Written by Sarah Yoon
As I said in Part 1, the world needs more storytellers like Mary Jane Whiting! After discussing inspiration, online presences, and sharing one’s work, we moved on to potential collaborative dangers and how to build your personal style:
As an animator, you tell stories in a different way than artists like painters or photographers. What type of stories do you want to tell through your medium?
Oh man, that’s a tough question. I want to tell fun stories. Something I realized is that I really like visuals but in the end it’s all about having fun, telling something that someone can connect with, and being current, because I’m making my senior film right now. I had a choice—I can’t say too much about it—but I had a choice between this visually beautiful darker piece, and then my other film was very lighthearted and fun. My teacher said, “well the dark piece is very expressive and it’ll be a great portfolio option for you. I think you should do that” and I thought that I just want to make the fun piece. It’s something that people will enjoy. And it’s also very relevant to what’s going on in culture right now, because it’s basically based around a video game and about getting back into nature. I just want to tell stories that are fun. That’s kind of my thing.
Is this a collaborative effort, or are you doing everything?
Right now I’m doing everything. We have an option to be on a team or to do a solo piece. I just decided to go solo, which was scary at first but I really enjoy it now because all of the decisions are mine—it’ll be tough senior year because we really start ground zero. Right now we’re doing the storyboarding and then we come in day one with our models, which are the environment, assets, and characters. We jump right into animating and then second semester we’re doing the lighting and the compositing and the music. So it’s really a lot to do in a year and it’s a lot for one person, but I’ve always made it work. They have guidelines to keep us from making it too big, but it is a lot to pull off a senior film in a year.
I see collaboration as something very valuable, but also very difficult. What do you think about collaboration?
I think the one thing that I’ve learned this semester is that collaboration is tricky, because we have a lot of people who do partner up. They go into it with all of these ideas; by the end, they’re worn out and they don’t know what they wanted to say anymore. It’s hard. I asked myself why that was, and why they could start off so strong and break apart toward the end. And I think that you have to stay in tune. It’s just so hard to find people you can work with and collaborate with. I knew that I might not be able to do that. I was really worried that I might not be able to do that, so I decided not to be on a team. I think collaboration is just about finding the right people that you mesh with and then making sure that you keep up with every step of the process. You’re both really into the same things, so someone doesn’t end up working more than the other person.
It’s definitely a balance of communication and passion in the project.
Communication really is the key to everything. It gets two people through this kind of process.
How would you describe your style now, as opposed to what it was?
Well, if you call it a style, I guess I’m coming into it now, because before what I’ve been doing up to about five months ago I feel like I was just basically learning the basics. Learning the foundations. Watching. Looking at what other people are doing. I feel like a lot of people try to find style without knowing what that foundation is. Style comes from looking at other artists, copying from, and adding that to your style. Something that I would say really changed within my style within the last six months is saying that it’s okay to incorporate other things into my art. I can definitely look at my art and say “oh, this is very inspired by this person,” and I look at how they did this technique and put that into my artwork.
When I started out, I looked at nothing and tried to make the Mona Lisa, which doesn’t happen. Everything comes from everything else. I definitely think that if you’re trying to find a style without knowing where it comes from, start looking at the people you’re inspired by and try to find your style within that. My art doesn’t look anything like it did four months ago, and definitely nothing like it looked a year ago. It’s evolving. It’s cool to see that.
Style layers with all the experiences that you gather. Are you influenced by Pixar? I see a little bit of a resemblance.
Yeah, I’m inspired by every big animation studio, every big artist art those studios, you know. As far as Pixar goes, I look at a lot of their artists. I know Daisuke Tsutsumi does all the color keys for most of the major Pixar films and he’s been a really big inspiration to me. I think Ringling too generally has a style that gravitates more toward Pixar and Disney, because those are the kind of companies that come and recruit, so they push us towards that animation style. It’s a very classic look and it’s very appealing. I just try to make appealing characters, especially in 3D. I think that Pixar was one of the first to do that in CG, to make characters that were appealing. Definitely they’ve got it down, and I’ve definitely pulled a lot from them. So, pretty inspired.
We’re done with questions about art, but I have a question about your beverage of choice—and if you had one superpower what would it be?
Ah, beverage of choice. Actually I was just about to grab my Starbucks double-shot espresso, which gets me through every long night. One of those things where my friend looks at me, and she asks are you ready to go to the gas station and get one of these double-shot espressos and pull all-nighters.
And my favorite superpower? Geeze, I shouldn’t have to think this hard. I don’t know why, I’m thinking of something dumb. The first thing that came to my mind was a superpower that would drive everywhere for you, because I really hate driving. So I don’t know why that came to mind—or super-speed so I could get to places faster without actually having to walk, because I’m lazy. So, that would be cool.
I hope that Mary Jane learns to apparate without splicing herself so that her dream comes true–and so her senior film speeds up so we can watch it! If she does learn how, I’ll be sure to interview her again for a thorough tutorial. Find Mary Jane’s work on her Vimeo and personal website. If you weren’t able to check up on Part 1, go ahead and do so now! Other articles to enjoy: The Art of Collaboration and an Interview with Artist Allison Oh.