The Interview Series // 52


As a kid growing up in Mr. Gambier Celeste Potter (http://celestepotter spent her time drawing pictures and dressing up as Astro Boy. Today, she’s an animation director at XYZ studios (http://xyzstudios Makes sense right? We sat down with her to find out how she made it.

Junior: Hey Celeste! Tell us how you got into the cartoon business?

Celeste Potter: I guess everything started with drawing. I’ve been drawing almost every day since I can remember. I grew up in a country town called Mt Gambier where it’s all about football, Holdens and pies, so I just stayed home and read comics and drew pictures every day. Then I moved to Melbourne and studied Media Arts at RMIT, which is where I became part of a creative community for the first time. I also started a punk band and did all our artwork- fliers, record covers and stuff. After a while, people started noticing my work and asking me about it, and I would say “Oh yeah, I’m an illustrator.” Even though I’d never been paid to draw a thing in my life. Word got around and people started asking me to draw posters and artwork for their records and giving me money for it. It kind of grew from there. I was just doing all music industry stuff.


Tim Kentley, who runs XYZ saw something I drew on Facebook of all places, and got in contact with me. I was like- “Who is this guy? What is commercial animation?” My first job with XYZ was doing all the Illustration for their Dodge Journey commercial (http://xyzstudios After that I kept illustrating more jobs for them and learning a little bit about the animation process. Around that time Sarah Blasko asked me to make an animated music video for her and I was like- “Absolutely! I know how to do that!” It was a lie- I didn’t really know how to animate a music video, I just really wanted to do it. I hope she’s not reading this. Anyway, I nearly died every day of the process, but somehow I pulled it off (with a lot of help from Cameron Gough of Dirty Puppet).

After that I kept illustrating with XYZ and I think Tim and I liked one anothers rebellious nature, and one day out of the blue he asked me if I wanted to be an anim`ation director, and I said- “Yeah totally! I know how to do that!”, even though we both knew I didn’t.

Jr: So is it fair to say that animation (3D in particular I guess) is quite a team effort? Lots of collaborating going on?

CP: Yeah pretty much. It’s rare for someone to make a whole commercial animation by themselves. It also has to be like the timeline- we only get like four weeks, so there has to be lots of hands on deck.

Jr: You’ve done some amazing posters as well as album covers. We love the Sydney Writers Festival one. How did they come about? Was it just word of mouth from other jobs or do you market yourself as well?

CP: Mostly it’s word of mouth. I get around a fair bit with all the music stuff. I think being in a band that tours really helps. I travel around and get to know lots of bands in other cities and countries. I think the artwork is part of my band’s identity, and it has a lot of reach in a different way than TV commercials. I started out doing posters for my band and it expanded from there. It’s kind of like this: There is loads of bands and just a handful of recording studios, mastering dudes, sound mixers, promoters etc. So a band will make an awesome sounding recording and then other bands will take note of who mixed it and where they recorded it and then use the same people next time. The same thing happens with artwork. Usually when I get an email from a client they say “I really like the work you did for this other band, can you make something like that for me?” I don’t really approach bands that much. I did at the start to get a bit of work under my belt. The only marketing I do is putting my work up on my website.


Jr: For us animation dum dums can you explain how it comes to life from a sketch?

CP: It depends on the animation technique. In traditional 2D animation, the image and the motion are fully integrated because it’s drawn frame by frame.

These days for 2D animation we would use a program like After Effects. I draw a character or an object and then use Photoshop to prepare it for animation. Basically you just have to treat the drawing like it’s a puppet – imagine the way that it’s going to move. I usually separate body parts at the places where they bend. I draw different shaped mouths and eyes for blinking and lip-syncing. You get the picture.

3D animation is a bit different. Normally I would draw the character from a bunch of different angles then a 3D modeler takes my drawings and sculpts the character using Maya. Then I create textures for the modeler to wrap around the character. So 3D is a bit more challenging for me because I have to trust someone else to turn my drawings into its final state.

Jr: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

CP: There isn’t really a single source of inspiration for me. I guess I feel like creative people file away all their experiences to potentially draw from at a later date. Sometimes when I’m feeling a bit stuck, I go to the Latrobe Reading Room in the state library. I just get a stack of books about anything, and that always takes me somewhere. I like the feeling of the space because people go there to think and learn, and you can feel a hundred years of ideas floating around under that big dome. I like to imagine an antennae sticking out of the top of my head, and picking up ideas like a radio.

Jr: What advice would you give aspiring animators?

CP: Try to not have a plan B. Just focus on learning, finessing your skills, and getting awesome. People say that it’s a competitive field, but I feel like it’s only competitive if you aren’t very good. If you’re really great at what you do, work will come to you. Practice. Don’t stop making stuff. Make stuff for no reason. Be hard on yourself. You can always do better.

Written by Junior
Originally posted on: 31/10/2013