Like many artists, Nicole Ales began drawing and telling stories at an early age. Not only was it a fun exploration of her skills, but it also turned out to be a valuable way to connect with people. For a “very shy kid,” drawing became a non-verbal form of communication. Down the road, Nicole discovered that her passion for art could help lay the groundwork for her future.
“It wasn't until Gnomon that art full-time felt like a real career option,” she said.
Nicole first heard about Gnomon through an art teacher at her first college. She had primarily taken 2D classes but believed that transferring over to 3D would allow her to achieve her dream job: working in-house at a studio and fully immersing herself in the film and animation industry. (Spoiler alert: Nicole now works at one of the biggest studios in the world.)
Gnomon’s curriculum opened Nicole’s eyes to a wide variety of skills and disciplines; ones she may not have pursued as extensively had it not been for the program’s structure. She believes that the combination of diverse classes paired with instructors with unique backgrounds helped her understand how everything in the production pipeline relates to each other.
“It helped to refine what areas you like the best and ones you weren't as interested in,” she said. “Even the classes you don't plan on being useful for your desired area, it will surprise you how useful they are to have a basic understanding once you're out in the world.”
As a look development artist, Nicole draws from her time at Gnomon when she runs into problems on a project or finds herself needing a reminder about what sparks her creative process.
“For Look Dev, learning rigging basics allows me to understand how that department functions when we are troubleshooting together,” she said. “Also, I just loved creature sculpting and visual structure. They were just super fun for me and allowed me to just work on designing, which was always a joy to do.”
While she has now been working in the industry for several years, Nicole believes that the comradery between Gnomon students, instructors and faculty still has a strong impact today. It has ingrained in her a sense of competition, support and, most importantly, strong work ethic.
“If you work hard and don't give up, you will be successful,” Nicole said. “What most people view as ‘talent’ is more skill cultivated over time.”
Nicole Ales graduated from Gnomon in 2018 with a certificate in digital production. She currently works at Walt Disney Animation Studios as a Look Development Artist.
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