July’s interview comes from recent Ravensbourne Motion Graphics Graduate, Mateusz Napieralski. F&E first met Mateusz in March 2012 when he came in for an internship. He helped out on various projects, including creating this cracking (sorry) chick Ampersand pictured below for our Easter promotion. Through the rest of his university degree we’ve stayed in contact, inspired by his enthusiasm, creativity and unwavering motivation (as well as his ermm…. interesting Polish baking achievements). He’s been back to help us on various projects, notably as one of the human controllers for our Channel 4 Christmas Competition Spot, where the ever-professional Mateusz was an invaluable part of the team who helped create the live-action sequence. All shot in one take.
Having just graduated, we catch up with Mateusz on his chosen career path and ask his advice for new graduates hoping to get into the wonderful world of animation.
When and how did you decide that you wanted to be an illustrator and motion designer?
I never actually thought about motion design and I kind of fell into it by accident. I was doing a 2 year diploma in Graphics and Digital Arts in college, and I was always 100% confident that I wanted to be a graphic designer. It was not until I started applying for universities, I then discovered that there are illustration courses available. At the time I did not even realize how big the world of illustration is.
I applied for the graphic design course in the end, but when I went to my Ravensbourne interview, the lecturer referred me to the motion graphics course, as he felt my work was more suitable for that. I kind of “went with the flow” and started the motion graphics course without over thinking it.
When it comes to illustration, I never really thought about it, I was always just doing the work that was natural for me and what I enjoyed the most, and it turns out that illustration is a big part of it.
You have a very distinctive illustration style. What has shaped and influenced this?
I’m not entirely sure to be honest. I can only guess what triggers my subconscious mind, as I never feel that I’m inspired by a particular person or style. My grandma was head of the nursery back in Poland where I come from, and I would often wait for her to finish work in the nursery. She would not be done until very late afternoon, and I remember that she would always give me a pile of illustrated books
which I was flicking through for hours while waiting for her. Since then I’ve been in love with illustration and it kind of carried on throughout my life.
As a 90s kid, I grew up with Photoshop and all the Adobe tools. That definitely influenced my style and the way I work. I love to mix hand-made and digital and that definitely directly affects my visual style.
You also animate, what was the first animation you made and what do you think of it now?
Haha, I had not animated anything until my first year of university. This is my first ever moving image piece vimeo.com/20239911. Looking back at it now, it’s more of a “what can After Effects do” piece rather than an animation. It’s funny to see how limited and not illustrative at all that piece was. Obviously there are many things wrong with it, such as the pace of the whole thing, typographically, there’s a lot to improve, but I guess looking at this 3 years later it’s just nice to see how my work has evolved and how different it is now.
What are the challenges of creating designs and illustrations for animation as opposed to print?
I guess it’s the most obvious one, so how will this particular piece move, what dynamics should I give these shapes, how fast or how slow can they travel across the screen. I see illustration for print as one frame from an animation and you can just work on it for as long as you want, because you know that this is the only “frame” the viewer will be looking at. So you can really get “wild”. Whereas when it comes to illustrating for animation, I have to give myself time limits and make sure that I don’t overspend time on illustrating, because there is much more to consider than just one frame. It’s a whole load of frames where each of them has to be thought through.
How do you think the animation industry will evolve in the coming years?
It’s quite exciting to look at the amount of great work being produced right now. People are really brave with the digital tools, which are only getting better and better. We are now very comfortable with moving image, our attention span is dropping all the time, which means animators have to work harder and make the piece even more exciting to keep the viewer interested. Which is not a bad thing I don’t think, as it only pushes us even more and we get to be more creative, as this is what also attracts people. Things they haven’t seen before.
I think that animators will have to constantly learn more, it seems that today the border between 2 and 3D is getting smaller and smaller, which means that animators will be expected to be all-rounded, not even animators. I would call them artists. Artists that need to be ready to work with any given medium.
What tends to inspire you?
I really enjoy meeting and talking to other designers and creatives. I love attending all the design festivals, such as OFFF or OFFSET
they might seem quite “full on” and I’m actually quite exhausted towards end of a weekend filled with some of the best design on this planet, but in the long term, I can see how that affects me in a positive way and gives me a strong kick for a few months to keep making work and try to get better at it.
I also love nature and forests. Forests are usually good for inspiration. You can just smell it as soon as you walk into one.
Are there some areas of animation you would like to try out? What are they?
I would love to explore more of 3D which I haven’t really touched on. I’m interested in mixing 2 and 3D. I’d love to do something with live action. I want to see how my work would work with a human figure. I would also love to play with some props and see how I could fit animation somewhere between sets and props.
As a recent graduate, how are you and your peers finding the transition into the working world?
I think coming from Ravensbourne, graduates are equipped with industry ready skills and mindsets. Obviously we learn all the time, but the types of briefs we’re getting at uni are usually very industry focused, so when we leave we know what to expect from an employer.
What are your best resources for finding jobs?
Freelance jobs are usually coming in through word of mouth. I know that behance is a good place to be spotted, but I never actually used it. It might seem weird, but twitter is actually a great place to start too. The online world is filled with job opportunities. Websites such as ycn.org, designjobsboard.com or itsnicethatjobsboard.com are great, but I think that going to networking events, meeting real people will always be the way to goo to.
What would you like to achieve career-wise, in the next five years?
Woah! That’s a long time, no? For now, I’m working in a small animation studio, which is great, because I learn a lot of technical skills and how the industry works. It’s such a valuable experience. I’d like to carry on doing that for some time. I’m sure I’ll always be working on my self initiated projects on the side, developing my own style and trying out new things. Once I will feel confident enough about what I can offer, I’d love to enter the freelance world. The ultimate goal is to have my own practice which will be known for a specific style and approach. What will it be, I’m not sure, it seems like I need to visit some forests and stroke some foxes to find the answer…
Once I achieve it all, I will become a Polish superhero and give everyone lollipops with a Polish flag on it to make this world a better place…