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Life & Work with Alexandra Kasenda

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alexandra Kasenda.

Hi Alexandra, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
Before working in animation, I thought I would become an architect.

I spent all of my childhood filling up sketchbooks but had never thought to take art seriously. So, in an attempt to establish a “serious” career as close to art as possible, I ended up in architecture school. Of course, it didn’t take long after graduating before realizing the world was not for me. While I loved studying architectural design and even working on large-scale hotel projects throughout Las Vegas, most of my work required 3D modeling — and I just really wanted to draw again.

After moving back home to California, a few big things happened at once:

1. The pandemic hit.
2. I suddenly had more time than ever to just draw. And so I did. Just like I was a kid again, drawing was all I wanted to do and all I was doing throughout 2020.
3. While looking for architecture jobs in the LA area, I stumbled across job listings for “Location Design” positions at an animation studio. After some research, I learned that animation projects hire artists that specialize in the locations and backgrounds. It sounded perfect.

And thus began my journey toward breaking into the animation industry as a designer. After taking months to put together a portfolio and then a few more months just trying to get my foot in the door, I eventually landed my first gig on The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder at Disney Television Animation.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
For so long, I had kept my art to myself. So, one of my biggest hurdles was learning to be comfortable in sharing my portfolio with other artists. I was certainly no stranger to critique — thanks to architecture school — but still, putting together a portfolio for animation requires a level of personal storytelling that is unique from an architecture portfolio. It can feel pretty exposing getting critique on your portfolio when you pour so much of your interests and voice into your work.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I currently work as a Background Designer on Futurama at Rough Draft Studios. It’s been about a year since I first started working in animation and I would say I’m still proud of breaking into the industry at all. At the beginning of my art journey, there were a lot of moments when I had no idea what I was doing. I was essentially doing everything myself: putting together a portfolio, polishing my skills with YouTube tutorials, desperately looking for community. I didn’t have a classroom or sounding board to tell me what to do next. Still, I was dead set on working in animation and made sure to squeeze my way in even if it meant begging artists to critique my portfolio.

What was your favorite childhood memory?
One of my favorite childhood memories was when my Mom and I mailed in my Hamtaro fanart to the TV show’s website. After weeks of waiting and reloading the website, I remember finally finding my drawing on their gallery and thinking I had made it big. For years, my Hamtaro fanart was the first result whenever someone Googled my name.

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