I feel like sharing my journey in animation especially in times like these when job opportunities come by and I get lots of messages about it. Here it goes (it’s a bit long):
I got into TV animation in Manila without any art degree in 1990 as an inbetweener trainee for Hannah Barbera. It was a job application I waited for almost a year just to get into the program. When I first sent an overseas application to Disney, Dreamworks, and Warner Brothers in 1994, I was already supervising the layout dept for Marvel TV Production in Manila and just started a family. With a heart focused on getting into feature animation, the portfolio guidelines the studios sent me gave me a reality check - my skills were not there yet. So I decided I’ll keep moving towards the goal and sharpen my skills to their standard. After migrating to the US in ‘96 through a small game studio, the first thing I did was take a summer program at Associates in Art under a couple of Disney artists. I remember depriving myself of sleep for 13 weeks while building a new portfolio. After the program, I brought my portfolios to the same studios. DW wasn’t sure and wanted to give me a test. WB flatly told me I don’t have it. Disney, on the other hand, immediately hired me to work as full time key layout artist on Mulan. And that was the start of another life journey.
I always tell my students to keep the 4 P’s going in them: 1. Passion - keep it burning and having a growth mindset to never stop learning to do something new; 2. Practice - practice, practice, and tons of practice; 3. Perseverance - takes an act of will to keep pressing on; and lastly, 4. Prayers - we need lots of it. At any point, don’t ever, ever think that you’ve arrived. All the best to all who are on the same creative journey.
As a kid, I wanted to be one of two things: either a paleontologist or an astronaut. I dreamed of going to Space Camp. I loved dinosaurs and books about the La Brea Tar Pits. I was certifiably obsessed with both space and Earth’s history. As I went through school it was obvious that I was adept at both art and science.
I was encouraged to pursue the art end of things by my mom; my dad supported me no matter what I did. I struggled a little with math near my senior year, though I was hardly failing and got As and Bs in all my classes, including precalc and physics. Still, I decided to pursue art.
I went to college out of high school on a full scholarship and attended SUNY Oswego for graphic design. I still had to take out some loans but I got my BFA. I took one freelance job and realized: I hated it. Art was fun and I was good at it but… I hated freelance work.
My mom suggested I try becoming a teacher, so I did that. I got my teaching degree from Indian River Community College in Florida, which is a 7-week program because Florida is really desperate for teachers. I worked as a teaching assistant for a few years but… I was bored. Really bored.
I went to Florida State University for one semester (again using loans), deciding I was going to become an oceanographer. But I failed college algebra and decided I was too stupid for science.
Feeling like absolute shit about myself, I joined the Navy. I studied for the ASVAB and got a 97, almost the highest score possible even though that test has math on it. I ended up in a fairly technical job, repairing the electrical systems on F18s. I had to learn some math and some science for my job and noticed I was… actually pretty good at it.
I spent 4 years in the Navy and got out, deciding I’d go back to school to become a teacher (again) but only as a backup, and my goal would be getting a Master’s and Doctorate in planetary geology. I came to Central Michigan University. I had to take college algebra again… and I aced it. Nearly got a 100%. I was floored. I took algebra II and also aced it.
It was halfway through that second semester I decided to throw caution to the wind: fuck it all, I was going to become a scientist. So I dropped the teaching major and joined the Geology major. I proceeded to pass algebra II and trigonometry with As.
I’m now entering my fourth semester here at CMU.
I’m taking calculus 1 this semester, calc II in the spring. I’m going to be picking up math as a minor beneath my geology major. I’m looking at grad schools and already planning where I want to go (University of Washington, I’m looking at you!).
Life isn’t always linear. I’m 32 years old and halfway through a new bachelor’s degree, with at least 6 more years of school ahead of me before I’ll land my dream job of planetary geology, although I could still potentially switch to Earth-based geology (I do still love the ocean, don’t get me started on mid-ocean ridges). I’m keeping my options open at this point because I know that things may not turn out how I’ve planned them. Yes, I have some college debt but I’m ok with that. Yeah, I literally have -$300 in my bank account but I’m okay with that, this is my dream and it’s worth it.
Do not feel like a loser if you’re 24 and not in your dream job. Don’t lose hope if you’re struggling, if your situation seems boring and endless. Don’t be afraid of student loan debt; I know some people are terrified of it for some reason but you really don’t have to be. Go out there and DO IT, if you can. If you’re in a place where you have to wait, then knuckle down and bear it out. I had to wait out 4 years in the Navy to get where I am. I had to get an entire degree that’s basically worthless to get where I am. I’ve literally lived three different lifetimes to get where I am: artist, teacher, military.