Samantha “Sam” Kallis is a Visual Development Artist at Sony Pictures Animation (Specifically for Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2). She is also a part of the 2012 Nick Artist Program for exciting show projects such as “Spongebob Squarepants” and “Monsters VS. Aliens”. By being such a young professional, she encountered many opportunities in the past that helped her in building such strong foundations in achieving so many great things today, not only in her career, but also with finding something that she loves to do in order to be truly happy. With such an amazing and inspirational woman as Sam Kallis, I am very honored to present her for this interview as she talks about how to have the courage, the determination and the passion in fulfilling your dreams in life.
© All images and artwork are copyrighted Samantha Kallis
Images were grabbed from Sam's website (with permission)
- Hello Sam! It’s such a great honor to have you here for this interview. Much thanks for responding to our invitation as you share you wonderful experiences in life through this interview.
Sam Kallis: Hi! Thank you for asking me to take part in Project Educate – I will try to make my answers as educational as possible!
- By being successful, I’m sure that people have a whirlpool of experiences as they try to reach their dreams in life. Some may be sad experiences but there are funny experiences too! What were some of the sad and depressing and the most fun experience that you encountered in your life when you were just starting in making your dreams come true and how did you deal with them?
Sam Kallis: This is a difficult question for me because, as I look back, even my more depressing experiences seem colored by later successes. For example, even the disappointment of not being hired to work at a major studio upon graduating from Art Center seems less terrible now, because that experience taught me to persevere and trust myself. These are lessons I might not have internalized had I been met with immediate success. But, I suppose the two year period after I graduated of freelance work and rejection letters was fairly depressing – certainly I found freelance life very lonely. One of the ways I dealt with that was, I made myself a promise to keep a well-updated online sketch blog. Not only did the sketch blog hone my skills, keep me focused on drawing, and introduce me to new friends, but it also eventually led to the bulk of my freelance work. As far as the “most fun experiences I encountered” – well, drawing everyday for the sketch blog usually ended up in a fun experience!
- When an opportunity arises, some people might actually think about, “Oh maybe I should pass this time. I think I’m not good enough for this one.” or “There are better artists than me for this spot”. Are there any words of encouragement that you can give to some people who think that way? [or to “us” because I think that way most of the times too ]
Sam Kallis: Every artist experiences self-doubt. It’s an inescapable part of being a working artist – but another inescapable part of making a living as an artist is developing a certain amount of business sense. Here I would like to quote the old saying especially popular in Hollywood: fake it ‘till you make it. By this I mean, have confidence in yourself, because if you don’t, no one else will. I never turned down a job because I didn’t feel like I was good enough. I have always trusted that I will be able to figure it out. Everyday in my job, I am asked to paint things I’ve never painted before or have no idea how to even begin to paint. That’s the wonderful and terrifying thing about being an artist – every project is a new puzzle to work out, and no two jobs are the same. There is no instructions manual for being an artist – every job requires new adaptations. It’s a little scary, but it’s never boring.
Don’t worry if there are “better artists for the job” – whoever hired you chose you – they had faith in you, so you should too. Just do as best a job as you can – work hard – you never truly know what you can do until you push yourself. The worst thing would not be getting fired, but rather, to miss out on a wonderful experience because you were too afraid to even try.
- Can you tell us more about your experiences with the Nick Artist Program? Were you scared or nervous when you applied? What pushed you to continue your application and how did everything turn out after the fellowship?
Sam Kallis: The Nick Artist Program was one of the best experiences I had as an artist after college. It really is a unique opportunity – I got to work on “SpongeBob SquarePants,” which was amazing because it’s one of the last shows still on TV that paints their backgrounds by hand with actual acrylic paint; and I also worked on their new show “Monsters vs. Aliens,” based on the Dreamworks movie of the same name. I was mentored by some of the most talented artists in the business; and the Nickelodeon campus is truly one of the best places to work… And did I mention it was a paid fellowship? So, yes, it was quite magical!
I was definitely nervous when I applied, but I also had been working really hard in the two years since college on a number of really exciting projects, so I definitely also felt very ready for the job. I knew that my portfolio had never looked better, and I also knew that I was ready for the rigorous television schedule. I was very nervous, but I also felt confident.
After the fellowship, I left Nickelodeon to work on the feature film “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” for Sony Pictures Animation as a visual development artist, and I absolutely love going to work everyday!
- Your ADVENTURE! Timelapse Art for Art Attack! Soul Pancake is very inspirational. Not only that we were able to know how you work, but you even mentioned about the importance of Adventure in the life of an artist. Again, why do you think that being adventurous is important? And what is the most exciting adventure that you encountered as an artist?
Sam Kallis: Well, I’ve always believed, and I said in the video, that the life you lead informs the art you make. If you don’t have any experiences to draw from in your mental library of memories… then it is my opinion that your art will, in turn, be a little life-less. Now, when I say adventure, I don’t mean you need to go sail across an ocean or anything – a road trip would suffice! Or even an adventure in your everyday life – make a new friend, try a new restaurant, sign up for a class! As for me, as cheesy as it sounds, the greatest adventure I’ve had so far has been falling in love – but that’s a whole other story!
- What are some of the most memorable opportunities that you grabbed before that helped you a lot in getting such significant experiences that you need to have a steady and wonderful artistic career?
Sam Kallis: I’m not sure if it’s an opportunity, but definitely going to conventions like CTN or ComicCon have been memorable… They helped me form lasting friendships that eventually lead to jobs. I think the best thing you can do for yourself as an artist is to get out of your studio, go outside, and make some friends! So many artists today don’t realize that the biggest factor in getting work, other than your skill, is networking (sometimes it’s an even bigger factor than skill, unfortunately).
- What are some of the philosophies in life that you keep in heart and mind that you think can also play a significant role in the lives of the artists who are reading this interview now?
Sam Kallis: Whenever I was feeling “down” or in a rut, my mom would always say I needed to find a way to “shake up the universe.” This could be a big change or a small change, or maybe just a shift in perspective, but it had to be something to shake the dust off your life. This philosophy definitely served me well as an artist. When I was feeling depressed about not having my dream job in a big studio, my mom suggested I move out to where the studios were anyway – even without the job. This change of pace (or rather, place) was exactly the motivation I needed. Somehow being in the shadow of Disney’s giant hat building and Nick’s slime gate inspired me to keep chasing my dreams.
- What are the things that you usually do to keep your creative juices flowing?
Sam Kallis: I’m going to sound like a broken record, but usually the thing that best shakes me out of a creative slump is to go outside and find a new thing to experience. When my fiancé and I first started dating, we made this (really) long list of things to do in Los Angeles. Even though both of us grew up here, there was still so much the city had to offer that we hadn’t seen or done. We try and do at least one thing from the list on the weekends. It’s been over two years and we still haven’t crossed everything off the list! The one other thing I will say, is that I have found that looking at other animation or cartoons does NOT work in getting me out of a rut. I end up just reproducing what other people have drawn. I think this is why my favorite artists are usually people who make art that looks nothing like mine.
- How does it feel to work in a very big animation studio and to help produce such great animated movies/shorts/shows that help many people to be always young at heart?
Sam Kallis: In short – I feel blessed. I truly have no complaints; everyday I am paid do what I love, and everyday I am surrounded by talented, kind and brilliant people.
- Are there any things that you wish to tell before we end this interview?
Sam Kallis: I’d like to share a quote by artist Gary Panter – the quote is regarding art and style, but I think it also says something about growing up in general… “Don’t worry about a style. It will creep up on you and eventually you will have to undo it in order to go further. Be like a river and accept everything.”