Our next installment of Motion Weeknight Blurbs features Sam Burton. When we saw Sam’s latest reel, we knew that we had to reach out and ask him for an interview. Make sure to watch his reel and the fun gifs that he shared with us. Sam’s style is clean, clever and full of surprises. On to the interview.
MW: How did you start out in the industry? What were your firsts (first project, first client, first headache, first triumph)?
I originally planned to study Graphic design at Uni. When I started to look at courses, I discovered there was an animation production course which I was immediately drawn to. After Uni I moved to London in search of work. I had a couple of internships and one led to a junior motion design role. I ended up staying at that company for 10 years working my way up until I headed up the animation department. Throughout that time, I got to work across a broad range of projects and was able to experiment with different styles including 2d, 3d and stop motion. Three years ago, I left my staff position to go Freelance and it has been a fun and eye-opening journey so far.
MW: What best describes your unique style?
When I am not working on client projects, which often need to follow a particular style or brand direction, I spend time on personal projects. These are generally colourful, fun and often have a sense of humour. I always try to create work I would enjoy watching. I really enjoy character animation as well as mixing 2d and 3d. I am a firm believer that if you enjoy what you are making, your passion will show through in the quality of the work.
MW: Are have any artists that have inspired you? If so, who?
There are so many. Some of the obvious ones would be studios such as Buck and Ordinary Folk. Beeple for his sheer work ethic in creating something every single day for over 12 years. I was fortunate enough to work with him last year on the titles for the FITC show, and it was a great experience to see how his mind works on a larger project.
I spend far too much time on Instagram looking at animators and illustrators work. It is a great place to discover new artists and to connect and learn. The downside is you can easily waste many hours staring at a screen so its all about finding a balance. I also draw inspiration from day to day life, photography, art, film and just about everything in between.
MW: What tools of the trade (i.e. software and/or hardware, paper, pencil) have been instrumental in your growth as an artist?
At Uni we learnt Maya, Photoshop and Illustrator. When I started working, I quickly fell in love with After effects and concentrated my time on learning as much as I could. I then replaced Maya with Cinema 4D as its more versatile for motion graphics work. Over the years I have also added some cel animation to my skill set, primarily in Photoshop and I recently got an iPad Pro which is great for sketching ideas and general doodling.
MW: Any advice for freelance motion graphic artists?
If you are thinking about going freelance, I would make sure you have 3-6 months of savings behind you first. Freelancing can be amazing but at times when its quiet can also be nerve wracking waiting for that next project to come in. The other important thing to do is network. This comes easier to some than others and is something I have had to work at over the years. When you are freelance you never know where your next job will come from, so it is important to make as many connections as possible and always be polite and professional to everyone you meet.
MW: Where would you see yourself in 5 years?
I imagine I will still be freelancing. I think having done it now for almost 3 years I cannot imagine going back to a full-time role. I love the freedom you have and the ability to work with a larger variety of clients as well as other creatives. I currently live in London with my family. We often talk about moving out to the country or by the sea to enjoy a different perspective, so maybe that will happen one day.
MW: What would be your ultimate dream job as a motion design artist?
I am most happy on a project where I have creative freedom to explore and try new things. I would like to do another music video as they can often be quite experimental. I would also love to create an animated short (doesn’t everyone) but its always a case of finding the time to develop it, which is easier said than done.
MW: What are the major changes that you see in the industry considering how much the working landscape has changed in 2020?
Obviously working from home has quickly become the new normal. I think this has been great as before the pandemic many clients preferred you to be sitting where they can keep an eye on you. This has now changed, and clients and studios are realizing that they can trust freelancers to work remotely and get the job done just as we would if we were sat in the same room. I think now clients will be much more open to work with remote creatives from all over the world giving everyone much more choice about how they work and with who.
MW: Where do you see the industry going in the future?
Given that it is already becoming more about remote working I imagine many studios might downsize their office space to save money and use flexible workspaces instead for when they need to meet face to face. There are already many successful studios who have employees dotted around the world all working on the same projects. I think we will see more of this, which is exciting and opens more opportunity for people who do not necessarily live is the bigger city hubs such as London, New York or LA. Another part of the industry that will always be shifting is how we work with new technologies such as VR and other new ways of consuming content.
MW: We all know that motion graphics take a lot of time to complete. What’s your favorite food to eat when staying up late to work on all these awesome graphics?
I try not to work late these days, unless necessary. I’ve been there and done that when I was more junior, and it isn’t the healthiest way to work as you can quickly become burnt out. I now try and keep a better work life balance. I also find I am more productive in the mornings so prefer to start earlier. In terms of snacks, I am a big cereal fan at any time of the day.