Interview of Katie Lyons by Sophie Pellegrini
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m Katie, an animator and illustrator from Dublin, Ireland who specializes in 2D digital animation. I’m also an expert on 1980’s John Hughes movies.
How did you get started in the arts?
It’s incredibly cliché but it’s so hard to imagine a time when I wasn’t drawing. We grew up without a TV in our house and I spent the time in-between school and dance classes with my little nose firmly squished between the pages of a book– something that completely fueled my creativity! My dad studied architecture as well as fine art and my Godfather has his own animation company, so I think being surrounded by art definitely encouraged me to explore it a little bit more.
What/who inspires the “characters” you illustrate? Are they made up and imaginary, or based on people you know?
It’s honestly a balanced mixture of both. When studying animation in college we were always told to “draw from life”, to constantly be watchful of movement and colour and to take inspiration from people around us. I actually take a lot of inspiration from people-watching in Dublin city. The characters that I draw have progressed to the point now that I’ll draw them primarily from my imagination, but I’ll also add in small traits (groovy fabric print, eyebrows, hairstyles…) that I’ve actually seen on people passing in the street. So while the end result is always an exaggerated caricature of a person, there’s always something small tying it back to reality.
You also do animations/videos. Tell us a bit about this work process and what drew you to the medium.
Yep. I just graduated last November after four years of studying animation! I was definitely drawn to animation because of the unlimited creative boundaries around it. As an animator you’re both the camera and the actor, something that really gives you total freedom in choosing how and what to show the audience.
It’s quite a relaxing process at times which I really enjoy. Once you have the main movement of a character mapped out it can be nice to just pop on a podcast or asoftmurmur.com and work away on finishing the scene. The biggest thing about the work process is probably the difference in time it takes to complete a project as compared to single image illustration. In just one SECOND of animation there are 25 images (frames) needed, so that means in one MINUTE of animation you need about 1,500 frames/images!! The amount of frames that you actually end up drawing comes down to the medium you use (hand-drawn vs. digital) and a bunch of clever timing tricks, but yeah it’s going to take a while!
Describe your artwork in three words/phrases.
Oh wow…..detailed, organic, and playful. I’d also add indecisive to the list, but I think that’s more myself than my actual work!
What do you do to jumpstart creativity if you’re ever feeling unmotivated, uninspired, or generally in a rut?
Great question! Often times I’ll take to Vimeo and watch a bunch of animated shorts. There’s such an array of high quality shorts that between the varied design, colour and narrative it’s a fantastical creative motivator.
One little thing I’ve taken to doing as well is to stick on some music, flip open my sketchbook and just start scribbling. I’ll generally start with small things that I enjoy drawing– coffee cups, cactuses, fried eggs, girls with hoop earrings; it doesn’t really matter what as long as you’re warming up your drawing muscle. After a while I’ll loosen up enough to start getting properly creative!
Do you tend to watch new discoveries each time or are there a few particular videos that you like to go back to? If the latter, what are they?
It’s always great to watch ones I’ve never seen before for inspiration. The vast amount of artistic talent out there is a solid reminder that you should never rule any animation-y idea out. That being said, there’s videos that I’ll watch over and over and never tire of them. My preferences are constantly changing but it’s generally because of the the style of the piece, the colours used or just the interesting narrative.
A couple that I’ve taken to watching repeatedly for inspo. recently are: The Chosen Generation by Ariel Victor (beautimous colour and design), Tea for Two by Hiroco Ichinose (really interesting style of animation), Hot Bod by Claire van Ryzin (yummy colours and fantastically strange story) also the music video for The Trouble with Us by Chet Faker and Marcus Marr (for their really interesting approach to filming).
In general, what other artists inspire your work?
I honestly get so much inspiration from my other artistic friends! In the year now that we’ve all been out of college it’s really interesting to see the different directions that everyone has gone in. As well as that seeing how much everyone has improved makes me feel like I’ve probably improved a good deal as well, which is nice.
I’ll also forever and always name Julia Pott as a huge source of inspiration, in particular her RCA short entitled Belly– she’s found herself a lovely balance between animation and illustration and I pretty much adore everything she’s ever done.
Share a great piece of advice you’ve received or a favorite quote.
So first off I’m a biiiig believer in Dale Cooper’s advice to give yourself a present each day, even if it’s something small like a lie-in or an extra biscuit with your tea. It’s so important to take care of yourself, especially in the artistic arena where we all tend to be our own harshest critics.
My brother actually pointed this second one out to me a while back, but the Nike slogan of “Just do it.” is so fantastic and to the point. As a professional procrastinator, slowing down and getting stuck midway on a project is pretty much inevitable, especially on things like my final college project last year. Sometimes all you need is a new playlist and that small phrase to kick your bum back into gear and get going again.
What are you grateful for?
Gosh an incredible amount of things!! Family, friends, good food, Bon Iver, the entire Twin Peaks series, pretzel M&M’s…
Honestly I think I’m most grateful for the privileged position I find myself in of being able to full-on pursue something I enjoy doing and eventually make a career out of it. There are so, so many people I’m grateful for who’ve helped me get to this point, and without whom I’d absolutely never have made it this far. *cue soppy Oscar acceptance speech music.*
Is your glass half full or half empty?
Definitely half-full. Possibly with wine.