Featured Friday: Nicole Licea

She rocks and she rolls!

Q: Where did you go to school?
I graduated from the Radio/TV/Film program at UT Austin, but I spent my first two years of college at Southwestern University in Georgetown, TX.

Q: When did you first realize that you wanted to work in animation?
I’ve always loved cartoons but I actually never thought I’d end up working in the animation industry! I have enjoyed drawing and painting since I was a wee lass but didn’t think I should pursue art as a career because you always hear stories of how it’s hard for artists to get by. I ended up studying film production in college because it seemed like a more “sensible” career choice that was still creative (though I feel a lot differently about that now!)

Q: Who is your biggest inspiration?
My parents and grandparents. They immigrated here to the United States (my Mom’s side from Venezuela and my Dad’s side from Cuba), making many sacrifices and working their butts off to build a safe life for their families here. I am very lucky to have them as role models, and they have been super supportive of me pursuing my goals. Both of my grandmothers in particular were very crafty and resourceful and always encouraged our creative side by gifting us art supplies, handmade gifts and instructional art books.

Q: What is your favorite animated movie/show?
The first animated movie that I remember really sticking with me as a kid was Little Nemo (came out in 1989, a year after I was born), I don’t think I had ever seen animation that was so dazzling yet terrifying! It also dealt with one of my favorite themes which is the fine line between dreams and reality. In my younger years I was also a big fan of Totoro, Secret of NIMH, Ren & Stimpy and Hey Arnold. Some more recent favs include Tuca & Bertie, Akira, Paprika, Adventure Time, Steven Universe, and Aggretsuko.

Q: What would you say to those who are not getting hired by a studio or having trouble finding a job? 
There are so many factors that come into play when you’re on the hunt for a job, and while a big part of it is luck, networking and building connections with other artists or people in the industry is often how people get fast-tracked for sweet job opportunities. While your technical ability and work ethic are important parts of your hireability, so is your ability to connect and communicate with other people, so whether you do that online (by building a presence and showcasing your work on social media) or in person, at conventions or art related events, make sure you work on that too. Keep an eye on what others are doing and keep yourself up to date with software and techniques. Take classes or attend workshops, and always keep honing your skills. I also suggest running your portfolio (and resume) by someone who is somewhat knowledgeable in the field, or even taking a portfolio prep class. It never hurts to get a second opinion and there may be areas where you could improve that you just weren’t aware of. It has also helped me in the past to look at every interview / application as a learning experience, leading up to prep you for what’s next to come. Try, try, and try again!

Q: What are some stories of your path to art and animation?
I’ve always loved drawing and making things.. My mom put me in an oil painting class when I was a kid and I learned a lot during that time just being in a more creative environment.That was my first exposure to art instruction and I learned a lot about patience and planning since we were working with oils. I was really studious in high school but I really just wanted to be making things – it was one of the only things that could keep my attention for hours on end and I loved drawing creepy stuff! In college I continued doing art purely for my own enjoyment, but that is when I started shifting to production because I thought it would be a more stable/reliable industry to work in than just art (HA!). I did several internships at production companies during this time, and I also took some cool animation and documentary classes which helped me build my technical skills. After college I got a full time job doing video production, product photography and graphic design full time for a local music store, which I did for four years. After that I decided to try the freelance thing, doing whatever projects came my way (and learning a lot in the process!) After about a year of that I came across a job listing with Powerhouse that it seemed like I was qualified for. I immediately applied since I had heard of the company and it seemed like a really cool place to work. Luckily for me they called me back, and two years later here I am! Nowadays I spend most of my free time doing music-related stuff, but I do get to design show fliers and album art type things now and then, which is fun! I also hope to one day try my hand at producing a short animated film, if/when the timing seems right.  

Q: What’s it like working in Austin? And how is the creative community here?
I really enjoy living and working here – Austin has been a great place to grow and has given me lots of opportunities for networking and collaboration. Like any other place it has its issues, and the cost of living has been a challenge, but even from the brief time I’ve spent in other major cities I know that we have it pretty good here.

Q: What is the best part about your job and working at Powerhouse?
I love being around people getting to flex and grow their skills on a daily basis! It’s truly refreshing to be in this environment and the people here are some of the kindest, most hard-working and talented folks I have ever had the pleasure of working with!

Q: What is your favorite Powerhouse Project that you’ve worked on?
I’ve only worked on Castlevania so far, so this one’s easy! It has been an awesome experience working on this production and I am super grateful to be a part of such a talented and hard-working crew.

Q: Most challenging part of working at Powerhouse?
I think the most challenging part for me has been thinking big picture versus all of the small moving parts. When you are on a team that is comprised of multiple departments, each working separately to some degree but needing to come together at multiple points over the course of a production, it can be easy to get stressed or carried away with small issues as they arise. But when you consider the broader scope of a project (or even the studio’s trajectory as a whole) it gives some perspective, and all the hard work and wait is worth it when the finished project is released. I had no idea of just how complex animated productions can be, and I’ve gained that even working at this one studio alone!

Q: Any cool little known facts about production (funny stories/cool animation tricks/etc)?
Behind the scenes, our crew roots for their fav characters and does their best to make sure they look as good as they can during the storyboarding stage all the way through post production. I won’t name any names.. but there are definitely several people making sure your boy Isaac is always lookin’ as fresh as possible

Q: If you could be any anime character who would it be and why?
Ahh this one’s tough… I’mma go with Saitama from One Punch Man, cause I love the idea of being pretty much invincible but also being super aloof to it all. I aspire for that level of chill badassery.

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