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Meet Catherin Cubillan

Today we’d like to introduce you to Catherin Cubillan.

Catherin, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons with my sister in Venezuela, where I was born and lived there until I was nine years old. I fell in love with Tom & Jerry and Looney Tunes, among other cartoons at the time, which led me to start drawing. Due to a deteriorating economic system in Venezuela, my parents made the hard decision to leave everything and move to Miami, FL in 1998. It was definitely a challenging shift for all of us.

As I grew older, the idea of becoming an artist never crossed my mind, as people always said “it’s not a bona fide profession and you’ll starve.” I, therefore, focused on International Business at Broward College where I received an AS degree and started pursuing a BS degree at Florida International University. In the process of soul-searching I was introduced to The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale and instead began pursuing an artistic career in Graphic Design. Having inherited artistic skills from my father, I fell in love with the idea of bringing a 2D concept to life, so I changed my major to Media Arts & Animation.

L.A. being the Creative Capital of the World, I drove across the country to finish my studies and pursue the dream of working at an animation studio. I was recognized with “Best Portfolio” at the Art Institute of L.A. and felt my hard work had finally paid off and I was on the road to success. Was I ever mistaken!

After many months of rejection, I polished my skills and literally went back to the drawing board so as to create a new portfolio. Even though I was somewhat nervous and insecure about my work, I knew my portfolio required professional feedback in order to improve so I attended an animation expo. Modeling supervisor, Charles Ellison, advised me and was kind enough to give me a thorough review which allowed me to refine my art. I simultaneously worked many odd jobs as a means of paying the bills. I was a dog walker, studio audience, chiropractor’s office manager, paralegal, ride operator at Universal Studios and did freelancing. I also attended many workshops, networking events and was granted a mentorship with the Women in Animation organization.

As my work continued to be rejected, I began second-guessing my art career. I thought about pursuing a more “secure professional job” and applied to the oddest job of them all… for the FBI. I remember filling out the application, yet feeling heartbroken for all the years of hard work I had done to become an artist. Two days later, I received an email from DreamWorks Animation for a 3D Modeling Trainee position….and the rest is history!

Has it been a smooth road?
One of the struggles I faced was moving across the country. It was definitely a challenge. Not only was I now financially independent from my parents, but also had to leave family and friends behind and start a new life on my own. It was quite a struggle. I’m grateful for my partner at the time, I couldn’t have done the move or be where I am today if it wasn’t for the sacrifices we both had to make to survive here.

L.A. is a city full of amazingly talented people pursuing their dreams. As a student, one of the issues I faced involved comparing my work to that of others in my field. I learned that healthy competition is important as long as it impulses you to become better and doesn’t negatively affect your self-esteem or work output. It’s important to find our own voice, stay true to what makes you happy and strive to make today better than yesterday.

Please tell us more about your art.
I specialize in 3D sculpting & modeling. I am currently employed at DreamWorks Animation Studio in Glendale, California. I design and create digital sculpts of characters, props and environments for animated films. For the past few years, I’ve worked on a number of films including Abominable, How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, The Boss Baby 2 and currently, I am working on The Bad Guys.

Besides obtaining my first film credit, one of my greatest achievements was receiving the Ingenuity Award within my first year of working at the studio. I’m thankful for the amazing modeling department that welcomed and allowed me to be part of their team.

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