Episode from the podcastThe Visual Storytelling Podcast

11 Reasons Animation Artists Should Attend ‘The Story Design Conference’

Released Tuesday, 19th April 2016
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imageClockwise From Top-Left: The teachers of The Story Design Conference: Claire Keane, Brian McDonald, Chris Oatley and Jenn Ely
In September of 2016, Claire Keane (Disney), Jenn Ely (Laika), Brian McDonald (Pixar, Disney) and I will host The Story Design Conference in the awe-inspiring city of Rome, Italy.

This isn’t simply a “sit quietly and watch famous artists be awesome” kind of thing.

It’s a personal, participatory conference designed to help you discover and develop your unique strengths as a visual storyteller.

So whether you’re an aspiring animation professional or a seasoned pro, we would love for you to join us!

Here are eleven reasons you won’t want to miss it…

1.) A Wealth Of Wisdom and Experience:

Claire Keane is one of the industry’s most revered visual development artists. Her heartfelt passion for art, story, color and character is contagious.

Brian McDonald‘s books and workshops have influenced some of the best animated films of the last decade. When Pixar gets stuck, they call Brian for help!

Jenn Ely has designed for a wide variety of animation styles including stop-motion and innovative mediums such as Google Spotlight Stories & virtual reality. Her career is, in many ways, a picture of the future for aspiring animation professionals.

…and in addition to their accomplished backgrounds, they’re all fantastic teachers who care deeply about your artistic growth and are dedicated to transferring their extensive knowledg….

2.) Personal Guidance From Invested Mentors:

imageForest Spirit by Jenn Ely
The Story Design Conference is loaded with lessons about Color, Composition and Character Development (more on that in a minute), but we also have time set aside every single day for personal interaction.

It’s a super-small venue where the student-to-teacher ratio is the same as a small art college, so we’ll have lots of opportunities to answer questions and offer feedback on your portfolio or personal project.

Any self-taught artist knows that there’s a limit to how much you can learn on your own. A few thoughtful words from a wise mentor who understands your specific situation will almost always be more effective than a thousand words from a pre-recorded video.

3.) Renew Your Passion:

imageStuck Tin Man by Chris Oatley
Aesop’s Fables, Romeo and Juliet, The Wizard Of Oz, Bambi, E.T., The Legend Of Zelda, The Lion King, Finding Nemo, The Lord Of The Rings…

For thousands of years, great stories have been changing the world.

They don’t just teach us how to survive, but why. They unite us in our joy and in our pain. They transmit the power of healing virtues like selflessness, trust, forgiveness and love…

With lessons like “Finding Your Visual Voice,” Claire Keane’s “Creating Believable Characters” and Brian McDonald’s “The Power Of Storytelling,” The Story Design Conference will remind us why we fell in love with animation in the first place.

This experience will renew our passion for the craft and help us find new focus for the future.

4.) Inspired Productivity:

We’ll be sketching and generating story ideas throughout the entire conference. Your in-class productivity means you’ll leave with a sketchbook full of stuff to work on.

5.) Breaking-In Isn’t What It Used To Be:

We call the current era “The Information Age.”

…and it’s a great time to be an artist.

But because a lot of the information out there is antiquated, irrelevant or just plain wrong, many artists feel more confused and directionless than ever before.

With panel discussions like “What It Takes To Make It In The Entertainment Industry Today” (featuring all of the guests) and an interactive presentation on portfolios (Claire, Jenn and I are teaching that one together!) The Story Design Conference will help you get current and also correct misconceptions that are wasting your time or delaying your success.

6.) Demystifying Color:

imageRapunzel Character Visual Development for Tangled by Claire Keane
Claire Keane and I are currently creating an awesome “nuts and bolts” session for the conference where we will present our most effective tips and techniques for getting your color palettes under control.

On the day following that session, I’ll give a lesson that reveals the secret power of color in sequential storytelling.

After that, Claire will reveal her process further when she selects a volunteer from the audience to be the subject of her LIVE pastel portrait demo! (AAAAAH!!!)

…and if that wasn’t cool enough, Jenn Ely will demonstrate the techniques she uses in her work as a Color Stylist – an awesome job that a lot of aspiring artists don’t know much about.

7.) Demystifying Composition:

imageAnimal Farm: Mourning Chores by Chris Oatley
Many artists think of color as the most mysterious fundamental concept. But Composition is way weirder.

Brian McDonald and I will approach Composition the same way Claire and I will with Color. We’ll clear up the confusion and equip you with useful tools for further study.

8.) Creating Believable Characters:

“Character Day” at the conference belongs to Claire and Brian. They will present two richly-researched presentations on character development.

I’ve heard some early versions of these presentations and they are completely mind-blowing.

But the lessons are more than just inspiring. Because Claire and Brian are such great teachers, you can immediately begin applying the concepts to your own work.

These sessions alone will make the entire conference worth your time.

9.) Tools and Techniques:

Many live conferences feel great while they’re happening but don’t actually solve your problems.

You get back home, and you still don’t know what you, personally, need to do next.

I have made it my personal responsibility to ensure that The Story Design Conference is completely different.

We are working hard to provide examples and specific applications in every single lesson. Our live demonstrations will also help to solidify the concepts in your mind.

…and as I mentioned earlier, we’ll have lots of time to personalize the information for you.

10.) BFFs!

imageLeft To Right: Ania Marcos, Manny Daniels and Maria Paiz at CTN-X.
The best part of working in animation, games, vfx and publishing is the opportunity to create beautiful, meaningful stories in collaboration with other like-minded, creative people.

The primary goal of The Story Design Conference is to help you become the great visual storyteller you’re meant to be.

Some artists chase greatness for selfish reasons. Some artists aren’t interested in greatness at all.

This conference will bring passionate, focused, big-hearted creators together in an amazing, inspiring environment. …and will undoubtedly spark long-lasting friendships and connections for many of you!

11.) Rome Is A Storytelling Mecca:

imageRome At Magic Hour by Nicole Ziza Bauer
Rome is one of the most breathtaking cities you will ever visit.

You’ll find evidence of the ancient power of Visual Storytelling everywhere you turn.

The architecture, the landscape, the people – This place is amazing.

You will not be able to resist stopping to sketch or paint en plein air. (Maybe I’ll even take a group out for a surprise plein air demo! …oh wait! I’ve said too much! Uhhh…. Spoiler alert?)

Oh, and then there’s the food…

The word “pizza” will be completely redefined for you.

…and so will “coffee.”

…and so will “wine.”

Seriously, friends.

...the wine.

No Time To Read? No Problem!

For your convenience, I created an audio version of this post:

[ download the mp3 ] [ subscribe in iTunes ]

Meet Our Amazing Partners:

Our partners in the creation of this conference are the wonderful staff of The Idea Academy in Rome.

They have asked me to communicate to you that they are available to help with anything you need that has to do with registration, travel, accommodations etc.

Also, we have a private Facebook Group for all of the conference attendees. This group will make it easy to find traveling companions, roommates etc.

Plus, we can begin developing relationships before the conference so we have a sense of belonging long before we arrive in Rome!


Tickets for the event are completely sold out.

If you would like to join the waiting list, please contact Oatley Academy Support.

The Story Design Conference will take place from September 28th – October 2nd 2016.

The post 11 Reasons Animation Artists Should Attend ‘The St… appeared first on ChrisOatley.com.

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