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What inspires the Limitless artists?

What inspires the Limitless artists?

With Limitless V-Exhibition now live we sat down with some of our exhibiting artists to find out more about what inspires them, what the exhibition means to them and what gets their creative juices flowing.

What/who inspires you?

Jo Salmon: There are so many things that inspire me. It can be another artist’s painting, music, movie or even a walk along the beach or in the woods. I can also feel inspired by emotions or mood. Even funny or difficult moments in life.

Lemon by JoAnne Salmon, 2021

Isobel Stenhouse: At the very beginning, it was Disney. For me what it was about Disney, in particular it was the high quality and even though it’s very stylised, there’s something quite realistic about the exaggerated realism. 

In terms of influences now it’s people that draw and paint realistically. So there’s one artist whose work I’ll look at and I feel like if I was really brilliant that’s what I’d like my really brilliant work to look like. It’s a guy called Darek Zabrocki and he did images for Mouse Guard. I just love those particular series of images; they’re kind of my benchmark for what I’d love to go for. Then there’s Djamila Knopf who has such a nice sense of storytelling in her images.

Visiting Granny by Isobel Stenhouse, 2021

There’s also Ian McEwan, his concept art and studies are just powerful, so strong and the sort of thing that wows me. I love seeing graphic art like from Robh Ruppel, you know, he’s fantastic and methodical in the way that he works. 

Emma Niemis: I think a lot of animated media such as films, TV shows and videogames inspire my art, especially magic realism stories which introduce something otherworldly and change our reality. From my early love of Tim Burton’s creatures and his illustrations, I now find inspiration from the imaginations of such artists as Emily Carroll, writer Haruki Murakami and filmmaker Jan Švankmajer.

What do you get from being creative in your spare time?

Jo Salmon: I get a sense of freedom and peace when I am creating. I feel connected in a way as I can see my imagination coming to life in the sketch, painting or animation in front of me. And also a sense of pride and release as it feels like I have let the imagination in me free. 

Isobel Stenhouse: The main thing I got was the hunger to move from production back into an artistic role, which has been a great move. However, there is a difference between producing work for a studio or for yourself. When working on my own thing, I don’t usually have a clear vision beforehand of what I’m going to paint, so it’s fun to see what emerges. That’s my way of playing!

Steve by Emma Niemis, 2020

Emma Niemis: Being creative in my spare time makes me feel like I am progressing, especially during the pandemic as everything just came to a stop, I felt like I needed to be creative to keep myself moving forward. It also brings me joy to bring something to life that comes from my imagination, as soon as a concept pops into my head or I put a sketch to paper I will always have an itch to make it physical.

Jess Mountfield: I think creative people naturally let creativity overflow outside their working lives – so being creative in your spare time is often something that just comes naturally and feels right. I find drawing, sculpting, felting – whatever it is – to be hugely meditative and satisfying. I like to have something physical at the end of time spent doing something (like with cooking!) so I find it hugely rewarding to step back from a jumble of felt or a mess of balsa wood and see something starting to take shape.

What does exhibiting in the Limitless exhibition mean to you?

Jo Salmon: It means a great deal! I am so honoured to get the chance to show my art along with such talented people!

Isobel Stenhouse: I’m so grateful for the chance to show my artwork and be seen as an artist in my own right, after several years of working in production. It also gave me the momentum to produce new work, and to learn new skills as I did so.  

Emma Niemis: Exhibiting in the Limitless exhibition feels very special to me because it is a unique space where I can showcase my own personal artwork alongside other fantastic likeminded women. From the beginning I have been so welcomed and supported by the team in such a difficult time for all of us, I instantly felt that I was so lucky to be a part of this amazing and very rewarding experience.

Isle of Tapestry by Jess Mountfield, 2021

Jess Mountfield: It’s wonderful to be a part of a group of diverse women who are creating such a wide range of works outside of their professional practice. I find it motivating, encouraging, and it’s prompted me to want to try out lots more techniques and materials based on what I’ve seen other people experimenting with.

You can visit the Limitless V-Exhibition now. Limitless V-Exhibition will run until Thursday 14th October. 

Read more about our featured artists here: part 1 and part 2.

Plus, hear more about what inspires one of our exhibiting artists, Isobel Stenhouse.

Please do also follow our Facebook page, where you can ask the artists questions, provide feedback and find out more about some of our artists!

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Limitless V-Exhibition Opens Its Virtual Doors!

Limitless V-Exhibition Opens Its Virtual Doors!

We’re so excited to share that Limitless V-Exhibition, a new exhibition celebrating established and female artists from the VFX and animation industry is now live!

Thank you to everyone who joined us for the launch evening on Thursday 23rd September!

Limitless V-Exhibition highlights the work of creatives in a diverse range of job roles across animation and VFX.

Presented on the Kunstmatrix platform, visitors can explore the virtual gallery in a 3D environment, and get up close and personal to the art at their own leisurely pace.

Our featured artists include:

  • Anushka Naanayakara
  • Amy Backwell
  • Emma Niemis
  • Helen Piercy
  • Isobel Stenhouse
  • Jennifer Zheng
  • Jess Mountfield
  • JoAnne Salmon
  • Kim Noce
  • Magdalena Osinska
  • Natasha Tonkin
  • Stacy Bias

Limitless is curated by Director and Creative Producer Amy Backwell, Director and Creative Manager Helen Piercy, Director and Operations Manager Anna Gregory, and Head of PR Carrie Mok.

You can visit the Limitless V-Exhibition now. Limitless V-Exhibition will run until Thursday 14th October. 

Read more about our featured artists here: part 1 and part 2.

Plus, hear more about what inspires one of our exhibiting artists, Isobel Stenhouse, in this blog.

Please do also follow our Facebook page, where you can ask the artists questions, provide feedback and find out more about some of our artists!

Stay tuned to hear details about our wrap-up event!

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Limitless Q&A with Isobel Stenhouse

Limitless Q&A with Isobel Stenhouse

From her beginnings in engineering to working in animation as an artist, before diverging into production and finally heading back into the world of art via concept work in games, Isobel Stenhouse’s journey as a creative has been a winding path that has led her through a variety of industries. But the one thing that has always lingered in the back of her mind has been her love for art. 

We sat down to speak to Isobel about the changes throughout her career, what inspires her and how she has grown as an artist. 

Isobel

How long have you been creating art for? 

Honestly, since I was in primary school aged 5! I already remember loving art at school and I remember that my primary teacher actually called me ‘Isabel the artist’ so that’s stuck with me! And it seems to be something I’m still striving for and probably will be all my life to fulfil that name, but I deviated off the path when I studied engineering and became an engineer. 

I didn’t really do a great deal of art during that time and then when I was on one of my engineering jobs, they actually gave me funds to do evening classes so I did A-Level art and that was what sent me back on the path. 

I then made a change from engineering into animation and actually, I found it really hard to feel confident as an artist and so when I started to take on board production, which it did feel at the time like quite a natural move. I think in some way I went back in a circle towards my engineering days where I was doing project management. I think it was almost like a copout of not going for my dream. It was early 2020, just before the pandemic kicked off, that I thought to myself, ‘What am I doing, I’m in my forties now. It’s now or never, let’s give this another chance.’ And I really feel that putting a stake in the ground and saying ‘I’m gonna do it again’ kicked off the journey into concept art.

It was always concept art that I really wanted to do, but I lacked the confidence. Simon’s Cat actually gave me a role as art director and I loved it! 

What gave you the confidence to go for it?

I would say that I didn’t really so much get a boost in confidence as [more that I stood by] my intention to go for it anyway, and then somebody gave me a break and the support that I needed. I had let someone know that I really wanted to get back into the art world again and coincidentally, that person became a production designer on a game, and he decided to give me a chance. I struggle with my confidence every day but also I’m just not gonna let that chance go now. I think that’s the difference is, it’s like I’m going to do it in spite of how confident I feel and I think a lot of artists – that’s how they do go about their day-to-day job. I think it’s something that a lot of people in the art fields struggled with. Also what gave me the spark was to see young people starting in the industry who weren’t necessarily fantastic at this point, but they were going for it anyway and also watching how they developed over time and how brilliant they got when they actually just put their mind to it. I think that was actually really inspiring.

How did Covid affect your art journey, whether it was going into this new job or just your creation outside of work?

I would say lockdown had a quite positive impact on my art journey because I like to socialise and I live on my own. And actually, you know, I just had to face up to the isolation of it and just accept that this is how it was. I made the decision that I can either wallow and watch a lot of television or I can actually use this time where I haven’t got that feeling of missing out that I might have at other times, and I can actually use this time to be productive – that’s honestly what I did and I turned my attention to online courses. 

I took the concept art course at Escape Studios, then broke my elbow three weeks in in 2020! I had to start again this year, which was cool but to supplement that last year I did lots of little online courses. And some of them were only like £8 or £9 and you got so much content for that price. It was excellent and I learned a lot during that time.

Would you say digital is your preferred medium and why if so? 

I prefer digital art because of the ability to Ctrl+Z! The ability to undo is just amazing but I also love the idea that you can build up the lighting in so many different stages so I feel like when you’re painting and using a traditional medium, it’s more definite. Digital art just gives me such an opportunity to play. 

I mean if I were drawing in a traditional medium, I love to do life drawing with charcoal and I feel really alive when I’m doing that. I also love to stand at the easel and I love the fluidity of it, as it’s completely different to digital art. I really really enjoy that but that is something that is fast and loose. When I’m working on a more complete piece, I love building all the different stages and layers. 

I have found the flexibility in the iPad incredibly encouraging. It’s got me drawing far more than I would if I had to be sat down at a desk. It means that when I’m just sitting relaxed that I may just think ‘I’m just going to draw now’. And to that level that I want to draw at. It’s not the same as doodling on the sketchbook either, I can sit and do quite detailed things. 

To be honest with you getting an iPad totally impacted me for the better. It was a turning point for me in terms of how much art I produced. I’ve just not looked back – that was actually part of the turning point as I wasn’t actually drawing very much before that. 

Was that before or after you made the decision to go for it? 

That was before yeah, so I bought the iPad in 2018. I did work as an artist in animation for around 10 years before I went into Production. 

I then got the art direction role at Simon’s Cat which gave me the opportunity to design and make backgrounds as well. But then that’s when I went into production for about five years.

It’s been lingering with me all throughout my career that there was something else that I had to do but I was honestly afraid, and I’m sorry that it took me this long, but on on the other hand, I guess maybe I’m a different artist now than I would have been back then and and I had to go through those things to get to this point. 

Do you see that kind of growth reflected in the art that you’ve produced compared to let’s say 10-15 years ago then? 

I think so. I think one of the things I lacked confidence in was just feeling like I didn’t have anything to say or show. And I think now I have sort of realised that whatever you feel you want to express and show is fine, so I think that there is that sort of growth. 

I think artistically I have definitely grown. Part of where I am now is also because of my day job as well, because I’m creating a new concept everyday in my job now so every day I’m starting something fresh usually. 

I feel like I’m developing all the time. I actually think what also helped was the online growth of training. Just to be able to be stuck on something, search for it and found someone teaching it online has been absolutely super. I think the resources available to you do have an impact.

At the same time. I’ve noticed a traditional kind of feel to your art despite it being digital, so how did you hone your techniques here? 

I think there’s just something a bit old-fashioned in my style, just because it’s the style that I was brought up with. And I’ve always been someone who’s drawing, you know more like a drafts person. I think with a younger generation brought up with a different style, it would be quite natural for them to break out into different styles and I haven’t done that for a couple of reasons. 

One is that, as I’ve said, the subtlety of lighting is something that I love, and so I think that comes across maybe more in a traditional style. The other thing is that the projects I’ve worked on almost entirely throughout my career, maybe aside from Simon’s Cat, has been usually realistic animations. 

The first animation I worked on was The Illusionist which was, in terms of animation, very realistic. I was working on layouts and as animation assistant on that one. So whether it’s that I’ve aligned myself to the job or the job has aligned itself to me, one way or another that’s what my career has mainly been focused on: realistic and a more traditional feel. I want to keep that traditional feel but with more up-to-date techniques so that I can learn more about 3D and game engines and things like that. 

Do you have a favourite piece?

I find it quite hard to say that I have a favourite piece because I think again, most people who are making art are quite self-critical. I might think ‘Oh that was my favourite’ but I still wish I could change it! One that I really enjoyed a lot was the skull that I made. I was just doing a study of a skull and then I thought ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting for there to be little elements within this skull that were a bit more surreal?’. The latest piece that I have done for the exhibition actually is probably my favourite in terms of a storytelling piece. It pulls in the elements of storytelling, setting and lighting together. It’s been a long time in the making to get a piece down that feels like that and I want to use that as a springboard for all my future images. 

What advice would you give to someone who currently doesn’t do art full-time but wants to look into doing that in the future, maybe even as a career change similar to what you’ve done?

I would suggest finding the level of art that you would like to go for and the type and the medium. Have that as a benchmark and find out how it’s done. Whatever technique it is you want to use, you will find the training online. Invest in good online training and, even if you’re broke and struggling financially, there are many things that are on YouTube as long as you can get your hands on the internet. 

There are also brilliant courses. Schoolism is one where, in the springtime, you can get £100 off and you get a year of classes for about £180. You can get classes through Domestica for about £8 for 16 hours of tuition – that’s a lot of tuition actually! There are art directors from games on there, background designers, character designers, artists from the animation industry – all of that sort of thing. 

What I would say to anybody who feels like they’re miles away from their goal: I’ve worked with some really great juniors, but to watch where they were when they started and compared to where they are now, the journey has been fantastic and I just love to see that progress. Sitting down and just focusing on techniques will get you there. There are some people that are very naturally gifted and there’s no doubt about it. That’s just life and other people have to work a little bit harder, but you can definitely learn art through studying. Also, nothing will teach you art more than just doing it and this is what is great about being back in a job where I’m actually drawing every day. 

You can see Isobel’s newest piece as part of the Limitless V-Exhibition virtual interactive gallery. Join us for free at the launch evening on 23rd September. We’ll release the link to the gallery after the launch evening, so make sure you keep an eye on our social media platforms.  

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Online Animation Training Courses

Online Animation Training Courses

Online Animation Training Resources

For anyone with a passion for Animation and a desire to enhance their animation skills we have compiled a list of several online training resources below. For more Education Inspiration take a look at the AWUK ED page on our website.

A Productions

Website: https://aproductions.co.uk/training/
Price: Free
When: May 2021

No formal qualifications required but a proven passion for animation is a must, we’d love to see examples of work you have created – whether at home, in college, or gifs on your phone!
It doesn’t matter if it’s not a polished piece of work, we’d love to see it!

You will:

  • Learn about the basics of Toon Boom animation with a qualified teacher, within a real studio setting
  • Use production rigs from the pre-school show JoJo & Gran Gran
  • Have the opportunity to apply for the job of junior animator

Toon Boom Animation Bootcamp – supported by ScreenSkills

Website: https://www.screenskills.com/bookings/toon-boom-animation-bootcamp/
Price: £125
When: April 2021

This two week ‘bootcamp’  with Adam’s Animation Academy is designed to cover fundamental skills in animation using the latest version of Toon Boom Harmony software. 

The aim is that by the end of the course each participant will be able to animate confidently within the software, and therefore open doors to all the Toon Boom work within the UK.

Sun & Moon Training Courses

Website: http://sunandmoonstudios.co.uk/courses/
Price: Various
When: Various

At Sun & Moon we offer industry focused animation courses designed for freelancers, graduates, students and budding animators to give them the skills they’ll need for a career in animation. Led by working industry professionals, our courses teach the skills, techniques and tricks of the trade gained from years of experience.

Sun & Moon offer a variety of training courses throughout the year.

Adobe Tutorials

Adobe offers support and tutorials for learning how to use its software, including Adobe Animate and Adobe After Effects. 

Udemy.com

Website: https://www.udemy.com/

Udemy features thousands of online creative courses at a variety of price points including courses on 2D and 3D animation, storyboarding, using popular software tools, and design.

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Achieve Online 2020

Achieve Online 2020

‘Achieve Online’ at our workshops this June.

We’re delighted to announce that we’ll be running four online workshops this June exclusively for AWUK members, thanks to the support of ScreenSkills Animation Skills Fund, with contributions from UK animations productions. The tutors of our oversubscribed Helen North Achieve Programme have adapted two of the programme’s most popular sessions for online delivery via Zoom. These are ‘Confidence and Getting your Voice Heard’ and ‘Impact and Building the Brand You’. Jan Armstrong and Marianne O’Connor have also developed two new workshops, one of which is devoted to ‘Thriving as a Freelance’. The other – ‘Managing Your Virtual Communication’ – focuses on an aspect of our jobs that is particularly relevant right now when so many of us are working from home.

The Helen North Achieve Programme 2019 alumni

The last few months have undoubtedly been challenging. Working on your laptop can often literally mean working on your lap while juggling homeschooling and other caring responsibilities. When the threat posed by the virus recedes and lockdown eventually ends, some remote working may however become the new normal if employers have found it to be productive and staff are keen to continue working this way. 

One of the perceived drawbacks to homeworking is its potential to damage career prospects. It's long been a concern for many women taking maternity leave and/or going part-time that being out of sight means being out of mind for promotion and interesting work projects. That concern also applies to homeworking. 

The workshop on 2 June will help participants develop practical strategies for building virtual relationships. This is key in an industry where relationship building is central to success (79% of women surveyed working in the animation sector said they got their job through networking). 

The session will include guidance on getting the most from a virtual team meeting, motivating yourself and others when working remotely and communicating creatively and assertively online. Members will also gain individual tips and techniques to hone their online skills in a Coaching Clinic. 

Our workshop’s focus will be on helping to ensure that participants’ careers thrive in an increasingly virtual environment where some staff will be working out of the office all or part of the time. This session is relevant even for entirely office-based staff, as many people are likely to be communicating with team members and clients who are physically elsewhere. 

These four highly interactive online workshops will use virtual break-out spaces to allow participants to workshop ideas and receive feedback in small, supportive groups. They’ll also include a ‘surgery’ where members can discuss difficult work challenges. 

Open to AWUK members at all levels of experience, the workshops are just £25, thanks to the support of ScreenSkills Animation Skills Fund.  Because they’re stand-alone, members can apply for those that are relevant to them, whether that’s one or all of them! Each lasts one and a half hours, so can be fitted in around work and other commitments.  

We’re excited to be going online for the first time ever and our workshop leaders Jan and Marianne look forward to welcoming registrants this June.

Click here to find out more information and apply for tickets.

Stay safe and keep well. 

By Louise Hussey, Co-Chair, VFX, Animated Women UK 

Read what our alumni say about The Helen North Achieve Programme below.

Chloé Deneuve
Anne Akande

These workshops are supported by ScreenSkills Animation Skills Fund with contributions from UK animation productions.

About ScreenSkills

ScreenSkills is the industry-led skills body for the UK’s screen-based creative industries - animation, film, games, television including children’s and high-end, VFX and immersive technology. They work across the whole of the country to build an inclusive workforce with the skills needed for continued success, now and in the future. 

https://www.screenskills.com

 

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