Academy of Animated Art

Learning how to light for animated films is daunting. When you start out, you are overwhelmed with all these different software packages and they all pitch you the same story. “Learn our software and you can make all the pretty pictures you want forever!!!” As a student, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in this and think the key to making beautiful pictures is a full understanding of the software. And if all these artists at movie studios are making incredible images…it’s because they know what all the buttons do or have even better software!

Once you get in the industry, you realize this is so far from the truth. Major studios don’t have some magical software to make everything pretty. What they do have is a crew of trained artists with an eye geared toward understanding the fundamentals of image-making. A mastery of color and value and how to create an emotional reaction with an image. 

So in 2012, Jasmine Katatikarn and I co-founded The Academy of Animated Art with the goal of detaching students from just thinking about software and getting them fully trained on the artistic side of animated films. While we do have technical workshops, the school focuses on honing the student’s artistic eye to help them understand color, composition, and design in order to create visually successful images

Our program consists of four major elements:

  • Artistic courses like Character Lighting and Lighting an Animated Film to teach the principles and fundamentals of our craft
  • Technical workshops like Katana, Maya, Redshift, and Nuke to understand how to make the image-making process fluid
  • An asset library compiled of textured characters and scenes to practice lighting techniques
  • Daily live feedback to allow our students the opportunity to improve through iterations 

I am proud to say that I’ve had the opportunity to teach over 300 students in 31 different countries and many have gone on to great careers at companies like Disney, Dreamworks, Sony Pictures Imageworks, and so many more.

Academy of Animated Art Student Work

Giving Back To Our Community

In the time of Covid, we made it our mission to be a community for artists across our industry to gather, collaborate, learn, and grow. As many in our industry lost jobs and fell upon other hardships, I am proud to say that we stepped up to deliver free lectures, free critiques, and free assets for people to download and build their demo reels. We also constructed an incredible Discord Community with some of the kindest, most supportive people in our industry. 

We also became more aware of some of the racial problems in our industry and stepped up to help. We raised money and donated to Black Girls Code, a San Francisco-based non-profit focused on providing STEM education to young women of color.  We created more characters of color and provided lessons on various techniques for lighting characters of different skin tones. This cultivated in February 2021 when we partnered with Danny Williams, Abel Vargas, and The Foundry to release Ashli. a completely modeled, shaded, and ready to be lit character in Katana for free along with a presentation on proper techniques for lighting dark-skinned individuals.