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Fine Arts to Motion Graphics: A Chat with Anne Saint-Louis
Anne Saint-Louis shares how her fine arts background helped set the stage for a rewarding motion design career.
Sometimes the path to motion design greatness is clear, other times it has many twists and turns. Sometimes people find that the skills they pick up over the years greatly help them in their motion design career. Anne Saint-Louis is no exception.
As a motion designer and TA at School of Motion, Anne Saint-Louis accidentally found passion in creating animations using the artistic skills she learned as a child. This knack for drawing evolved over time, leading her to an incredibly rewarding career in MoGraph.
We had the opportunity to chat with Anne about what brought her into the industry, and how she connects with other motion designers. We hope you enjoy this chat as much as we did...
Hey Anne! Tell us about yourself, how did you become a motion designer?
I always knew I wanted to do work in some sort of visual arts field. I first studied Fine Arts at the Université du Québec à Montréal with focus on painting and print making.
After 4 years, I earned my degree but realized quickly that I was not prepared for the “real world” and had no idea how to make an actual living with this newly gained knowledge. I started to learn applications on my own that would help me design and create layouts for print. I also had a few gigs painting backgrounds in Photoshop for animation studios.
Later I moved to Vancouver and continued working as a production artist for print, but I wasn’t very happy doing this. So, I decided to stay home a few years to take care of my baby son and really began thinking about what my future could be.
I took some classes at the local college to learn more about designing and creating websites. Learning these skills got me a job designing a website for a documentary film production company. They also wanted animation and I volunteered to do those so I started searching through many YouTube and Lynda tutorials! I fell in love with After Effects and even though my animations weren’t great I loved doing them.
Character Animation Bootcamp was my favorite course and I really put my all in to learning. Now I have regular gigs working in Motion Design and I feel like I finally found my place as an artist.
How does illustration and motion design come together for you as an artist?
My original motivation for animating at all was to give life to my illustrations!
As a child, I would invent fantastical stories and lands in my mind and it would feel imperative to draw the people who lived in these lands. When I studied fine arts at school, I then discovered composition, color theory, realistic drawing, perspective and all that good stuff.
I can find inspiration everywhere! Children’s books illustrations (I collect them), visits to museums, graphic novels, posters, photography, life drawing, science, space, forms in nature, dance, people watching, graffiti, fashion, music…. a weirdly shaped melting snow patch… everything!
I set fun goals for myself to keep the juices flowing. For example, this year I plan to work on all kinds of walking cycles for my quirky plant characters.
What's a project that you really loved working on? What was that process like?
I have had the pleasure of creating three short animations for a Canadian TV show for kids called “Coyote Science”. These were extra fun and interesting because I was given extreme creative freedom and was able to do all by myself.
They simply provided a loose script, and then I ran with that. I was able to experiment and try new techniques and I learned a lot. Usually, I start with creating a rough storyboard based on the script. Then, an animatic to figure out the pacing. Then I work on the design boards and create the characters.
After that, I make all the assets and start animating! For the last animation, they also provided character designs so I had to re-create them in Illustrator and then rig them in with Duik in After Effects. We actually already have one episode that's aired!
Have motion design friendships opened up any doors for you as an artist?
Before being involved with the School of Motion Alumni Group, I felt extremely isolated in my home office. I’m an introvert so going to networking events were anxiety inducing affairs. I didn’t “shine” when meeting new people at these events. Reaching out online and following people whose work you admire has been so interesting and contributed to my growth as an artist for sure.
This year, I was hired to work remotely for an American studio who needed extra character animators for a tight deadline and this happened because of my links to the School of Motion community.
Making an effort to maintain online professional friendships is of the utmost importance to me. Being able to turn to my mograph community to ask questions, bounce ideas, get inspired and learn from, is invaluable.
Still, i've found it's important to also meet in person, and this is easier for me now. The Blend event in Vancouver was an amazing experience for that, everyone in this community is so laid back and friendly.
I am also making an effort to connect more with the local Vancouver Mo-Graph community. This past April, I moved into a co-working place and I am hoping this will bring new collaborations.
Why do you think Vancouver produces so many fantastic animators and collaborative projects?
Vancouver has large animation studios, gaming studios, advertising, visual effects, motion design studios, interactive design studio... and much more. This is a great place to learn animation, so a lot of top notch animators discover the city this way and decide to stay. There are a lot of opportunities in this West Coast city.
We noticed your case study of the Explainer Camp final, and were very impressed! What were some cool takeaways from the course?
Thank you! I loved Explainer Camp because the big assignment can be tailored to one’s own style and skill level.
For that assignment, I really focused on simplifying the imagery and color palette and on fluid transitions. I also tried mixing After Effects with some cel-animation I created in Adobe Animate.
Creating that case study was a useful way to analyze the different steps and how they fit together. This helps refine my workflow and also teach my clients on how a project comes together.
Also, Explainer Camp is an amazing course for freelancers! There are a lot of useful business tips and info.
How has being a TA at SOM helped you as a creative?
When students ask questions, you have to explain the information in a way that is catered to that particular student’s learning style. My critiquing skills and animation “eye” has grown immensely.
Finding my "TA voice" was a challenge in the beginning. Now, I constantly strive to find that perfect balance between critique and encouragement. I love seeing a student’s skill and enthusiasm grow, it’s very rewarding!
What's a recurring theme you see among those who thrive when developing their skills?
The ones that grow and learn the most are the ones who are able to put a lot of time towards doing the assignments and revisions.
These students are enthusiastic hard workers that welcome tips and comments to make their animations better. They aren't afraid of asking questions and are actively communicating with the other students and their teaching assistants.
Who's an up-and-coming artist that everyone should know?
I follow a lot of artists on Instagram and it’s hard to choose!
But, one person comes to mind who is also an alumni, Jordan Bergren. The last 3 years I've seen Jordan's work grow into an impressive cinematic personal style, and his technical skills are getting better and better.
Care to impart some words of wisdom for those looking to get into animation?
Animation has an extremely steep learning curve, so you need passionate energy to push through.
Put perfectionism aside and work, work, work.
The learning never ends! The results may not always be what you imagined, but motion design is always exciting.
See More of Anne's Work
If you want to keep up with Anne Saint-Louis and her journey, make sure to check out her website and give her a follow on Vimeo and Instagram!
Looking to up your skills?
Looking for more inspiration?
We love featuring artists and really get a lot out of looking into their workflow and animation practices. Check out these inspiring stories from animators all around the world!