We got to chat to Illustrator / Animator – Chris Edser about appreciating past achievements while we are focusing on the next challenges and goals in life. Helping other creatives grow through collaboration, and being okay that white boyz can’t jump!
Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs?
I studied Illustration at UniSA and then went to Fabrica, Benetton’s Creative Research Centre in Italy for a year. At Fabrica we did a lot of workshops and non-for-profit projects. One of my first jobs I remember after that, while trying to get into video/animation work in Adelaide was a corporate promo video for the company that made (and claimed to have invented) four litre wine goon bags. I think the illustration jobs that led to what I do now were band posters where I had the freedom to do my own work and be as creative as possible. That’s what my early portfolio consisted of anyway.
What was your plan for graduating and what actually happened?
As a child I planned to play NBA basketball. Now 20+ years later my knees don’t work so great, but I do animation for an NBA team and spent today drawing Michael Jordan, so I’m in the ball-park. I also planned to make an animated comedy sketch TV show with some friends. We wrote some stuff, made nothing, but they went on to do many funny things like the band The Beards and I’ve recently animated sketches for a show on Comedy Central, so things all kind of, sort of, almost go to plan. That would be some advice I guess; make plans, but don’t be upset if they don’t happen exactly to the letter. Other unexpected outcomes might be even better, or at least interesting.
What does a typical working day include for you right now? My day involves a lot of emailing, updating drafts and organisation in the morning and then hopefully getting down to some concentrated drawing in the afternoon. I put on something good to listen to and get animation frames churned out or lots of ink linework drawn. There’s a hugely detailed version of this answer at this link (also the routines of many other creatives are on the same site for anyone interested)… extraordinaryroutines
The only thing that’s changed is that I don’t work at the Nicholas Building anymore which is a bit sad, but instead work in a shared studio with the same people only 200m from my front door WHICH IS EXCELLENT.
What are your three must-read design books/blogs/podcasts and why?
I think ‘Your dreams, my nightmares’ is a great listen, especially for illustrators. The guy who made it got divorced and stopped doing it. I don’t know what that means and I hope he’s alright and out having fun, but anyway there’s a huge back-catalogue of interviews. ‘The peg-bar and grill’ is a good animation industry podcast.
I would also recommend not getting too bogged down in one’s own industry and becoming too insular. Other interests can be inspiring and lead to great new thought pathways and even work. For instance, I listen to a lot of basketball podcasts and watch games while working and I now create images around the game. I also listen to podcasts about science, natural history, comedy, music and also audio books while I work. That chunk of advice can cover my third must-read since I didn’t answer the question properly. Sorry.
Whats your take on internships? (do you take interns now?)
As a freelance illustrator I don’t really have the opportunity to employ interns too much, but I often need help with animation projects. I don’t ever use unpaid interns. Even for a low budget animation job like a music video where I need extra hands just putting in hours, I still try to pay everyone something proportionally to what I’m getting and work hard to make it a learning experience. Animators, even more than illustrators and graphic designers seem to work for peanuts and I don’t think it’s fair just to use ‘experience’ and ‘opportunity’ as a currency. I’d advise graduates to not get involved in an internship where they think they’re not also being given valuable learning experiences and feedback time. Any situation where they’re just doing grunt work until the next young person comes and takes over should be avoided. Hopefully anyone who’s worked for me has learned a lot and moved on to better things, or been paid for future more lucrative collaborations with me.
Who’s on the team, what are their roles and why do you love them? Tell us about any collaborations you have been working on.
OK. Cool cool! Here’s a question where I can give an example of people I hope I’ve helped since working together and can give them a shout out, since they’ve worked hard for me. A few at first in a sort-of-internship mode, but now definitely as equals or having unique skill-sets I don’t have. Mostly I work for myself, but Bill Northcott, Jarrod Prince, Lisa Vertudaches and Harry Plane all helped animate a music video for The Beards a few years ago and the first three have since worked with me on various other animation projects, while Harry is a brilliant tattoo artist in Adelaide. Bill was already reasonably established as an animator then and is doing even better now, but Lisa was only just finishing study then. She is now doing work for Nickelodeon and funny animated Hallmark cards, so it’s been great watching her skills and super, fun, cute, individual style develop. Jarrod as well is now in our shared-studio in Melbourne and helped me make a music video for band The Stiffys last year. He’s worked with myself and other animators here in Melbourne and has a great design style to his characters and backgrounds.
What career advice would you give your 16yr old self?
You’re not tall enough and you don’t jump very high. Keep drawing.
What has been your highlights since you started out?
I have new highlights all the time and it’s really important to reflect and realise that every step is important. Recently getting emails about work with ‘Chicago Bulls’ or ‘Nike’ in the email signature got me pumped, but I got the same feeling ten years ago when a local Adelaide graphic designer I admired the work of contacted me about a potential illustration. All these steps are huge at the time and shouldn’t be dismissed when you move on to bigger goals.
Whats the big goal in the next five years?
Exhibit a wood-carving piece I’ve been working on for the last 5 years. I haven’t done anything as ‘Art’ for a while… well I haven’t presented the work as such, but some things probably were actually art projects. ANYWAY, I’ll do some kind of exhibition.