Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sandy Nichols

Occupation: Illustrator
Graduating Year: 1987

Pictured here is the cover and a couple of sketches for Sandy Nichols' first picture book, "Starring Lorenzo and Einstein too" written by Mark Karlins and published by Dial Books for Young Readers (
Sandy will be doing a book reading and signing this Saturday, May 2, 2 pm at Monkeyshines Book Store (Marda Loop).
113, 2215 - 33rd Ave. S.W. Calgary

About the illustrator:
Sandy Nichols is a big fan of Albert Einstein. Unlike Lorenzo, however, she prefers art over math and physics, and studied at the Alberta College of Art and Design.
She has been illustrating for magazines and advertising clients for about fifteen years. She currently lives in Calgary with her husband, daughter, and twin boys. Although she has read a galaxy of stories to her three children, this is her first time illustrating a picture book.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Animator Rich McKain : Case Study by Kevin Kurytnik

Rich McKain is a Calgary native who currently works as an animator for Pixar. Rich is primarily self taught but he credits getting introduced to animation by taking some courses taught by ACAD alumni and instructor Kevin Kurytnik.

I've asked Kevin to talk about Rich and discuss "What makes a successful animator" from a teachers perspective.

Do you have any memories of him as a student?
I remember Richard quite well as a student. For every animation class I teach, usually only one or two move on from animation as an interest or hobby to a career of some sort whether it is in the production of their own short films or in Richard's case working in the industry. I recall writing him a letter of reference to get him his green card to work in the States and him getting his first gig doing gaming in Salt lake City. I also remember criting his final demo reel he created after class for the job.

Generally I will crit any of my student's work based on what they are trying to achieve and Richard wanted to work in the industry so I basically called him on a bunch of shortcuts and technical imperfections in his animation. Employers in all types of animation generally look for two things in a student's work- imagination and craft and in the craft they want to see great attention to detail so the motion looks and feels right. Metaphorically they want a marathon runner not a sprinter, someone who is patient enough to get it right. There are a lot less people than you would think able to do that.

Looking back, was there any signs that Rich would do so well?
When Richard presented his "Horton Hears A Who" work at ACAD in 2008 he told those assembled that my demo reel criticisms way back when he was starting went a long way to his moving up the American animation industry chain. Essentially the difference between those who succeed and those who do not in animation is this stick to it-iveness and the ability to listen and understand when work is not working and to fix it. I have seen this time and time again. I think that applies to pretty much all the arts.

Any thoughts on why or how he climbed to the top of the animation heap?
Of course you have to have talent but talent is not enough. Animating in the industry is a learnable craft but only those with disciple and obsession succeed. There is a maxim in animation generally that says "You are only as good as your weakest frame". Doing animation day in and day out allows the animator to build on past work and get better and better if that is one of their goals. Pixar for example as an animation company is where its at now because since "Toy Story" they have essentially kept the same core of creative people. To really understand their success check out the enlightening half hour doc on how they got started in animation in the extras in the Pixar Shorts vol.1 dvd.

Richard started in gaming doing basic animation character loops, eventually he got hired by Blue Sky in upstate New York to work as an animator on "Ice Age 2" and made some amazing inroads in his work with the five minutes or so of scenes he made for their next feature "Horton Hears A Who". I would guess that footage or "Ice Age 3" (I believe he did some work on that) got him noticed by Pixar.

Richard is of course fiercely competitive. Animators in the industry have to be - they are generally quite young and extremely migratory moving on from job to job. Do better work than the next person and you get another job.

Here is a older interview involving Rich discussing working on the video game Oddworld

Here is his bio from a presentation he did a few weeks ago at Banff Centre

Kevin Kurytnik is a Calgary animator, check out his animation studio website here:

Friday, April 24, 2009

Riley Rossmo

Riley Rossmo is among several graduates of the visual communications design program at ACAD who will be featured at this weekends Calgary Comic Expo (April 25-26). His comic book series titled "Proof" has been going strong for several years now.

Here is a link to a Calgary Herald article talking about Fiona Staples, another of the comic book artists and ACAD grads who will be at the expo.

More info on the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Student Profiles

Tina Ho - Character Design

Just a reminder that the ACAD portfolio show is this Thursday.

ACAD Portfolio Show
Thursday, April 23, 2009
6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Nexen Tower Garden Courtyard
801 - 7th Ave SW

Here are a random mix of some of the students illustration and character design work.

Anna Shulyakovskaya - Character Design

Whitney Lesiuk - Illustration

Robert Milton - Illustration (Animation)

Jaclyn Gilbertson - Illustration

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Chelsea Cardinal (updated)

Graduating year: 2005
Occupation: Designer GQ Magazine

A few weeks back the 3rd year students had the opportunity to spend the day with Chelsea Cardinal. Here are some of the students thoughts on the event.

Ian Macfarlane wrote:
Thinking back, what stuck with you? What stuck with me, was the fact that Chelsea was an Illustration major and is now working as a Designer for GQ. It made me realize that regardless of the stream you choose to take, it is possible to cross streams and be successful doing it.

What did you learn? To go ahead and apply for a job even if it does seem far fetched that you would ever hear back. After Chelsea explained how she got in with GQ through an online application, not thinking she would ever hear back about it.

Did it change any of your perceptions? I was definitely inspired by Chelsea's visit, it gives a lot of hope to students, that if your really want that big job with the company of your dreams. A little patience and persistence can go a long way. I also really liked the fact the a she was very down to earth, mellow, and more than willing to help and answer anything we threw in her direction. Overall a great experience.

Vishu Mahajan wrote:
What did you learn?
 To be persistent. If you want to work with a particular company, don't give up
if you don't get the job the first time.

Any surprises?
Inspirational moments?
 So far in ACAD and from professionals in the industry, all we've heard is "it's
about who you know" and Chelsea was the first person who has said that she 
didn't know anyone in the industry when she first started applying for design
 jobs. She was able to successfully get her dream job through a simple online
application and I thought that was pretty inspiring.

Did it change any of your perceptions? 
Her visit was very encouraging and we learned a lot about her design process and
how she has been able to get where she is.

Zhen Huang wrote:
Thinking back, what stuck with you? 

Her illustration has a random/sketchbook look and it is quite interesting to see
some of her stuff was used in GQ magazine; as a graphic design and illustration
 student I am glad to see that your illustration skill will be used even you work 
for a graphic design position.

What did you learn? 

I learned that is is important to always feel confident about yourself and will
to try when there's opportunities; Chelsea said that she didn't know that she would end at working for GQ, but she wasn't afraid to apply for it and finally got the offer.

Did it change any of your perceptions? 

I found even in a big and famous company like GQ, the work space can be still
enjoyable as she talked about how they chill together in the studio and
watching youtube video; I use to think it would be a really serious space.

Kayla Barber wrote:
What did you learn? I learned that although you may love both design and illustration it doesn't
mean that you really have to choose between the two in order to succeed.

 An inspirational moment was realizing that Chelsea is still a baby in the
industry considering she graduated not to long ago. Despite this fact  she has
still blossomed and is doing really well for herself. Gives hope to those of us
that will be graduating next year.

Jodi Skulmoski wrote:
Did it change any of your perceptions?Inspirational moments? In seeing Chelsea speak it really introduced me to a whole new field of design which I knew was there but kind of did not really know much about it.  I'd say it made me realize the time and effort put into magazine design, and the fun that introduce to their work.  Chelsea seemed really passionate about her work, and inspired me to look into that area of design, our magazine project in type class has really sparked my interest and I'd say Chelsea really inspired me with this direction of Design and the fact that opportunites such as jobs in New York could be obtained with a degree I will soon hold.

*Note: This post has been updated from it's original form to include spreads from the magazine (Thanks go out to Chelesa for providing them!) and has been edited to clarify that Chelsea didn't get her job at GQ with an illustration portfolio, as we had erroneously posted previously. She did go through the illustration stream, but when applying for design jobs, she compiled a portfolio of all design work.

Monday, April 6, 2009

ACAD Portfolio Show

Thursday, April 23, 2009
6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Nexen Tower Garden Courtyard
801 - 7th Ave SW

No RSVP Necessary - No Admission Fee
Complimentary Refreshments - Cash Bar
For more info call 403-284-7621
or visit ACAD.CA

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Dave Whamond

Occupation: Illustrator
Graduating year: 1987

You are what you draw.
Or maybe it should be,
you draw what you are?

Something I've noticed about successful illustrators is that their artwork is often a reflection of their personality. Dave's work is bursting full of life and humor. It's awash with vibrant color and energetic characters. His good natured folks have a funny story to tell, even if they are talking about something not so funny.
In person Dave is pretty much the same.

As we head into the final stretch towards graduation Dave stopped by to pump up the students, kind of like a coach motivating the team. He knows the players are nervous and have the jitters, but he also knows that they wouldn't be there if they weren't good enough.
His advice was simple, go get 'em!

The arts are a tough gig, Dave's got a few grey hairs to show for it. But he's done it, lot's of others have done it, so why can't you? There's no doubt that the current recession has slowed things down, but his advice is just to take it slow. Persevere, don't give up on your dreams.
Dave graduated into a recession and has went through at least 3 more in his career. He made it through them by doing what he did best, which in his case was drawing funny pictures.

In illustration and in life it's all about how you look at things.

Dave Whamond is an illustrator and cartoonist. His syndicated cartoon 'Reality Check' is published in newspapers around the world.
He has just written and illustrated his first children's book to be published later this year, it features children that look a lot like his own two kids.

Friday, April 3, 2009

In the News - Spencer Goldade

Graduating Year: 2009 Graduating Student - Illustration

Spencer has two pieces featured in the current issue of CMYK magazine. Click here to preview the magazine online:

In the News (or out) - Ian Doig

Graduating Year: Late 80's, Early 90's Design program at ACAD
Occupation: Outgoing Editor-In-Chief of Fast Forward Magazine

This weeks edition of FFWD Magazine mentions that after 3 years as editor of the weekly newspaper, Ian is leaving to become a stay at home dad and return to freelance writing. Pick up the newspaper to read more.