I've been drawing or doodling for as long as I can remember. My earliest memory was back in 2nd or 3rd grade when I used to go to a Catholic school and the teacher asked us to draw what we thought God looked like. While some kids scribbled yellow beams of light or a sky I had this weird notion that he looked like a conglomerate between Captain Hook and Captain Crunch. I have no idea where this came from and if I had just seen Peter Pan the night before or still felt the raw, tender remains of the roof of my mouth from breakfast. But when I looked down at that blank piece of paper only one vision came to mind: a slightly tall sea fairing man with a large blue hat, long black hair and clean shaven face, wearing a red coat with gold buttons, white ruffled cuffs and coattails, white pants and black boots with buckles. I'm 83% sure he had both hands. The teacher was just as confused as I was and asked why I thought God looked like a pirate. I dunno lady, you just asked a child to personify an unseen deity millions have molded their life around over thousands of years and you question me?
Fast forward many years and ruined textbook margins later I find myself at the movies sitting there gobsmacked at dinosaurs running amok on an island and a few years later toys coming to life and going on an adventure. I wanted to be a part of this so bad. Our first computer, an Apple Macintosh IIsi, was where I cut my teeth in the digital medium of design. I mowed a lot of lawns over the course of a Summer to buy a graphics application called 'Brushstrokes' by Clarisworks. You haven't lived until you've tried to hand draw perfect ellipses with a ball-mouse on an Apple Macintosh IIsi. My friend said I was so good that I had "mouse hands" if you can believe it. While the original files are long lost to floppies somewhere I do have the original prints still and had submitted them to a contest the Boston Globe was running while I was a freshman in high school. I don't remember if they had a digital arts section at the time, but I did walk away with an honorable mention. Being rewarded for doing something fun? Young, innocent John liked that.
And so began the search for colleges that taught 3D animation and had well established programs. A lot of progress had been made in 1995 as far as special effects in movies go, but that hadn't quiet trickled down into colleges for courses yet. Especially since I was sticking around on the East coast. Starting out in Massachusetts, then expanding to New England and eventually down South I found myself applying to only two schools I felt had programs that been around long enough to where I felt I wouldn't be learning along w/the school: The Art Institute of Philadelphia and RISD. I ended up going with AIPH because they seemed to have a more established computer animation department.
I had a great time there and learned quite a bit, but I felt I found more usable information from books I discovered myself in Barnes & Noble. And apparently so did one of my teachers because I soon found out he was teaching our several thousand dollar course with photocopies from a $50 book. This same teacher had a habit of deleting student work off the network w/out telling them. Not every student can afford $100 for a 1Gb Jazz disk right away! So if you wonder why there are no pictures of me graduating it's because when I helped out in the computer labs I had the access codes for them and I, and a bunch of friends who also had their work deleted, stayed in the school overnight a few times working till 4am to get our final portfolios rendered & edited. Until one of them forgot to lock the door behind them and a maintenance guy found us. The school understood our plight and luckily didn't expel us just a month away from graduation and just said we couldn't participate. Not too long after the school implemented 24hr labs. You're welcome!
After that came the cold reality of the real world and my continuing search for a balance of just having fun doing what I love for a company that likes to try things differently. Is that yours?