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Meet Deborah Anderson: The 3D Hard-Surface Modeling Queen

ben marvazi 2020

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portrait photograph of Deborah Anderson

Image via Deborah Anderson

"My passion for animation was ignited when I realized I could express myself and create from nothing."

Deborah Anderson

Hey there, fellow animators! Are you ready to meet the ultimate 3D hard-surface modeling queen? Look no further than Deborah Anderson

With over 13 years of experience in the animation industry, Deborah has modeled everything from Family Guy's living room to Scooby-Doo's Mystery Machine (yes, the one with the groovy flower power paint job). She's even been a jack-of-all-trades, dabbling in everything from industrial manufacturing animations to being an assistant editor for a hit animated TV series. 

Being a 3D modeler lets Deborah flex both her analytical and creative muscles, which makes her a true powerhouse. And while the animation industry changes faster than a chameleon on a color wheel, Deborah stays up-to-date on the latest techniques and tech. 

So get ready to be infected with her contagious love for animation, because we're about to dive into a Q and A with the amazing Deborah Anderson!

Q & A with 3D Modeler Deborah Anderson

Could you give us a brief overview of your background and where you find yourself now in your career?

I am a hard-surface modeler who has been working in the industry for 13 years. I got started at a South Korean animation company, modeling environments, props, and vehicles for Family Guy, The Cleveland Show, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and Scooby-Doo

I worked as an Animation Specialist for a state agency in Baton Rouge, LA creating models and animation for industrial manufacturing companies. Since being in Los Angeles, I have also worked as an Assistant Editor for an animated television series.

At what moment did you realize your passion for animation?

I always loved animation as a viewer, but I realized my passion for it as a practitioner when I took a 3DS Max class in high school. I loved the ability to express myself and create from nothing.

3D models of an octopus character and mans torso front and back, a sphere and a tornado shaped character

Image by Deborah Anderson

What do you think is the main driving force behind your pursuit of success as a 3D modeler?

When I was young I was good in math and art, so I've always been one to live in the analytical and the creative. Being a 3D modeler allows both of those outlets to be used simultaneously. 

I'm allowed to use what people call my "engineering brain" to problem solve and troubleshoot and then my creative side is always challenging me and my perfectionism. It pushes me to discover and play.

3D rendering of a car with small wheels

Image from Deborah Anderson via Behance

Who has been a significant inspiration in your career journey so far, and why?

I think my mentor, Andre Rodriguez, has been an inspiration to me because we're very similar and it shows me that I can push myself further and take my craft to a higher level even when it seems like some parts of myself are a weakness. He is a very inspiring person and I feel like if he can do it, I can do it.

In your experience, what is the biggest benefit and challenge of working in the animation industry?

The biggest benefit of working in the animation industry is my ability to do what I love every day. Even if it's not an inspiring project, I'm still able to use a skill set that I honed to make something creative. 

A challenge to working in the animation industry is that it's ever-changing, so you have to stay relevant. A lot of people are proficient self-learners and I'm still in a space where I'm trying to find my stride as a self-learner and gain the skills that are popular in the industry.

Stewie and Batman in an in an underground cave with spotlights shining on Batman's car

Image via Deborah Anderson

If you could give one piece of advice to overcome this challenge, what would it be?

I think one piece of advice would be to hone in on the way you learn. The way you learn doesn't have to be how everyone else learns. 

You need to experiment and figure out what environment you need, how you get into the mental space, and what tactics and projects you need to create to push through any learning obstacles you have so you can make it to the other side with a new skill.

Could you provide us with a glimpse into a typical day in your life as an assistant editor?

My recent position as an assistant editor was exciting. I worked on a Black prime-time animated television series. I helped the editors get files from our storyboard artists to create animatics. I was also able to get those timed-out animatic files back to the storyboard artists so they could fix any notes received from our showrunner, supervising director, and executives. 

I helped organize lines from the voice actors so the editors could input those into the animatics. I was also able to edit sound effects and music sometimes as well.

Deborah Anderson on black animated hip hop videos on the left and on the right is black animation ecosystem

Image via Deborah Anderson

Staying up-to-date with the latest techniques and technology is vital in the animation industry, how do you ensure that you remain at the forefront of the latest advancements?

Job listings will help you know what the technological expectations of the industry are. Also, joining groups and following social media accounts that are constantly talking about all the advancements are a benefit as well. There's always information about classes and workshops being offered for all the new stuff that is out there.

What made you decide to pursue a freelance career as a 3D modeler? 

If you're able to land a full-time position, sometimes it may not be what you are passionate about working on, so freelance can fill that gap for creativity and innovation. 

Also, in times when you're not able to land a full-time position freelance can provide sustainability, but also variety and opportunity. You can get a chance to improve your skills depending on the projects you're able to land.

Can you share with us a standout experience from your time in the animation industry that has had a lasting impact on you?

I always use an image of the 1989 Michael Keaton Batmobile as my background on Zoom or my cover image on social media because that was a time when I was given an assignment that was complex, but I was up for the challenge. 

I was given minimal artwork to create from, but I was able to do the necessary research to fill in those gaps. It's also hard for me to figure out where to start on a project, but that assignment was an example of me pushing through, jumping in, and coming out with an excellent piece for the production I was on, also for me and my journey (and my demo reel).

3d modeling render of Batman's car

Image via Deborah Anderson

Maintaining motivation can be a challenge, what methods do you use to keep your creativity and inspiration flowing?

I love curating my social media spaces for inspiration. I have an Instagram account that I use to follow artists that inspire me. 

I also create Pinterest boards with images that inspire me. Sometimes, I take those images and download them into folders on my hard drive so that I can use them for personal projects. I'm always looking for vibrant, beautiful images that can guide my creativity.

Deborah Anderson's Pinterest board collection

Deborah Anderson on Pinterest

What are your thoughts on the future of animation, and what do you predict the industry will look like in a few years?

I hope the future of animation will produce more indie works. I think a lot of artists, even the young ones, are stuck in this thought process of having to go to someone else to produce their ideas when there are so many resources out there to create their own stuff. 

I hope people take their futures into their own hands so that we can see more diverse, unique projects and don't have to rely on the big companies to see that.

Lastly, Do you have any additional words of advice you would like to give to aspiring 3D artists wanting to break into the field?

Keep creating. You definitely have to be able to do the work in order to get the job. But also, learn how to network. Networking isn't about asking people for things. It's about building relationships with people and getting to know them. 

After these relationships are established, people feel more comfortable vouching for you and giving you opportunities because you've proven that the relationship is not only transactional for you.

What Animators Can Learn From Deborah Anderson

Deborah is a talented and passionate 3D modeler with over 13 years of experience in the animation industry. Her background working on popular TV shows and as an assistant editor has provided her with unique skills and perspectives that she brings to her freelance work. 

Her mentor has been important in her professional success thus far, and her capacity to balance her intellectual and artistic sides is truly one of her superpowers. We all know how challenging the animation industry is, but Deborah's passion for the work and ongoing search for inspiration keep her inspired to stay competitive.

Despite the challenges of staying relevant in an ever-changing industry, Deborah remains motivated by her love for animation and constantly seeks new sources of inspiration. With her dedication and passion, Deborah is sure to continue making an impact in the animation industry and beyond.

For more informative interviews with animators, as well as answers to any other questions you might have about working as a freelance animator or studio owner, be sure to follow our blogs, check out our free masterclass, and our Animation Business Accelerator Program, download a copy of our free marketing handbook, and check out our blog on “How to Start an Animation Studio”!

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