Drawn to Animation

By Will Novosedlik

September 7, 2012


Pugs in Paris: Limited print series.
Pugs in Paris: Limited print series.

With a love of art and film, Cale Atkinson has been able to combine his two passions in his animation and illustration


In Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers the author describes something he calls “the 10,000-hour rule.” The rule is this: In order to truly excel at anything, whether it’s science or art or sport, you need to put in the time. Ten thousand hours’ worth of time. Assuming you have talent, that’s how long you need to practise your art before you’re ready for “the show.”


Cale Atkinson, of Kelowna, B.C., probably isn’t counting the hours, but he will tell you that he has been drawing ever since he could pick up a pencil. As with most kids who draw from an early age, he had a love of comics, and his youthful work was an attempt to make comic strips and books of his own, which he even sold as an elementary school student.


A high school class in film got him interested in pursuing filmmaking as a career. But working as a videographer didn’t agree with him, and he soon found himself wanting to draw again. That eventually led him into a career that marries both his love of drawing and his love of film: animation. The 28-year-old has been switching back and forth between still and animated art ever since.


Atkinson began his animation career on the Internet. He had planned to attend film school after graduating from high school in Vancouver. But after interviewing for admission, he was reluctant to spend his time and money being taught by folks who were really not in the business anymore. He wanted to be exposed to those who were active practitioners of the trade. So he decided to go to school online.


He spent five months poring over websites, blogs and forums about art and animation. “In this industry,” notes Atkinson, “there’s a lot of material out there for you. And you can reach out directly to experts with questions.” For someone with an irrepressible drive to improve his craft, it was better than a classroom.


One of the first people he met online was an illustrator/animator named (Dapper) Dan Schoening. Atkinson reached out to him on his blog and they soon became fast friends. Schoening turned out to be a thoughtful and knowledgeable mentor, critiquing Atkinson’s work as the young artist feverishly devoured information and influence, and continued to refine his technique. At the end of Atkinson’s five-month learning period, Schoening showed his work to his boss at InLight Studios in Victoria. The next day Cale had a job offer.


His stint at InLight was followed by a year of freelance, where Atkinson’s chief business development technique was to answer ads on Craigslist. One of those turned out to be a headhunter from Disney Studios. Before he could say Jiminy Cricket, both Atkinson and his fiancée Jessika, also an animator, found themselves working at Disney’s 400-person studio in Kelowna, where they remained for almost three years.


“Disney is a great place to work,” says Atkinson. “But briefs are prescriptive, and you end up specializing, and that gets repetitive. I need to try different things so I don’t flatline or sit in my own juices too long and stagnate. I reached a point where I wasn’t going to grow any more there as an artist, so I left.”


A great example of Atkinson’s skill as an animator—and as a draftsman—can be seen in a short he completed in June of this year called “L’il Red.” Its take on the Little Red Riding Hood story is a delight to watch, not only because of its visual appeal but because of the narrative twist at the end, transforming the tale into a parable about girl power. Aside from the story’s narrative twist, it is a visual paean to the graphic simplicity and flatness of modernism. Watch for the sequence of L’il Red walking through the forest before she meets up with the Big Bad Wolf. It references both the graphic economy of animation from American studios in the 1960s and ’70s, like Hanna Barbera, and the stylistic charm of Zdenek Miller’s animation from Czechoslovakia in the 1950s.


Will Novosedlik has worked on brands both as a consultant and as a client in Canada, the U.S. and Europe. These brands include Nestlé Canada, Corby Distilleries, Swiss Chalet, Harvey’s, RSA Security, Bata International, Deutsche Telecom, Butterfield and Robinson, Telus Business Solutions, Vodafone and The Reitman Group. Recently, Novosedlik led the brand communications and customer experience teams that launched the WIND Mobile brand in Canada. He currently works as the VP Design Thinking & Brand at Idea Couture.


Split Run is a feature that uses the power of both print and the Internet. Featuring an original image-maker who does both stills and motion work, the portfolio appears in Applied Arts magazine and online. Pick up the Sep/Oct 2012 issue of Applied Arts to see the print portfolio of Cale Atkinson.


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