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Q&A with Betsy Bauer

Visual Development Artist

My name is Betsy Bauer, and I'm an illustrator working mostly in the animation industry, though I also occasionally do work for children's books, comics, and toys.

How did you realize that visual development was the best choice for you? Was it the most interesting area or the most perspective way to build a career after college?

I graduated from the Ringling College of Art and Design with a degree in 3D Computer Animation, though I realized about halfway through my degree program that I really just wanted to draw and paint. Thankfully there was a fairly large community of students there at the time who were also excited about Visual Development, and I think that helped push us all forward even if there were gaps in the official curriculum.

Could you describe a typical day of a character designer? What kind of work do you do every day and what are the most favourite tasks personally for you?

I tend to be really busy these days. Right now I'm a full time artist at Sony Pictures Animation, and I'm also a regular freelancer with a couple of other places. Additionally, I'm working on some of my own pitch materials. I wake up around 5AM and either finish artwork for an upcoming deadline or try to make it to the gym. After grabbing some quick breakfast, I head into work at Sony around 9AM and answer emails/poke around on social media for about 30 minutes. Then I really dive into work. I am most productive in the morning! Around 12-12:30 I take a lunch break, and then usually have an afternoon meeting with the rest of the artists on the team. I put on a podcast, audiobook, or audio-heavy TV show and focus for another few hours before heading out the door at 6-6:30. My commute home is about an hour, so I'm usually too lazy to cook anything fancy for dinner. I take my dog for a walk, usually scroll through Facebook (wish I was better about using this time, haha!) or read a book, maybe work on some personal projects or freelance, then pass out by 10PM. Then I wake up the next day and repeat!

How long does it take you to make your own visual character? Could you share some interesting stories from your experience?

Putting a time stamp on how long it takes to create a character is pretty hard to do because it's different every time. Sometimes you really nail the essence of a character in your first sketch, but often it takes much longer. Something I think students forget is that a good character design is much more than interesting shapes; it's about efficiency in storytelling. You should be able to take a glance at a character and instantly know a lot about what's going on in its head. At work I often do 3-4 variations, get the designs in front of the lead and/or director, and then go from there.

How do you generate your creative energy, where does your inspiration come from?

The pressure to always be working is really hard for me, and burnout seems to always be right around the corner. I find that the best remedy is actively taking time away from digital screens and even from drawing. I like to fill up my tanks by going on hikes, spending time with friends and my significant other, and traveling. Not to mention lots and lots of puppy snuggles. :)