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Versatility key to success for animator

Catherine Royal moved to Thomson with her family in 2003. She graduated from Thomson High School in 2008 and then moved to Atlanta to pursue a career as an artist.

Royal said when she first moved to Atlanta, she made the decision for the wrong reasons. She ended up in a place she did not know, with no friends, no car and no comfort. However, in the past three years, Royal said she has met some of the most amazing people in the world and does not regret her decision. Living in the city has exposed Royal to all sorts of people and situations she had never encountered before.

"I have been on the guest list on the opening night of a gallery and I've seen people strung out on cocaine. I've met animators of Archer and Frisky Dingo, and I've met train hoppers and travelers," she said. "I feel like the whole college experience isn't defined by the number of parties you go to or people you've hooked up with, it's the sum of all of your experiences. It's how you've allowed people, places and other experiences to define you."

Royal said she does not condone all the decisions people make in college. She said people do not always make the right decisions; it just takes a strong person to understand and exercise integrity.

"Young people shouldn't let the people around them define what success is. You can't learn the secrets to success from a book. It's just one of those things you have to figure out for yourself," she said. "Just live your life to the best of your ability with integrity and respect for yourself and others."

Royal graduated from the Art Institute of Atlanta in June. She graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Media Arts and Animation. Her primary focus was in 2D Animation and Illustration, but the school prepared her for work in both 2D and 3D Animation. Royal also learned how to animate for film, television and games.

"My education wasn't just in making cartoons, but also in pre-production, post-production and Web," she said.

When Royal first learned she could take a maximum of four classes a quarter, she was a little upset, but soon realized she would spend more than 22 hours sitting in classes. She said general education classes were four hours long and classes that were specific to someone's major were six hours long. Royal had the option of taking a break between quarters but decided not to. Rather than going home or on vacation during the summer like most people, she stayed in school and graduated a year early.

As part of the graduation process, Royal had to have thirty flatbooks printed. The book is a cut-and-bound portfolio of her artwork. She also had to make and label DVDs for a two-minute demonstration of animations that she made. She also created a résumé, business cards and her own Web site, Unfortunately, Royal said, employers in her industry prefer to get e-mails with a cover letter, résumé and a link to a personal Web site and portfolio where they have easy access to a demo reel and gallery at any time. Royal said she prefers to use her blog at and encourages prospective employers to look at it because she updates more frequently and posts works in progress.

Royal said she is not sure when she first became interested in art and does not remember when she first started creating it.

"My dad has always put something that I've doodled on the fridge," she said. "In fact, I'm almost 22 years old and he still does. He's my number one fan."

Royal said she gets inspiration for her art from everything.

"I used to think that was a dumb answer, but the longer I've worked, the more I'm beginning to realize how true it is," she said.

Royal said she gets inspiration from the places she goes, the people she sees, the music she listens to, things she sees on the internet and even from bad 1980s movies.

"It's a matter of being receptive and open to the things going on around you," she said.

Royal was born in Richmond, Va., spent a little time in Virginia Beach, and spent some of her younger years in Savannah, Ga. She moved to Thomson in 2003, which she said was a bit of a culture shock, moving from a big city on the coast to one that, at the time, she viewed as the middle of nowhere. Royal began seventh grade that year and quickly made friends in Thomson, many of whom still make an effort to keep in touch with her.

Royal has been working in the animation and illustration industry for a little more than a year. Before graduating college, she began working with a company in Norcross, Ga., as the only animator in a production team of three for an educational children's MMO. After graduation, Royal spent some time illustrating for mobile applications, or apps. She currently works for Eyes Wide Games as a digital artist and animates and illustrates for social games.

Royal said the saying 'choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life' is true.

"Being an animator isn't like being a doctor or a lawyer or a teacher. If we want to be a valuable asset to a company, we have to be versatile," she said. "We have to have unique styles, something new to bring to the table, but also have the ability to mimic other artists."

Royal said if you want to be successful as an artist you have to keep up with what is popular.

To be remembered, she said, you have to be able to present the public with something they have never seen before.

Royal said she sits at her desk for nine hours a day, Monday through Friday, and listens to music while she works. She described her office as looking like the inside of an old train station, with a dartboard, a corner filled with balls from a ball pit, scooters and action figures scattered throughout. She said there are company game nights and other activities.

She said everyone is included in big decisions, and no one ever goes to lunch alone because everyone is such good friends.

"I don't work," she said. "I have fun."

Since moving to Atlanta to start school, Royal has moved around from suburbs to city. She recently settled down in an apartment in Little Five Points, where she lives with her dog, Wickett.

Web posted on Thursday, December 01, 2011

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