Inspirational People in Tech – Stina Boberg

Whoosh! The little yellow chicken flies in on a broomstick. Suddenly it stops, the abrupt movement causing rainbow coloured eggs to cascade  from the basket precariously placed at the end of the broomstick. In another scene a blue octopus slowly descends to the seabed. Its tentacles gently reaching out to touch the thick green seaweed that almost envelops it.  Whilst in the forest, a mosquito suddenly breaks into  dubstep. His head moving in perfect unison with the syncopated rhythmic beat.

These animations at the brain of Stockholm-based 2-and-3D animator, Stina Boberg. Stina and her work is the perfect example of how technology impacts all aspects of life – because Stina, like most animators today,  relies on computer technology to bring her art to life.

Inicio spoke to Stina about her work, where she draws her inspiration from, and the animation industry.

Q. Were you always interested in the field of animation?

As a child I did a bunch of creative things: played upright bass in a youth orchestra, theatre, ballet, designed websites, and drew a lot of fanart of Sailor Moon. It’s just always been there as a way to organise my thoughts into something more tangible. I didn’t really know I would end up in animation specifically, for a long time I thought I would make a career in music. But somewhere I realised I spent way more time drawing comics than practicing my instruments, and that interest in comics eventually turned into a career in animation.

Q. What courses did you take in order to get a background in this field?
During 2009-2012 I studied Computer Graphics and Animation at Gotland University (today Uppsala University), I focused mainly on character animation and dreaming about Pixar. The upside of being stuck on an island together, was that a lot of the students hung around the school and collaborated on projects, which is how I got to do a trailer for a game project.

I did a few projects outside school. I got to be a production assistant on the motion capture shoot for Battlefield 3, and cleaned up storyboards for pitching material. I also went to Copenhagen to create a game and an animated short with a team of students from all over Europe.

I also studied for a Diploma in Motion Creative at Hyper Island ( Stockholm) this year.

Q. Animation is certainly not the easiest field to break into. How do you carve out a career as an animator?

I think getting feedback is inherent to making a career, otherwise it’s easy to get stuck in the same patterns. I tend to seek out forums and people who can give me honest and fair feedback, especially if I’m trying to learn something new. I also think it’s important to just put yourself out there. You’re never gonna have the perfect portfolio or know how to solve every issue, yet you’re still capable of handling more jobs than you think. Even though I have to remind myself of this one all the time.

Q. Where do the amazing ideas for you animations come from? How would you describe your style?

I often draw inspiration from personal experiences, and things that happen around me. Sometimes I’ll base a project on a specific artist that I find interesting, and do my own twist on it. I don’t really know how I’d describe my style, I just animate what feels good to me. 🙂

Q. What is your “process” –  do you wake up, think of an idea, “play around”? How do you go about creating your art?
As I’m sure many people do, my best ideas come when I’m in the shower or on the subway. Occasionally I’ll do a brainstorming session, but often I just make sure to document ideas as they pop up so that I can come back to them later. Most ideas get thrown away, but a few of them make it into a finished project!

I’m fairly structured when I work, from the first day I’ll have a rough plan on how long I want to spend storyboarding and planning an animation, and how long it should take to model and render it. I find this helps me to not get stuck in a specific area, I’ll have a little mini-boss-me on my shoulder telling me when I need to get on with stuff. And of course I make sure to get feedback, super important!

Q. Who are people close to you that have inspired you the most in life?

It’s a tie between two people, my dad and my partner. Together they’ve taught me a lot about learning a creative craft, and how to be a leader.

Q. Which famous people have inspired you?

Helen Sjöholm, she’s 100% present in anything she does. Randy Pausch, if he was alive today, to talk all about teaching and learning. And lastly Mathieu Labaye, his style is fairly far from my own, but I’m oddly stuck to the screen every time I watch an animation of his.

Q. What do you wish you had known before entering this field?

How little you have to say about what you’re creating. It’s varied a lot over the years, and the reasons behind why I feel I’m not always able to express myself creatively have been many. But the most common is that you’re the last in a longer line of creatives, often on a tight budget and deadlines that are closer than ideal.

Q.  General advice about being a woman in the technology industry – What are some of the challenges/opportunities?

I’ve often been the lone woman in my team, and sometimes that can be intimidating. I’ve been fortunate to never have been treated any differently because of it though, and the companies I’ve worked with has had equality as a core value. But still I can absolutely recommend befriending other women in the industry, it’s empowering to go from being the minority to a majority in certain settings, and some things are just easier to talk about when you share some aspects of life.Talk to people about your ideas. It’s easy to get stuck in this loop where you need to present the finished result before you can get feedback, but I think voicing some of my ideas out loud would have killed off more of the bad ones earlier.

Q. What is some general life advice you wish you had been given when you were younger?

Talk to people about your ideas. It’s easy to get stuck in this loop where you need to present the finished result before you can get feedback, but I think voicing some of my ideas out loud would have killed off more of the bad ones earlier.

Q. Where do you think the future of animation is headed? How is new technology helping you in this area?

While we like to talk about a doomsday future where animation will be automated and have no soul, I think the future is going to look far different. I see animators who paint in VR, essentially animating like the old Disney men. I have friends who create comics in a game engine so that you can interact with it as you read. I think there’s only going to be more of these interesting blends and crossovers between techniques and mediums.

Q. What excites you the most about the future, particularly related to the field of technology and animation?

More accessibility! As tools become cheaper and easier to learn, it enables more people to express themselves creatively. I look forward to seeing what stories they have to tell.

Q. Are there any inspirational quotes you live by?

Since I’ve mentioned feedback a few times, this quote by Randy Pausch is how I learned to love feedback:

“You may not want to hear it, but your critics are often the ones telling you they still love you and care about you, and want to make you better.”

He also said: “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”

His Last Lecture is an inspiration in itself, I highly recommend watching it if you haven’t yet.

Q. If you had to give yourself a pep talk everyday what would you say to inspire yourself?

Animation can be agonisingly slow to work with, so I would remind myself to enjoy the process. Be present in every step of the journey, because often that’s where inspiration strikes and the animation evolves to something much better. If you only focus on the result you miss so many opportunities that present themselves right now.

Q. What are your hobbies/interests outside of motion creative?

I like variation in life, and so what I do as a hobby shifts many times during the year. If it’s summer I might be up late playing music or meeting friends for hikes. In the autumn I tend to start up new creative projects, whether that’s music or animation. In the spring I’m often in career planning mode, and try to fix up my garden as best as I can (my fingers are not very green).

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