Chris: I agree, the thing for me is…and we have very similar opinions about our own art school experience, and I think for me…I try not to criticize my art school education because that’s such a slippery slope and it’s easy for that to be interpreted as well all art schools are in the same…irrelevant, debilitating debt. It was relevant – my experience was, and yes, there was plenty of debilitating debt. The point being, I just think what you’re getting at there is, it would be better it traditional art schools, brick and mortar art schools, if generally speaking there would be more synergy and it wasn’t so departmental.
Sarah: Oh absolutely. Ringling was very, very departmental to the point where we were not allowed to take classes in computer animation and it was frustrating because especially…just bringing up Shane again, he always wanted to be in animation. He wanted to take those classes and he couldn’t, and I think that’s really a fault of just the collegiate education system because you can’t categorize art like that.
Chris: Especially now!
Sarah: Yeah, exactly. When there’s so much crossover, it’s crazy. And especially with digital apps and media, it’s so important to be able to dip your toes into all these different places. And like I said, Ringling was great for me, but it was definitely frustrating to see some of my friends not be able to take the classes that they wanted to take.
Chris: Right, this is what Noah Bradley and I were ranting about last summer in what we referred to as the death of freelance illustration as we know it. If the word illustration at your school means editorial illustration in this sort of 80’s and 90’s idiom, that is a problem. Illustration is still a valuable term, it’s an incredibly valuable term. It just had to be a far more versatile term now because otherwise we’re in trouble.
Sarah: And Ringling, if you wanted to pursue other things, you had to be very self-motivated.
Chris: Exactly. Betsy Bower was talking about on the rising stars episode, she was talking about how she kind of was stuck and she was on the animation track and she wanted to do visual development and character design and so she had to like find time to sketch in her own classes. It’s like wait a second! You’re in school!
Sarah: Exactly! Animation only had one or two semesters of figure drawing and then they stopped whereas illustration, we had figure drawing all the way until senior year or if you’re painting. So like, it was really frustrating as a student to feel limited by kind of the machine of the college. So, that’s definitely where things like Oatley Academy or Concept Design Academy or whatever come into play. It just gives you that extra education that you might need. Shane, he had roommates that happen to be computer animators and he would sit down with them and he would show them stuff in Maya or they would talk about their assignments and they would swap knowledge and they would try to sneak into each other’s classes. And you did what you had to for what you were passionate about, but in general we had a very traditional illustration program, and by traditional I mean editorial or like you know, like Hallmark cards, you know – that was kind of the bulk of what we did. And computer animation, Betsy was saying, was all about Maya. It was all about computer animation and it’s frustrating as a student to find your way when the opportunities aren’t necessarily there at your school.
Chris: Right, you had to commit before you…you had to get married before you dated.
Sarah: Exactly and for me, I really would have benefited from being able to take a visual development class or a 2D animation class because I feel like that would have opened my eyes from kind of the traditional mindset that I had. And there’s a few people like Shane or Betsy that kind of knew from the get go, but not everyone knows. And that’s okay too but that’s why having a broad education is so important because you need to be exposed to things to know what you like and what you don’t like, even more so what you don’t like because that helps you narrow down really quick what you don’t want to do.
Chris: It’s interesting also on the rising stars episode how everybody kind of had this perception that to be in animation meant you were an animator. And that’s a perfect example of that, even the specific world that you might be drawn to is much bigger than you realize.
Sarah: Absolutely. I would say that idea comes from the child-like perception. I talked about it I remember in Rising Stars, like I wanted to be a Disney animator, that was the thought. When you’re eight years old, that’s what you thought it was, you didn’t realize how many people there were – there were cell painters, there were color stylists, there were background painters and production. Like you don’t even know about these things, you just assume it’s the making things move part is what you’re supposed to do.
Chris: Beauty and the Beast was single-handedly created by Glenn Keane.
Sarah: Yeah, exactly. I just remember being…I think it was when my mom took me, it was at the time when Orlando was still making movies at Disney there and I remember her taking me through the tour and they were working on Emperor’s New Groove, I think that was one of the last ones I worked on there and I remember seeing there were still some traditional cell painting happening and background painting you could kind of observe as you walked through and I was like whoa, there’s so much more happening than I even thought. Because you normally just see the guy drawing the three circles and making Mickey Mouse, you don’t think of it as this kind of team effort.
Chris: Were you an artistic kid?
Sarah: Yeah, I was. I really was drawn to animated movies. I remember one of my first kind of early memories was seeing Beauty & the Beast in theatres and I remember going to see Lion King and Hunchback, like those things really impacted me as a kid and I had a very large puffy VHS tape collection of all the different Disney (inaudible).
Chris: Puffy VHS tapes! That’s awesome!
Sarah: So I had a large one of those, so actually I would say one of the big turning points for me outside of just the Disney animator idea was also when I saw Sailor Moon actually on Cartoon Network, that was huge for me because it was a cartoon I actually related to. You know I watched Nick cartoons, I would Doug and (inaudible) Monsters, and I really enjoyed them but for me anime was this whole other world where I started watching Miyazaki films, we’d rent them from Blockbuster back when Blockbuster was a thing, the tiny anime section. And that kind of opened my eyes to more of what animation could be besides just the typical Disney Don Bluth’s idea that we have as kids which it’s nothing wrong with that but for me anime was a huge eye-opener of story telling with that as a medium, not just as a genre. So for me, anime was a huge motivator.
Chris: So connect the dots for me, why Ringling? How did you end up there? What was that like?
Sarah: I moved around a lot as a kid, I lived on the east coast. I kind of corporate climbed through Time Warner Cable. I ended up in Florida for high school and Ringling came to my school to recruit probably, I mean they did it every year but they were in one of my art classes sophomore year. That kind of opened my eyes that there were school that you could learn art as a thing. I remember kind of starting to do the research, the internet was still kind of new but my sister who is a few years older than me starting looking into colleges and I was like I want to look at colleges too. I started finding Calarts and RISD and all these other big name places and at the time, my parents, which I am thankful for but they were very much like, “You go to college, that’s what you do. You get a degree, we will support you if you go to college. If you don’t go, you can figure your life out without our financial help,” which I’m thankful for because I think college was a very valuable experience for me. So I always had Ringling in the back of my mind, but I was researching other schools and I applied to SCAD and SVA. I toured SCAD and I toured Ringling because Ringling held the portfolio day for high school students, which if you’re a high school student is invaluable, you should definitely go.
Chris: It’s like portfolio reviews…or…
Sarah: Yeah, portfolio reviews and you can kind of go around to all different booths that have all different colleges and programs represented. I’ve actually worked National Portfolio Day a few times for Ringling. They reach out to alumni to represent them in different areas. I think as a high school student, that was really big for me. It was being able to talk to current college students and recruiters in person to really get a sense of the school, especially if you can’t visit before you choose to attend. I went with my mom and we kind of talked to the Ringling people and then I actually did pre-college at Ringling. Pre-college was like a four or five week program where you lived on campus, you took classes, you got college credit. It kind of solidified that I wanted to go to Ringling, I just was really drawn to the school. The work that comes out of it is obviously very impressive and I had the benefit of being a Floridian, in high school I got a lot of Florida-based scholarships but even though Ringling was a private school, got applied to Ringling, like got applied to my tuition. So financially, Ringling made the most sense. So that’s kind of what led me there, being a Floridian helped but also just the experience of talking to the recruiters during school. I did a lot of research and it seemed like a good place for me. It was where I felt the most comfortable.