In that I’m sort of a different breed of animation professional, I have to navigate through a lot of stuff that is pretty ridiculous when trying to grow as a young professional. I’m always applying to leadership programs and different young professional ventures and getting denied over and over again. I do realize that it’s partially because I live in Louisiana where connections are more important than accomplishments or degrees most times.
I feel like when I’m applying to programs or talking to people, there’s this air of “she’s in animation; what could she possibly offer.” Luckily, I’ve learned how to be more strategic lately (lately being last year). I purposely told someone I knew that I was applying to a leadership development program for one of the young professional groups here because she was a project manager for the program. Guess what...I made it in!! And then for another NOLA young professional ambassador program, I emailed someone I met in the the leadership development program because she works at the organization putting on the program. I made it into that, and during the first session, I was talking to her and she told me, “I fought for you!” I’m very appreciative of that, but I’m thinking, I’m pretty accomplished, why did she have to fight for me? I looked at the bios of some of my cohort members and I didn’t get it.
But it’s like people think, oh she just draws all day. Forget that she has worked internationally, held offices in community organizations, helped start non-profits on the side, and more. There are so many things stacked up against me when I walk into any type of networking room, whether it’s in my industry or not. I look much younger than I am, I’m black, and I’m a woman. This means I have to come up with strategies to get people to want to actually engage with me and talk to me. To be honest, I can list all of the awesome accomplishments in a quick “let’s go around the room” intro and still get crickets.
Something that I hate doing, but I’ve come to terms with is telling people that I worked on Family Guy and The Cleveland Show. I mean, it was so long ago now, it’s barely relevant, but it transforms a half-listener into a fully engaged conversational partner in seconds. I’ve literally seen people’s whole body language change towards me after mentioning that.
Something that was upsetting recently was that for the ambassador program, they asked us to submit our bios, so of course I put the TV shows I worked on in there. Again, strategy. I go to read the bio sheet they gave to the cohort members and someone removed the list of shows and replaced it with “many shows.” Who DOES that? If someone is giving you their bio, out of all of the things you would remove, do you think a person wants you to remove the fact that they worked on famous television shows? You removed my bread and butter from someone randomly coming up to me and saying, “hey, I saw you worked on Batman. How was that?”
Don’t let me get started on the struggles of networking at an animation event...goodness. I went to an event one time and I wasn’t sure who was there for the event because it was at a bar. I kind of figured out who the group possibly could be and I go over and linger. They literally moved several times from where I was and I had to follow them around. Apparently, a black woman couldn’t possibly be here for the animation event. I just ended up leaving. I attend virtual reality and other meetups and I end up standing somewhere alone unless I know someone there. It’s hard figuring out where you fit when wherever you go people make you feel like you don’t belong. I can only hope for the best and hope that I can figure out the ways of the world. Wish me luck!
I recently tackled a daily project during the month of February. In that I have a full-time job where I commute from New Orleans to Baton Rouge every day and recently started teaching an evening class at a university in the evenings, it was a crazy undertaking, but for over a year I’ve been trying to be more active in the “artist” title I attribute to myself. I feel if you don’t produce art, how can you call yourself an artist?
So, I decided to use an idea for a project I had researched several months back. The original idea for the project was to gain a new skill set, namely learning ZBrush (a digital sculpting software) and getting into 3D sculpting and hair, but since it popped back into my mind of February 1st, I decided to take on the project with my current skill set. A quick explanation of the project is that I took each letter of the alphabet and found a “black hairstyle” that corresponded with it, then created a representation of the hairstyle on the letter. I called it the “Black Hair Alphabet” and chose February because of Black History Month.
When I initially started the project, I was doing a “good job” of working on each letter when I came home from work or class. Each letter typically took 2-4 hours to complete, so that had me going to sleep anywhere between 10:00 pm and midnight. Not good when you get up at 5:30 am every day, but anything to be an artist, right? I posted my letter as soon as I was done with it on my Instagram account and Facebook artist page. In that this was a big project, having these “little wins” helped motivate me toward my goal: being an artist.
After a few letters, I had procured some fans. Mostly, people I knew, but now I had an audience. This is one thing that helped me push through to the end of the project. There were people out there who were looking forward to seeing what the next hairstyle was and what I would do with it. It also helped to have a friend, Latrice, who posted every single letter on her Instagram and Twitter accounts. So, not only did I have personal connection fans, I had her followers watching too! If you’re working on a project, whatever it is, I would encourage you to “put it out there” so that you can gain some accountability partners. These people may not even know you’re using them as accountability partners, but when you can have someone ask, “hey, how are you coming along with that project you were working on?”, you can either make them proud with an update or be forced to look your failure to act in the face.
I was able to keep up the pace of producing my letters daily maybe until I hit the letter “M,” which I would consider to be impressive considering my workload. After a while, I decided that sleep was more important than strictly keeping up with my project. That meant the next letter would come out two days later or I would binge 2-4 letters on the weekend.
Then we got to the letter, “Q.” If you look at what I produced for the letter “Q,” you wouldn’t think it was that difficult to do, especially considering how some of my previous letters looked. But you also wouldn’t know from looking at it that my finished product was the 7th iteration/attempt at making “Q.” I spent the entire weekend on that letter. I pretty much wanted to quit after that, but luckily I have this thing where I’ll let myself down before I let other people down. The fans I had gained in the short period of time were what kept me going. However, when you get frustrated or burnt out, I would also suggest taking a little break. It took a couple days to get the gumption to work on the letter “R.”
By the end of my project, it definitely wasn’t daily, but by the middle of March and after completing one of my most complicated letters, “Z,” I was finished with the “Black Hair Project.” I felt both accomplished and relieved. I got a number of digital pat on the backs at the end from people on Facebook and Instagram. It was also big because it was the first BIG personal project that I’ve completed in several years. It’s so easy to meet a deadline at work because your paycheck is dependent on it, but once you’re on your own, any and everything can become an excuse to putting it off. I encourage anyone who is working on a project that has been thrown to the wayside; dust it off, be vocal about it and push through to the end. It will all be worth it on the other side.
If you want to see the completed "Black Hair Alphabet" project, you check it out here.
This speech was an overview of the 12 Principles of Animation. In that it was a 5-7 minute speech, I knew it was too much content, but giving this particular speech was more for personal evaluation than the evaluation of the club. I had just done a workshop for the Boy Scouts on these same principles and I realized that I spent too much time explaining them, so I wanted to see how quickly I could go over the principles. This will help me in future workshops.
This speech went over very well. In Toastmasters, you're given this sheet with tear-off strips that you can use to give people feedback. I got so many of those after this speech and it was all positive. It felt like when you're in elementary school and get the most Valentine's Day cards (when you could be selective, before the participation trophy era).
This speech is about how staying up all night is not something she does very often because it has consequences.
I had a good amount of interesting experiences when I lived in South Korea and I wanted to tell you guys about one of my infamous stories. As many of you know, I lived in South Korea for two years. Since the country is so small, a 3 to 4-hour bus ride can take you anywhere. So one weekend, I went to the city of Daejeon to hang out with my fraternity brothers. One lived in Daejeon and the other, my friend, Louis, lived in Busan, which was about an hour away. I lived in Gwangju, which was about a 4-hour bus ride.
We had a good time, went out to a few bars, danced and played pool. It’s getting close to 4am so Louis says that instead of heading out and finding somewhere to stay, he thinks we should just keep hanging out and around 6am or so, we can just head home. I agreed. I can always fall asleep on the bus and then take a nap when I get home.
This is my second speech, "When You Call Leadership." Hopefully, it's more interesting to read than it was to listen to it. It has some great information that I put together, but my delivery was off for this speech. I was standing in the front of the room, in the middle of giving my speech and thing thinking, "Wow, this is a boring speech." It would be beneficial to learn how to deliver material that isn't about Korea or animation, so I will work on improving in the future.
After 6 plus years of putting it off, I decided to join Toastmasters last September. A lot of people are familiar with Toastmasters, but for those of your who are not, it is a public speaking organization that has clubs all around the world. Something that I didn't realize before I joined was the opportunities to improve your leadership skills as well, which is nice.
I got the idea to start sharing my Toastmaster's speeches since they are usually centered around South Korea or animation. And since a lot of them have hilarious stories, I also wanted to have a place I was documenting said stories. So I'll be posting my Toastmasters' speeches as I do them. I have already done 5 speeches out of my Competent Communicator manual, so I'll publish those now.
Your first speech is called your Icebreaker, so here is mine. I titled it "A Life of Animation".
Something that artists need to remember is that you have to push yourself in order to get better. It definitely helps when there’s a project where other people are counting on you to finish by a deadline. No better way to push through a challenge when procrastination is not an option.
When I worked at Digital eMation, I had the opportunity to work on a myriad of great projects. The TV shows we worked on were Family Guy, The Cleveland Show, Batman: The Brave and the Bold and Scooby Doo. One day, I finished up one of my many projects. I went to my supervisor to see what I would be working on next. She asked me if I wanted to model a snake for Scooby Doo or a batmobile for Family Guy. Because I wanted a challenge, I chose the batmobile.
I went up to Monroe, LA to teach a 3D modeling and animation workshop at Louisiana Delta Community College. This was my first time in north Louisiana. It was an all-day workshop (9am-3pm) and we had a great time. My students were excited when their cylinders turned into tires on their cars. We mostly did modeling, but I was able to show them some animation by animated a ball and tail rig for them at the end of the session.
Otherwise known as "the time I thought I was going back to America". I went over how I got my job at Digital eMation, a Korean animation company, here. I also did a follow-up post. So, now that I have the job, I needed to get the appropriate visa. When you go to Korea as a native English teacher, you have an E-2 visa. When you come as a specialist in certain industries, you need to get an E-7 visa. There are several things you need when applying for an E-7 visa and you can read about them here. I can tell you right now, that neither me nor my vice president knew about all of this so that’s what made the trip a little interesting.
Updates about ongoing projects and interesting 3D news.