Samantha Kallis is an illustrator and visual development artist for the publishing, television and film animation industry. Since graduating from Art Center College of Design in 2010, she worked with several animation studios such as Sony Pictures Animation, Nickelodeon and Unified Pictures.
Samantha was born in New Jersey, but grew up in Los Angeles, where she started her future career as an artist on television, film, publishing, and art galleries.
Samantha's latest work as a visual developer and illustrator is noted in the upcoming 3D Animated movie "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2" by Sony Pictures Animation Studios.
Thank you very much Samantha Kallis for this interview, we would like to start with you by telling us about yourself?
Hi! My name is Samantha Kallis. I'm a visual development artist and illustrator in Los Angeles. I've worked in film, television, and print. My first feature film that I've worked on, "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2", will be in theaters September 27th, 2013!
Where are you from, and how did you get into the animation business?
I was born in New Jersey, but I've lived in Los Angeles most of my life. I guess I got into animation because it is the combination of two of my great loves: storytelling and art. When I first went to art school I thought I wanted to be more of a traditional illustrator, creating work for magazines, books, etc., but later I realized I was more interested in creating entire worlds, and not just one-off illustrations. From there, it was just shopping around my portfolio, begging people to hire me.
Did you use to draw a lot growing up? What kind of style you liked the most?
Yes, as a kid I was drawing every day. Every minute. All the time. On the phone, in class, in the car, at restaurants while eating dinner... You know the statistic about it taking 10,000 hours of practice to improve at something? Totally true. As for style, I refer to the quote by Gary Panter, "Don't worry about a style. It will creep up on you and eventually you will have to undo it in order to go further. Be like a river and accept everything." Style is, for me, a constantly evolving concept. My "style" changes as I improve; it has to, or I'm not really improving.
How and when did you realize that you wanted to become an illustrator?
I think for me, being an artist is one of those professions that you are compelled to do. It is so hard on the ego - as an artist you are faced with constant criticism. I think it would be impossible to do this job unless it was literally the only thing that would make you happy. I knew I wanted to be an illustrator when I realized art was the only thing I was happy doing.
Which art school did you go to? And when?
I went to Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California; and I graduated in April of 2010.
Which project(s) are you working on now?
Right now I'm freelancing for several studios and working as a Visual Development artist for Unified Picture's first feature animated film.
What are some of your favorite projects you're proud to have been a part of?
I really feel proud of everything I've worked on, but I think "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2" will have a special place in my heart forever.
What's a typical day is like for you with regards to your job?
I'm not sure there is a typical day for my job! Sometimes I am in the middle of a big project and I sit at my desk, listening to loud music, painting all day. Sometimes I'm involved in a team that explores story ideas, and my day is spent debating the value of a certain plot twist and sketching ideas out on printer paper. Everyday is different, everyday is a new challenge - it's one of the best parts of my job.
Everyday is different, everyday is a new challenge. It's one of the best parts of my job.
What part of your job do you likebest and why?
I love the collaboration. If you want to sit alone in your office and draw all day without ever consulting with another person, then animation is not for you. I love talking with my colleagues, working out problems with them, and being met with ideas that I would never have come to on my own. It's very exciting to see so many people's different visions come together to be something better than anything we could have ever done alone.
What's your workflow look like? How do you visualize the settings, backgrounds or characters for an animatedcartoon or movie?
I suppose my workflow is different for every new painting. Each new piece is a new problem to be solved, and the approach that worked for the last problem may not work for this one. Generally speaking though, I tend to start with a lot of thumbnails and preliminary sketching. I need to get acquainted with the look of the world. I usually start off fairly realistic before settling on a more stylized look. And for everything I'm doing, I am constantly checking back with the story to make sure my visuals are supporting the story.
What is your favorite 2D or 3D animated film, and why?
I think the reason I loved these films as a child, and the reason I still love them today, is that they don't treat children like idiots. These films are beautiful, full of intricately woven storylines and advanced concepts, and are sometimes more than a little bit scary.
I think the reason I loved these films as a child, and the reason I still love them today, is that they don't treat children like idiots.
Children are not dumb, they understand that the world is big, beautiful, complex and, yes, more than a little bit scary. Films for children shouldn't shy away from acknowledging the truth of the world kids live in. These films treat their audience with respect.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the animation or art business?
Job security. Or the lack-there-of. It seems to me that big studios see their artists as fairly replaceable (unless you become really famous, and even then...) The one thing I have learned is that you have to have your own projects. Don't wait for someone to hand you your dream project - create it yourself! Write a book, start a small illustration prints business, do something - anything - that you alone can claim ownership of. Your studio job could disappear tomorrow, but your own intellectual property can be yours forever.
2D vs. 3D what are your thoughts on this endless battle?
Hmmm, honestly I don't care much about it. If the movie is good, it works the medium to its advantage, be it 2D or 3D. I don't think one is better than the other, I just think there are good movies and bad movies, both 2D and 3D.
Tell us a little about the tools that you are using, what's your preferences?
What do you prefer most, digital artor traditional art?
Again, I don't have much of a preference; if it's good, it's good - I don't care how you made it.
Nowadays, with tablets like the iPad, do you think artists are more liberal in their creations? Are you using one for your daily sketches?
I tried using my iPad for sketching, but honestly I can't get past how clunky all the stylus pens for the iPad are. The tip is so unwieldy; I just wish they would create one more akin to the Wacom stylus.
Lastly, is there any advice you can give to an aspiring animation student or artist trying to get into the animation business?
Never give up. People will tell you "no" a thousand times before that one crucial person says "yes." Be patient, keep knocking on doors, have faith in yourself because sometimes you will be the only one who does. If you believe this is the right path for you, don't let anyone else convince you otherwise. And remember to have fun. So many people forget, because of how much money these movies make, that we are making cartoons. It's serious business, but it's also ridiculous business, so try not to lose perspective.