My interest in animation began the day I watched Finding Nemo. More specifically, it was when I watched the extra clips on the DVD. I saw artists scuba diving off the coast of Australia gathering reference for the film. They analyzed the ocean’s color far from shore versus how green and murky it became as they approached Sydney. They watched the broken rays of light dance in the water and the patterns formed by the caustic effects. It was then up to someone called the Lighting Artist to translate these visual phenomena onto the screen. I researched this further and discovered it was also the Lighting Artist’s job to help establish mood and push the story along through a series of visual cues.
This blew my mind. I had no idea that such a job existed and immediately decided that I wanted to do it. I had a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and an overabundance of confidence so I started applying for jobs. It didn’t take long before I realized that I was grossly underqualified for such a position. I made the decision to go to back to school at The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) to pursue my Master of Fine Arts degree in Visual Effects. After school I was slightly more qualified and was lucky enough to land a job at Blue Sky Studios. I am currently working on my 8th film with Blue Sky and the job has simply been a dream come true. The artists I get to work with on a daily basis are incredibly inspirational and I have grown so much as an artist simply being in their presence. Although I still have yet to go scuba diving, this job has been a dream come true.
Ice Age Franchise
My work in animation has not been limited to films. In 2012, I co-founded tdu. tdu is an online school designed to teach students the non-animation disciplines of animated films such as Lighting, Compositing, and FX. The school focuses on honing the student’s artistic eye to help them understand color, composition, design, and creating visually successful images across a wide variety of styles and projects. We currently offer six courses covering different topics and skill levels.
I teach the introductory lighting course called Principles of Lighting and have also helped many students through our tdu mentor program. I am proud to say that I have had the opportunity to teach over 200 students in 23 different countries and I am constantly overwhelmed by their passion, talent, and work ethic.
Lighting For Animation :: The Art of Visual Storytelling
In 2013, Jasmine Katatikarn and I were contacted by the publishing company Taylor & Francis about writing a book on lighting for animated films. After years of blood, sweat, and tears, Lighting for Animation :: The Visual Art of Storytelling was officially released in the summer of 2016. Writing this book was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. There were countless evenings and weekends lost to research, writing, and image creation, but the outcome was absolutely worth it. The biggest joy was getting to meet and interview some of my heroes in this industry including Sharon Calahan (Director of Photography on many of my favorite animated movies including Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and Ratatouille). There were dozens of other artists who contributed interviews and images for the book, most of whom I would not have had the opportunity to speak with otherwise. I am extremely proud of the work that Jasmine and I put into this book and I am delighted with the results. For more information, you can check out the website for the book www.lightingforanimation.com. It is also available for purchase on Amazon.com