New Featured Artist: Kori Valz

Even Emmy-nominated artists can find themselves in an inspirational-rut. Kori Valz creates fanciful art that makes it hard to imagine that she could come across any creative block. We wanted to sit down with Kori and find out how she makes her work look so effortless. Digital-Tutors: Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions! Could you start off by telling us a little bit about yourself and some of the work you are currently working on? Kori Valz: Currently I’m working as an animator at High 5 Games in New York City. High 5 focuses on making high-end casino games. My job never gets boring---I could be animating a dancing cat one day and then be changing people into butterflies the next. Digital-Tutors: How did you get started in the industry? Kori Valz: I was finishing my computer science degree at Rutgers University when I realized that, while I love the technical aspects of computers, I wasn’t getting much of a chance to flex my creative muscles. Then, I learned about the Center for Advanced Digital Applications at NYU and immediately applied to their master’s program. The program focuses on finding the right balance between art and technology in order to create beautiful digital art. Once I enrolled, I was hooked. Digital-Tutors: Was this something you knew you wanted to do since you were young? Kori Valz: My obsession with computers began when my family got our first computer. I played a lot of the MS-DOS game Gorillas and played with code I saw in 3-2-1 Contact magazine. Then, I saw Pixar’s lamp animations on PBS, and I came to the exciting revelation that I could actually create art with a computer. Digital-Tutors: What is the most difficult part of what you do? Kori Valz: Honestly, turning down work is the thing I struggle with most. Every freelancer can back me up when I say that there are times when there is no work at all, and times when everyone is knocking at your door. I’m usually so excited about every project I hear about, I just think: “I want to be a part of that!” quote1 Unfortunately, there are periods when I have to make a tough decision and turn a project down. Then, during the dry spells I have to remind myself “If you had taken all those jobs you’d be burnt out, and then what good would you be?!” As much as I love animation, my health comes first. Digital-Tutors: What’s the best part? Kori Valz: The best part is experiencing a positive reaction from people who see your work. Whether it’s children laughing at a television show you worked on, or an adult gasping at a black hole ripping apart a tree---a positive reaction from your work is the best reward you can get. Digital-Tutors: In what way has Digital-Tutors affected your career as an artist? Kori Valz: I’ve been using the site for a few years now and I can’t imagine my life without it. I first learned about Digital-Tutors when I was teaching at the Art Institute in Sunnyvale, California. I couldn’t believe how much information was available! Ever since then I’ve been a big fan and even talked my director at High 5 into getting a subscription for the artists. Digital-Tutors: Technology is always changing. How do you keep up? Kori Valz: I watch as much animation as humanly possible. When I see something I like, I do my research to see how it was done. Even with my best efforts it’s quite difficult to keep up with all the new techniques. As long as I don’t let myself get overwhelmed, it’s an amazing journey. Digital-Tutors: Tell me about the work you created that got you nominated for an Emmy. Kori Valz: I had just earned my master’s degree from NYU. Luckily, through some classmate and instructor contacts, I managed to get my first gig out of school at ABC News. I was on a team of about ten other artists. We created graphics for a special called Last Days on Earth. Essentially, we were asked to recreate different ways the world could possibly come to an end. Despite the melancholy theme, the work was very fun and exciting. I was originally hired as a character animator but those pieces eventually got scrapped. I ended up making black holes suck up trees and flying a camera through an asteroid belt. Our team had an amazing synergy. It was a hard and intense summer for all of us, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Digital-Tutors: If you weren’t an artist what would you being doing? Kori Valz: I can’t exist without animation in my life. If I couldn’t make it, I would study it and its historical trends. Animation History was my favorite class to teach. I would certainly be content as an animation historian. If I couldn’t do that, I’d devote myself to developing a form of veggie bacon that tastes as good as real bacon. (I love bacon.) Digital-Tutors: Did you ever have any experiences when you were first starting out that you had to learn the hard way? Kori Valz: Everyone hears horror stories about clients that don’t pay you. Unfortunately, it’s hard to spot the warning signs of a “deadbeat” client until you’ve been burned yourself. That doesn’t mean that you can always see it coming. But, once you’ve had it happen to you a few times, you can usually pick up on the warning signs. Digital-Tutors: Where do you see yourself and your art going next? Kori Valz: In my free time I’m developing my own side-scrolling game. To me, game development is the perfect combination of art and technology that I crave so much. I get to write code and animate! I hope to release it in 2015. Digital-Tutors: Thanks for your time. Any last things you’d like to share with the world? Kori Valz: Sometimes, being an artist can be a tough gig. Whether you have trouble finding work or inspiration, there’s always some obstacle that comes along and tries to kill your buzz. The thing to remember is that without these obstacles, making art would just be boring. Where’s the fun in that? quote3 Digital-Tutors: We look forward to seeing more from Kori in the future. Get more now by visiting her website and Vimeo channel and watching her tutorial on Animating a 3D Retro Logo in After Effects

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