Ones to Watch: Gemma Roberts
In between yoga classes, watching Netflix and taking part in tabletop roleplaying games, Gemma's a 2D animation artist currently working on the animated adaptation of ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt' at Lupus Films...(and we snuck her into our Animator swarm too)
1) Congratulations on being featured as one of Hiive’s ‘Ones to Watch’ for September ! Can you introduce yourself and your creative work/interests?
I'm a 2D artist working in digital hand-drawn animation, storyboarding for children’s television and also part-time animation lecturing in Manchester. I have a passion for all things drawn and just love telling stories in 2D animation.
I work from home as a freelancer mostly, which allows me to work on all sorts of projects from my hometown in North Wales/Chester.
Between my day job, I also further my own art and go to UK conventions to sell my work with my sisters and friends. It makes for busy weekends but it’s great to be independent too and get feedback on your artwork.
2) What are you currently working on?
I’ve recently completed work as an assistant animator on the feature length animated film Ethel & Ernest (2016) from Lupus Films that will release in cinemas 28th October. It was an incredible project to have worked on and I can’t wait for everyone to see it!
And I’m very happy to still be working at Lupus Films' for Channel 4’s new animated adaptation of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt - keep an eye out for this little gem later this year!
I’m also working on a short indie comic with two amazing friends and animators, Jessica Leslau and Bryony Evans, about the story so far of our animation careers, which we are aiming to debut at Thought Bubble in Leeds later this year!
3) Who/what influences your work and where do you find inspiration?
One of my biggest inspirations is the Japanese animator/director mastermind Hayao Miyazaki, and the many exquisite films from Studio Ghibli.
I love the subtleties in the visual storytelling, and the atmosphere and emotion they create in their films.
I first saw Princess Mononoké as a young teen and I’ve been hooked ever since! And of course I’m a big fan of Disney films, Don Bluth, 80’s movies and anime - The Last Unicorn is still one of my favourite films.
I also think it’s important to expand your horizons by checking out animation festivals and conventions for indie creators and international artists - you’ll never know what you might find!
At the moment I’m really into television series - Parks and Recreation, Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, Orange is the New Black, and Steven Universe to name a few. I have a Steven Universe song playlist on Youtube that I often play and sing along to while working...it’s great.
If I ever find myself out of inspiration, taking a break or going for a walk usually helps. I love the Welsh countryside and the stunning views, wildlife and sounds it provides is the perfect remedy. Or listening to some Kate Bush or Peter Gabriel, that works too!
4) What are your future creative ambitions?
At the moment I’m really keen to make another animated short film, since my last one Acorns (2012) is over 4 years old now!
I have some ideas in the works and just need some time to get it off the ground. I see myself as an independent animator/director in the future and would love to run my own studio!
5) What advice would you give people aspiring to work in a similar creative field?
Try out a course in animation/storyboarding before applying for work; you’ll learn so much about the medium and also about yourself. Animation is a demanding skill and it might not be the right match for you, it could be that a different role such as layout, storyboarding, producing etc. fits better.
Or if you have the means to, go out and make something! A film, a comic, a music video, anything you’re passionate about and see if you like the process and also what others think of your work.
Don’t be precious about it and take criticism carefully, most of the time people are trying to help you out, but watch for the ones who want to knock you down - don’t take it personally and move on, but never stop!
You’ve got to be hard-working and dedicated, but be aware that animation is some of the most team-centric work there is and you have to work well with others. Being reliable and nice to work with goes a long way! It’s tough work, but it’s also some of the most rewarding and you’ll meet the most amazing people. So go out there and create!