As an art instructor, it is such a treat to stay in touch with students who studied at length at my studio. Recently, I caught up with one of the first art students to study at my studio when it first opened, Emily Kimes.
Emily graduated from Pratt Institute in May 2020 and has begun her career in the field of animation, working at Pure Imagination Studios.
What better way to honor her achievements than with an interview on the school’s blog! I hope you find it inspiring.
LRW: Our history goes back to the early days of Pastimes’ studio opening. Do you happen to remember how old you were when you started art classes with me? Had you ever studied art before?
EK: I think I was about nine! I drew all the time as a kid, but I had never gone to an art class
before. You were my first art teacher! Those were great times.
LRW: Ah, that’s right! I’m honored to have been your first art teacher. You were a pleasure to teach and have in the studio. I remember you were enamored with drawing from the start. Now you have earned a degree in Digital Arts / 3D Animation from Pratt Institute and have landed a job as an animator at Pure Imagination Studios. I’m so proud of you! When did the idea to become an animator begin? What was or were the inspiration(s)?
EK: Thank you so much! I have definitely always loved art, and also storytelling. When I was in
your class, I was particularly enamored with drawing those Cicely Mary Barker fairies, because
the idea of magical creatures made my imagination spin.
LRW: OMG I remember that beautiful book! I’m glad to learn you were so inspired by it.
EK: In fact, I started writing stories around that time. In addition to those more creative passions, I’ve always had an interest in technology. None of those interests really seemed to connect until I was in high school. I had an art teacher, Ms. Woods, who saw a lot of potential in me, and she recommended me for a program called Ryman Arts. It’s an incredible opportunity for young artists in high school – anyone who is recommended by a teacher, sends in an application, and gets accepted into the program is given a free intensive art education.
LRW: Hey, I know of Ryman Arts and had the pleasure of writing a letter of recommendation to one of my high school age art students to get into their program back in the late 2000s. I still enjoy receiving their emails. Glad you were able to get into their program.
EK: It’s affiliated with Disney, so when I was accepted, I was able to tour Walt Disney AnimationStudios.
All of a sudden, everything clicked. Art, storytelling, and technology are all vital
components in the making of animated films. All of my seemingly unrelated passions were
represented in this one career path.
EK: Definitely! I was happy to learn that within the animation industry, there are a lot of avenues that one can take. Animating characters is just one part of a giant pipeline. But I was drawn to it because for animators, sensitivity is a gift. To be a good animator, you have to really understand human emotion, and how to convey it in subtle ways. I’ve always been very sensitive, and I had always seen that as a bad thing. But now I’m able to use it to my advantage.
LRW: Good point. Personally, I consider sensitivity to be a super-power as far as I’m concerned. It has guided me as a teacher, artist and pianist. I am so glad you tapped into yours. As an art teacher, I’m also intrigued by the design and palette of your characters. Were they assignments with art direction from the instructor or your own?
EK: They were all my own. I had to make every visual element of my film entirely by myself,
including all the design that happens during the pre-production stage (character design, set
design, prop design, lighting, color palettes, etc.). Of course I had guidance from my amazing
professor Claudia and my incredibly talented classmates, since I had a weekly critique, but I
ultimately had to come up with everything myself. Making this film was a LOT of work, but now
that it’s done, I’m glad that I have a finished product that’s entirely my own.
LRW: Wow! What a great learning experience in a nurturing environment. Well done! BTW, I love your website. Did you design it yourself or hire a website designer? If so, may I please share who the designer was? Thank you.
EK: Thank you! I designed it myself, but not entirely from scratch, since I used Wix and they
LRW: Very cool. May I ask, why this particular genre and title? Why now? Details, please.
EK: My film Rose explores the complex inner turmoil that comes with growing up, and how a
mother/daughter relationship evolves during the most formative years in one’s life. The theme of
growing up is very important to me because it’s such a universal experience. In most cases, a
fundamental part of leaving the nest is building an emotional barrier between oneself and one’s
parent(s). But also in most cases, once we reach adulthood, we realize that we need our
parent(s) more than we could have ever imagined. With my film, I aimed to explore that
separation and reunion, from the daughter’s perspective.
LRW: Eloquently put! Beautifully brought to life.
EK: I also aimed to create more representation for female-centric relationships. Mainstream media
has a severe lack of stories that solely revolve around women/girls, without men being involved.
I had an eye-opening experience when I learned about the Bechdel test (a way of measuring the depth of female characters based on how much or little their existence on screen revolves around a man). Additionally, mother/daughter relationships in film/TV tend to either focus entirely on their conflict or avoid it altogether. In reality, even in the best cases, mother/daughter relationships are complicated, multi-dimensional, and deserve to be represented as such.
LRW: Whoa! That’s the first I’ve heard of this test. Fascinating. I need to learn more about this. Good point. Glad you are championing this genre.
EK: I called my film Rose because that’s the main character’s name, which I gave to her because while roses are beautiful, they also have thorns. I found that to be a great metaphor for mother/daughter relationships, growing up, and life in general. It felt fitting as my film’s title, which I didn’t want to be too on the nose.
LRW: Great choice! Is there a site where my readers and students may view your animations? Are they part of an existing or upcoming program or series?
LRW: Good to know. My readers and students will enjoy perusing. As you know, there are many animation companies out there. Why Pure Imagination Studios? Did they approach you or did you apply through a headhunter or on your own? As an employee, are you allowed side gigs?
EK: I interned at Pure Imagination for two summers back when I was in college. After I
graduated, they hired me full-time! I don’t believe I’m allowed side gigs, but I’m definitely
allowed to have personal projects.
LRW: That’s wonderful! Can you describe to my students and readers what an average workday
is like? What school and work experiences or life lessons would you like to share with my readers?
EK: My average workday definitely looks quite different than what it should be, because of Covid.
Luckily, working from home isn’t an issue with my job, since everything is done on the computer.
As an animator, I’m assigned shots to animate for whatever project(s) are in the works. After I
“finish” animating a shot, I publish it for the director to see, so they can give me notes. Then, I
go back and revise my animation based on the feedback I got, and resubmit. Usually it takes a
couple rounds of notes before it’s perfect!
A lot of work is done before it’s my turn to do my part. Someone else has already built the set(s),
character(s), recorded the audio I need to animate to, drawn the storyboards, etc., and a lot of
work is done after I finish animating, like lighting the scene, rendering all the images in each
sequence, editing everything in post production, etc. It definitely takes a village!
LRW: Thank you for sharing this inside scoop. And what a great village it must be!
EK: Something I wish I had been told when I was in the depths of my college application process is
that not everybody has the same path. Although I knew I wanted to be an animator back in high
school, I was scared to go too far from home. I went to a different school before Pratt for part of
my freshman year, which, if I’m being honest with myself, I chose because it felt the safest. I
knew pretty quickly that I wouldn’t be able to get the animation education I wanted, so I
transferred to Pratt. It wasn’t the easiest process, but it was so worth it. My path to finding the
right school wasn’t typical, but it all worked out! People often make it seem like the school you
choose will be the biggest decision of your life. It’s certainly a big decision, but it’s not a
permanent one! Listen to your gut when it talks to you.
LRW: Words of wisdom. Following your heart champions playing it safe, once again! May I ask, what are some of your future career plans or goals?
EK: My ultimate career goal is to be a character animator for animated feature films. Ultimately, I
want to work on projects that tell meaningful stories, with characters that resonate with people.
I’d love to work on a film with really great representation for people with all sorts of
backgrounds. There have definitely been great strides since the beginning of animation history,
but there’s a long way to go. I’d love to work on a film with openly LGBTQ+ characters, or
non-white characters who stay human the whole time / don’t turn into an animal at any point
(which is a common trope in animated films). I want people to be able to see themselves on
screen in a positive light, especially if they aren’t used to that.
LRW: A very important mission. Glad you’re taking up the cause as part of your future goals. What impact did your art classes at Pastimes make?
EK: When I think back to my classes with you, I’m reminded of my passion for art. I feel very
lucky to work in a creative field, but once anything becomes your career, things change. Stress,
expectations, and pressure get involved. But when I took your class, it was before art was
anything other than something I loved to do, just for myself. You taught me a lot of design
fundamentals, but you also provided me with a space to relax, forget about the day I just had at
school, and focus on creating. Your class reinforced art as a positive outlet, and I’m very grateful for that.
LRW: That gave me goosebumps as creating a safe creative environment in which students can create art and music was my goal from the get-go. I’m honored and glad you experienced this. Art can touch people’s lives, bringing happiness and hope. For example, Pastimes For A Lifetime partners with CoachArt.org to provide free art classes and piano lessons for families impacted by childhood chronic illness. Is there a charity you or your family are fond of or support, that you might like my readers to learn more about?
EK: That sounds like an amazing charity! I would definitely encourage readers to look into
Ryman Arts, which I mentioned earlier. It changed my life! It allows talented, passionate young
artists to receive a high quality, advanced art education, no matter their socioeconomic status.
Not only do they teach art fundamentals, but they help their students figure out how to navigate
a future career in the arts. Like I said earlier, it’s completely free, including the supplies, which we get to keep even after we’ve graduated from the program! It’s very rigorous, but an incredible opportunity.
LRW: That’s great. I will consider supporting them. In closing, do you have a favorite quote, mantra or process that you find inspiring or helpful when faced with a creative block or frustration, that you
would like to share with my readers?
EK: I think the most important thing anyone can do when faced with a creative slump is to step
away from it. Taking breaks is an important part of the process! It’s impossible to see clearly
when you’re too close to something. When I couldn’t figure out how to make the story work for
my film, the only way I could break through that wall was by allowing my brain to rest.
LRW: Sage advice well stated. I totally agree. Emily, it was a pleasure interviewing you and catching up on your endeavors. I wish you much happiness and success and look forward to hearing about your projects and they unfold.
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