PK 014: Jennifer Llewellyn on Apps, Animation…And Never, Ever, Working For Free.

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Jennifer’s Strawberry Shortcake App

“When people hire you, they’re not just paying for your artistic skills – they’re also paying for your creativity and original input. So don’t undersell yourself!”

As founder of Light Box Entertainment Inc, illustrator Jennifer Llewellyn has worked on all kinds of creative projects, such as children’s books, mobile apps and animations. Yet, no matter how well her freelance career is going, she’s as determined now to learn new skills as she ever was.

Jennifer’s love of art began as a child, when her mom would draw all kinds of different characters to color in and copy. Being impressed by her mom’s artistic ability, Jennifer made up her mind early on to become an artist, and she was lucky enough to get lots of support and help from her teachers at school.

When the time came to go to college, she sat down with her teachers and parents and carefully considered her options. At the time, there wasn’t a huge range of schools dedicated to commercial art in her native Winnipeg, but she found the ideal place to study at Vanarts in Vancouver.

“You need to choose your art school carefully,” says Jennifer, who initially went there for a month to try it out. “You have to test them as much as they’re testing you,” she adds.

Thankfully, her time at Vanarts was a happy and successful one. She got to work with amazing teachers who, importantly, also worked in the industry, and have since become great friends.

Why Choosing The Right Art School Is So Important

Jennifer is keen to stress there’s a lot more to an art school than the homepage of their website. Many schools only choose to showcase the work of a handful of selected students, so it can often be difficult to see the real picture and appreciate the wide range of work other students may be producing.

After college, Jennifer worked as an animator for 14 years before making a leap of faith and going freelance. Since then, her career has progressed rapidly, largely thanks to her insatiable appetite for learning new skills.

“Before I went freelance, I found I was always doing the same thing in the studio and I didn’t have anyone else to learn from”, explains Jennifer. “Now, there are always different projects to work on and new skills to learn. Although I started out as an animator, I’ve now learned how to become a digital artist and illustrator, too.”

Why You Shouldn’t Work For Free. Ever.

Things are going really well for her now, but it hasn’t always been this way. Like many artists, Jennifer had some bad experiences with freelance work in the early days. Having been burned on freelance projects in the past, she now strongly recommends building up a good client base and network rather than putting all your eggs in one basket. And, she’s keen to point out that you should never, ever, work for free – no matter what’s promised at the end.

“Before taking on any project, you need to take a close look at it and see if it’ll actually work,” she says. “When people hire you, they’re not just paying for your artistic skills – they’re also paying for your creativity and original input. Therefore, you need to factor these into your price. You need to be careful and you have to stand your ground. Don’t undersell yourself.”

Her company, Light Box Entertainment Inc, now produces mobile apps, children’s books, and animations for a wide range of big names including Hasbro. She’s a big believer in forming relationships with other people through face-to-face meetings, and got to know the mobile developers she now works with through attending many meetings. Jennifer is also looking to upgrade her 3D training to learn new skills for other exciting projects.

She cites illustrator and animator, Stephen Silver, as a huge influence and inspiration. This English artist started his professional art career as a caricaturist at amusement parks before setting up his own company, Silvertoons, and then being hired by Warner Bros. in 1997. He now lives in California and offers all kinds of useful advice for all artists.You can check out one of his videos here:

Listen to this week’s show and learn:

  • Why you should choose your art school carefully
  • How to plan for your freelance career
  • How to move into new areas such as mobile apps and keep learning new skills

People on this Episode:

Mitch
Jennifer

Mentioned in the episode:

Jennifer’s Website
Jennifer on Facebook
Jennifer on Twitter
Jennifer on IMDB
Vanarts website
Stephen Silver’s Silvertoons website

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Cheers,

Mitch

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