Oregon hosts some of of the most talented Animators, artists, and Stop-motion professionals in the world. As our community grows, join us as we spotlight OregonAnimation members to learn more about what they are working on and what makes them wake up in the morning.

This week, OregonAnimation spoke with Jennifer Ely, a freelance production designer and visual development artist for various commercial, film, and television animation projects in Portland, Oregon.


1. Where did you study and how long have you been working as an artist/illustrator?

I attended undergrad at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  I trained in Fine Art and was a gallery painter in south Texas for about 2 years before heading to grad school for illustration.  I attended Savannah College of Art and Design beginning in 2010, and got an art internship with Laika as I was leaving in the summer of 2012.  I’ve been working mostly in animation, with occasional illustration gigs on the side, for the past 7 years.

2. What changes in your field have you seen over the past 5 years? 10 years?

We’re all on social media now, it’s basically part of the job.   That can be good, social media can be a powerful tool, but it also holds a kind of pressure.  Most artists in animation are short term hires/ freelancers.  When you see someone succeed with a certain kind of image, it’s easy to feel that that’s the kind of thing you ‘should’ make to get work.  One of the side effects of the internet is homogeneity.  The upside of the internet and social media (to a young artist especially) is that you can be found anytime, anywhere.  It’s very exciting to have a platform where the art can and does level the playing field, even for unknown artists.  

3. What do you wish you did differently when creating client work?

I’m always having to remind myself to please me first.  I can get distracted, and my worst at is made when fishing to hit someone else’s invisible target.  I fight hard to take the brief in, and then make something that I feel excited by.  My regrets are always the ones where I lost sight of that and the work suffered.

4. What project are you most proud of?

Honestly I am still waiting for someone to come tell me that this was all a mistake.  It’s a small miracle that I get to spend my days designing worlds, characters, and colors with some truly amazing artists and craftspeople.  I’m proud of everything I have gotten to do.  I guess I am most proud that I have been able to make it work here in Portland this long!  It’s exciting that we have so much new work coming in, but as so many Portlanders know, it can get lean up here.  I guess I’m proud to have been able to weather that so far.  That’s why it’s so great that you are putting this resource together!  There is so much talent in this town.

5. What do you drawn most often?

It changes so much.  Lately I oscillate between working on character art and thinking about simple scenes.  More common is the method.  I have been doing a lot with collage in my own time, and having a blast with it.  When I get free time it’s all traditional stuff these days.  I love the collaborative nature of animation, but I am a bit excited when I get to make something and learn what happens when it comes from me alone.

6. What are you doing now and where can we find you online?

I am so excited to have come full circle, and to be working as an illustrator on Henry Selick’s new stop motion film for Netflix, Wendell and Wild.  I fell in love with Coraline as a student, and it’s what brought me to Laika in the first place.  I feel very lucky to be on this team.  

You can find Jenn Ely online at her website, jennely.com, and on social media (twitter and insta) @elyjenna.