By Tara Nicole Whitaker
I think I decided I wanted to work in animation when I was about eight. It certainly hasn’t been a straight trajectory by any means, however! I definitely questioned if I was good enough and struggled with “imposter syndrome”. I wondered if I would ever feel like I belonged in this industry with the “real” artists. Still, I decided there was nothing else I would rather do than draw all day, and made the decision to make my avocation my vocation.
There are many artists that have made a successful career without having gone to art school, but I needed the structure of a school environment to really challenge myself after high school. The friendships and connections I made as a student at CalArts were invaluable to me, as I had moved to California from NY not knowing anyone. Unfortunately, the feeling of imposter syndrome followed me to college, and I struggled with fitting in among so many other talented artists. I knew I had a lot of catching up to do!
Personal projects and participating in group art shows have been a wonderful creative outlet for me when it comes to developing my artwork and my style. Not only have they brought more work my way than I could have ever imagined, but they were an amazing confidence builder, as well. It is also a fantastic opportunity for studios to see your personal work and get a better idea of who you are, and what your style is, in order to make your artwork stand out.
I wish I had realized sooner that comparing myself to others as much as I was and imagining where I thought I should be, was not working in my favor. Letting go of the feeling that I didn’t belong was difficult, but it happened when I stopped comparing myself to everyone else, and only to how far I had come since I was eight! I just think back to that little girl and I am reminded why I wanted to work in our field. Women and girls of color are still lacking in representation in TV and film, and I have always wanted to play a part in changing that. Creating art and bringing more diversity to animation has always been my goal, and focusing on what was truly important to me helped me overcome my insecurities!
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Tara Nicole fell in love with children’s books from visits to the local library. This passion for illustration developed into one for animation, as well. Her education in art began early, from classes at Pratt in her youth, to more formal training at RISD and California Institute of the Arts, earning her a BFA in Character Animation in 2002. Since graduating, she has designed for DreamWorks, Nickelodeon, Fox Animation, PBS, CBS, Cartoon Network, and most recently, Disney.