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)

PitTsburgh & East Coast Adventures

Just takin' a selfie with this guy in the Pitsburgh airport! (btw--its the 2nd best airport in the country...or that's what the sign told me)

Just takin' a selfie with this guy in the Pitsburgh airport! (btw--its the 2nd best airport in the country...or that's what the sign told me)

In the past few years I taken one long break (well, long-ish) from school and work for an adventure with friends.  I think the only way I can relax completely and process the feedback I've been getting from both school and my day job is to leave all my responsibilities behind and get physically away from everything, eat A LOT of food and try some new and interesting things!

This year long time-college friends and I met with a couple members of our gang who recently moved to Pitsburgh, PA for work.  It was great to reunite with them and hang out as one big group again! I'm an extrovert so having 8 days of non-stop chatting and eating was just what I needed to recharge!  

Here's a short recap of our adventures over the last week!

We checked out the the "Cathedral of Knowledge", which was probably as close to Harry Potter as we'll get in the US!  Its a beautiful cathedral on campus that has classrooms and study space.  Several of the classrooms were decorated by different cultural groups--when I first heard this from my friend I was imagining posterboards and construction paper but they are REALLY elaborate and beautiful with elements that were imported from different parts of the world.  I can't believe that you can actually have class in them because they feel like a museum! (but maybe if my classes were in them I'd have paid more attention :-p.

Cathedral of Knowledge, looking down into the study space--can I live here??

Cathedral of Knowledge, looking down into the study space--can I live here??

Below is a us walking around and a couple of the rooms and details from the room (more of this place is coming soon!) This was probably my favorite place in Pitsburgh!


While we mostly wandered from food location to food location, I DID manage to get some sketching in while everyone else played Pokemon Go (I think I will never understand the appeal of that game!) but at least it meant we stopped for a few minutes and meant we drove all over the city of Pitsburgh.   Below are some of my sketches of all our adventures and the distracted Pokemon players!

To balance out all the Pokemon we also checked out the Andy Wharhol Museum (apparently he is from Pittsbrugh, who knew?!) which was actually super interesting.  I'm not a huge fan of Andy Wharhol but I really enjoyed seeing a museum devoted to the work of just one artist.  I could see the development of his process and ideas and how his art changed over time both as he aged and developed as an artist and as a response to events happening in the world around him.  Even though I'm not a huge fan, I think it helped me develop a greater appreciation for his work and I enjoyed seeing how he began to develop his more abstract ideas, which is something I would like to do more in my art--be a bit more experimental and let myself explore more rather than just settling for what I think others would like.  (More on this on my Vlog--COMMING SOON!)

I was very pleasantly surprised by Pittsburgh, PA! It's a beautiful city with such a long history!  Coming from California and seeing the range and age of all the buildings was really exciting.  I love history but California's material history is so recent compared to PA.  In the evening we took a little tram up a mountain (?---maybe its a hill) to check out the city from above ...but we didn't stay too long because it was actually cold up there!  

Gettin' a very large German Beer!

Gettin' a very large German Beer!

From Pittsburgh we took off to visit some friends in NEW YORK! (after taking a quick stop in Philly to eat a cheesesteak and take a look at the Liberty Bell!)  In New York we checked out the Met, ate cookies, walked forever and visited with friends.  It was an excellent weekend and much needed break!

FINALLY! Me and Diana looking super tired after spending a day in the airport and having our flights re-arranged, delayed and ultimately CANCELED! But we did get to take an adventure to the Pizza Shop from Spiderman 2 and explore the city a little more so it wasn't that bad. After an hour and a half walk all through New York we were pretty hot and tired but the pizza was AMAZING!!

Now that I've filled up my extrovert reserves, I can't wait to get back to my thesis and really get to work! Unfortunately because our flight was canceled on Wednesday, I'm now a day behind and not fully adjusted to time on the west coast! (we got in at 3am CA time, so about 6am NY time and I can not sleep on planes!) Still a super fun weekend though!

Previews & Story Work

Here are some quick previews of some things I'm working on in between my finishing my thesis backgrounds this month.  I'm trying to develop some work for a Story Portfolio so I'm actually trying to turn this stuff into a bit more finished looking work than my normal sketchbook pages--if I still like the drawings & ideas when I look at them by the light of day that is!  

Here's one I still liked:

These were some sketches of me trying to explain the merits of stage acting v. film acting (and why Stage & B&W films are better!) to Matt, who wasn't buying it--I'm gonna say I won that argument (Matt may still not agree with me :-p).  And the top sketches are what happened when I Matt came to watch Abominable Bride with me--I was SUPER excited & he was well...asleep ..or bored I'm not sure which--something about not getting the 'hype over Benedict Cumberbatch' ....maybe if he'd stayed awake he'd understand ;-p.