Meet Heather Clark, one of our talented Brown bag Films Toronto (formerly 9 Story) Character Designers and Fun Pack experts. Heather has been working here for over a decade and during this time she has shifted through a variety of creative roles that have seen her imaginative style and artistic expertise put to use across many of our shows.
We chatted with Heather to get her take on life in the Animation Industry.
1. What's your role?
Mostly character design with a bit of board revisions.
Right now I’m doing character design on the new Magic School Bus, and in past I’ve worked as a Board Revisionist on Daniel Tiger and have done Fun Pack design on both Almost Naked Animals and Numb Chucks.
Fun Fact: You might be asking yourself “What are Fun Packs?” Before our animators can begin animating, and sandwiched in between the script and the storyboard stage is the “Fun Pack”. The Fun Pack is a visual bible of sorts, a package that includes the character, prop and background designs for each episode.
Heather explained that to develop a Fun Pack, she will begin by reading each episode script, then identify the elements that need to be included in the “Fun Pack” and start drawing all the pieces.
For example, if a script calls for a Woodchuck Morris to be dressed up as a Girl Guide, Heather will make that happen! Once all the elements are completed, they are assembled into a handy guide for the Storyboard artists to reference during the development of the boards. These design packages really help to speed up the storyboarding process and assists the artists in keeping the show world and characters consistent.
2. What do you love most about your job?
The work – I like the challenge of trying to solve a design or story problem. No matter how strange or difficult or awkward there’s always a way to make it work. For example figuring out how Fungus, a Kung Fu loving woodchuck, would look as a walrus, or how Buford the sheep, would be depicted after an unfortunate explosion of sandwich condiments that sent a pickle up his nose!
Oh and I like drawing!
3. What is your origins story? Aka, how did you get to where you are today in your career?
I went to Sheridan for animation and afterwards I went to OCAD for graphic design. At the time I was pretty sure I wouldn’t end up in animation, but I started working in it and liked it. I found it was a good fit for me.
4. Who is one of your biggest influencer or inspirations?
Hmmm, I have a lot of influencers, in a lot of fields. I like comics and repeating patterns, as well as animation, but one thing I really love is flat, stylized design, in any form. Mary Blair is my favourite (as she is for a lot of people), those Maurice Noble Looney Tunes backgrounds are great. I have a small collection of kids’ books that include things like The Little Red Hen (illustrations by J P Miller) and Miroslav Sasek series of “This is…” books. Also the work of Tammis Keefe and Lucienne Day. And many others!
5. What have you found is the most challenging thing about working in the animation industry?
There’s a lot of people in the pipeline, those in front of you and those behind, and they all have different needs. It can sometimes be difficult to please the people in front of you, while also meeting tricky animations requests, and doing it all within a tight deadline. Ticking off all those boxes can be a challenge!
6. Outside of work what is your story?
I make quilts. I love surface design. I collect tiki mugs. I drink a lot of tea.
7. What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue a career in animation?
Try different things, it’ll help you find where you fit best!
8. Last question, what is your life motto or words to live by?
Keep at it – Rarely am I good at something right off the bat, it takes me a while to get better at it. Sometimes a long time. It is easy to get discouraged and quit, especially if you think you’re doing really badly, but you have to keep working at it. I’ve only improved when I’ve kept at it.
You can see more examples of Heather’s beautiful work here on her Tumblr: heclark.tumblr.com