The Thesis...& Sticking with it

Spoiler Alert--I finished and graduated in December! But when I went back to re-read some blog drafts I thought this was still a good collection of thoughts on what my thesis experience was like.  I am working on a blog series about working on a large project/film and what I learned from it and how I'd do it differently for the next film (and there will be a next one)


At the moment all parts of my thesis feel like animation triage.  I'm fighting the urge to abandon the entire project and start something new everyday but unfortunately (or fortunately) they wont let me stay in this program forever.  So I have to find a way to fight, fix and struggle through all of my mistakes from previous semesters.  I hate it!!  But it got me thinking of what we learn when we stick with something even when it's frustrating and choose to finish a hard, imperfect task rather than start over from scratch. 

I want so badly to take everything I know from THIS film and start a new, fresh film with no mistakes.  I feel like I have learned everything I could have learned from this project and now I need to take those skills and try again (and also bury the current film in my pile of unfinished projects).  But that's exactly why I shouldn't stop--the longer I work on this film the more I realize that when I want to stop working on it and 'move on' before its finished its more from fear of making something bad than it is from wanting a new challenge.  In reality every time I think that I have learned everything I could possibly learn from this film, it shows me otherwise and I gain a new understanding of the material and animation as a craft. 

Redoing the scenes no longer feels like spinning my wheels but rather significant changes that drastically improve the film.  But now I'm fighting against my lack of planning--lets be honest. I avoided my planning because it was hard and scary and I really thought I couldn't finish the film.  When I started, I couldn't even imagine the steps I needed to take, it was like someone handed me a child or a house plant (basically the same thing right?) and I had no idea what to do with it, if what I was doing was right, or if it was even worth the effort.  I should have dove right in and failed, over and over and over again (not that I didn't inevitably fail anyway) but I should have failed in my work, rather than the failure to execute it.  If I am ashamed of any portion of this thesis project, it wold be that I failed to take the risk, I took the safe road, I hesitated and waited for approval.  I waited for someone else to tell me that I was an animator, rather than simply animating and letting my volume of work speak for itself.

But that’s exactly why I shouldn’t stop—the longer I work on this film the more I realize that when I want to stop working on it and ‘move on’ before its finished its more from fear of making something bad than it is from wanting a new challenge.
— Me

So I wont quit.  I wont give in to temptation to start over and not have anything to show for years of work.  I'll stick it out and salvage the film from what I have and learn better to avoid those mistakes because I had to spend the time righting them myself.

Here's some things I've learned from sticking it out on this film:

  • I have so much more to learn about authentic acting and overlapping action
  • Breakdowns aren't crazy drawings to make the action 'more interesting' (read: Complicated)--they simply connect an action--SIMPLE!!
  • In my next film I'll do all of the keys for all the scenes before I start inbetweening (and string it back together in After Effects to make sure they link up)
  • I don't like watching my own work--even when I think its okay--timing out my animatic feels like torture
  • pay attention to camera angles and how scenes cut together
  • SLOW DOWN & PLAN--it will actually make things go faster
  • I love the process of animating and I find in-betweening somewhat meditative (even if its not supposed to be like that)
  • I am now starting to see what good action really looks like--and how to get character to start looking like their alive and not just moving

If I had moved on a year ago to a new project, I would have been stuck with stiff and lifeless animation, I think that going back and analyzing the scenes and the animation over and over again forced me to address issues I would have otherwise never addressed.  Being told it 'still doesn't feel right' was what I needed to hear--and taking it back to zero each time, was probably what I needed to do, as frustrating as it is!  I had to analyze my own mistakes and try new approaches to the same work to stop making the same mistakes.

So maybe the next time you think about abandoning a project because you've learned everything you can learn you'll stick it out and see what else is left.

August & September Recap & Some Thoughts on Improvement


September is coming to a close and I definitely feel like I'm racing towards the finish line for my thesis (count down to 90 seconds of full color animation has begun!) September feels like its been a pretty productive and successful month, but I am definitely feeling the rush and panic of being in the semester again.  Even though summer has almost the exact same schedule as fall (animation every weeknight and then marathon work sessions Wednesday and Saturday) the summer still feels more relaxed.  This week low motivation and burn out were definitely on my mind enough tough I feel like I've only bee working for three weeks (but really its been an intense schedule since I got back from my Pittsburgh trip.

Here are some highlights from August and September


  • Weekends Short Film warped (I helped out in coloring the animation and some very simple compositing for this film back in July--it was an awesome experience! & I am also credited on the website...and the film too!)
  • Completed tie-down of 3 scenes (minus a few edits I'm still working on)--Including a HORSE!
  • Read "Steal Like an Artist"  which was an awesome confidence boost about sharing art  work and helped me start thinking about how to be more professional about my work


  • Completed tie down on horse run cycle & made major improvements
  • Progress on two backgrounds
  • Re-analyzed my shots & strategized about what's best to finish before reviewing this semester
  • Made schedule for when the review/presentation materials will be completed this semester
  • Found time management schedule that *mostly* works for me
  • Listened to two awesome podcasts about young women creating their own careers & navigating life that really got me thinking (Millennial & Real Talk with Rachel Antionnette)

Hello again!

Today I my thesis program director that “For SURE! I want to graduate in December”  So... That’s it I’m committed!  over 5 years in grad school (I’m part time btw!) and I am done, I just needed to set a day and make the deadline.  Even though my animation has been going MUCH better since last year (and probably the last time I wrote in this blog), completing that deadline will be HARD! (really hard!) But at least now it seems achievable.


While now I know that even though it will be difficult December IS a realistic deadline (should everything go as planned and I stay focused/motivated)   However, what’s not helping me feel confident about this deadline is  that I’ve been in a funk of animation/grad school burnout and exhaustion for probably over a month.  There’s no other way around it --I AM DONE.  I want my life back, I want to see my film finished and most importantly I want to move on to other projects and develop some new ideas! So there I said it, for everyone to read and hold me to it! I WILL finish by December and you can watch that playout here--in my blog, where I’ll finally start updating it regularly (and also on a youtube channel soon!).  Catch what its like to do grad school & work full time, from someone who’s finally started to figure it out. (Maybe)  


Sometimes you have to just decide to do the hard thing, just decide to find more confidence in your decisions at work or decide to finish your thesis and decide to BECOME an animator.  I have struggled for a long time when it comes to defining myself professionally.  I work as a Graphic Artist but would also like to be seen as creative illustrator and animator.  But for some reason when someone asks I shy away from the creative part and use lots of ‘umms, kindas and I’m still learning’’s  I want to feel sure that I am good at those things before I claim that I could do them professionally but the longer and deeper I research this career the more apparent it is becoming that people who are successful didn’t just wait for others to tell them they were good, they just started--good or bad.  So here I am, starting again.  Follow along for a more regular look into find out how this thing goes, my thoughts on animation, and any tips i can offer along the way.  I am not an expert yet, but I think a lot about animation and DO a lot of animation (even if you haven’t see it yet!) and I think it’s time I started owning up to that for real--I’m an animator.


SO--For the rest of 2017 I will be posting regularly as well as updating my portfolio and website. Please be patient as I try new things in the layout and organization!  ALso stay tuned for thesis progress updates and other projects as I try (for real this time!) to build my own creative life!!