Wednesday, December 6, 2017

2017 Update 3 - CTNx Round 2 (ding ding)

I’ve been to CTN Animation Expo every year since 2013, but I’ve only gone to shop around a professional portfolio once before, in 2014. (My recap from that occasion can be found here.) This was the 9th year of the convention.

For those who don’t know what CTN is or have never been to a convention of any kind before, there are 3 basic components of the weekend - 
  1. Individual artist tables, where artists and illustrators (generally those working within the industry) are selling prints, enamel pins, art books and various other Etsy-esque products 
  2. Live art demos, Q&A panels, and workshops 
  3. Industry Giant booths, AKA large sections of the floor where Disney, Dreamworks, Sony, Nickelodeon and the like are set up to do portfolio reviews and recruit potential new talent.
Essentially it’s a giant networking event for the animation industry, with a side focus on art for gaming and illustration. I’ve made acquaintances from all my classes at the Concept Design Academy over the years, but very few of them were there, so it was a good 3 days straight of me talking to people I don’t know for 8+ hours. (If you know me personally, you know this was hard.)

I was genuinely shocked, after submitting my portfolio for studio review in advance of the convention, to get a recruitment call-back from Nickelodeon, who I almost didn’t even submit to because I figured my stuff wasn’t their style. This meant that I had a professional interview with them on Saturday morning of the convention at their booth. Getting that email was the best kind of validation of the past few art-focused years of my life - a professional at a major studio had looked at my work and determined I was worth talking to. 

Because I hate drawing things out, I’ll cut to the chase and let you all know that I feel like the interview went... okay. It was fast - they roll people through there like Krispy Kremes on a conveyer belt. (Mmm.) The recruiter was really kind and genuine, took his time looking through my work, and gave me some feedback (more props, especially vehicles, was my main takeaway.) I didn’t get the sense that it was a “We’ll be calling you ASAP” type of situation, more of a “You’re on the right track, keep going and stay in touch” situation. Which is a great thing! I mostly wish I hadn’t gotten so nervous right beforehand and done the entire 15 minutes with my face beet red. I wanted to fly casual and I definitely did NOT fly casual... just call me Tomato. Oh well. Acting Natural is not my strong suit.

I had some other portfolio reviews throughout the weekend - you could wait in line to meet with people from DreamWorks and Blue Sky, which I did, and those were fairly positive (although again, not glowing. It’s a competitive industry). I got quality, actionable feedback from Brett Bean and Justin Rodrigues, two great artists (and personal favorites of mine) who I’ve gotten to know over the years, who both told me to simplify and push my shapes - which was going to be my next directive anyways. :) I caught up with Kelsey Eng, a former CDA classmate whose work & career have taken off, and attended a great panel about doing authentic work, featuring presenters Peter de Seve, Carter Goodrich, Nick Galifianakis, and John Kascht (whose name I initially didn't recognize, but who I was delighted to discover I knew of as I've posted about him before). Most of all, it was truly wonderful to meet in person some of my fellow Oatley Academy mentees from the summer - I had a great time hanging out with down-to-earth Natalia, hilarious Leanne, super sweet Melissa, uber-talented Amie, and beautiful Dooz. You should make time to check out all of their work, it’s truly phenomenal and I was privileged to be in their company. Other notable new friends from the weekend include fellow OA students Craig Russell, Laura Belevica, Abigail Kraft, Gabriel Leal, Rebecca Whitley, and Nora Jirau.

Photo from an Oatley Academy meetup at Simmzy's in Burbank

Two of my best interactions came completely out of the blue at the very end of the day on Sunday. I just happened to strike up a conversation with DreamWorks TV character artist Ivan Mendoza at his table - I actually didn’t even know who he was, but right off the bat he was extremely easy to talk to after 3 days of exhausting, slightly awkward conversations. He ended up taking a huge chunk of his afternoon to chat with me about my portfolio and draw a personal caricature in the art book I bought from him, which was more than kind. 

Immediately afterwards, on a whim, I decided to get a ‘portfolio’ review from renowned caricature artist John Kascht (the one who I’d recognized in a panel the day before - I'd connected with him briefly afterwards, during which he’d told me to come by and talk to him on Sunday afternoon). 

I had only these three feeble Hirschfeld-wannabe attempts to show him, but he was more than complementary, practically demanding that I continue my pursuit of caricature (something I’d been interested in, but putting aside for some time to focus on the animation portfolio). It was the best kind of conversation with an artist you look up to - meaningful, motivating, and fun. In the space of 20 minutes we managed to get deep about what the art of caricature means and the ways in which humans relate to each other visually. He told me when I get into the weeds on a portrait that I’ve been working on for a while, to go back to your very first, initial impressions of the face, and “hang on to them like a life raft in a raging storm.” And he recommended me to two new caricature artists’ work for reference - William Auerbach Levy and Ralph Barton - who both worked in the simple, linework-focused, reductionist style that I’m trying to achieve. It was a wonderful exchange, made more so because I could sense that he was as delighted to talk to me as I was to talk to him.

It was on this note that the weekend ended, and my fifth year at CTN came to a close. Going forward into 2018, I have a few directives: 
  1. Concentrate on creating characters and illustrations with simpler, bolder shapes and lines 
  2. A new simplified-style portfolio story, tailored for my passion genre, kids’ educational TV (now that Pinga is leaving me alone) 
  3. A few personal mini illustration series that I’ve had in mind for a while
  4. Caricature study on the side
  5. Finally start pulling my weight in terms of house settling-in and decoration so that I don't get divorced
But first... the annual Sous Family Christmas card calls. Happy holidays everyone!

© Gina Florio 2017

Monday, December 4, 2017

2017 Update 2 - Oatley Academy Mentorship

Over the summer, I was off of work for 4 weeks between July and August. That hiatus happened to line up perfectly with ‘First Flight,’ a 5-week online visual development workshop being run by the Oatley Academy of Visual Storytelling. I’d done some learn-at-your-own-pace Magic Box lessons over the years, but hadn’t taken an actual course with OA yet; I decided to take the plunge and, after much deliberation and thought, added on a personal character design mentorship with Chris Oatley himself, to be conducted alongside the First Flight workshop lessons. 

The workshop was essentially a self-directed portfolio development course, giving guidelines, tips and prompts to develop and create the art for your own story as the basis of an animation or gaming concept art portfolio. The addition of the mentorship meant that once a week Chris would be checking in with me (along with 15 others) to see how the work for my portfolio was coming along and give feedback... so I had better do it!

I spent much of the first two weeks brainstorming, writing and doing research for my story. The workshop advised taking a story already in existence from fairytales or myths and altering it somehow - a common practice was to change the location and culture of the story. Following this directive, the Greek goddess Artemis became Pinga, a teenage huntress in the Inuit culture (specifically Kalaallit) in Greenland in the 1800s.

When the course and mentorship ended in mid-August and I returned to work, I had not much completed besides a ton of sketches. I dreaded the end of my hiatus - in the past, I hadn’t had much luck carrying my artistic momentum back into full-time job mode. But the fact that I had done so much writing about Pinga meant that her story stuck in my head. She had become somewhat actualized to me, as if I knew her personally, and every day I didn’t spend time drawing more of her story, I could almost feel her rapping her knuckles on the inside of my brain, yelling that I hadn’t finished her yet and I needed to get back to work. (Since the major feedback from CTN 2014 had been that I didn't seem to really care about my characters or story in my portfolio, I considered this a very good thing.) I dutifully found time to compile my best sketches into a series of pages and got to work finalizing the work & fleshing out the story visually. Here’s what I came up with!

When I finalized the last page, I felt tired but happy - my home life had consisted of nothing but Photoshop for the two weeks prior, but I also felt (and still feel) that this was absolutely the best work I could do at this point in time, which meant that every other consequence was out of my control. I could now, for the first time in a few years, relax in the knowledge that I’d officially given it the old college try.

I completed the majority of the work on October 26th, just in time to submit for professional recruiting for CTNx 2017. More on that in the next post...

© Gina Florio 2017

Friday, December 1, 2017

2017 Update 1 - New Personal Work & The Sous Hoose

Hi all- a very long, long time no see!!

It’s been quite the year. I’m rather depressed about the state of the world, but I’ve been very fortunate to have good things happening in my personal life. 

My husband Dave and I spent the first half of 2017 hunting for, bidding on, and finally purchasing a house, and then of course moving and settling in (the latter process is still happening and probably will be for some time). 

The house is in L.A. county, albeit the very northwestern edge. We went from our Hollywood, city-centric apartment to extreme suburban living in one fell swoop - instead of hipsters and walking-distance bars and restaurants, we now reside in The Land of Big Box Stores and strollers - but on the flip side, it’s a 30-minute drive south through the mountains to Malibu & the Pacific Ocean. The house itself is wonderful - old school craftsman-style, with a beautiful backyard, wood beams in the living room, and an original stained glass window in the dining room. It took me some time to adjust to homeowner life, but I’ve been embracing the new normal lately.

I’ve also been fortunate to have a great art year. For those of you active on Instagram, I post fairly regularly there and have made my account art-centric (no personal photos). Here is some of my personal work that I hadn’t posted on the blog quite yet.


RIP Prince.

An inside joke between Dave and me... we got ourselves laughing one night imagining Agent Carter set in Boston (or Bahston).
Work from CGMA's Color & Light class, taken summer 2016

Work from CGMA's Color & Light class, taken summer 2016

Final painting from CGMA's Color & Light class, taken summer 2016

Model: Stacey Walker at The Drawing Club
Peter Pan interpretation

I also finally, FINALLY completed a new professional concept art portfolio for character and prop design, and I took it to CTN Animation Expo two weeks ago. More on that in the next post...

© Gina Florio 2017

Monday, January 9, 2017

Lyft Animated Short "June"

Happy New Year!

Cartoon Brew posted this delightful animated short back in December. I just had the chance to watch it and wanted to repost it here - it's directed by 'Paperman' director John Kahrs and a really beautiful example of branded content that achieves its purpose in promoting the product while still bursting at the seams with artistic merit.

Check out the full post, including an interview with the creators, on Cartoon Brew, and watch the making-of below.

I'm in full-steam-ahead mode with my portfolio and website, more updates to come soon!

© Gina Florio Sous 2017