Member Snapshot: Tamia Dark

Senior, Cleveland Institute of Art

September 2022, Interview facilitated by Tracey Miller-Zarneke 

What is your earliest memory of being interested in animation?

My earliest memory might be cliche but I remember when I was around eight years old, I had my first creative awakening, haha. Having movie night with my older sister was a staple of my childhood. This was when we still had the old VHS tapes, from The Lion King to the Rugrats movie. I have always loved animated movies but what really inspired me to get into art was seeing my sister draw a pencil sketch from the VHS cover of The Little Mermaid. It was perfect in my eyes.

I spent the whole night trying my best to replicate other animated characters from the movies we watched. It was probably chicken scratch but seeing my parents’ faces light up at their young children expressing themselves felt so right. That little moment gave me the encouragement to pursue a lifelong dream of becoming an animator and making stories and characters people can enjoy.

What is your favorite animated movie or animated character, and why?

My favorite animated character is Jim Hawkins from Treasure Planet. He’s a character who I definitely connected to as a teenager growing up. I related to his struggle to seek proper guidance in his life after losing his way a bit. He always chased after his dream of finding whatever was out there that could make him happy. His relationship with Captain Silver gave me comfort, similar to what I have with my parents. There are ups and downs but those emotional bonds stay with you forever. It felt so wonderful to see Jim’s growth to maturity as I was following my own in life.

Where and what are you studying?

The Cleveland Institute of Art! I’m currently a senior working on my BFA short film. I really love the community we have built.

What part of your studies have you enjoyed the most?

I love working with my peers and teachers. It’s such a creative environment that I always longed for when I was growing up. I finally get to be with people I can learn from and collaborate with! I cannot wait to see what we create in our final year of school together.

What do you see for yourself in 5 years? 10 years?

I see myself still animating, no matter what. Whether it’d be illustrating characters for a movie/show or cleaning up boards, I’d be happy at any place where I can continue doing what I love most. I’d love to even capitalize on my own ideas and bring them to fruition one day, hopefully for others to enjoy. Creating characters and worlds is something that’ll always be on my mind.

Who or what inspires your work?

My teachers inspire my work immensely because they give amazing feedback that I use to improve my art constantly. At first, critiques in art school were not something I was used to. But over time, I realized that they only want what’s best for us as blossoming artists breaking through their creative expression for the first time. With their experience, they give us the tools and advice to push us in the right direction. I can’t express how grateful I am to have such wonderful mentors in my life.

Why is an organization like Women in Animation important to you?

When I first encountered WIA, I felt an overwhelming amount of happiness from finding somewhere I could get help. At times, I felt intimidated by my place in the animation industry and wondered if I even belonged at all. But after joining WIA, I feel like my chances of a career are even stronger and it’s just motivating to see how I can grow my network. It’s so encouraging to find opportunities tailored toward women like me. I still think the inclusion of women in animation needs to be addressed and WIA is doing wonders in breaking through barriers, and supporting female artists that need it the most.

How long have you been a member of WIA?

I have been a member of WIA for a year now. I firmly believe it is worth it to join such a great community and put myself out there with other artists. I hope to seek a mentorship within WIA one day and utilize the great service it provides.

What have you enjoyed most about being part of WIA?

I really enjoy the networking on LinkedIn and social events! Despite living in Ohio, I still get a lot of benefits from being a part of WIA. I’m able to connect with people worldwide and get access to tools like job boards and exclusive talks from women in the industry. It’s great to have opportunities available for a learning artist like myself.

Any other insights or experiences regarding your pursuit of an education leading to work in animation that you would like to share with our membership?

At times, it’s hard to branch out in this industry, considering my geographical location. But with opportunities like WIA, it makes it so much easier to connect with others outside my comfort zone. I hope this community, and the animation industry as a whole, will keep considering artists from all over the world and give them a chance.

Also: always keep drawing and putting yourself out there!! You are never “not good enough.”