Category: animation student

AnimSchool Student Spotlight: Jared Johnson

Today we are welcoming AnimSchool Student Jared Johnson. Jared is already working in the animation industry and, as many other colleagues, he keeps studying and expanding his skills along the way.

Tell us a little about yourself, what’s your background? How did you get into animation?

Like most artists, I began drawing at a very young age. I grew up loving animated movies, cartoons, comic books and video games. For years I thought I would become a comic book artist, but I felt frustrated being limited to a few panels to tell a story. I’m originally from Pennsylvania where I started my art education. While in college, I realized that animation was a liberating medium and I’ve been working in it ever since. I continued studying art and animation in San Francisco and eventually started my career there.

You are currently working in the animation industry, right? Tell us about it.

I am! Currently, I’m working at Gazillion Entertainment as an animator on the “Marvel Heroes” online video game. Before returning to work at Gazillion, I wrapped up animation work on the feature film Free Birds last summer. My career consists of some great opportunities such as video game cinematics, documentaries, and cartoons for adult swim.

What do you like the most when animating?

Blocking is generally the most fun part of the process. It’s the time when you get to play around and experiment the most. Otherwise, I also enjoy the polish stage of adding refined detail and subtlety to animation. It’s easy to get inspired when I come across really good character performance or creature shots. Being able to work on them is a blast too.

You’ve taken a 3-month Express Class in Character Performance. What were your ideas before taking the class? In what ways do you think Animschool has helped you after you finished it?

Since most of my career has been in TV and video games, I felt it was important to push my skills and work on a more polished, character driven shot. When you work in games, you’re not always able to really sink your teeth into character performance and that’s something I want to make sure I kept working on. The instructor, Christopher Bancroft, really helped keep me on track and focus on what was really important in the shot. I also attended the general reviews with instructor Kevan Shorey. Both had wonderful insight and great eye for detail. They’re the type of animators you want to work with in a studio.

You’ve done a great work with your assignment. How was your workflow for this shot?

Thank you. I spend a good chunk of time thinking about the shot, asking questions like, “who are the characters? What is the shot about?” Afterward, I draw thumbnails and shoot lots of reference footage of myself to try to explore more ideas. Then follows an initial blocking phase and early feedback (from the instructor). Afterwards, I’d revise/elaborate on the blocking before continuing into splined.

Any particular tip or advice that your instructor gave you that stood out?

One piece of advice that my instructor gave me was to go to general reviews. It’s an open class that any AnimSchool student can go to for additional critique. It’s always good to get a fresh pair of eyes to view your work. When you’re staring at your animation for so long, you can start to miss out on ways to improve it. It’s important to remember that animation is a very collaborative art form so one shouldn’t be afraid to share it with others.
Thanks for having me!

We thank Jared for this interview. Check out his reel below:

AnimSchool Student Spotlight: Andrew Stovesand

Today our interviewee is AnimSchool Student Andrew Stovesand. Andrew is now working as a character animator at Moonbot Studios.

Hi Andrew! Can you share a bit about yourself and experience with animation prior to AnimSchool?

Hi there, yeah for sure! Prior to Animschool most of my animation experience came from working as a Maya generalist. I did a lot of camera animation at a prior studio and that really helped me become aware of the graph editor and how it works. I had a few 11 Second Club attempts, most of which I am not super proud of (haha). Also I made a short animation while I was in school.

Do you have any favorite artists that inspire you?

I love watching those old Disney animators, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston and how they did it. I mean, they were just going with what felt right and they did amazing work! Nowadays there are so many ideas and theories on what to do and what not to do. Of course Glen Keane is very inspiring as well…

A clip I recently saw that inspired me:

I also like to paint and am very inspired by painting. Somehow I think they all link together, I feel like the more I grow as an animator the more I grow as a painter/artist in general and vice-versa.

Your facial performance shot is very appealing – mind to share your process with us?

Cool, thanks! Yes, that shot was fun. I knew right away when I heard the sound clip that it was the one I wanted to use. I mean, if you get a good sound clip where you can see the character easily in your head, then things fall together much more smoothly. I sketched a bunch for the shot and I believe it was Stewart who taught that class, he had us spell out the subtext for the shot which helped me get into her mindset. I also shot a bunch of reference of me and my wife acting, I got a lot of good ideas from that. I knew right away how I wanted her to start off in the shot but transitioning her to the end when she blows up was really the challenge.

Andrew’s sketches and notes for his facial performance assignment (click to enlarge).

Your character performance assignment features two animated characters and a complete modeled set. How many hours per day did you work on this shot to get it done in time?

Ha, yes that had some love put into it. My generalist background helped me there. I can model basic stuff pretty quick, so once I knew what I wanted I modeled it in there fast and kept updating as I would go along. Once I see something working in a shot and it inspires me, I feel like nothing will stop me from getting it done. I did spend a lot of time on that shot, and this is where getting laid off had its benefits. Haha!

Back to the question, I think I worked a couple hours a day give or take on that one.

Andrew’s sketches and notes for his character performance shot (click to enlarge).

How do you think your skills as an animator evolved since you joined AnimSchool?

Wow, great question. The biggest change for me, even after working in the industry for a few years, was getting it through my head that it really does take a lot of work and time to make quality animation. Honestly, it was a relief once I could do this. It kept me from being way to hard on myself. I mean really, anyone who has no experience would not think it takes so many hours to make something move in a pleasing way. We take it all for granted, don’t we (I mean isn’t this what the whole industry is trying to get the public eye to see?!)?
So really the biggest change was learning how to respect each step of the animation process (planning, reference, blocking, splining, polish) and the amount of time needed to do each one well.

Lastly, do you have any pointers or tips for your fellow animation students that are struggling to get their shots the way they want it?

Ok, yeah… Well, one really simple saying that Thom Roberts said in my very first Animschool class was “kill your babies!”, meaning, be willing to start fresh and delete something that just isn’t working. For example, the way the character is turning his/her head bugs you and you can’t figure out why? Kill your babies. I find this also applies a lot to simplifying keys. So many times I realize I just needed to get rid of a few keys and it cleans up a movement. I still am amazed when this happens. Killing your babies is not easy and still difficult to do, but usually I find it always helps (that sounds terrible)!

Thanks Animschool for all your help and for having me!

We thank Andrew for this interview. Check out his reel below:

AnimSchool Student Spotlight: Nanda Van Dijk

Today we are interviewing animation student Nanda Van Dijk. Nanda is very talented in the digital arts realm and is taking the 3D Animation Program at AnimSchool.

Hi Nanda! Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself, like your background and experience before AnimSchool?

has always been my passion. As a child I was always drawing and
watching animated films. I went to the Utrecht School for the Arts in
Holland and studied computer animation and visual effects and graduated
with a master’s degree. I learned a lot about creating animated films,
from writing the scripts to making the storyboards to the production
itself. There wasn’t really an option to specialize yourself in
animation. The Dutch animation market doesn’t really work with
specializations so the school trained me to be a generalist. Because I
didn’t learn much about animation at the Utrecht School of Arts I taught
myself as much as possible. I was hired in 2010 as a 3D artist at
Mediamonks, a creative digital production agency, right out of school
and worked there for two years. In 2012 I started Animschool in class 4.
I showed my work to Tony Bonilla and he told me that I had enough
experience to skip the first 3 classes. After 3 terms at Animschool I
had to take a couple of term breaks to work on a feature film. I had the
opportunity to work as a 2D key animator at the Anikey Studios for the
Dutch feature animated film “Trippel Trappel”. Currently I am
working as a freelance 2D and 3D artist in my own company and
I’m back at Animschool to resume my classes. 

This term I’m taking the
Advanced rigging class as an in between class to learn how I can
make a high level facial rig and next term I will take class 7 in

You seem to be comfortable with digital painting, rigging, modeling and animating. What area do you like the most and why?


is still my favorite area, I always loved acting and character
development. But the most fun for me is is to design, model, rig and
animate an entire character. It’s great to have control over the entire
process. To animate a character and make it come to life is always a
magical thing, but to make your own creation come to life, makes it
extra special. When I started to animate in 3D at school there weren’t
many great free rigs to work with like the amazing Malcolm rig that
Animschool offers for free. I had to work with rigs like the Generi rig, a
very unappealing basic free rig. Some of you will probably remember him
with mixed feelings, haha. This is one of the reasons that I wanted to
make my own models and rigs so that I would have appealing characters to
work with. This is also one of the main reasons why I picked Animschool
over the other schools to go to. Animschool has some of the most
appealing and professional character rigs that I have come across.

Who are the artists that inspire you?

There are so many amazing artists that
inspire me. Everyday I try to look at blogs with artwork. A couple of my
favorites are, David Colman, Peter de Séve, Greg Dykstra, Loralay Bove,
Ryan Lang, Pascal Campion, Barbara Canepa, and lots and lots more. And I
have a lot of very talented Dutch friends who inspire me every day as
well, specially the illustrations by Lois van Baarle and Wouter Tulp,
two amazing artists. And as for animators, I’m a huge fan of Glen Keane. I
love his animation style and the appeal his characters have. When I
went to CTN in 2012 I watched him animate the little Mermaid. That was
very inspiring to watch. And of course the animations by the nine old
men are a huge inspiration for me.

Can you share your process from start to finish on your shot with Mr. Bones for the Body Mechanics class?

animation was so much fun to make. I had an amazing teacher, Tim Crawfurd. He has over 12 years of experience working at Pixar. I
couldn’t have asked for a better instructor. It was also a coincident
because Tim is also from Holland. That was a lot of fun because we could
sometimes speak in our native tongue with each other and make small
inside jokes. The assignment for this term was to make a short pantomime
story with one of the simpler Animschool rigs. I loved the look of the
Mr. Bones rig so I decided to create my story around him. I knew it had
to be a Pirate story because Pirates are simply awesome! The idea for
the character to lose his arm came really quick to me but it was very
tricky to think of a way to communicate this idea to the audience. First
I had to establish that the character lost his arm and that he still
had to find out himself that his arm was gone. It all depended on the
timing of the animation. If he noticed his arm missing too quickly the
audience wouldn’t have noticed it themselves yet so they would miss the
punchline. I really had to think about a way to direct the eye of the
audience to the missing arm so. the yawn, and the looking for the arm
helped to stage out this scene. It also helped the performance to give
the character some real personality. After figuring out the staging and
the blocking I polished my animation, modeled the stage for the cave,
modeled and rigged the bat and did the lighting and shading. To really
finish the animation I asked Dave van Luttervelt, a very talented
composer, to do the sound design and music for me. I’m very pleased with
the end result. I hope you’ll enjoy it as well!

worked on Trippel Trappel, a dutch feature animation film. Can you tell
us more about the film, your role and what challenges did you face in
the production?

Trappel is produced by il Luster in co-production with ViviFilm,
animated at Anikey Studios. The story is about a couple of pets who want
to celebrate the Dutch Holiday ‘Sinterklaas’. Sinterklaas is very
similar to Santa Claus, he also brings presents to children through the
chimney. The pets want to get presents too so they’re going to find
Sinterklaas to bring him their wishlists. The film is still in
production and will be released October this year in Dutch and Belgian
theaters. This will be the first fully hand drawn animated feature from
Holland since 1983. When I learned about this production I made an
animation test and the studio asked me to be one of the Key animators
for this film. In the studio they use TV paint and Wacom Cintiqs to
animate. Unlike the old Disney films I didn’t work on just one
character. More like in 3D I got an entire scene and had to animate
everything in it, so I had the chance to animate all the main characters
in the film. It was very fun to do but also very challenging especially
because I normally work in 3D and now had to animate by hand in 2D. I
had about two weeks to learn how I had to draw the characters and after
that I got my first scene. Because the movie is funded mostly by the
government there isn’t a big budget to work with. So I had to work very
quickly and still try to keep the quality as high as possible. It was
very challenging and hard work but I think it payed off.
I’m very impressed by the quality of the animations made by everyone in the
studio and I know that it will be a very beautiful film when it’s done.

is a small teaser of the film. This piece is animated by Marcel
Tigchelaar, our supervising animator. The official trailer will be
released around February.
This is the Facebook page of ‘Trippel Trappel’:

What do you think is the most important thing you learned at AnimSchool so far?

think the most important thing is to really think about your scene
before animating. Thinking about what is happening in the scene, what
the character is thinking. If the character says one thing but thinks
something else. How you can use staging and timing to improve the
performance of your character. Thinking about every eye dart and every
small movement why you are animating it like this and if that is the
best way to communicate an emotion or thought. Most of the time I work
on short projects with very tight deadlines and then I just start to
animate and see where I’ll end up. In Animschool I finally have the
chance to really take my time to focus on small details and work on my
acting skills.

We thank Nanda for her time, and be sure to check out her awesome works on her site, LinkedIn profile, Facebook Page, Vimeo Page and Behance!

AnimSchool Student Spotlight: Laura Loossens

We’d like to present you Laura Loossens, student of the 3D Animation Program at AnimSchool. Hi Laura! Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself, like your background and experience before AnimSchool?

Before I even thought of being an animator, I studied economics and languages in high school. After that I started psychology at the University of Ghent but I didn’t felt passionate about it. I did however love to draw but I never thought to be doing something creative in the future. Until the moment one of my friends suggested a brand new educational program, Digital Arts and Entertainment (DAE), that only recently emerged in Belgium which was specialized in all the things I admired: 3D, 2D, animation and video games.
During my 3 years at Digital Arts and Entertainment I learned a bit of everything, even programming which I failed for in my first year. I had some trouble in the beginning with all the courses, simply because everything was new to me.
Nevertheless I never worked this hard for something, just because I loved to do it! All the hard work paid off and at the end of my studies I won the prize of best 3D artist and together with my awesome teammates, we won the prize of best game!
After my studies I started working in a small visual effects studio where I did various jobs but my main function was modeler and shader. I learned a lot and got better each day but there was no growing possibility as an animator in the studio, so I made a crucial decision to start the animation course at AnimSchool!

What made you want to be a character animator?

My first source of inspiration came from the many Disney movies I saw when I was a kid and later on movies like ‘Ratatouille’,’ Cloudy with a chance of meatballs’ and ‘Horton hears a who’ were a big inspirations for leading me in the direction of becoming a character animator.
My second source of inspiration came during my last year at DAE when we got the chance to create our own short and were completely free doing so. I came up with a little story named ‘Little Rico’ and made the clip in a short amount of time. During the development, I probably looked like a zombie but I also had the most fun bringing my story and characters to life. This was a decisive moment, I knew I was going to become an animator.

Laura’s student short animation “Little Rico”

Do you have any favorite artists that inspire you?

There are many different people that inspire me since the internet provides us a variety of animation clips, and I get inspired by many of them. I’ve seen some of them over and over, just to get a better understanding on their appeal.
Also, I will always have a passion for 2D animation. It is a medium that appealed to me ever since I was young. When I look at the work made by the artists at Bird Box Studio I get really inspired by the perfect timing and simplicity of their clips.

Your Facial Performance shot is a great piece. Can you tell a bit more about your process from start to finish?

Laura’s facial performance assignment

The sound I chose was one that had been stuck in my mind for quite some time. The audio had so much personality of a sassy woman demanding a new drink in her own way. With that image in mind I started shooting different kinds of reference videos and I seemed to like acting like a sassy lady.

Laura’s video reference for her facial
performance assignment

I imagined her sitting at her desk or at a bar, or not sitting down at all, just to get different angles that could look appealing. I learned this by watching a reference shot of Garrett Shikuma that showed us his variety of reference takes, just to come up with appealing poses and ideas.
After setting up my reference I start to block out my shot. I only look for the key poses that could really sell the shot. My reference served as a solid base and helped to find the key poses and timing for my animation.

After that very first pass of blocking I go over the same poses and look if the timing is working and if I can push some poses even further.
Spline is the next step where I spend time adjusting my curves. Normally I would take a long time for blocking however my mentor at the time, Melvin Tan, had a different approach. He would block out the scene fast and start with spline, but the method I used was the opposite.

I decided to follow Melvin’s suggestion, since it is always interesting to try out different ways of working and understand what the benefits are. In the beginning I struggled a bit but soon I discovered the benefits of working this way. I could spend more time on the details and characteristics traits of the character.

Laura’s Character Performance assignment

What was the most challenging assignment you had to deal with so far? How did you manage to overcome it’s obstacles?

I think each assignment has its challenges. Every time I overcome one challenge there is another waiting in line. But these challenges are what makes me move forward.

In my case there was the assignment for the Body Acting class. We had the possibility to create our own story without sound. I came up with a funny story of a scientist that was inventing an invisibility potion and was searching for the last clue. When he finally found it and tested it, he bumped over his potion on the chalkboard with his formula written on it.

While making this clip, I had difficulties getting the timing and poses correct. My instructor at the time, Tony Bonilla, was hard and honest. He kept pushing me in the good direction and I never gave up, even when I had to redo all my poses to really push them.

Even the latest version is not completely finished, but I had overcome so many challenges with that assignment that the following terms became a bit easier to complete, since I was better prepared for what was coming.

Laura’s Body Acting assingment

What do you think is the most important thing you learned at AnimSchool so far?

Laura’s Run and Jump assignment on Animating Characters class

Make the best of all the time you get with your instructors! Anthea Kerou taught me how to create a good base for animation, Tony Bonilla and Garrett Shikuma the importance of each stage of animation and Melvin Tan how to give your character more personality.

Listen to the feedback you get not only from your instructors but also from you fellow students. Always be critical of your work. Keep trying to get better and never think you are doing bad, since each step you take will bring you closer to your goal!

Thanks AnimSchool!

We thank Laura for her time and be sure to check out her Blog and her LinkedIn profile!