Artist Spotlight: Cassie Soliday

GDG: Where are you from?

CS: I’m originally from a small town in Southern Illinois but am blessed to now live in Southern California. Hmm… I see a pattern here.

GDG: Could you give us a brief overview of your art background?

CS: Like many, I grew up watching cartoons, drawing what I would see on screen, and wondering what living in these other worlds would be like.  It wasn’t until Toy Story came out that I realized that people make these movies- and those people were animators. I’ve been chasing that excitement and joy ever since.  After graduating Columbia College Chicago and taking numerous workshops to further my skills, I’ve worked in production and artistic roles at Disney, Nickelodeon, Wild Canary, to name a few.

GDG: Describe some of the jobs you have done professionally how they have helped develop your artistic skills.

CS: I used to be a sketch artisan in the Disneyland parks and it was probably the best thing that could have ever happened to me artistically.  It was intense character design study everyday and the reality of how these characters & stories affect people really sunk in. I also had the opportunity to storyboard a music video for preschoolers and design props on a Nick Jr show.  In each gig, I learn something new about the work and myself as well.

GDG: Has working around so many other GDG artists influenced your art style?

CS: It’s amazing to be surrounded by so many wonderful artists.  Seeing the diversity of work being shared in the group keeps me on my toes and consistently thinking about what I’m going to make next.

GDG: Where do you find your inspiration for your art?

CS: Emotion is a major driver for anything I make- whether its capturing something I’m feeling or trying to influence someone else to feel it, too.  I find inspiration from my surroundings, people I know and love or admire, comics, books, movies, nature- it’s everywhere!

GDG: Have you ever had to struggle with self doubt as an artist?

CS: Yes! Especially when I was younger, and sometimes even now. It’s easy to play the comparison game, but once I stopped worrying about what others were doing and started focusing on what I was doing or wanted to do, it was a lot easier. I’m very purpose driven and want to put good out into the world- it takes some reminding that what we make can have a positive impact, but it’s definitely motivating to get past your demons and carry on.

GDG: What would be your artistic “dream job”?

CS: I would love to create an animated series full of magical realism. However, I’ve tried to detach my self worth from this idea of a “dream job” because in these creative industries, gigs come and go. The ultimate goal is to always use my drawing, writing, and comedy skills to work in a collaborative atmosphere to create positive and adventurous media for young audiences!

GDG: Do you have a preference between working with digital or traditional methods?

CS: I love traditional methods- there’s nothing more romantic than holding a pencil and feeling the lead leave the tip as you pull it across a sketchbook page and then adding a splash of watercolor.  It’s so tangible and imperfect at times. However, being digital is necessary- it’s just so much easier when collaborating with others and being a part of a production. Plus, Ctrl + Z.

GDG: Is there a type of art that you‘ve always wanted to learn?

CS: I’m currently learning embroidery! There are some amazing artists out there who are really challenging what the form can be- even mixing it with illustration. Mixed media is such a blue sky idea- it can literally be anything!

GDG: Do you have any advice for aspiring young women artists?

CS: Trust yourself and trust that your artistic voice is worth sharing. Someone out in the world can benefit from seeing your art or hearing your story! It’s a gift. You are a gift.


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Artist Spotlight: Jennifer Llewellyn

GDG: Where are you from and where do you live now? 
JL: I’m currently residing Westbank Kelowna in Canada.   I am living right off the beautiful Okanagan Lake.

GDG: Could you give us a brief overview of your art background?
JL: I’ve always had a passion for drawing, as kids we never had coloring books. My mom would draw any character we requested and we got to color it. Watching her draw and doodle all day every day, sparked an early interest in drawing. However it was when I saw my first movie in a theatre “The Little Mermaid”, that I fell in love with animation. Followed by many art teachers that saw my passion, and helped me reach my dreams.

GDG: Describe some of the jobs you have done professionally and how they have helped develop your artistic skills.
JL: Wowza, how do I narrow down 17 years of work into a few sentences… Yeti Farm: Oh how I wish I could share what I’m working on now. A bucket list item checked off! Charmed Playhouses: Working with Tyson and his team for the TLC (Now Animal Planet) tv show. Has been truly amazing. Drawing live with clients, and their children is an incredible experience. Children have an endless imagination and this work always me to reopen mine. Tysons team of craftsman are truly incredible artists. The Chuck Jones Gallery: Working with the Chuck Jones Gallery on a piece for Comic Con, was truly a dream come true. Bob Godfrey taught us how to animate bug bunny. The day this opportunity came about reminded me of all his lessons. Sally’s Salon, Spa, Studio: Working with a team of 6 men and 2 women to produce a title targeted at women, was one of the most interesting experiences of my life.  Many challenges met with much success. The Sally’s series taught me a lot about women in games, and the real challenges we face. I think it’s important to remember we are of equal value.  Although the product was ultimately abandoned when the studio went under. We will always have these memories.

GDG: Has working around so many other GDG artists influenced your art style?
JL: I don’t feel that I even have a “style”, of course being taught under Charles at Vanarts has given me a Disney influence, working in animation you need to be adaptable. The show style changes with each production. You need to be adaptable. With Harmony, and other programs you can’t forget the importance of this. To many schools are not stressing life drawing…. Lets stop that. The Girls however have influenced me in other ways, Laurie B has been a friend for many years now, I miss her energy and laughter. Living with Genvieve FT in Toronto was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, we laughed and learned so much at the Imaginism in house workshop. Never ask us to make soup for you, right Gen?

GDG: Where do you find your inspiration for your art?
JL: Life.  I truly believe in building your visual memory bank.  Don’t just experience life behind a computer, go live it. Studying people, animals, architecture, nature, and light. There’s endless learning opportunities all around you.

GDG: What is the biggest challenge that comes with being an artist?
JL: Time: Being a professional artist means just that. It becomes who you are; it’s your hobby, turned career. You truly need to engross yourself in it. The days never seem to be long enough. Welcome to being a lifetime student. 

GDG: Do you have a preference between working with digital or traditional methods? Could you give a couple of reasons why?
JL: Oh how I long to flip paper between my fingers. Having started my career in animation with ACTUAL pencil to paper on the “Christmas Orange”. I really miss it. There’s nothing more appealing then flipping through an animated sequence. Watch the Bancroft Brothers you tube videos where they flip scenes from your childhood favorites and you will be able to drool with admiration. I do find it challenging to keep up with all the technology. Photoshop, Flash, Harmony, Maya, on and on. Like I said… lifetime student. You really need to love it.

GDG: Are there any artistic disciplines that you have a passion for?
JL: Storytelling: I’m not a writer but ask me to make up a story by the campfire and you’re in for a treat. Storytelling is the soul behind all animation, one walk through Pixar’s upstairs gallery with all the pre production art, will leave you in awe of these visual storytelling geniuses. Stop Motion: I love getting my hands dirty and sculpting. I truly love all things Laika and Aardman.

GDG: Is there a type of art that you’ve always wanted to learn?
JL: I love Children’s books. I have worked on many but I would love to take a more Mary Blair Approach to this. There is some that just soaks you in with all of her work. The is the visual story telling I want to learn.

GDG: What is your advice to aspiring women artists?
JL: Never give up. It is very easy for people to stop pursuing art, and especially animation. The dedication to being a lifelong student is very hard for some people. I’ve seen so many TALENTED artists give up while within a hands grasp of their goal.  Learn from those that came before us. Respect those that paved the way. Keep going, keep drawing, keep building that visual memory bank.

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