Secondary School Talks on Animation – St. Dominic’s, Ballyfermot

Scene prep artist and animator Laura Murray has been doing talks and after school projects with children in her old secondary school in Ballyfermot to promote animation. In the piece below, she talks about her experience working with the kids, what she perceives as the current limited access to information about animation for secondary school kids and how she herself came to choose a career in animation.

I recently did a talk on my experience in animation in my old secondary school, St Dominics in Ballyfermot. My old principal wanted me to talk to the students about what I have done since finishing my Leaving Certificate in 2007, what I did in college and what I am doing now.

1488932_198959923632998_1799915904_nSpeaking at St. Dominics

I talked about the animation courses that I studied over 5 years in college, what the modules were and how to prepare your portfolio to get into the course.  I also explained what animation is and simplified it down so that the students could understand it. I showed them my student film that I made in the last year of my degree. They were interested in how I made my film. I explained the processes I went through to make it and explained about pre production, production and post production. Then I showed them the intro of The Adventures of the Young Marco Polo, which I worked on as a scene prep artist.  The students were very impressed with that.

 Around the time I spoke at my old school, my art teacher told me that there were a few girls out of 6th year that are interested in going to college. I asked if anyone was interested in doing animation and she said that they are not really interested in cartoons. I realised that I was the only one out of my school that actually went on to study animation, graduated with a BA Honours in Animation and pursued a career in my chosen field. I found this every interesting.

582257_2608942002822_594139227_nStill from my student film ‘Trapped’

At a very young age, like many kids, I had a keen interest in cartoons. I started drawing when I was six. At that time, I had to wear an eye patch on my right eye, due to it being lazy. I was told that I should colour in pictures in colouring books but I found it more interesting to draw in them. From then on I continued to draw.

Through primary and secondary school, I used the positive feedback that I got from my teachers as a motivation to draw more and I wrote a lot of stories. I even brought an A3 sketch pad around with me in secondary school so that I could sketch some cartoony drawings if we had a free class. Around 3rd/ 4th year I hardly did any life drawing at home, mostly at school, only a few days a week, but that wasnt enough. In 4th year, there was a course in a new youth centre that was called the Base.

It was called the DATA project, an animation/audiovisual/ media project for young teenagers to tell stories about drugs in the local area. I found the animation part interesting and so I went along. At that time, I didnt have any knowledge of how to use photoshop, macromedia flash or even how to turn on a mac! I felt so dumb and most of the 15 weeks I basically was struggling. But I learned alot from it and one of the facilitators recommended that I start doing more life drawing so that I could improve my drawing skills.  I also did a mural project and this led me to be more involved with art and promote myself throughout the youth centre.

When the 2nd DATA project was starting, there were a good number of teens interested. At that time, we thought of a great story to animate using flash, but due to numbers falling quickly, we couldnt continue the project. I found that animation was not progressing in the youth centre at that time. I even facilitated at an animation camp in 2011 in the youth centre teaching them about claymation, making characters, storyboarding and filming their pieces but in the next year there was no demand for the animation camp. Art camps were the only popular camps.

When I was in 5th year I did a evening portfolio course in Ballyfermot College to develope my drawing skills and I got funding to do a two week animation course in IADT Dun Laoighaire in the Summer time. I learned the basics; bouncing ball, walk, pendelum and to do your own animation.  From doing these courses I managed to produce a good portfolio. At the open day in Ballyfermot College while I was in 5th year, I brought some of my work along and I met one of the teachers. He told me that if I entered my portfolio in one of the animation courses now, I wouldn’t get in. He advised me to work more on still life, produce a sketch book full of observational studies, do more painted studies, mixed media. I took this advice on board and I spent the rest of 5th and 6th year producing my portfolio work. My art teacher helped to prepare my portfolio, making sure I had the recommended material in it.

903871_10200490903675115_606682650_oQ&A from 5th year

I got my place in animation drawing studies and from there I progressed and graduated with my degree. I found that I had to network with people outside of my secondary school to gain knowledge about animation. When I started college, I still didn’t have great knowledge of computers and felt that I got that through my time there.

At the moment, I am working on a clay mation project with the 2nd years in St Dominics for 7 weeks on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We are working on the theme of the environment. I am encouraging them to develop their stories, characters, backgrounds and in the end, come out with small animated movies. What I hope that they gain from the 7 weeks of the project is a much better understanding about animation in general.

The numbers of students doing  the project are falling every time I have the class. I  feel that there is a weak understanding of animation among young children in Ballyfermot, which I find very interesting considering that Ballyfermot College is known for its success in that field. I feel that the subject of animation is not being addressed that much in primary and secondary schools. All the big subjects like maths, science, history etc are promoted a lot more in the schools and I feel art is just being promoted as just a hobby and not a “real job”.

Thank you Laura for your piece! You can check out more of Laura’s work here and like her Facebook page here.

 And you can keep up to date with Women in Animation Ireland on our Facebook page here!
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