SQZD’s 4 Favourite Female Animators in the UK Right Now
There is an abundance of talented women in animation out there. To celebrate International Women’s Day, we’d like to shine a spotlight on our current favourites in the UK & Ireland. With such a diverse range of amazing female animators, it was a difficult task to edit this list down to only 4.
We had a chat to some of them about the pivotal moment they decided to become animators, their creative processes and which techniques they employ. We’re hoping that this will inspire the next generation of female animators to pursue the craft.
Women in animation deserve to be uplifted – that’s why we’re giving 1 week of work experience to an aspiring female animator.
“I hated 3D when I first started.” Jess said when we asked her about what made her want to be a character artist. “I did an elected class at University and just managed to pass. Because I hate almost failing, I spent 3 months over Christmas after that class ended to try to learn Maya properly. I learnt how to model, texture, light, rig and animate characters all by various sources on the internet.” Jess started to really like 3D after that and managed to find an internship after just a year and says it boils down to hard work. After working with other artists for 6 years she now has her own unique sense of style.
“I don’t know what to make in 3D if I don’t know what the animation is for or about.” Jess said she starts with storyboarding/animatics to get to grips with a character – she then goes into modelling. “I UV unwrap and start texturing/lighting. If there is any animation, I rig the character up which can take a while depending on what the character needs to do. I find facial expressions so fun to rig!” Jess then animates the character and gets ready for rendering, which is the worst part of 3D according to her. The last step – “Do some post production on the renders and DONE.”
Jess has used different generalist programs like 3Ds Max, Maya, Modo and Cinema 4D. She used Maya for most of her career, however found Cinema 4D the most rewarding, and now tends to use that a lot more. “I have made so many friends just through going to C4D events and on forums and chat groups.”
“Right now, I am trying to get an in-depth knowledge of ZBrush. But I always go back to using Maya and C4D the most for everyday work.”
She worked as a Lead Graphics Designer in an e-Learning company creating compliance training courses for 8 years. “The job was very comfortable, but there was little room for growth, and I hit a big creative plateau.” Deanna decided to study motion design in her own time and quickly found her passion in animation rejuvenated. “Since changing career paths, I’ve never been happier in my career. I think this happiness flows back into my family and social life and thus reinforces my passion in animation.”
Deanna starts her animations off with a lot of planning. “I always start by brainstorming and mind mapping all my thoughts on paper. If I’m struggling for ideas, I usually go to Pinterest for inspiration and build moodboards. I’ll narrow in on a concept that works, and then start sketching in Photoshop.” She then traces over the sketches in Adobe Illustrator, using vector artworks to block the scenes. To add some texture, she brushes over the illustrations in Photoshop.
With the planning done, the animating begins. She exports all the vector artwork into After Effects. “I set up my animatic: I rig my characters, build scene transitions, and test out difficult moves as early as possible. I don’t always know how I’ll go about animating something until I’m forced to put a few keyframes down. A lot of magic happens in the unknown and that’s when the creative instinct takes over.”
Deanna mixes 2D and 3D elements for a ‘wow’ factor. “For 3D, I’ll rebuild only the necessary elements in Cinema 4D, usually as flat shaded models and bring those into AE, merging all elements seamlessly and in time with the audio. And when I’m done animating, I go back to my Photoshop file that contains all my textures and import those into AE as separate layers on top.”
Deanna says she couldn’t do her work without After Effects, she uses it the most as it’s essential for her to create well-timed transitions. This is alongside Cinema 4D. 3D creates a lot of visual interest, which is why Deanna is attracted to this style. “There’s just so much to explore. I’m having a lot of fun learning and growing in this industry, the more I experiment with mixing techniques.”
“I always knew I wanted to do art in some form but didn’t really know how that would manifest.” She first thought she would be a textile designer, but then realised she gets most enjoyment from coming up with characters and narratives. “When I first discovered animation, I was amazed by the possibilities it offered, for instance the meaning you can convey through how you choose to combine sound with image and was so excited to see my characters move.” Rosa says she has always loved acting too, and says that as an animator you are, in a way, acting through characters and expressions.
Rosa always starts with a concept and lets that lead all the decisions that go into the film. “I’m really drawn to ideas of conformity and competition and how these effect individuals, and my work is often quite anti-institutional.” She goes on to say that these themes always feature in her work in some form. “I also love using visual metaphors to communicate things which are normally unseen and that lie beneath the surface, so whilst I’m researching a topic I’m also really thinking of ways I could visualise complex ideas simply using metaphors.”
Rosa loves to use Photoshop to do animation. As she already knew how to use it well before learning animation, she says it felt like an extension of what she knew already. “I also loved learning more technical frame by frame animation tricks, and the fun ways you can make your character seem more expressive and exciting. For example, by using smear frames and secondary movement.”
“If I had been told, in school, that I would become an animator, I would have thought it sounded incredibly boring and way too slow.’ Said Jocie, when asked if there was a pivotal moment in becoming an animation director. Jocie found animation by whittling down the different areas of creativity that she enjoyed. “I often work with anthropological themes, my curiosity about the human mind is incessant, and I feel really passionate about sharing some of that learning with others.” Jocie also says she adores the puzzle that comes with abstracting and visualising information. “I feel like I’m being mentally pushed by animation on a daily basis and I can think of few things more satisfying!”
Jocie’s creative process starts with research. “I tend to read around a subject before I start conceptualising; the more engaged and aware I am, the better my ideas.” Next comes the concept – she creates rules and guidelines that can structure her films, using the topic as the starting point. “My rules might dictate the animation techniques, colour palettes, character movement or a multitude of other choices.” Josie then makes the storyboard, frame by frame.
Jocie currently creates all her animations in Photoshop and then composites them in After Effects. She says the drawing qualities and brushes on Photoshop are fantastic although it isn’t perfectly designed for animation.
“Some of my favourite projects began as ink and gouache paintings on paper, which I then translated into Photoshop equivalents. For me, the feeling of crafting something by hand can’t quite be beat, but I don’t know that I’m patient enough to animate without ‘Cmd Z’.”