Animation, VFX & Games Graduate Traineeship 2021

Call for Applications

Animation Skillnet and Screen Skills Ireland are currently seeking applicants for the next iteration of the hugely successful graduate Traineeship Programme for Animation, VFX and Games, which is supported by Skillnet Ireland under the Skills Connect Programme.

In 2020, the studios that took part in the programme included Algorithm, Cartoon Saloon, Giant Animation, Lighthouse Studios, Piranha Bar, TouchPress/StoryToys and Vela Games.

The programme, which has been running since 2016, has a great track record with over 90% of participants going on to gain further work in the industry either with their host studio or with another studio.

The 2021 programme will take place over a 3-month period (12 weeks) from end of May to end of August 2021

Over the course of the programme, each trainee will work in-house in the studio where they will receive on the job training. (Some trainees may be required to work remotely depending on each participating studio’s policy regarding remote-working during COVID-19).

In addition to on-the-job training, the trainee will receive additional tailored training through Animation Skillnet and Screen Skills Ireland before they enter the studio and at other agreed times over the 3 months. 

The Traineeship programme will commence on Monday the 24th of May 2021 with approximately one week of up-front training/induction and will finish on Friday the 20th of August 2021.

A training allowance/bursary will be made available to participants (400 Euro a week for the 3 months/12 weeks).

Start Date: Monday 24th of May 2021.

End Date: Friday 20th of August 2021.

Please note the following important points before applying:

  • All candidates must be available on a full-time basis for the entire duration of the Traineeship, including the induction week.
  • Part or all of the placement might be taking place remotely, due to the ongoing restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Only those who are shortlisted will be called for interview.​
  • Trainees participating in the programme must be based in Ireland.

Interested applicants should upload a CV Link or LinkedIn link and showreel/portfolio link and complete the form at the link below:

Deadline for applications: Monday the 12th of April at 12pm

Interviews will be held in late April with Final Selection on Friday the 7th of May 2021.

All applications will be evaluated and shortlisted for interview by a panel of industry experts, in consultation with Screen Skills Ireland and Animation Skillnet.

Interview: Niall Laverty

Today, we meet Niall Laverty, Gesture Drawing for Animation Educator & Illustrator, who will be tutoring our Winter Evening Course: Essence of the Pose.

Hi Niall! How did you get into Animation?

I studied classical animation at Ballyfermot College of Further Education in the early 90’s and got my first break in the industry working for Curious Pictures in New York during the summer of 1994. I was an assistant animator on a short called The Louie N’ Louie Show created by Gary Baseman and it was such a fantastic experience working with so many talented artists in the Big Apple! After leaving college, I successfully applied to work for Don Bluth at Fox Animation in Phoenix, Arizona on the feature films Anastasia and Titan A.E. Later on I worked as a freelance animator on various television shows and shorts in Germany and Ireland.

You are currently teaching in The Animation Workshop in Denmark, but you also teach at Gobelins in Paris and Filmakademie in Germany. Can you explain the different courses you are teaching or undertaking in each country?

I teach gesture drawing to students of both 2D and 3D animation in the schools you mentioned but I also have an opportunity to teach character animation at The Animation Workshop. This gives me a great opportunity for me to link gesture drawing to an animation project. The students have gesture sessions each morning to warm-up for the day and to explore different graphic and animation principles to find the strongest story poses for their scenes. 

In your opinion, is drawing an ability that anybody can master?

Yes, I believe anyone can draw as creativity is in all of us. As children we all have that natural gift for drawing but often it gets lost along the way. Gesture drawing allows you to tap into your creativity again as it’s all about your personal expression of what’s inside you.

What is your favourite medium to use?

Charcoal is my preferred medium of choice as it allows me to get very expressive gesture drawings but I also use markers and brush pens in my sketchbook and for my book illustrations as it gives the drawings an exciting spontaneous quality.

What was your favourite learning/up-skilling experience in recent years?

A few years ago myself and my partner set up a creative business called At it Again! We write, illustrate and self-publish fun pocket guides to Irish literature (Ulysses, Dracula, The Picture of Dorian Gray) along with cards and prints. This was an exciting learning curve to upskill to be able to create a book from start to finish. The trick was to tell a story with single images as opposed to multiple ones for animation. Like gesture drawing, it was all about capturing the essence of the pose and the story! 

Finally, which artists inspire you in your work?

There are so many artists that inspire me. I’ve always looked to Ronald Searle, Miroslav Sasek, Sempé, Gruau and Rodin as influences in my drawing and illustration work.

If you would like to attend Niall’s course, please send an email to:

and register before Wednesday 6th of November at 5pm.


Interview: Terrence Masson

Ahead of his visit to Dublin next Monday, Terrence Masson kindly agreed to answer a few of our questions, as we are impatiently waiting to ask meet him in person and ask him a lot more!
Chair of the MFA Computer Arts department at the School of Visual Arts in NYC, Terrence is an animation and visual effects artist and producer with 30 years of production and education leadership experience. He came up through the ranks on more than 20 feature films including Hook, True Lies, Interview with the Vampire and three Star Wars movies; his work also includes short animated film, broadcast, video games and interactive media. He developed the original CG animation method for South Park in 1996 and his short film ‘Bunkie & Booboo’ won first place in the World Animation Celebration.

Hi Terrence! Who are the artists or artworks that inspire you the most, within or outside the film & animation realms?

I have an Art History minor with my undergraduate degree, so learned early to appreciate the masters including abstract expressionism, surrealism… Leonado DaVinci always.

What skills do you think will be important for the Animation and Visual Effects industries in the future?

Fundamental skills like figure drawing, color theory, composition, lighting, etc. will always be critical, combined with the ever changing new tech, like AI and Machine Learning, VR/AR/MR …

How important is it to stay ahead of the curve with regards to learning new technology in the Animation and Visual Effects industries?

Very! (See above) But always along side fundamentals!

What does lifelong learning mean to you as an Animation/Visual Effects professional?

For me, I get bored easily doing the same thing so I’m always looking our for newer, unsolved problems, so-called “impossible” tasks, combining things in new ways … and learning from my students as they explore, fail and discover ‘happy accidents’.

What are the areas of growth in the Animation and Visual Effects industries? Comparatively, what are the areas of decline?

While not new, the various XR tech (VR/AR/MR) are becoming mature in many ways both tech, creative use and application … but on the very near horizon is AI and Machine Learning which will have a massive and profound effect on everything we do.

In terms of your own experience of interdisciplinary collaboration, can you tell us about your most memorable experience?

I have so many, but building and running the “Image Engineering” group for Douglas Trumbull on the Luxor project was insanely cool … taking art department sketches, developing them in 3D with Alias, outputting files to stereolithography for the modelshop to use in building miniature sets, working with Doug to refine and previsualize camera moves that would drive the massive gantry motion-control camera and match move with the CG elements … all in 1992!

Finally, is there an upcoming artist you would like to mention, someone we should keep an eye out for?

One that comes to mind is Goro Fujita who not only is a brilliant artist but someone who is using the latest tools and applications and making a huge effort to share everything he does online to inspire others.

Animation Skillnet are delighted to be partnering with Screen Skills Ireland and Animation Ireland to host a discussion with Terrence Masson on Monday the 8th of April from 6pm to 8pm.

Please apply/register online through Animation Skillnet by 12pm on Friday the 29th March 2019. For further information, please email

Interview: Stephen O’Keeffe

Today, we meet Animator and Rigging Department Manager at Boulder Media, Stephen O’Keeffe, who will be tutoring our April course: An Introduction to Toonboom Harmony – with a focus on rigging.

Stephen, the only Irishman in Pune

Hi Stephen, Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into animation?

From an early age I was mad about cartoons, comic books and anything that inspired my imagination. Some of my earliest memories are watching Rugrats and the original Batman Animated series in the early 90’s. I used to sit and draw them from the television and I remember my grandmother made me some VHS tapes which I figured out I could pause and then trace the images on screen to make little flip books, at the time not understanding that I was animating. I remained passionate for creativity, and after a brief period of wanting to be an accountant for some stupid reason, I decided I was determined to study art. My parents were understandably hesitant in the beginning due to the limited career opportunities but I think once they’d seen how passionate about it I was and that it wasn’t just “a phase”, they supported me through college and continue to support me today which I will always be so grateful for. I studied fine art, but after understanding the difficulties of supporting myself as a fine artist (which I’m sure my folks would have had to bite their tongue on a big phat “I told you so” upon hearing), I decided to move to the animation course. Luckily I felt immediately at home there and have never regretted my decision.

When and why did you start work with Harmony? Did you get a specific training?

I was working for Magpie 6 Media from 2012 to 2013 on a production “The adventures of a young Marco Polo” in Anime Studio Pro. It was my first gig and at the time I was probably one of the youngest people in the industry. I still had no idea what I wanted to specialise in in the industry but I was just so hungry to learn as much as I could everyday. Our next production “Inis Spraoi” was to be made in Toon Boom Harmony and we received some general training from a now Toon Boom Legend, Stacey Eberschlag as well as plenty of training from the more experienced staff in Magpie 6. I was very lucky to be surrounded by a group of people willing to put time into a younger member of the team like myself. That kindness and belief has shaped the person I am today and is a large part of why I am so passionate about sharing knowledge with others. The image I’ve chosen to go along with the interview is heavily related to this. In April of last year I was lucky to be selected by Toon Boom to travel to Minte Studio’s in Pune, India. There I provided a week of introductory training to the staff. It was incredible to see people in a culture so different to ours here in Ireland, share the same passion for creativity and specifically animation that we do. As much as my Mammy will hate this, I hope I get to do a lot more travelling through work like this in the future.

Can you tell us about the main similarities and differences between other software and the version you will be using during the course?

I think it is its own beast really, but, if I had to label it for someone who’s never used it before I would say Toon Boom Harmony is sort of a hybrid of Autodesk Maya and Adobe Flash. Harmony is similar to Flash in that it is a 2D animation tool with primarily vector drawing tools and similar to Maya in that it has a node view and deformation tools. As artists, we’re visual people and the node view can be an easier way to understand complexity than layers stacked on a timeline. The deformers are also a very powerful tool that sees improvement in every new version of the software. Deformers are just more refined shape tweens and the “dad joke” I always make is that the deformers are like shape tweens… but they actually work (Sorry Adobe). The main thing when learning Toon Boom Harmony however, is you can’t really compare it with another software like Adobe Flash or TV paint. Yes there are similarities and techniques that can be translated; But you need to have a fresh perspective and, although they are solving similar problems, they are not designed to be used in the exact same way. When I’m teaching Harmony, whether it’s to a class for Animation Skillnet, a college or consulting; I try to understand how you would achieve a result in software you are more familiar in, and then show you how to achieve the same result in harmony. For example, the shape tweens in Adobe Flash have a similar purpose to reformers in Harmony, but they way they need to be set up to be used effectively are vastly different.

Have you had a chance to try Harmony 16? What are your thoughts on the new features?

I imagine this is complete gibberish to anyone who’s not used the software, so apologies in advance: Harmony 16 is great. In terms of rigging, not a lot has changed as there were already significant improvements going from Harmony 14 to 15 But the subtle improvements are what I get most excited by. There’s a lot of techniques we developed as a team in Boulder to work around some of the shortcomings in previous versions of the software that we no longer need. This improves our workflow vastly and frees up some headspace for the more complex problems riggers need to solve as well as making life for animators easier. As a rigging nerd; my favourite improvements are the addition of the “Easily Modify Deformers” function and the ability to strategically manipulate the cables in the node view so they don’t appear tangled like a pair of headphones that have been in your pocket for too long. The ability to create gifs easily is also amazing, especially as I am soon expecting the written word to be replaced by gifs and emojis.

Are there any changes or improvements you would like to see in future versions of the software?

The addition of the Master Controller in version 15 was a game changer for me. We have a pipeline team here in Boulder meaning we could utilise this feature, however not every studio is so lucky. I had been working with some colleagues in Boulder to develop something like this in the lead up to it being announced in Harmony 15 which also made this particularly exciting. This was not really possible without having a decent knowledge of some software development languages which at the time we were lucky to have in Boulder. In Harmony 16 they have added some some “pre-packaged Master Controller Setup Wizards”, this means the Master Controllers can now be utilised by a wider audience, which I think Toon Boom deserve a lot of credit for. So my hope is that they continue to improve the software and make it as accessible to as large audience as possible.


What was your favourite learning/up-skilling experience in the recent years?

I get asked this kind of question a lot in colleges when I provide training and my answer is always the same. 2D Harmony rigging has only really come to prominence during my relatively short career. I was lucky enough to get in early and when Boulder expanded a couple of years ago, I was tasked with building and structuring a department that didn’t exist before. I often get asked “What is your favourite project you’ve worked on?” and normally the answer is a specific show like “Wander Over Yonder” or “Danger Mouse”. But for me it’s been building a department from the ground up. 2D Harmony Rig Artist’s weren’t exactly common when we began the project so most of the team have only worked as a Rig Artist here in Boulder Media, coming in straight out of college or from a different department that had transferable skills like animation. While the team was in development, I too learnt and continue to learn so much both as a Leader and Rig Artist. I am so proud of the work I have done with my team and I am even more proud of how they have developed into one of, if not the best Harmony Rigging team’s Globally. I cannot speak highly enough of them both as a team and individuals.

Finally, is there an upcoming animation artist you would like us to discover?

Check out the Boulder Media Art Blog; this place is full of stupidly talented people that it would be hard to pick one! It’s one of the things I enjoy the most about working here, everyone is so talented but also for the most part humble. This creates an environment where everyone strives to improve and exceed expectations while helping each other to develop along the way. I’m not as naturally artistically talented as most of the studio, but I’ve never felt intimidated to create or share my art with anyone. I would even go as far as to say they’ve pushed me to create more.

If you would like to attend Stephen’s course, please click here: 

An Introduction to Toonboom Harmony – with a focus on rigging

and register before Friday 22nd march at 5pm.

Interview: John Peavoy

Today, we meet Animator and Lecturer John Peavoy, who will be tutoring our April course: Moho Dojo: An insight to Moho™ Pro Animation Software.

Hi John! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into animation?

I really got into animation as a teenager as I had seen lots of great animated shorts on TV. They where so much more different and interesting than the regular film/TV stuff I thought; Yeah, I’d love to do that for the rest of my life. Well, it wasn’t the easy road my 16 year old self imagined but I was lucky enough to meet some great people along the way who gave me advice and guidance. My first real breaks into the industry were working on short films with Steve Woods, who had been a lecturer of mine, and really enabled me to get a start with my career. 

When and why did you start working with Moho™? Did you get a specific training?

I started working with Moho, or Anime Studio Pro as it was called at the time, back in 2011. I began work as an animator in A Man And Ink with Jeremy Purcell and Lorraine Lordan. Jeremy had used Moho as digital animation solution on Cartoon Saloons’ The Secret of Kells. I got training with A Man and Ink who were using it then as an animation production software and had animated Miss Remarkable and Her Career, which went on to win a crystal in Annecy. When The Song of the Sea began at Cartoon Saloon, Moho was needed again for the production and since then Moho has remained the vector 2D software of choice for in-house productions at the studio, which is the reason I was needed up there.

Can you tell us about the main similarities and differences between other software and the version you will be using during the course?

Moho differs from other 2D vector software in that it is largely weighted to the creation of animation on a bone rig system. Think of it as 2.5D! Other software can offer the flexibility of the creation of vector graphics and the setting of graphics to bones for manipulation of such, however Moho is specifically designed to do this with the entire animation. It has a dynamic set of tools for IK rigging with mesh and vector manipulation, coupled with a robust set of drawing and creation tools that can compliment the artwork. On top of that, it also offers the ability to work frame by frame drawing by hand, as well as a set of physics and particle tools built in, giving you a choice of doing fx in camera instead of having to rely on cumbersome compositing solutions. 

Are there any changes or improvements you would like to see in future versions of the software?

I am working with the developers right now on the upcoming release, and I can say there are some new creative tools coming online that should really move the software toward the idea that it is becoming an all-in-one creative solution!

What artist inspires you the most at the moment?

Animation-wise it has to be The Line animation studio, they always seem to do incredible work!

Artists that are really inspiring me right now have to be Andrea Serio warm pencil work and astonishing light. Sydney Smith has been doing some beautiful dreamlike work… 

Finally, is there an upcoming animation artist you would like us to discover?

I am have become more convinced of late Kim Kelly is some form of magical wizard as there is little she can’t do.

A short video that shows what can be quickly done in Moho…
you should be able to understand and create something like this by the end of the course!

If you would like to attend John’s course, please click here: 

Moho Dojo: An insight to Moho™ Pro Animation Software.

and register before Friday 22nd march at 5pm.

Interview: John Dawson

Today, we meet screenwriter, story consultant, script editor and speaker John Dawson, who will be tutoring our April course: Writing Comedy.

Hi John, Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing for animation?

When I was an art student at Sheridan College in Ontario, I hung out with the animation course students and got them to sneak me into their lectures. My initial foray into the dramatic arts was studying improvisation at the famous Second City Theatre, the Toronto company, which, like its Chicago counterpart, became the principal casting pool for ‘Saturday Night Live’.  While I lived in Toronto, I wrote and performed regularly with numerous comedy troupes as well as served as art director on films and theatrical works including an Off-Broadway production in New York.

I started to focus on writing and was asked to write a screenplay for an animated feature film that was supported by Screen Ireland (formerly the Irish film Board). That brought me to Ireland and steered me into writing for animation as well as live action. I’m still very involved in improv and probably always will be because, as a mode of instantaneous, live storytelling, it keeps my creative juices constantly flowing.

You have worked on several projects in the industry over the years; can you tell us about the roles of screenwriter, story consultant and script editor?

As a screenwriter-for-hire, I’ve been engaged to work on pre-existing story outlines as well as developing a story from the ground-up into a screenplay. I also write my own stories, developing them into spec scripts.

My work as a story consultant and script editor evolved over the years, probably because of my theatre experience and what I gleaned from all the great development people I’ve worked with on my own projects.

As a story consultant, I work with writers at the outline stage on their story’s basic structure and all the necessary components; i.e. strong theme(s), character journeys, plotting, genre and tone, etc.

As a script editor, I give notes on a completed draft of a screenplay, sometimes assisting writers and/or producers to develop it further to the next draft with me acting as a sounding board.  

Can you tell us about the main similarities and differences between writing for animation and writing for live-action?

In terms of ‘story’, personally, I don’t see any difference as both require the same things: a solid structure, conflicted characters on journeys of change, logical yet unpredictable plotting, all in service of strong, universal themes that will therefore make the story memorable.

Where they differ is more in the actual screenplays. Animation scripts are more detailed in describing visuals, sounds and action beats, therefore making them longer. The ‘one page per one minute’ rule a writer strives to adhere to in live action does not hold in animation; i.e. the screenplay for the original ‘Toy Story’ is 126 pages, yet the final film, which follows the script very closely, is only 84 minutes.

Do you have a work routine? Can you describe your ideal workspace set-up?

It’s said that a writer must write each day. I actually do! I’ve grown into being an early riser so I usually write in the quiet of the early morning until mid-day. Then for a few hours later, depending upon deadlines. I kick-start each day’s writing by editing what I wrote the day before. That gets my mental wheels turning.

I have two contrasting workspaces: in total silence, alone, at the computer and I write in long hand (usually at the story development or editing stages) in a busy, public place, enveloped by the din of a crowd. Years ago, I used to write through the night at punk rock clubs. Ah, the madness of youth…

You probably read a great number of scripts through your work; if there was one thing you would like to see more of, what would it be? And what about one thing you don’t want to see ever again!?

What I never want to see but fear that I will are more screenplays by writers who are more concerned with promoting their personal politics and ideologies rather than telling universally appealing stories where all the characters are conflicted and imperfect.

Plus, thanks to political correctness, everyone is now so afraid of offending that writers censure themselves. That is the death of creativity, especially in comedy writing, comedy being subversive by nature. Being offended is a matter of choice on some level. One takes offence – it is never given.

I want to see screenplays where the story structure is far more solid, the dramatic stakes higher, the conflicting forces stronger and therefore the essential journey of change that the protagonist(s) are on are greater. Weak screenwriting occurs when a writer, one who is usually improperly and/or inadequately trained, lashes into the screenplay too soon without developing the story first. It’s like setting out to build a house without a proper, well-developed blue print: the result will be not hold up.

What was your favourite learning/upskilling experience in the recent years?

The best learning experience I’ve had was when one of my screenplays – a feature length, live action, darkly comedic crime story, was one of only 10 scripts in the world to be accepted into the 22nd Annual eQuinoxe Europe Screenwriters’ workshop. There, in Essen, Germany, I was surrounded by like-minded international writers and filmmakers. I had the honour of working one-on-one with six, high-level advisors for the purpose of honing my screenplay. One such expert was the amazing writer Lorenzo Semple Jr., best known for his scripts for films like ‘Papillon’ with Steve McQueen and ‘The Parallax View’ with Warren Beatty. But he said the most fun he had was creating the original ‘Batman‘ TV series which had its premiere in early 1966 and became an instant hit. We connected instantly on many levels and he taught me a lot.

Finally, is there an upcoming writer you would like us to discover?

I’ve had the pleasure of teaching a number of fledgling writers from Irish animation studios like Brown Bag Films and Cartoon Saloon and many of their ideas were incredible. One such writer is Richard Keane, a director at BBF. He’s developing some very exiting live action stories. Check him out at Out Left Productions and on their Facebook page.

Cartoon Saloon is doing amazing things in animation. Nora Twomey’s Academy Award nominated masterpiece ‘The Bread Winner’, written by Anita Doron and Deborah Ellis, blew me away. The world needs much more of that kind of rich storytelling, maybe more now than ever.

You can learn more about John and his work on his website.

If you would like to attend John’s course, please click here: 

Writing Comedy

and register before Friday 22nd march at 5pm.

Interview: Kayvon Darabi-Fard

Today, we meet story artist Kayvon Darabi-Fard, who will be tutoring our April course: Starting out in Storyboarding.

Hi Kayvon! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into storyboarding for animation?

I was born and raised in the U.K to a varied heritage of mixed up British and Iranian roots, while growing up with a fascination in drawing and watching animation. Thanks to the ‘making of’ Disney documentaries of the 90’s, I was lucky enough to realise that there were actually people working behind the scenes on these animated t.v shows for a living! – My future career was decided!

Although my family didn’t hail from creative backgrounds or roots, I always felt that they were great storytellers and growing up around them meant that the storytelling bug was destined to rub off on me eventually. But paired with the Persian culture I grew up with and the expectations of a family that came out of a revolution with very little, there was the pressure to abstain from pursuing a career in animation and instead doing something more culturally accepted and ‘serious’. So inbetween being ushered (and partially forced) to attend Medical school interviews, open days and work experience – I quietly slipped away to commit to the love and appreciation I had for drawing and telling story’s – And here I am!

I started out Storyboarding in animation thanks to a friend named David Delaney, who I studied with at university and had moved to Dublin, Ireland. He luckily remembered that I was interested in Storyboarding, so he got in touch asking me to undertake a storyboard test for a short term freelance gig. I passed the test, got the job and began my Storyboarding journey from there!

Do you need to be exceptionally good at drawing to be a storyboard artist? Do you need some specific training?

I would say that you certainly need to be relatively comfortable with drawing and making a habit out of doing lots of observational, personal and story sketches. All the while being adaptive and willing to take on various challenges in drawing things that may often, put you outside your comfort zone/ personal style. 

I have met some incredibly talented and hardworking folks who came from different paths and disciplines into storyboarding, through courses, being mentored or starting as storyboard revisionists. I personally believe it’s not a matter of specific training that is the commonality of Story Artists, but it is rather their genuine flair and passion they share in wanting to tell stories.

How much collaboration goes on between story artists & writers/directors?

There’s often quite a lot of collaboration going on between these roles depending on the studio, project-type and the budget. But within the parameters of a studio, as I prefer to be and as I currently am at the moment, the story team is sat side by side while the director is merely a stone’s throw or Skype message away. 

We show and tell often, running ideas by each other to get the Storyboards working as best as they can. The scriptwriters are unfortunatley not always on-site so we do our best as an in-house team to collaborate, brainstorm, pitch and ‘plus’ what’s been given to us, to work with!

Is there good job availability in Ireland for those who choose storyboarding as a career?

Yes, from my past 6 years experience of living and working in Ireland, I would say the demand for good storyboard artists has been quite high and Irish animation studios are in constant need of people to be able to board for them – both in and out-of-house. There is certainly opportunities for advancement, since as the industry continues growing – so should the pool of artists to serve and fill those vacancies!

5- What are your favourite tools to work with? Can you describe your ideal workspace set-up?

I actually love to work traditionally on paper, to take that break from the humming computer and bright Cintiq. My favourite tools are Palomino Blackwing pencils and Canson Paper, while my ideal workspace/ set-up would be working in a studio space filled with all the people I love working with most, on exciting and fun driven projects… and maybe a Dog – or several?

What artist inspires you the most at the moment?

That’s a hard one, I’m always inspired by many artists in rotation. But having to choose; I’d have to say that I am forever drawn to one of my all-time-favourite illustrators – Richard Scarry.

Finally, is there an upcoming storyboard artist you would like us to discover?

Yes! I’d love to share the artwork of an up and coming Storyboard Artist, Elisa Bindi. Check out her instagram!

You can see Kayvon’s art work and storyboards here:



If you would like to attend Kayvon’s course, please click here: 
Starting Out in Storyboarding

and register before Friday 22nd march at 5pm.

Interview: Fran Johnston

Today, we meet concept artist Fran Johnston, who will be tutoring our April course: Background for 2D Animation.

Fran (the one without the hat)

Hi Fran! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into animation? Was Background the area that initially appealed to you or did you have other ambitions?

Well I got into animation because when, it was time to apply for colleges after school, it was the closest thing to comic books. I had wanted to draw comics from a young age but when I got into the animation course in Ballyfermot I realised I really just wanted to draw. I even worked in graphic design for a bit after college and that just enforced to me more that I needed to be drawing. That’s when I sought to make a career in animation. Luckily my friend was working for an animation company and was leaving. I asked him to put my name and portfolio forward as his replacement and they hired me. That was 14 years ago!

What is the role of the 2D Background/Layout Artist in a studio? How do you collaborate with other departments?

The role of a background artist is to create environments that help tell the story and act as a stage for the animation to perform in on a show. It is important that they keep the style and continuity of a show and act as a team member.

They need to keep in mind how the animation will interact with the scene so there can be some back and forth with the animation department. Also they need to make sure their background files are set up properly for the compositing department.

Can you tell us about the main similarities and differences between designing Backgrounds for TV and for feature films?

It’s easier to start with differences as that’s an obvious one. Time and money are the major differences to these types of productions. Film budgets are higher so background artists get more time to invest in their work and add little details etc. With TV animation, show deadlines can be very tight and we don’t have as much time to spend on creating masterpieces. In saying that the similarities are that we still have the same objectives and ,mostly, use the same techniques.

What are your favourite tools to work with? Can you describe your ideal workspace set-up?

I mostly work with Photoshop on a Wacom cintiq. Most studios I’ve seen though have background artists work with a regular drawing tablet. A cintiq is in no way essential to creating backgrounds. It’s just a different and, arguably, a more natural way of drawing digitally. I also have an Ipad pro for personal work. I use Procreate on that which is an amazing app for the price you pay for it. Photoshop should be coming out on the Ipad this year so I’m looking forward to finding out what that’s like. I’m seeing more and more professional artists use the ipad pro for their daily work and my dream workspace would be having my feet up by a pool in a sunny location while working on a mobile device like that 😀

You probably see a great number of portfolios through your work; if there was one thing you would like to see more of, what would it be? And what about one thing you don’t want to see anymore!?

I’d like to see more tailored portfolios. A lot of portfolios I see have a bit of everything in them. While it’s fine to show what else you can do in a portfolio it should be predominantly made up of pieces that are related to the position you’re applying for. I’ve had multiple people apply for background positions in the past and send me links to portfolios which have little or no backgrounds in them. One thing I don’t want to see anymore are portfolio pieces that don’t show knowledge of background basics such as perspective and composition. These are the essentials and while I’d be willing to take on someone I can see is not quite there yet but trying, sometimes I see pieces where there’s been no thought put in at all.

What was your favourite learning/upskilling experience in the recent years?

My favourite upskilling experience in recent years was to do a workshop with Armand Serrano at the Idea Academy in Rome. At the time he was head of Visual development at Disney. He was such a nice man and very forthcoming with critiques and tricks of the trade. Also it was in Rome so I got to stuff my face with delicious Italian food for 3 days! You can see Armand’s work here.

Finally, is there an upcoming background artist you would like us to discover?

I don’t have a single one in mind but I think, like most people, I was blown away by Spiderman : Into the Spiderverse. Any of the environment artists on that are amazing. If I had to choose one it would be Robh Ruppel. He’s been around for a good while now so he’s hardly upcoming but I think the movie has opened more people’s eyes to his amazing work. He has an Artstation page here.

Also here‘s a great article with lots of examples of artwork from Into the Spiderverse.

You can see some of Fran’s work here:




If you would like to attend Fran’s course, please click here:
Background for 2D Animation

and register before Friday 22nd march at 5pm.