Ground Zero Animation Expo - Recap pt. 2

If you haven't read part one yet--you can find it here!


Not only was Ground Zero an excellent place for learning about the industry from professionals currently working in it, it was also a great place to meet your animation peers!  After Saturday's show, everyone attending the conference was invited to meet up at a local Brewery.  Again, I went by myself--I'm an extrovert ...even if I'm quiet sometimes. I wasn't super stressed about attending this.  However, I tend to have a hard time striking up conversation with others I don't know, particularly if they're already talking in a group.  Eva did a great job organizing this and rounded up everyone she saw from the conference to sit near each other at the end of the bar--which was awesome because I was having a hard time telling who had come over from the conference!!  I ended up striking up conversation with lots of interesting peers and tabling artists that night and stayed until the end.  I've never been to the after-hours social events at CTNx, but after testing the waters here I'll be sure to try that in November as well!

Overall, this was an excellent conference and an awesome experience.  Especially as someone who lives outside of the LA area, its nice to have a conference in between trips to CTNx--although there are lots of animation events happening in Southern California all the time, its hard to make time or travel for one day or week night events, this is just Saturday and Sunday ...if you drink a lot of coffee you wouldn't even have to take time off of work!  This year, I'm going to apply the advice I've learned at Ground Zero, to bring a new reel to CTN to get more feedback, and then bring a new reel to the next Ground Zero...and so on, forever.  If you feel overwhelmed by a large and crazy conference Ground Zero a good place to go, its easy to get lost in the sea of people herded through the Burbank Marriot each year and hard to find the time or space to really make conversation with anyone.  I felt like i had plenty of time to chat with artists and peers and really enjoyed the 'networking' aspect of conferences I've been avoiding for so long.

If you're looking to go next year here's some tips! (mostly things I'd do next year to be more prepared)

  • Think about what you'd like to know about animation industry or different careers before you go--there will be a lot of time to ask questions!! This time I asked a lot of people about entering the industry or how they develop their portfolio projects so that it doesn't turn into a life long project.  I got some great specific advice! But I think if I'd gone a few years ago I wouldn't have had those questions ready--think about what you'd like to know!
  • Bring Business cards--I am SO glad I forced myself to make them even though I had to pay for rush shipping--I gave out almost half of what I was worth it
  • Next time I'd try to pack a lunch--there was just McDonalds and Food 4 Less near the can of course drive but I was lazy...I ate french fries like 4 days in a row...but I'll take responsibility for that life choice
  • Show up early! (but after me!)--you wont be stressed, you'll get a good swag bag, you'll feel superior to those who showed up late and didn't get a swag bag (just kidding)
  • If you want to figure draw, do it in the morning--the tables will be there all weekend but the model was only there for a bit--and both days the model looked awesome! I missed most of that.
  • If you're tired go sit in the bleachers and draw the other attendees, once you leave school you'll realize there's only so many places where this seems normal/not creepy
  • I'd get more sleep--and drag more people with me!  I could have split my room with 3 other people and put some on the floor too! It would have made it like $30 bucks a night a person...which is dirt cheap...we could have all gone to Disneyland on Monday (or at least Downtown Disney)...#goals

Ground Zero Animation Expo - Recap pt. 1


This weekend I attended Ground Zero Animation Expo in Stanton, CA (near Anaheim).  It was an awesome experience that was incredibly well done and provided an excellent way to meet both professionals and peers in the animation industry.

Ground Zero Animation Expo was started by Eva Sowinski and just finished its third year running.  Its a much smaller and more intimate conference than CTNx (every November in Burbank) and has a much different atmosphere as well as different goals.  Eva explained where Ground Zero began as well as the vision for the Expo on this Ink and Paint Girls Podcast-- definitely give it a listen!  I found it on my drive back to Sacramento and it was not only inspiring but also really summed up what Ground Zero is about (...but that should not be a surprise because she made it!)  Here's a few notes on my experience--I'd definitely encourage anyone looking to break into the industry, learn more about it, or simply loves animation to check it out!!


My journey to Ground Zero start very early in Sacramento Thursday morning--after a run to the store for snacks, coffee, and a ridiculously large breakfast sandwich I was on the road!  I decided to drive to this conference by myself, because even though its 5+ hour drive to Southern California from Sacramento I didn't know anyone else from Sac doing animation and most of my cohort at school has already graduated and sought other opportunities--I was feeling pretty animation-lonely out here!   Even though I'm an extrovert, I don't tend to do as well at professional conventions or meetings--meeting my art-heros and other professionals just makes me nervous! So going by myself was also a way to force myself to get out there--if you don't bring anyone with you, you can't hide from all the people you don't know!  To make this seem less daunting, I stopped by at a friends house in LA and had an awesome weekend catching up and taking her goofy dog to the 'dog beach' and then we ate everything in LA in 24 hours...which was awesome and I was much less stressed.

Ground Zero started at 10 am on naturally I showed up just after 8:30am  (if you've been to CTNx you know why I showed up so early!!...also lets be honest, only the first so-many people were going to get a swag bag and I wanted one).  I was the first in line for about half an hour and at first felt a little now you all know I'm REALLY excited ...Eva took my picture for social media and then finally some more people showed up at about 9am and then it felt less strange--by the time it opened I heard there were 50 people in line.  

There are a few things that are unique to Ground Zero that I really liked--first of all, its not an expensive conference--if you just want to walk the floor, shop tables, and meet artists--IT'S FREE! and if you want to just go to panels its only $10 for unlimited panels a day.  You can also purchase workshops and reviews (which I don't think were more than $20) and are 100% worth the money!  If you are new to the industry and want to go to a conference, even if you have to travel--this one is a good choice! (also, its only 15 minutes from Disneyland, if you run out of things to do (I didn't) you can go there...make it vacation!) 


Another excellent thing about Ground Zero is the size, its small--I'm not sure how many people were there over the weekend, but I could walk the floor and move freely without bumping into anyone and there was no need for crowd control or much people herding.  Being a small conference meant that if you wanted to talk to an artist at a table, you could without feeling like you were bothering them or distracting them from a sale.  I walked the floor at least 5 times a day in between panels and workshops and I assume others did as well.  Everyone seemed as excited to chat as they were to sell artwork and it was much easier to strike up conversation at this conference than CTNx where people are bumping into you or getting in line to buy things or ask questions and its pretty chaotic. In addition the workshops and panels are all small AND long--each was about an hour in length and only had a normal-sized classroom full of people at most.  That meant that for workshops, the information was in-depth and informative and there was plenty of time for questions.  I went to Amanda Jolly and Andrea Gerstmann's workshops and both gave great talks that were full of very useful and specific information.  I normally don't ask questions in the large lectures or workshops at CTNx (even if they are small) but I felt much more comfortable asking at Ground Zero because their emphasis was on learning and entering the industry--rather than CTNx which has a mix of veterans, current industry people and people hard-core-searching for a job. 

Ground Zero also felt more relaxed than conferences I'd attended in the past.  For the Panels, I went to a Character Design one with Stephen Silver and Amber Aki-Huang and a Storyboard Panel with Kris Wimberly, Casssie Soliday, and two other artists who's names I did not catch :( both began with the artists talking about what they do and how they got there and then they opened it up to questions from the audience.  Every panel I went to had lots of thoughtful questions from everyone in the audience and excellent advice from the artists.  The panels were also geared towards learning, explaining the careers and talking about career paths.  Artists took a lot of time to help explain aspects of the job or the industry they'd wished they'd known before they entered. 

I felt like I’d missed my chance to enter the industry and was running out of time but every panel and workshop I went to stressed that there was no right time or age to get in and that it was never too late.

All of the panels and workshops that I attended also had an emphasis on animation 'being a marathon, not a sprint'.  Nearly all of the artists expressed not only the hard work it took them to get into the industry but also that taking time to break in WAS NORMAL. Coming out of a competitive graduate program where I had initially struggled to learn animation and also being one of very few people at my school who worked full time while competing the program, I was feeling very out of place before attending.  I felt like I'd missed my chance to enter the industry and was running out of time but every panel and workshop I went to stressed that there was no right time or age to get in and that it was never too late.  Several panelists talked about how it took them over 5 or 7 years to land their first art job and that all of that is NORMAL! This was also echoed in my portfolio review with Tiara Little, I was super nervous about the review and I shouldn't have been.  Unlike the recruiter reviews at CTNx, this was just for information and she genuinely wanted to help attendees to where they wanted to be in the industry.  She had good advice and encouragement and it was overall a good experience that in hindsight I should have been a lot less worried about--I'll work on that next time.

Continue to part 2!

Links I'm Lovin' !

Hi Again! Here's some more links I'm SUPER into and why I love 'em 

  • Figure Drawing (some Nudes) -- Here's a YouTube Channel of figure drawing poses. I had completely forgotten about that until I was searching through my link file.  I will probably try this out tomorrow, I have really been feeling like I need to get back to basics!
  • Bobby Chui -- Drawing Exercises - Composition -- Here's a video where Bobby walks you through an exercise! This is something I will be revisiting later as well! I completely I forgot that I saved all of these resources for when i was 'stumped' unfortunately anytime I've been stumped I didn't think to open this page!  
  • Toniko Pantoja -- Intro to Breakdowns-- I love his youtube channel, even though the posts aren't super frequent.  This one in particular really helped me to understand how breakdown poses work and how to get varied action and change the timing/feel of your piece with just the breakdown pose. I struggled with breakdowns and inbetweening until sometime last year.  They just didn't make sense to me! 
  • Animation Desk Tumblr - Storyboarding Response -- Here's a response from a boarding artist that was reblogged by the Animation Desk Tumblr.  Usually you hear the same advice over and over again (because its true!) but I think this response really got what the person was asking.  And is good advice I think for anyone (like me!) going--okay I know drawing is important and learning the film terms, etc. but how do I get a better understanding and level-up faster.  This artist recommended watching youtube film critiques and other stuff about film making (in addition to watching actually movies and drawing of course!).  That wasn't something I had thought of and is a good way to absorb information when your brain feels full at the end of a long week at your day-job or school or whatever.

Art & your demon

The talk also encouraged us to draw our own demons, here's mine -- EVIL Amber!  Always tellin' me not to do stuff, post stuff or talk to people about animation...stop that!

The talk also encouraged us to draw our own demons, here's mine -- EVIL Amber!  Always tellin' me not to do stuff, post stuff or talk to people about animation...stop that!

Before I left for my vacation, I listened to a live lecture by Lucy Bellwood and Jessica Abel about fear, making art, and freelancing as well as  creative life and all the craziness that goes with that.  A few points in the talk really resonated with me.  One of the most obvious ones was a poll that opened at the start of the talk.  Jessica started a poll with the audience before the talk began, asking "What does your demon stop you from doing?" and while I checked all of the above, mine actually stops me from FINISHING work most often.  I have thousands of tiny sketches but the thought of finishing and being judged by the work is terrifying, it might be 'wrong' or have errors and then everyone will know that I am a hack --or that's what my demon keeps telling me anyways.

The talk was excellent and gave me a lot to think about.  In the past few weeks I have been thinking a lot about how I want to present myself after graduation and how to go about making the transition into a creative illustration or animation career.  This talk really identified SO many of of the ways that I had been struggling and helped me to see that EVERYONE feels this way, even professional artists and its more about showing up, doing the work and putting it out there than it is about being the 'perfect artist'.  It made me feel better about publicly presenting myself as an artist, especially online.  Lucy stressed that online presence is so much more about PROCESS and building a community of your peers than it is posting perfect work to attract the illustration/animation 'Gods'.  Lucy also suggested that the audience read 'Show Your Work' and 'Steal like an Artist" to help those struggling to either put themselves out there or get started (or BOTH!).  I read "Show Your Work" over my vacation because at the moment I'm most interested in how to get over the fear of posting finished work (err...well finishing it at all)!  It was an excellent (and short!) read.  Many of the points it makes were actually mentioned in the talk but the book is able to go into more detail and helped to put working as an animator/illustrator into perspective.  You don't need to be perfect, you just have to let people see how you work and let them into the process of what you're making and why.  

You can see a recording of the talk here.  And equally as awesome but unfortunately I probably can't link back to it is--Lucy Bellwood hung out after the talk to answer remaining questions! I was left with so many thoughts about realizing my animation/illustration dreams when I left the chat room and hopefully I can begin putting some of those things into practice soon!

Here's a few ideas I went through when trying to figure out what my demon might look like.  At first I thought it might be 'Evil Hershey' (one of my cats) because some days he's my nemesis and he likes to stomp all over my artwork with his brother smokey! I realized that I'm really more of my own worst enemy that Hershey is...and he probably just wants a hug anyway.

Links I'm Lovin'

Hi! So I've had a list of links I love on my computer for over a year, I've always meant to share them with you but it kept falling to the wayside, so! I'm going to post a few each week for you to enjoy! I hope you find them as helpful as I do.  (some of these are older because they've been lurking in my folders of inspiration for a while)

  • Show & Tell (Megan Hunt) -- Megan Hunt published her maker's manifesto back in 2016.  Written as an excercise for herself, she explains what she wants to achieve in her illustration and why.  Its beautiful insight into the thought behind what she makes and I saved it as something to do myself later (another blog post??) because int he past I've struggled to explain what I'm trying to achieve with my stories and not being able to articulate it I think hurt the stories in the long run.  I think if I had event old myself what those stories were about and what I wanted to achieve, I'd have done much better.  Things floating around in your mind are never as helpful as those that you put on the paper.
  • Studio Moments (Allen Ostergar) -- While this hasn't been updated in a while, Allen Ostegar illustrated life working in the studio through funny little quick sketches,  It was a fun glimpse into what being in a studio would be like.  And I love studying his quick sketches!
  • Frannerd! (Fran Meneses)  -- I think Frannerd is an excellent example of building a brand and I love watching her Youtube videos and checking out her blog and Instagram.  She is very personable on camera and comes across genuine as well as gives great advice on how to get started as an illustrator (I should take some of it!)
  • Lucy Bellwood Demon's Kickstarter (Lucy Bellwood) --I have been following Lucy for a while and she gives great advice on creative content and managing your business as a creative.  As well as working on some really interesting boat and adventure projects! She just launched a kickstarter that over funded in less than 12 hours I think..Crazy! ...she must be doing something right!


Link Round Up

I'm going to start posting helpful links that I find periodically on the blog.  They could be anything from artistic tips, how to stay motivated in animation or art school or what I like to call 'animation theory' --or how we go about thinking about  making good scenes and characters.  I hope you find them equally as interesting & helpful!

  • On Fear for the Future and Navigating the Animation World After School Aron Shay -- Excellent, candid and honest answer to an ask about fear and going from school to the real world, good advice and inspiring for anyone struggling to find their place in animation after school--keep going!
  • Animation Practice, Process and Thoughts  Mike Nguyen -- This whole blog is filled with 'animation theory' about how he takes ideas and actions and turns them into living, breathing characters.  Seriously so helpful, if you're struggled to think about animation the right way, follow this blog to learn and be reminded how we're supposed to think when animating.
  • Love Thy Rock Mark Manson -- Not necessarily art related but struggle and passion and finding the thing that you should be doing in life and for a living by looking at what you want to struggle for rather than what you want to become good at--enjoy the process & the struggle 'Love Thy Rock' (inside joke from WHS AP core and an existentialist essay on Sisyphus)
  • Walt Disney Documentary PBS -- An excellent look into the life of Walt Disney and how he built his company, it feels like a balanced look at him and his life and shows the power of perseverance in the face of defeat--innovation comes from trying stuff and sometimes that stuff just doesn't work--Walt was okay with that :)
  • Kelley McMorris Blog Kelley McMorris -- full of beautiful art, process and thoughts on being a working illustrator--an excellent blog and resource! (Her blog gave me the idea for this post and how to revive my blog a bit :)--thanks!)

When you need to loosen up...

When you need to loosen up apparently you need need to draw on a bumby train--here's a few sketches from my train ride home last night.  Usually the train is bouncy and too annoying to write or draw but the internet wasn't working so I started trying to get more into story and character in a few sketches--some sketches are of me on a train, and from a medieval book I keep trying to read and a myth we just read for my mythology class--pretty fun! I'll have to make a habit out of this.

Hopefully  I'll be able to turn a couple of them into Inktobers and catch up tonight!

Inktober 02

Tonight I got a little bit carried away with my inktober sketch and worked on it way too long on it, but I'm pretty happy with the result. :)  Maybe its the creepy ads for a Victorian horror film that keep playing on my Hulu but focused on the creepy other worldly side of the Victorian era this time!

Here's the photograph that inspired it--old photographs--so creepy, so cool!

Blog Reboot


Good morning, its about 6:30 am and I'm already on my second cup of coffee--it seems like its going to be a million cup of coffee kind of day! If you've been following this blog for a while now you might have noticed that its gone dormant in the last few months --years-- I'm sorry, that wasn't my intent but I was transitioning from a post-undergrad struggling to find a way to make a living in art into a graduate student attempting to pursue a rigorous animation program, work full time and maintain my sanity--the jury is still out on whether or not that's been a success.

I'm in my last year of graduate school (hopefully) and trying my best to learn, understand and practice animation. I've come a long way over the last five years (I'm part time) but as is the purpose of graduate school--I never feel like I've come quite far enough, given quite enough time or quite grasped the concepts. This blog is going to serve going forward a place to collect my thoughts on animation process, practice and films in general as well as a look into the life of a working grad student--a reality that is becoming so much more commonplace as schools develop programs that make doing both easier but 'real life' never seems to want to cooperate.

In addition to needing a place to put my animation thoughts I was also inspired by a fellow artist/designer looking to find her place in the art world--Anne-- I love reading her blog and seeing how she navigates her transition into designer.  Also the lettering is beautiful and something I'd aspire to if I had that kind of patience.