend yourself.

11. Get lost. Gain a newfound sense of home when you find your way back.

12. Talk to someone new. Recognize that their story is beautiful and be inspired. Think of your encounter when you start to feel like you may have done it all. Go out and talk to more people.

13. Create something. A song, story, an image, something that reminds you of who you are. Notice that it’s rewarding. Do it often.

14. Make time for people that matter to you. Treat an old friend to drinks, share favorite stories and realize that a lot has changed. Appreciate that even though things are different, you both still get along so well.

15. Fall in love. Try to stay in love. Fight for each other, not with each other.

16. Listen to music. In concert halls, at home, while walking, before you fall asleep. Find songs that shake you and make you wonder how someone knew just what you needed to hear.

17. Laugh until you cry. Make someone else do the same.

18. Share what you have. If you think you have nothing to give, share an idea, a memory, maybe your life.

19. Celebrate the things you used to take for granted. Finally understand what people meant when they babbled off “the best things in life are free.”

20. Face one of your fears. Don’t look away until you’ve mastered it. You’re freer now.

Image Source: Dara Scully

Why We Write

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect”

– Anais Nin

In honor of reaching 100 posts, I wanted to take a moment to stop and thank all of you for continuing to be impassioned readers of Thoughts on Theatre. Your insight and encouragement inspires me everyday.

Things I’ve learned since launching this blog:

Everyone is looking for a way to connect. People reach out into the community and strangers walk away as friends.

People are downright fascinating. You want to know about basket-weaving in Indonesia? There’s a blog for that. Feel like learning a bit more about how to take apart your computer? There’s a blog for that. Want to jump out of planes and land safely after 65 seconds of awe-inspiring terror? There’s definitely a blog for that.

Small messages are often the best ones. It’s amazing how the simplest posts from have stuck in my mind for days. There’s a true power behind harnessing your words to convey a concise message.

Never hurts to try. Even when you’re not sure about how to approach a new project/entry/chapter in your life, might as well go for it. Chances are you’ll receive valuable feedback here to  keep you on track.

There are few things better than a good laugh. Make me smile. Life’s too short to take things too seriously.

People will always misuse your/you’re.  Don’t get angry. There are so many things that are more important to spend your energy on in life. Politely correct the person if you must.

– Keep going. No matter what. Life will pop up with it’s surprises both large and small, but let them push you forward instead of hold you back.

 Thanks again all.