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Meet Bernice Sioson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Bernice Sioson.

Bernice, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I guess starting off, I had pretty much always been interested in art and drawing. Post high school, I ended up at CalArts for a year, studying Character Animation, but dropped out due to financial reasons. Art school is expensive! Fortunately, I never gave up. I was also interested in making my own stationery, and that was something I started to focus on while I was figuring out what path to take career-wise. I eventually got around to finally producing notepads, vinyl stickers, cute stamps, and washi tape through a variety of manufacturers, some local to me in San Diego. And that’s something I still very much enjoy doing when I have free time. I’ve even branched out to making non-stationery items, like mousepads and wallets- all for the fun of it! Career-wise, I really wanted to work in animation still.

Before quarantine started, I committed to a storyboard class in Pasadena that I had wanted to attend for a long time (took me a while to save up with my student loans and all haha), and I absolutely did commute from San Diego to LA every week for the class. It was hard, it was tiring, and I was working in retail at the time. Then quarantine hit and I got a break from work, the class ended virtually, and I joined a little “study group” and we continued to work on our boards. Several sequences and pitches later, I had the opportunity to test for a show on Disney TV. Things, fortunately, went really well (I think), and I’ve been working on the show Big City Greens since then. It’s been really challenging, especially given the conditions of the world right now, but I’m always grateful to be here because it felt like an impossible place to reach just earlier this year.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It’s been really tough, though. Before I got my first storyboard gig, I felt like I was never ever going to work in animation like I’d hoped and dreamed. I didn’t have a chance to finish college, and it took me years to finally commit to going to the class I took (it was outside of my city after all). I have a pretty hefty amount of student debt that haunts me every single day. I worked at a movie theater, then worked at a restaurant downtown, then ended up in a stationery store by the beach. Working and then coming home to work more on creative work so you get hired for a creative job is a very difficult thing to do. Not something to shrug about! Quarantine gave me the opportunity to focus more on polishing my portfolio without being dead tired every second of the day. And it worked out eventually!

Please tell us more about your art.
As for my job, I am a storyboard artist at Disney TVA. I work on the show Big City Greens, which has been out for a bit. I’m prettyyyy green! And all throughout my first episode, I was reminded of the fact that I was very new to this job. Huge learning curve, I guess? I was boarding all the time with my study group, and we always gave each other so many notes. But once you start actually working in the industry, it’s a whoooole different level. I got a ton of notes all the time, and I was always checking in with my directors to make my boards better. I got a lot of help from the board partner, my directors, and some of my coworkers. Which, of course, is amazing! That they all were willing to help me get better at this. And there is always some aspect of my work that can and will be improved. I’m slowly acclimating, although it is pretty weird with the work from home setup due to Covid19. I wish I could go to the office and actually see my coworkers, or turn around to my board partner in our little cubicle and ask for feedback. But it is what it is, and I’m very excited about all the work we’ve been doing. I haven’t seen my boards turn into a fully animated episode yet, but I’m very stoked about when that time comes. I think that might be the best part of making the work, maybe!

As for my merch and my online store- I tend to just make things that I am also interested in. When I first started off, a really good friend of mine told me “Connect your heart with your work and your work will connect with others!” and that’s something that’s resonated with me since I heard it. All of the products I make are something that I care about a lot. Sunny Hunny was supposed to be my little positivity and snail mail project, but I made some merch under it and a lot of it revolved around positivity. Some of my work is just a gentle reminder that you’re doing great and you should treat yourself well. It makes me really happy to see other people interested in the things that I make. Packaging all the merch and sending it off is one of my favorite parts of the process- seeing people open their packages and post about it is my other favorite part.

What were you like growing up?
This is tough, I don’t really like to think about myself that much. I’ve grown up with depression and really intense anxiety. My anxiety gets the best of me sometimes, even now. I tend to think very negatively, very much the opposite of the work that I put out. Although maybe that’s why I try to send out a more positive message with the stuff I make- maybe that positivity was for myself. Uhhh, my mom’s really strict, and I grew up afraid of disappointing people. I’m still very afraid of disappointing people. I always felt like I needed to do everything well and properly. I’m not sure what else to say! I was a quiet kid (probably?) and I liked to draw a lot on gaiaonline.

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