Sam Taylor draws The Line

ADC Young Guns 12 winner and highly acclaimed animator is a "stylistic chameleon"

July is just about over, and that means we’ve reached the end of  Motion & Animation Month, where we have been highlighting ADC Members who dabble in the moving image. They make up a much smaller percentage of our community than , say, graphic designers or art directors, but their work is no less stunning.

Our next ADC Member to be featured is an accomplished and acclaimed London-based animator, who is also a proud member of our most recent class of ADC Young Guns winners.

samtaylorSAM TAYLOR
Director/Animator
London, UK
samtayloranimation.tumblr.com
thelineanimation.com

044 (0)783375362

sam@thelineanimation.com


 

Where did your interest in motion and animation begin? How did it grow into something you could see yourself doing professionally?

I have always drawn. In exercise books, on school desks and the back of bus seats, making up new superheroes, and copying existing ones out of comics. I was obsessed with comics as a kid, and growing up in Holland we had access to a whole other world of comic books from France and Belgium. When I was 17 I was extremely lucky to get an internship with Cartoon Network in London, where I gave 2D animation a go for the first time. It was fascinating to see people whose careers involved coming to work every day and drawing, but I quickly realised it was going to be a long, long journey before I’d be able to do it myself. It’s now 14 years later and I’ve still got a long way to go, but I do come into work everyday and draw. Which is pretty cool.

How much of your ability is self-taught versus through schooling?

I studied animation for three years at Bournemouth Arts Institute, where I met people who taught me more than anything I could have ever learned on my own. We had a couple of very committed tutors but I found the course itself to be a relatively suffocating environment. It held me back more than encouraging me, and taught me next to nothing in the way of craft.

I get asked a lot these days whether I would advise people to study animation or to try and teach themselves, and it’s a very difficult question to answer. I have no other experience than my own. I guess it’s dependent on personality, maturity, and how much of a sense of purpose you have. Ultimately I think if you’re a reasonably savvy person with a clear idea of what you want to do, then you’re in just as good a position to go into freelance work as anyone leaving an undergraduate course. Some people are there at 18, others need the time and space to figure it out.

Visit Vimeo link for full credits

How would you best describe your style? How did you foster that style?

As a 2D animator, my job description has always been to be a stylistic chameleon, and as I direct I’m still very interested in putting my approach to drawing through the meat grinder. Like anyone I guess, I have habits, tastes, and affectations that I have picked up along the way. But style quickly becomes a crutch if you don’t try new things, so in my personal work I try not to lean too much on tricks and shortcuts that I know will work.

“I get asked a lot these days whether I would advise people to study animation or to try and teach themselves… if you’re a reasonably savvy person with a clear idea of what you want to do, then you’re in just as good a position to go into freelance work as anyone leaving an undergraduate course.”

Tools of the trade: what items make your job a million times better? Types of pads, pens, tablets, programs etc.

I animated with pencils and paper for six years, and since transitioning to digital I get queasy thinking about going back to traditional media. So much of producing and progressing in animation has to do with finding efficiencies in your workflow and reducing waste. Digital animation has made the process so much more streamlined and flexible. I generally use an old 21-inch Wacom Cintiq, and TVPaint to animate. Having said this, I’m kinda up for trying something new right now. Might even be time to dig out the pencils and paper.

Which project are you most proud of and why?

Everything I Can See From Here was a project I directed together with my friend Bjorn-Erik Aschim. It was the first time either of us had made a film and we funded it ourselves. It was done in our spare time, over the period of two years, using techniques and tools we’d never tried before. But it got done, and was received quite well in festivals and online. I am incredibly proud that we stuck with it. It was an intense process, but taught us a huge amount, and has influenced everything we have done since.

Visit Vimeo link for full credits

What’s the most challenging part of your career?

The old work/life balance has been a tricky one to get right over the past few years since setting up The Line. We’ve all worked a few too many late nights and weekends. But I think we’re getting better at managing it now. Finding good people to share the workload with has been very helpful.

How would you describe what you do to someone who has nothing to do with creativity?

I usually say I make cartoons. Everyone knows what that means, even if they don’t understand the process of getting there. It’s surprising how many people know way more than me about cartoons. I spent a good half an hour last week listening to my hairdresser talk about Futurama.

Visit Vimeo link for full credits

“I usually say I make cartoons. Everyone knows what that means, even if they don’t understand the process of getting there.”

Where do you go to find inspiration and motivation?

I get most of my ideas while I’m on my bike, on my way to and from work. I have to pull over and take notes every all the time, which is a bit annoying, especially when you’re late for work.

Which professionals in your field do you most admire? What is it about their work that moves you?

I’m a sucker for older Disney films, Pinocchio being my favourite. The overt darkness of it is jarring from a modern point of view, but it’s a perfect counterpoint to the cutesiness that makes some of the later Disney output so cloying. The idea that they were pushing the art form further and staking the fate of of the studio on every film, while still taking risks creatively must have been exhilarating. It was so early in the history of animation, and animators at Disney like Milt Kahl were doing work that was so sophisticated that its never really been topped.

There have been some very exciting 3d animated films recently too. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller who did The Lego Movie and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs are managing to get some really unusual mainstream films made, as are Laika. Cartoon Network have been making some amazing shows over the last few years. Gumball and Adventuretime come to mind.

Independent animation has also never been stronger. Where it used to exist in the hermetically sealed world of the festival circuit its now more widely available than ever before, and there’s all kinds of cross-pollination and collaboration going on. I feel like David OReilley was instrumental in pioneering a new kind of low-fi digital aesthetic that has spawned a new wave of animation in both 2D and 3D. I always keep my eyes peeled for new work from Charles Heuttner, Dave Prosser, and Jonathan Djob Nkondo.

At the end of the day, what do you love most about motion and animation?
I think if you’re a person who draws cartoon characters, there’s magic in the idea that those characters could live and breathe, and be alive, Thats what justifies the (ridiculous) amount of time it takes to get there.

Visit Vimeo link for full credits

Visit Vimeo link for full credits

Visit Vimeo link for full credits

Visit Vimeo link for full credits

 

Are you an ADC Member with a story to tell? Drop us a line at membernews@adcglobal.org. Not yet an ADC Member? Join today!