Jennifer Ray


Animation isn't just time-consuming, it's life-consuming... but the satisfaction of seeing a finished animation hit the screen makes it all worth it. Jennifer Ray , Animation Instructor , The Art Institute of Charlotte, a branch of Miami International University of Art & Design

Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

I try to incorporate the challenges I’ve faced in the industry into every project. Every due date I assign is a deadline that must be met. Students have to learn to manage their time, create a plan of action, and produce creative content for a “client.” If things go wrong, they learn how to troubleshoot. They learn to avoid trouble by working efficiently and backing up their work. I want every project to teach them not only about the subject, but about professional work practices.

What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?

Some of the most real-world assignments I give are group projects. Students work together on a common creative production. For a 2D animated short, for instance, they have devise a production plan, and schedule and divide the duties. They merge their art styles into a single cohesive form. And if just one student doesn't hold up their end, the whole project suffers. They learn to communicate within a team—which for many is much harder than drawing. Each student must take responsibility not only for themselves but each other, and take a leadership role in some capacity. Each student learns their strengths and weaknesses...and what it's like to work in a studio, where you aren't just working in your own little world.

How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?

In Animation, there’s a lot of crossover with other majors. Film students’ great sense for camera work and lighting is extremely helpful for Animation students working in visual effects animation and compositing. 2D animators learn by collaborating with Graphic and Web Design students on web ads and campaigns. These fields are so intertwined today that you’ll almost always have some crossover. So getting a chance to work with one another in school is a great opportunity to get a head start.

What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?

This is a field where you need to be passionate and driven to succeed. Just phoning it in won't do. Don't waste a single moment, a single opportunity. Animation isn’t just time-consuming, it’s life-consuming. It’ll be difficult. You’ll be tired. You’ll be frustrated. But the satisfaction of seeing a finished animation hit the screen makes it all worth it.

What’s the most critical advice you would offer any student embarking on a creative career?

Work hard, and don't be afraid of criticism. That’s what helps you grow.