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Dublin High School Senior Earns Two Scholarships to Study Animation at MICA

April 25, 2014
Dublin High Senior Roberta Tyler

Dublin High Senior Roberta Tyler

Dublin High School senior Roberta Tyler recently met with to share her story of earning two scholarships to pursue her dream of studying animation at the prestigious Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), the unique challenge of creating an arts portfolio for college admissions and how performing in Dublin High School’s Drama Club helped hone her animation skills. What triggered your passion for animation?

Roberta Tyler: “I’ve always had an interest in movies, our family watches movies together all the time. In my freshman year I took a drawing class, and I had upper year friends in the animation class. They loved animation and recommended I take the class, which planted the seed.

“Dublin High School’s animation teacher Chris Meyer, who went to Ex’pression College in Emeryville, was my junior year teacher. He was a really interesting and inspiring teacher and fueled my interest in animation; I wanted to be like him.” Describe the process of animation.

Roberta Tyler Portfolio 0Tyler: “At this point I’ve only completed small projects, mostly in 3D modeling and 3D animation. I started with 2D animation using a program called Toon Boom Studio. It takes a lot of patience to create 2D hand drawn animation because you have to accept that it is more important to focus on quantity rather than quality in the beginning. When you first start out you have to accept that you won’t be as good as the animators at Pixar, where there are hundreds of people working on every frame, one person doing the rigging, one person doing the modeling, and so on. In the beginning you are doing everything yourself so you can’t put the pressure on yourself to be Pixar, Dreamworks or Disney level. You don’t have the resources.

“In the beginning it is really important to just drive forward and not get caught up in trying to be perfect. If you try to create perfect animations at first, you’re never going to get it.” How did you find schools that specialize in animation and what was the application process like?

Roberta Tyler Portfolio 4Tyler: “The process was a lot different from what my friends went through. I was sitting in my AP Literature class and my friends were talking about all the essays they had to write, while I had 20 portfolio pieces to finish!

“As far as finding schools to apply to, I had to sift through a lot of schools and make sure that the colleges I applied to were accredited. There are schools that take advantage of artists, take the money but don’t really teach anything valuable.

“I was also looking for a good fit, a strong program and faculty. The Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is a small school that includes animation but other disciplines as well. Large schools like USC have digital arts programs, but less of an arts atmosphere, and more of a traditional college atmosphere. I personally prefer a smaller arts atmosphere.

“When applying to an arts program the most important element is your portfolio. My key piece of advice is to work on your portfolio all the time. Any free time you have needs to be invested in your portfolio, because otherwise you’ll run out of time, fall short and not get accepted into the schools you want. For many schools there is an artist’s statement, similar to a personal essay, that focuses on what you want to find in your art during college.

“The portfolio is really a way for the school to find the student in you that they can teach. You don’t have to be a Glen Keane level artist. What they really want to see is that you have mastered the basics, and that they have a starting point to teach you.” Are there guidelines for the portfolio or is it completely up to you?

Roberta Tyler PortfolioTyler: “It depends on the school, and the program. For animation many schools told me to focus on the construction of the human form, to capture the life inside an image. Unlike illustration, animation is full of life so you need to be able to create quick drawings and characters that have human tendencies. You want to include gestural drawings.

“Some schools like MICA, Ringling and Laguna asked for a portfolio of twenty pieces, with some guidelines. Sheridan was the hardest, very technical, and provided an intense checklist of mandatory items.” Has performing in Dublin High School Drama Club plays helped you learn to animate?

Tyler: “It was extremely helpful. Almost all of the animation programs require taking a couple of acting classes because character animation really involves the animated characters acting for you. The animated characters are the actors so you have to learn how people move, how people become a character. In the recent movie Frozen, Elsa was very shy and introverted and would move in a certain way whereas her sister Anna is more extroverted and exuberant with a different way of moving. From character to character you have to create a distinction, it’s a key element of character animation, and acting experience really helps.” Even though college gradation is years away, do you already have a dream of what you’d like to do after college?

Tyler: “It’s every animator’s dream to work at Pixar, it’s the animator’s playground! But I’m also interested in stop-motion animation, which is taught at MICA, and that could lead to an internship or job at Laika, the animation company that created Coraline and the upcoming movie The Boxtrolls.” How have your friends reacted to your decision to pursue animation?

Tyler: “Many of my friends say ‘you’re so lucky, you don’t have to attend classes’ which is completely false. I’ll be sitting through a ton of lectures just like my friends! There are a lot of misconceptions – people don’t really understand art schools or take them seriously. Or people assume I’ll be a starving artist unable to afford food!” How did you settle on MICA?

Tyler: “I ended up selecting MICA for a few reasons: it’s a smaller arts school, with a strong arts atmosphere, it’s near my extended family, and MICA offered two substantial scholarships. I applied during the early decision window and won the Creative Vision Award for my portfolio, and was also awarded an additional Trustee Scholarship.”

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