Artist, animator or designer?
Artist, animator, designer, painter, child, parent, human. These are lenses altering the way we see and interact with the world. They are interchangeable. Pick the one that makes waking up a pleasure and run with it. Each perspective takes time and energy to develop. There is a scene in the film “The Right Stuff”, where the astronauts blow into a tube lifting a ping pong ball held in a tube. I can only focus on one perspective at a time and only for so long before the others fall. It’s not juggling. It’s a pipe organ and whether it is working, or not is abundantly clear to all around. What I hope for, when I work is that sensation of peak experience. That moment of resonance, most attainable in animation, most enjoyable in design, and longest lasting as an artist.
What is important to me? Am I being creative? If not? Change lens, try again, repeat until happy.
How did you get started in Animation?
Myself and a few hundred other Irish kids, got lucky. We were born at the right time. Arguably the most exciting animation studio in the business–Sulivan Bluth Studios rolled into town just as we left school and our lives started on the paths they are on today.
For me the path started in EFX or Special FX as it is better know. Richard Williams called it background animation, which though thought of as somewhat demeaning to the art does describe very well what it was, then in the 80s. EFX was the art of animating anything that moved that was not acting. Smoke, water, fire, trees, shadows and later in the 1990’s, character tones and rim-lights which made the characters look less flat against the growing use of 3D backgrounds. Perhaps flatter more illustrative backgrounds might have been a smarter move. Luckily most of my time was spent doing the fun stuff.
In 98 while working on Dreamworks “The Road to Eldorado” RSI (repetitive strain injury) put the kibosh on my career as an animator, at least for a few years. There is nothing easy about being told you might never be able to draw again and those few words turned my life upside-down in a way that I could never have predicted.
Why did you become a designer?
There aren’t too many career opportunities out there for a guy who specialises in the design of clouds, smoke, fire and water outside of animation. When beginning to look in other directions in which to take my life and the creativity that drives it, scratch seemed like a good place to start.
In 2000 or so I had a flash site for self-promotion, it was a vulgar affair with 3D animated buttons a pre-loader and invisible. Most importantly my mother couldn’t see it on her WebTV. It took some time for the pig headedness to give way and admit, “This approach does not work”.
Design is how it works. Design is human centred. Moving my head from what I wanted things to be, to what works for others was a light bulb moment touching every aspect of my life and creative being.