Being creative extends far further than simply being a musician: though we are, above all else, a music publication, we also understand that being creative is far more nuanced than that. As a part of broadening not only ours, but your own horizons, we sat down with Garth Lee, a BMVA-winning animator and motion designer based in Hull. Having worked for six years in London before opting to work freelance, Garth Lee has developed an eclectic client base to say the least. From board game companies to tea brands, there is a demand for animators in the most unlikely places.
How did Garth Lee begin as an animator? “I guess music was the first thing I got into. From the age of seven I was playing piano, and by twelve I was playing the drums and joining bands. The animation happened around the same time. I used to film stop-motion animation on my grandad’s VHS. I think the two, hand in hand, helped me to get involved making music videos. That kinds of give you an eye for cutting footage to a beat. There’s a lot of crossover between filmography and working in 3D and 2D animation. Many of the same principles apply: your camera angles, your rule of thirds, your lighting set-up. It’s all the same really – just one’s virtual, and one’s not. So, I think getting into that really helped the 3D work that I do now.” We were intrigued to know what work he has lined up at the moment: “A challenging thing is choosing what work I accept. I’m fortunate enough to be in a position where I can pick jobs based on how much fun I think I’ll have doing them. Right now, I’ve got jobs for two different board game companies who want trailers creating for their campaign. There’s an internet security firm that I’ve just started making an animation for as well.”
There is a preconception that if you intend to pursue a career in the creative industries, you inevitably have to move to London. As someone who has experienced life on both sides of the North-South divide, how necessary does Garth Lee think the London life is to being an animator? “In this day and age of the internet, as it is, you could effectively work from the moon if you had a decent internet connection. The location is not quite as important as it was five or ten years ago. If you’ve got the skill and the client base you can work from wherever.”
For those of you who are aspiring animators yourselves, this is the advice Garth Lee would give: “You’ve got be patient to be an animator. You also need a lot of time: depending on the level of animation you can spend a full day getting through two seconds of animation. In terms of advice, I’d say there’s a wealth of videos and tutorials online that people can go to and learn for free. I still do it now, and I’ve been in the business for ten years.” Bearing this in mind, what qualities and would he look for in an intern? “The industry is quite a strange one in that respect. Usually, when looking for jobs, you’re told you need your CV, your qualifications, your past experiences and so on and those are the things that are going to get you a job. Whereas in the design industry, especially in animation, all they’re concerned about is: can you do the work, if it’s good and what you’re like as a person. GCSEs and all that kind of thing doesn’t matter. Can you do the work? Are you a cool person? That’s it.”
What external influences have an impact on the work Garth Lee produces? “The main influence that runs into my animation comes from cartoons. There’s a lot of things I realise that I’m doing subconsciously which makes me think, “That’s just like what they do in Family Guy!”. There are many nuances of cartoons that I pick up and don’t realise I’m using in my own animations.”
Garth Lee spoke of finally being in a position where he can choose what work he takes on – but what motivated him to carry on when work was far more scarce? “Love of the job. Even with the more boring briefs, there are things you can do to make them more interesting. Push yourself. Don’t just do the bare minimum.”
For a taste of Garth Lee’s award-winning animations, check out: https://www.garthlee.com/