Monday, January 11, 2016

Year In Review: 2015

(Before the post, here's a holiday gift for you: I made my May-December sketchbook PDF available as a pay-what-you-want digital download! Check it out here!)

Hello!  2015 is over and this is my annual year-in-review post (see also: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009). This is, admittedly, a self-centric and navel-gazey exercise, but it helps me to keep track of my goals and remember what happened when, so I'mma keep doing it.

Accomplishments / Highlights:
-Started as a story apprentice at Walt Disney Animation Studios!!!
(There is free weekly life drawing in the studio and I am very happy about it)
-First time working with Marvel! (Deadpool #250)
-Was awarded a Compétences et Talents visa to live and work in France for 3 years. This was a huge ordeal to apply for, and an unlikely visa to be awarded. I was VERY grateful to be given the opportunity, although I had to forfeit it when I chose to accept the position at Disney. (u_u)
-Storyboarded episode 109 of Bee & PuppyCat with amazing artist and person Madeleine Flores!
-Drew some comics and illustrations for an organization trying to get junk food and junk food marketing out of Oregon grade schools.
-Drew a series of 8 covers for Disney Publishing (learned how to use Adobe Illustrator explicitly for this job, phew ^^;)
-Rented a room in my friends Michelle and Pat's lovely NW Portland home for the summer. Was within walking distance of everything, 2 blocks from hiking in Forest Park. Spent lots of time in Periscope and going out with friends downtown. :)
-Visited Paris for 10 days in the fall, got to do a dédicace at We Do BD, climbed the Eiffel Tower stairs for the first time, ate amazing food, and spent time with my S.O. and sooooo many awesome French people and artists.
-Drew body-positive art for a Wieden + Kennedy Nike campaign and got to work with the wonderful Darcie Burrell!
-Visited Montreal for the first time and met LOVELY cartoonists there, then on to Toronto for TCAF, which is just one of the best shows, I think we can all agree.
-Visited Portland's Jesuit High School to give a couple of career talks, and posted expanded advice from those talks on my blog (here's a link to the post).
-Worked with some amazing commercial clients, and got to recommend some of my friends for work when I was too busy. Every big job I've ever gotten was a recommendation from someone else, so it felt nice to pay a little of that forward.
-NYCC: Special Edition invited a bunch of artists from Periscope, including me, as special guests!!!  That's only the second convention in the US to treat me to an out-of-town show, and I was over the moon to visit New York and talk to all of the awesome readers and artists there that I normally wouldn't get to see.
-Tried out to illustrate a BD project for a major French publisher and was accepted!
-Bought my first car, Coco Corolla ♥ Drove myself down I-5 from Portland to LA with terrible jetlag and everything I owned in the car with me. Much singing and crying and coffee. Never forget. :,D
-Kept up with my French studies!  I'm SO HAPPY I'm at the point now where I can read novels in French, so that's a fun and easy way for me to study, just reading books before bed and looking up the new words.  I finished 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, Around the World in 80 Days, and took an Alliance Française class where we read and discussed Noces Suivi De L'Ete.
-Hosted 2 cartoonist vacations in Central Oregon. Rode bikes, visited the horses, went on the river, made the kind of great memories that I can revisit on bad days.
-Helped my parents move into their "empty nest" house. Went through the deepest caverns of our basement, cleaned out all of the nostalgic childhood stuff they'd been keeping for me, and weeded 4 enormous storage bins of sketchbooks/diaries down to the few things I wanted to keep. 
 -Drove through a wildfire in the Oregon high desert and survived. @_@
-Was featured in The Important Project
-And an Autokite animation!!!
-Got to see Welcome To Nightvale perform live in Portland. :)

Shortcomings:  
-Didn't finish Over The Surface. x_x Didn't even finish the first issue. This suffered the most as other other opportunities bubbled up and, looking ahead, it probably has to be delayed until after the French book wraps up. Ugh.
-Didn't finish a Nettles story with Ben and Terry like I wanted to.
-Didn't make an animation reel. Didn't animate anything after that Eyeliner video for Loopdeloop (but that's because I started getting jobs from it...!)
-Reapplied for the Maison des Auteurs residency and didn't get it.
-Applied to a LOT of animation and game studio jobs I didn't get.
-Did a bunch of story tests for studios and wasn't offered positions for them. I've asked friends boarding for animation how many a person should expect to do before finding work, it sounds like people do anywhere from 1 to 30 tests while trying out... @_@ So I don't consider this point a failure, but it's still disappointing to be rejected! Those were low points in my year. But "winners are losers who got back up," right? It made it easier to think of each test as a learning experience, each one getting me closer to ready for The One that would give me a job offer. And by the time I got a job offer, I would have gotten a bunch of bad boards out of the way ;)
-I focused a lot on myself this year -- improving my portfolio and going for jobs in a new industry. I was NOT the best friend I could have been on several occasions.
-Wasn't always great about working out/stretching. I'm getting older! I notice it after only a week away...! I wake up sore and drawing hurts my shoulders/back if I'm not in shape.
-Prioritizing is a constant struggle. There's always something fun or easy I'd rather do before That Thing That I Really Should Be Working On. I heard about the "eat the frog" concept for the first time this year, where you do the single hardest thing on your list first, and I do believe that's a great way to get momentum and ride the productivity wave that a sense of accomplishment can bring. My parents are very big on "balance", and I like the idea that challenges like this are more like constant balancing acts than obstacles to be overcome once and defeated definitively...It's an ongoing project.
-Email is just getting out of control. I'm happy that people are seeing my work and writing to me, but it's so overwhelming...I have a hard time answering even the "this is very important and relevant to work we are doing please write me back ASAP" emails. :(

2016 Goals:  
Gonna keep it real simple this year and just focus on two things:
1) Do my best at the Disney story apprenticeship, learn as much as possible, get to know the other artists there, study study study, and try to be kept the full 12 months. ^^; Utilize all of the amazing opportunities in the studio like weekly life drawing and an immense resource library. ♥ This is the chance of a lifetime and I'm going to make the most of it!
2) Finish my first book for a French publisher. The contract is signed, and 96 black-and-white pages plus a cover are due in December. The writer is my friend Isabelle Bauthian, and I'm really excited to work together. :D She sends me the scripts in French, which is good practice for me, but she's also bilingual so she can throw me a line when I'm lost. ^^ I'm going to try to do my best work on this. It will be amazing to finally have a book out in the French market!!!

What did we learn? 
-LA is not kind to walkers. :( You have to know the city really well and plan ahead if walking is important to you.
-Walking is important to me.
-BUT LA also has an underground Metro system! :D Did you know that? It's limited, but it makes it crazy-convenient for me to go between North Hollywood and Hollywood or downtown, stretch my legs, and not worry about traffic or parking.
-Also, Lyft is a pretty amazing option.
-Your portfolio should be full of the kind of work you WANT to be doing. So if that's storyboarding for feature animation, and you haven't had a studio job yet, board your own short stories and SHOW that that's what you want to do and you can do it.
-Instagram, Tumblr, and LinkedIn all helped me professionally this year. Posting work to them regularly is probably worth the time.
-People in LA and in animation have been SO NICE so far.  I kind of expected...I don't know...your stereotypical harried, ruthless, competitive types...? But no. Oh my gosh the people I've met so far have been great. And it seems like people in animation have more of an allegiance to the people they've worked with than the companies they work for, so when you go to a party it will be full of people from a bunch of different, competing studios, who don't care and are friends because they've worked together before. It's nice.
-Everyone knows everyone. Burning bridges is never a great idea, but this seems like a particularly inadvisable place/industry to do it...
-Learned lots of film/animation terminology this year! I didn't go to school for this, so I learn something new every day ^^; "Plus the scene", "it didn't have any bumps for me", etc.
-Long distance sucks.  Long distance suuuuucks!

Final thoughts / miscellany:  
-If you have not seen A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, it's free on Netflix and I highly recommend it.  Fury Road, Jessica Jones, BoJack Horseman, and Master of None all really stood out for me this past year.