Opening doors, Disney style!

Me with Linda Dorn and her assistants.
(From right: NakYong Choi, Linda Dorn, me, Mike Piwowarczyk)

The New York SCBWI conference always opens doors. But this year who knew the door would actually open onto sunny southern California, and an opportunity to push my craft even further, through the eyes of animation and storytelling. 

It seems silly that I hadn't connected the dots between illustration and concept animation art until I met Linda Dorn, a book illustrator who just happens to be a successful animator and professor at the prestigious CalArts. I saw her portfolio at the New York SCBWI conference. It turns out she heads a pre-animation residency at California Institute of the Arts (yeah, the Disney people). "Hey, you should come!," she said. 

At first it seemed crazy. Just leave my job for the summer? Live in a dorm? Draw, all day... everyday.  That was crazy! But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that not going would be crazy. It really was the perfect progression after my SCBWI mentorship. I had more questions than ever. And, there was something in Linda's portfolio that I couldn't put my finger on, that I wanted in my work. Of all the portfolios in the room (a BIG room) that was the one, the one I loved. So I did it. I took a leave of absence from my job, got in my car and drove to California. 

May, 2014

The Story Begins:

It's had been 25 years since I'd lived in a dorm room. Most of my roommates weren't even that old, except Kevin. Thank GOD for Kevin. We're what you call 'returning' students.

I was able to keep my wine in the fridge without getting a time-out, but the bathroom situation brought me back to the days of old. I never thought I would be wearing flip flops in the shower again.

Linda showing her portfolio on the first day.

My time at CalArts brought back a lot of memories. Reminders as to what I wanted to be when I grew up, and if it was working. It reminded me that I have always been a storyteller. No matter the subject or conversation, when I have something I want to communicate, I turn it into a story, much to the dismay sometimes of people in ear shot, as they unwittingly become my audience.

This experience gave me a new energy, perspective and appreciation for creativity and the importance of telling the right story, the right way. Linda and Robert immersed us in story, characters, gesture, pacing and the list goes on. It was revitalizing and just what my creative muse needed. At the beginning I wasn't sure what to expect. Was this chapter in my life going to be a  thriller, a drama? Maybe a comedy, or (gulp) perhaps a tragedy.

Figure drawing in the Palace.  

Musician day.


 Robert and I. 
Turns out he is a Cougar Fan!

The Story: 

Robert Lence was a bonus! I had no idea how instrumental his depiction of storytelling would be on my experience. His teaching pushed my understanding of concept, setting, and humor to a new level. His input has already had an impact on my work.
 Some of my projects:
Project from Robert's class. Telling a story with one frame and no words.
This was inspired by an actual event I shared with my dad on my 6th birthday.

Final project; beat boards and a pitch!
My boards. 

A quick pic on our way to a private screening of Malificent at theScreen Writers Guild Theatre.
Thanks to Robert Lence for a wonderful day.

Robert signing his picture book for me.
Yep, of course he's also an author/illustrator.

The Final Chapter:

Many lessons learned, new friendships, and insight that I couldn't have found anywhere else. Looking back on the story of my CalArts experience, I would have to say it was a combination, thriller, comedy and drama all wrapped into one.

Thanks CalArts, Linda Dorn, Robert Lence and the rest of you. Miss you all!


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