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Meet Jackie Whisler

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jackie Whisler.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Jackie. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I grew up in a very creative household; my Mom was always sewing and making sure we had craft projects to work on, and my Dad was always building, constructing and fixing things. Drawing, reading, & animated films were a fixture in our house. Throughout high school I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life; I knew I wanted to draw and be creative, to MAKE THINGS, I just didn’t know where or how to channel it.

When my little brother turned 11, at the start of my senior year, I took him to see The Incredibles for his birthday and it changed my life. I had seen Pixar films before and was familiar with 3D animation by then but the combination of color, design and composition, the music, the complete and utter STYLE of it broke my brain. I wanted to do THAT.

I went to school for Media Arts & Animation and while I was there learned that A) I was terrible at 3D animation but B) there were SO MANY other ways to work in animation that didn’t involve being an expert in Maya; in fact, the things that I really loved – composition, character, acting, storytelling – were done in something I was pleased to find I had a real affinity for storyboarding.

After school, I worked freelance and eventually ended up working in the advertising industry, where the work was plentiful and I got to try my hand at a lot of different subjects; motion graphic design & animation, logo design, storyboarding & pre-vis, prop design, editorial illustration, character design, and even a little voice acting (I now know exactly how to pronounce açaí berry). I got to wear a lot of hats and explore using my creativity and skills in a lot of different formats. Over the course of my career, I’ve worked with a wide and varied group of clients: Hasbro, Procter & Gamble, Dell Software, Epson and five Hour Energy to name a few. These days I am working freelance; both in advertising but also making a push to return to my first love, animation.

I am always looking for artistic outlets, and satisfy my creativity not just in my work but in my hobbies as well. I sew almost all of my own clothes, taught myself how to knit a few years back and am now learning embroidery so I can apply my illustration skills towards making my own fabric and patches.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It’s certainly had its highs and lows; I think like a lot of people – and certainly creatives – I was always very highly critical of my work, and didn’t think my abilities were up to par with the animation & film studios I had imagined working at while in college. I ended up pursuing career paths that, while they paid the bills and were great working/learning experiences, weren’t as fulfilling or ambitious as I would have liked. I grew to believe that I didn’t deserve to have those jobs that I had dreamed of.

In 2017 the creative agency I had been with for eight years downsized and had to let go of their entire creative department. It was incredibly sad, and I was suddenly thrust back into job hunting, something I admittedly was very unprepared for. Looking down the barrel of application after application and doing more of the same work really brought me to a low place.

I took on freelance work, and then on a whim decided to take on commissions… drawing people’s Dungeons & Dragons characters. And it was WONDERFUL.

Suddenly I had brought back a creative jolt that I hadn’t felt for a good long while. It was the same feeling of excitement I used to get watching The Triplets of Bellville for the first time, or flipping through ‘The Art of The Incredibles’; I was excited to create, to draw, to MAKE THINGS. And though it was a fun side hustle, I knew I needed to pursue something that could give me that jolt as a full-time gig.

I went back to school on a friend’s recommendation and started taking classes at a local community college with the goal of infusing my portfolio with new work that was geared towards what I WANTED to do. I’m still taking classes there, still on the job hunt, and still taking D&D commissions, but having a direction and drive towards something has done a lot to lift me up a little higher so those lows when they come, don’t hit quite so hard.

Please tell us more about your art.
Story has always been my first love, and its the most important aspect of my work. Storyboarding is not just the shot by shot visual for any given scene; it’s determining the pacing, the placement of the viewer/camera in a scene, the acting and action of the characters, the world that our story takes place in. As a storyboard artist, I have to make sure that the sequence of images moving across that screen makes visual sense, resonates with the viewer, and is engaging and clear. It’s my job to ensure that the audience is drawn in by the story and visuals, whether that story is about a product, software systems, or zombie fish from Mars.

Drawing/sketching from life is a huge part of what makes my work successful. I study people and mannerisms like some people study philosophy. Whenever I see someone with an interesting posture, or stance, or hairstyle, the sketchbook comes out and it’s noted away in my brain database for later. I use the world around me to help inform my work and using what I see to inform every decision I make with my pencil. Daily interactions, like how the light hits the building across from my local tea shop or the way a Dad looks at his daughter as she tells him a story over her soda. Stories come in so many forms and from so many places, I have plenty of material to research.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My dad is from Kansas. We were visiting the farm where my Grandma grew up and had the whole place to ourselves; just my Mom, Dad, little sister, baby brother and I. My Dad was showing us around and showing us all of the places where he used to play (and get into trouble) as a little kid.

While we were in the barn, it started to pour outside; it was more rain than I had ever seen in my whole life like someone was dumping freezing buckets onto our heads. We tried to wait it out, but it wasn’t letting up so my Dad told us to run in three… two… one… GO! We sprinted across the field and even though it couldn’t have been more than 30 seconds, we were drenched to the bone.

My mom was inside (smart lady) and she took our soaking clothes and bundled us up in our Dad’s giant t-shirts. She plopped my sister and I down in the living room while the rain hammered the roof, and put on The Empire Strikes Back on laser disk. I remember sitting inches away from the TV, transfixed, as the sky came down over our heads and Yoda lifted Luke’s X-Wing up out of the swamp.

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Jackie Whisler

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