Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Surprised My Dream Came True

Hello, my name is Deb and I am an animator.

Which means I don't really have to grow up – ever.

Well, attitude-wise anyway; I've found keeping a child-like mentality helps maintain the creative animation process (I can translate toddler-ese pretty well too). Welcome to my world.

Perhaps I should define what I do, so, according to Mr. Webster -

an-i-mate (verb):
1. to give spirit and support to; encourage
2. a) to give life to
b) to give vigor and zest to
3. to move to action
4. to make or design in such a way as to create apparently spontaneous lifelike movement

Number four must be a more recent addition from Mr. Webster, because it sure wasn't there when I wrote my first school paper about what I wanted to be when I grew up (I DID want to be an astronaut too, but I wasn't science savvy enough *sigh*).

Bunny trail: definitions one and three seem to define the ladies here at the Inkwell as de facto animators - just sayin'…

…and back to the subject at hand:

Life is too short to have a job you hate.

I don't know when this became a credo of mine, but I do know that my pursuit of becoming an animator stems from how the Lord led my mom to raise her children. She always emphasized that God created us for a specific purpose and endowed us with specific skills to accomplish said purpose. Mom also encouraged us to seek out how God wired us and then follow the Path for which that wiring was set. I guess that credo is my paraphrasing of Mom's instruction.

I always knew what I wanted to do as a grown-up. All through childhood (and still now) I drew my own characters and wrote stories about them. I drew so many greeting cards for Mom, (she didn't purchase a card for a good eighteen years) I joked that my middle name was Hallmark. I read what I could about becoming an animator. Most of the time I felt that it was a far off, impossible goal. I didn't take an art class until I started college because the Christian school I attended didn't have any.

Talk about feeling inept. It didn't help that the Dean of the Art School looked upon the commercial artist students as lesser artists (he was a Fine Arts person - very talented but a tad snobbish). I don't have good depth perception - great for cartooning, bad for "real" art. It took a very long time to get past my inferiority complex.

Bunny trail: I do draw well, it just takes a bit longer than my first inclination to cartoonize everything. The lasting effect of that first Dean is I attempt to make sure none of the students who take a class of mine will ever feel like they are lesser artists. End bunny trail.

The thought of "Hey, I CAN be an animator!" occurred when I visited a friend in LA who worked for Disney. She was a clean-up artist on the film The Rescuers Down Under at the time. (yeah, I'm old) She took me around, introduced me to some animators, and showed me what she did. Something in my mind clicked.

As evil genius Gru of Despicable Me is prone to say - "Liiiiight bullllb…" (oh, to have his Minions...)

Bunny trail: the trip to LA also showed me where I NEVER wanted to live. This meant animated feature films would not be in my future, but smaller scale production was a definite possibility. End bunny trail.

Unfortunately, it took another decade before I actually became an animator. Spring of 2000. Graduating with a Masters Degree and working as the planet's most educated Wal-Mart toy department Associate before becoming gainfully employed. I also did freelance animation before the full time gig - nothing huge - small stuff - some that never did see the light of public consumption. Even now, most of the work I do won't ever be seen by the public eye (I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.*heh* Kidding... sort of).

I find great joy in my work, even in animating the seemingly mundane. Why? Genesis 1:26-27: Then God said, “Let us make man in our image… So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them..."

Deb's Boys

I like to tell my students that when we animate, we get pretty close to being like God – being in His Image, so to speak. An animator gives seemingly inanimate objects the illusion of life (thus, we can never really be like God, just a good imitator). It's a pretty cool thing - being an echo of God and breathing "life" into something inanimate.

Bunny trail: My favorite animator is Chuck Jones who was known for quoting one of his instructors "All of you here have one hundred thousand bad drawings in you. The sooner you get rid of them, the better it will be for everyone." I've applied that to my learning the craft of writing as well (attempting to tie animation to writing here, work with me). So, I keep writing those "bad drawings", the sooner I get rid of them… End bunny trail.

Speaking of students - I taught a fundamentals of 2D animation class this past semester. Students were assigned a nursery rhyme to animate (a side effect of my having a toddler in my household). It had to be 30 seconds long/short. Thirty seconds doesn't sound like much until you realize that it is 900 frames - 450 images if you animate on twos - that is, one image for every two frames (video runs at 30 frames per second, film runs at 24 frames per second). I asked a few of them if I could “show” their work of here and they were kind enough to say yes. Feel free to click the links and see the talent I was blessed to guide. I'm proud of them and their fledgling efforts (much better than my first meager attempts...).

IanTennis: For Want of A Nail  

KristinMehaffey: Hey Diddle Diddle 

EmilyErichsen: Mary and Lamb     

TomBrodowski: Sing A Song of Sixpence

Devin Peck: The Sandman

I happened to animate a nursery alongside them, mostly because it was a fun exercise for me and partly to give them something to see that I've done. Students don't always get to see their teacher's work. If I were one of my students, I'd probably give myself a 'B' on this project.

I've also provided a link to my Graduate project that got a three day theater run (the University film festival so the town could see its student's work). I even got a decent review from the local Film critic. It's my one complete romance “book” (five minutes animation = 7200 frames, animated on twos, so 3600 drawings. If a picture is worth a thousand words... um, I'll let you do the math *heh*).

Talking about it would require a whole other post – but hopefully you will enjoy and perhaps get some insight into how my mind works. It's a story about what happens to socks that get lost in the laundry.

Title: Sox n Vio-lintz.

The tag line is: Every sock dries... Not every sock really lives.
Hook you yet?

Thanks to the Inkies for the invite to write and thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings.

Questions: What did you want to be when you “grew up”? Did you always know, or discover it late? What is your favorite animated film?

Giveaway: Did you like the 2 small avatar samples in Deb's post? Deb is giving away a custom-made animated GIF avatar to one person who comments on this post by Sunday midnight, April 29th. All she requires are the winner's blog rules and parameters so she can do it properly. She's still learning, but she'll give it her best shot.

PS from Anita Mae - I'm so thankful Deb finally decided to post with us.  If you want to see the delightful scuba wedding cake toppers and invitations that Deb created for her own wedding, check out another post on her - Branded.

Deb Harkness is a full-time animator and occasionally is priviledged to pass on her graphic skills/knowledge as an Adjunct Professor at Regent University in Virginia Beach. She is wife to a retired Botswains Mate and mother to an adorable toddler who answers more often to Guppy than his given name. She and hubby met while scuba diving (thus the unfortunate moniker for their child unit) and hope to pass on a love for all things nautical (and nature) to their son. Deb also dreams to one day join the ranks of published authors, either in the Children's market (she draws/animates stories for Guppy) or Romance - she's listening to guidance from God on that. Either way, she plans to follow said guidance since He's done such a great job guiding her life thus far.


  1. Thank you for posting at the Inkwell, Deb. Love your imagination, as well as your willingness to pass it on to others. :)

  2. OMIGOSH This might be our most incredible post yet. T

    Deb, you are incredible. I loved your students' films -incredible talent (the Sandman is quite amusing!)

    Your sock film is amazing. I will run out of adjectives in a minute - And I am so impressed with the work that goes into these, and your talent. Wow.

    I can't wait to see the giveaway you create!
    Thanks for guesting with us and commenting as often as you do. We love seeing you! (by the way I owe you two books, details later...)

  3. Hi Deb, I'm a Regent Grad. I think I always wanted to write, although I thought I would have a more serious career too, which I never have.

  4. I know, eh, Debra. :)

    Since Deb - or DebH as she usually refers to herself in the comments - is a dayworker, we may not see her for long periods of time. But I'll be here and I know she'll catch up when she can.

    Yes, I agree. Deb's artistry first caught my eye when she made the 2 scuba diver figurines for the top of her wedding cake.

    I'd link back to our Inky post where I first introduce Deb and her artwork where she creates my branding iron, but I'm having problems loading anything google related since last night.

  5. Dina, you can't discount being an editor. That's a real job.

  6. Oh, yeah. LOL. But it's only part time. I've never done anything full time in my life, unless you count being a summer camp counselor.

  7. *sigh* Me neither, Dina. I honestly don't know if I could handle a "real" job.

    Deb, LOVE this post. Your description of your mom's parenting style gives me hope that my four uber-creative types will find their way to paying jobs they love.

    It's interesting how similar the doubts and fears and obstacles are whether you're talking about pursuing writing, art, music, dance, or any other creative endeavor.

    Thanks for visiting today! (The scuba GIF made me grin!)

  8. Okay, so this is really funny... I finally got on googled and typed in "inkwell inspirations anita mae draper scuba" as search parameters to find my old post on DebH when I first talk about her artistry.

    One of the choices on the first page was a wedding invitation place in Utah. Curious, I clicked.

    And it is a wedding invitation place... in Draper, Utah. LOL

    Not only that, but on their home page they list 'local news' and there at the bottom is the link and first paragraph about the post I'm searching for. Of course I clicked on that and voila! Got my answer.

    So, if you want to see Deb's scuba wedding cake toppers and wedding invitations, check out Branded.

    Thank you, Draper Wedding Invitations. :)

  9. Deb, I'm so glad you shared with us today. This so truly intriguing to me. I don't have an artistic sense at all. I really admire people who do. I can't wait to get home from work so I can view all the animations. :-)

    Favorite animated movie: there are too many to list, but I love Cinderella. Despicable Me stole my heart, as did Up. Tangled, the original Japanese animated version of The Little Mermaid, Madagascar (I see they're going to join a circus), Monster's Inc. I was disappointed in Rango and Puss 'n Boots, though the animation was incredible.

    What I wanted to be when I grew up: a writer, a journalist, a teacher, and Donny Osmond's wife.

  10. Niki, I always think of you in a newspaper office. So either you're working or standing by the water cooler. LOL

  11. Hi ladies! thanks for reading the post.*phew...*

    Debra: thanks for the kind words. i don't know about being incredible, but i do agree that my students are incredibly talented. i'm glad you like the sock film. i've had several people say they can never look at laundry the same way after viewing it *heh*

    as for the giveaway... that will be tailored to the winner and what he/she wants

    Dina: aren't you glad that you don't have to have a "serious" career in order to take care of yourself and family?

    Anita: thanks for being such a big fan of mine. i'm a big fan of you as well.

    Niki: i hope your uber-creative children do find that paying gig. even if they don't have much financially, they will be happy because they are doing what the Lord created them to do (and i've found that's the best place to be)

    yep, i think the creative personality types must deal with those weakness - said weakness' being there to keep the creative personality from being insufferably arrogant...

    glad you like the scuba GIF. that was made for my husband. i think he's part fish, he loves the water so much.

    hope to pop back later...

    say, did anyone catch the background action in Little Miss Muffet? just curious...

  12. Suzie, I'm so glad you admitted wanting to be Donny Osmond's wife. Me, too. Except I wasn't so honed in on one star... I couldn't decided between Donny, David Cassidy, and Bobby Sherman. And yes, those were the first records I ever owned - and still have. Be still my heart. :D

  13. Suzie
    Everyone has some artistic sense - it just doesn't manifest itself the same way. Creativity doesn't have to mean "art" - it can be in the way you work with numbers, or organize events, or run a household. Trust me, there's creativity in every profession. I look forward to seeing what you think about the animations later on after your done with your work day.

    My favorite animated film is the IRON GIANT. Don't know why exactly, but when the robot heads for the bomb and says "Superman..." I cry everytime. (stupid, I know - but I still cry).

    LOL, on being Donny Osmond's wife... I can relate.
    Thanks for visiting.

  14. Deb, I'm so dense! It just dawned on me that you designed Anita Mae's brand - at least, I'm fairly positive it was you. You did a great job, and I wonder if you're open for business. ;-)

  15. always open for business, especially for the ladies of the Inkwell.

  16. Thanks so much for your fun post, Deb! Great videos (except for some reason, I can't watch the socks video, so I'll try again later).

    I can't draw a lick, but my kids have created the funniest comics and I'm amazed by their sketches and wit. But then again, I'm biased.

    I always wanted to be a writer, but as I've gotten older, I find new things about myself that I might like to do, as well.

    Oh, Suzie Osmond! I love it! (When I was 8 or so, I was Mrs. Susie Skywalker.)

  17. What a great post, Deb! I love animation. Must be a fascinating field to work in.

    As for childhood crushes... Mine was Shawn Cassidy. SIGH

  18. Yes, Deb, I saw the background action in Little Miss Muffet. Probably because it distracted me. Ha! I remember he'd just said 'curds and whey' when something out the window caught my eye.

    My favourite animated film is WALL-E. Pixar made animated things so human-like it's creepy and lovable at the same time.

  19. What a wonderful post! Great job, DebH.

    I didn't have a clear vision as a child, as to what I wanted to do. I remember wanting to bake wedding cakes, be a librarian, and own my own restaurant. But really, it changed frequently, and the only time I gave it any thought is when someone asked me.

    Maybe I didn't want to grow up. My favorite animated film? Too hard to pick. I love most of them.

  20. Suzanne
    i do hope you'll be able to watch the Sox film, I tend to think it's pretty clever - but i'm biased *heh* i'm glad your kids seem to enjoy drawing (btw if you can draw a stick figure, you can be taught to draw...really)

    i was a Mrs. Han Solo

    the animation industry is QUITE fascinating. let's just say most animators have a different way at looking at the world - and you think people worry about life events getting into one of your manuscripts...

    yay... i hope the background stuff wasn't too distracting. the window area just seemed too boring with nothing else going on. oh, and check your email - banner image fixed for you - i think. let me know...

    yes, pinning down a favorite animated film is really difficult. as for growing up - i've heard that was optional - it's just growing old (chronologically) that is inevitable.

    thanks for the kind words. i appreciate them. i've been such a fan of the Inkwell from it's beginning. i hoped to live up to the standards that have been set.

  21. Deb, I'm home now and got ti view the clips. Very nice. And I went back to view Anita's Branded post. It was fun to read it again. You have an amazing talent, and Guppy is very cute!

  22. Suzie
    Glad you enjoyed the clips. I want to let my students know that people like their work. I'm all for encouragement (since I'm well aware of self-doubt, especially in the student stage).

    I've never really thought of my talent as amazing - just there. I'm learning to accept that it may be amazing, especially since God gifted me with it.

    What IS amazing that I am able to use it everyday in my work (which doesn't feel like work).

    And thanks for the Guppy comment. I do think he's quite cute too - sometimes too cute for his own good *heh*

    Thank you Inkies and readers for a neat day of interaction. This blog is really a blessing - Ladies of the Inkwell, my thanks.

  23. Deb, I am glad I didn't have to work full time, especially at a job that would have drained me, which I think most jobs would. I need my energy, especially my social energy, for my family since they're all much more extroverted than me.

    And duh, I just realized your the Deb H in Virginia Beach :)

  24. Dina
    LOL on your "duh" moment. i really should attempt to connect with you at some point. and btw, i'm a Regent grad as well.

  25. Cool, I thought you might be. I'm a (gulp) 1994 grad. Dang I'm old. I've thought about teaching there and even looked into it. But, I taught adjunct English for years at Bryant and Stratton then ODU, and evidently things have changed and I would need two more grad English classes to do that now.

  26. So neat to meet Deb, the animator, something I know very little about! You do wonderful work:) And your passion for it shines through. You're so right about God gifting us individually to do amazing things. Love that you see Him at work in you and what you do. Thanks, too, to Debra for bringing us another Deb!!

  27. Thanks for posting the link over at Seekerville, Deb. I really enjoyed this post. My daughter is a free-lance illustrator (around and over two little ones) over at (shameless promo plug) So I must have done something right as a mom, too. :D

  28. valerie
    i have great respect for free-lancers - they have a gift i do not possess (and sometimes wish for). big kudos to your daughter (will have to check out your mother plug too *heh*)

    thanks for coming by

  29. Hi Laura!
    Apologies for not replying sooner to your kind words. Very encouraging. Thank you. On a bright note, Anita informed me that her handy dandy random name picker chose your name for the custom animated avatar give away. Please contact me via email so we can create something unique for you. My email for contact is nm8r67 at hotmail dot com.


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We, the ladies of Inkwell Inspirations, would love to give free stuff to everybody. Since we can't, we will often have a giveaway in conjunction with a specific post. Unless otherwise stated, one winner will be drawn from comments left on that post between the date it was published and the end of the giveaway as determined in the post. Entries must be accompanied by a valid email address. This address is used only to contact the commenter in the event that he/she is the winner, and will not be sold, distributed, or used in any other fashion. The odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. NO PURCHASE, PLEDGE, OR DONATION NECESSARY TO ENTER OR TO WIN. ALL FEDERAL, STATE, LOCAL AND MUNICIPAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS APPLY. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.