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Conversations with Natalie Powell

Today we’d like to introduce you to Natalie Powell.

Hi Natalie, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
Like most artists, I’ve been creative my whole life and always knew I could never do anything else. Towards the end of high school, I remember watching one of my favorite Hayao Miyazaki films and thinking to myself, “Wow, this would be the best job in the world!” I then realized that animation blended my love of art and storytelling and that this was the career I wanted to pursue.

I worked for a year after college as a motion graphics animator with a production company in Kansas City. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do, but I learned a lot and was so thankful for the opportunity so fresh out of school. I knew I wanted to go to graduate school, and after a long application/interview process, I was fortunate to receive a full scholarship for graduate study from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

After that year (and getting married!) I moved to LA with my husband and started grad school at UCLA. I took internships and freelance jobs during school and started interning with Nickelodeon after I graduated. I was really fortunate that the internship turned into a job!

I was hired as a Production Assistant but took every opportunity I could to take art tests and freelance work in the meantime, with the hope of becoming a background painter. Around this time, I was also asked to teach a Visual Development course to UCLA animation students, which I still do currently. After about a year of being a PA full-time and a freelance painter on the side, a position opened up and I was able to switch to painting full time.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
It definitely hasn’t been a smooth road; it’s taken a lot of long, dedicated hard work and remaining steadfast in my goals over the years. The animation industry is full of lots of amazing and talented people, so it can be really hard to prove yourself. There’s lots of challenges and no simple, straight-forward path through. For me, this has meant working a lot of different kinds of jobs and often working multiple jobs at once. There’ve been a lot of all-nighters and 80+ hour weeks over the years, but I can honestly say that the dedication does pay off.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
My main role is as a background painter at Nickelodeon. I absolutely love color and light. There is a direct emotional and psychological effect that color has on the brain. A big part of what I do is understanding how color and light will affect an audience, considering what it communicates about the story, the characters, the emotions of a scene, etc.

Personally, I lean more towards the development side of animation, enjoying the process of molding a story and building the world to contain it. This is also what I teach at UCLA, exploring with students how to craft a world from the ground up and how to communicate through design.

We love surprises, fun facts and unexpected stories. Is there something you can share that might surprise us?
I really love to write! My personal art has always been married to my writing, often illustrating the stories I create. I’m hopeful for some time in the near future to finish a children’s novel I’ve been working on and potentially develop it into a pitch.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
All artwork is by Natalie Powell

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