No Choice But to Stan: Interview with Jay Kupiec

Artist, illustrator and animator Jay Kupiec took some time to tell us about what they're getting up to at the moment and what they have learned along the way.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself and what you’re currently doing?
Hey all! My name is Jay W. Kupiec and I'm a 2D character animator and artist who loves cartoons a little too much! I've studied digital animation at Limerick Institute of Technology in Ireland for 4 years and I now search for professional work in studios. I also work as a freelance artist in the meantime.

2. What are your main inspirations and who are some artists you look up to?

Gosh, there's way too many, but my main inspiration for my field of work must be the old Disney films of course and Studio Ghibli in recent years too. James Baxter and Aaron Blaise are some of the animators I look up to and have learnt a lot from too. As for illustrators I can't help but adore the work of Nicholas Kole and Jeannette Arroyo. Some other artists and animators I cannot forget are Chloe Peters and Stephen Scott.

3. What do you consider the greatest contribution to your growth as an artist?

Positive feedback from friends and family first and foremost of course. Though I'm very thick-headed in that regard- I don't let others stomp on something I set my mind to. It's important to surround yourself in good relationships and friends, for me it's Pictheas, Nixbee, Roc and Moreii! I wouldn't be where I am without them in my life.

4. What would you tell your 18-year-old self about your career path and lessons?

Interesting question! It's only been around 4 years since I was at my prime time of 18, freshly walking through the doors of my college as the youngest of the class. I would probably tell my younger self and to anyone at that point in life is to explore all options you can, attend side events and mini-courses, just continue to stay busy while you can but make sure you're also taking care of yourself too. You can't grow as an artist if you only draw for other people, treat yourself with a drawing dedicated to you and only you, experiment, and have fun with it!

5. Tell me about the most difficult project you’ve worked on and how you managed to finish it?

Oh, there were many, but the most difficult one, and one a lot of people can probably relate to, is creating a whole short film from scratch all by yourself. It's a miracle I finished mine. I think the hardest part of projects like these is realising just how big the scope can be, 2 minutes and a half may not seem long, but when the entirety of it is hand-animated you realise you spent around 8 months working day in day out just to finish it! Quite an achievement it is to finish something so big. Time management is most crucial, having someone you can trust on the team is extremely helpful too, but most importantly; if you decide to undertake a project that can take up to a year to finalise, well you better choose a topic you're really passionate about!

6. In stressful situations, how do you find ways to persevere?

In fairness I work well under stress, I weaponise it to a point. I'm a pretty relaxed person in general, and if there's no hard deadline then I know many including myself would instead crunch on the last possible day rather than do it in chunks, but that always comes at a cost of your own sanity and max stress levels. The best way to avoid that is split the deadline into several ones so that you can have much smaller (yet still stressful!) situations and make yourself do the work in chunks rather than all at once. Slightly backwards thinking, but it works at keeping you from burning out altogether!

7. Are you currently trying to learn any specific skill, and how do you go about learning it.?

Always, there's never enough things to learn! I'm a little bit of a scatterbrain in that regard, I have a 20 item list of skills to learn at any given moment. Though currently, the most important ones for me would be creating an industry-ready portfolio, as well as diving into advanced rigging for 2D animation- you know, puppets! I personally like to attend webinars and ask many questions from professionals in the industry, but also directly dissecting every animation I watch frame by frame and mimic the movements and different techniques used in animation. Learning how a master animates in depth requires a lot of time spent analysing and copying the work to truly understand it yourself.

8. What’s been the most useful or educational resource you’ve made use of in your career?

There's a really old but extremely handy book called "An Animator's Survival Kit" by Richard Williams which is an absolutely fantastic resource that helps dip your toes into the realm of animation and helps pave the way into master studies. After that you can move onto mimicking old cartoons for styles and poses, Tom & Jerry is one of the best ones out there to learn from. The poses and expressions in that show never get old or stiff! You also need to really drill the 12 principles of animation into your head, that is your holy bible, but also remember not to be afraid and break one or two rules... Like a rebelling teen trying out new things.

9. What is your dream project and can you tell us a little more about it?

I mentioned earlier I created a whole short film as my thesis, and in all fairness, I would love to pursue it further. I always dreamed of making a small web series out of it- animated of course. A few short episodes to round off the tale of a beetle knight who saved a frog he was supposed to kill to protect his bug city. Who knows what kind of trouble the little frog can get herself into while he hides her from everyone else? Maybe in a couple of years, you'll hear more about Beetle Knight!

Written by Dante Ludolf