What's The Buzz? An Interview with SCAD Illustration Professor Casey Nelson

The SCAD HoneyDripper team interviewed SCAD illustration professor, Casey Nelson, about her time working at Disney and as a freelance illustrator.

Interview conducted by editor of SCAD HoneyDripper, Emily Ericson.

Ericson: My first question is, what made you interested in pursuing art as a career? Was art something you were always interested in, or did you discover it later on?

Nelson: I was a lucky kid. I had an artist for a grandfather. Every time I'd visit, he'd let me sit at his art table and draw or look at his huge art books. I loved his Norman Rockwell Christmas book - I looked at it year-round. He noticed that I had talent and encouraged me to draw and inspired me to create. My mom also saw my talent and encouraged me to apply to different local art schools as a kid and I got in. This early encouragement, along with a love of Walt Disney films, drove me to become an artist.

Ericson: As a student in your classes, I've always enjoyed hearing you talk about your time working at Disney. Can you tell us a little bit about some of the work you did with Disney? What was your favorite part about your time there?

Nelson: I started off as a concept artist for Disney's video games. I did some character work and had a lot of fun coming up with ideas for characters and gameplay. After a while, a couple of friends in the company and I realized that we were funnier than the writers and faster than the freelance story boarders that we were hiring to write and storyboard our games. So, we pitched the idea to our bosses that they could have an in-house cinematic department where we'd write the stories, storyboard the cinematics, and direct the acting. We were already employed so we'd save them money! They asked us to prove our skills so we wrote a story using our characters in the game, storyboarded it, and created an animatic. The bosses liked it and we started the cinematic department in our company. We wrote the stories, created storyboards, directed voice talent, animation, special effects, and the audio for the cinematics. It was a lot of fun! In time, I was sent to the different studios - Disney, Pixar, and even movie sets to work with the writers and directors of the various films on which our games were based. The last project I worked on before leaving in 2016 was the Disney Infinity games. It was a great opportunity.

Ericson: I also know you have done freelance illustration work. Do you have any advice for students looking to get into freelance?

Nelson: Advertise yourself with the work you want to do so that you get jobs you enjoy doing. That way, it doesn't feel like work. Be kind. Be punctual with submissions and be organized.

Ericson: What are some interests you have outside of art? Are there any ways these interests influence your work?

Nelson: I love people. I love meeting new people, having adventures, and traveling. I enjoy making others laugh and a great story. All of this influences my work. I find that I love to create work that makes others smile. I feel I have a gift of communication and want to help lift others through my work.

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