Russ Etheridge is a Brighton-based Freelance Animation Director and Designer specializing in 2D and 3D character animation and motion graphics. Russell’s bio reads, “Previously I was Senior Creative at Animade where I worked as a Director, Designer and Team Lead to produce fresh and innovative animation for TV and online. I worked closely with their regular clients including Facebook, IBM and Virgin America,”. Check out our Q & A below and follow Russ on his socials! 

Also, make sure to checkout Russ’ skillshare classes on 3d and 4d modeling here!

Where are you from, how old are you, and where are you based out of currently?
I’m 37 originally from London but now I live in Brighton which is a sizable seaside town on the south coast. Even though Brighton is technically a city, compared to London it feels like escaping to the countryside, being able to see the horizon feels good for the sanity, particularly during the pandemic!
How did you first get into drawing and animation?
I was always that kid at school who was constantly doodling in my notebooks and drawing things. My dad is a programmer which meant we always had a computer in the house, which was unusual growing up in the 80s, so naturally I experimented with the arty apps like early early MS Paint and then Photoshop and Flash. Then when I was a teenager I really got into films and decided I wanted to be a filmmaker. But with zero money for a camera or any knowhow I started making silly short films using the bits of animation skills I’d taught myself, and it took off from there.
What inspires your art?
This is always a tough question because inspiration is such a slippery concept. In terms of influences there’s plenty of other artists who I admire, but we’re all so bombarded by incredible work these days that it’s hard to call it ‘inspiration’. Sometimes I make something that pops into my head while soaking in the bath or walking around the supermarket. Other times if I’m given a brief or something that I’m not finding particularly inspiring I have to force it out a bit. In those cases I tend to go for a walk or sleep on it. Basically I find giving myself space to daydream my brain will quite often do the hard part of the work for me, I’m guessing this is probably where your subconscious draws on your influences. That said, my brain comes up with a pile of shit quite often, so maybe I’m being too influenced by all that late night doomscrolling or tacky NFTs.
What is your process like for making your art? Is it always a similar structure?
If you look at my social media posts you can probably tell I’m not a particularly consistent artist. With my personal work I tend to just make whatever excites me in that moment and not worry about it too much. One day I’ll be doing a painting, the next day I’ll be filming something and doing 3D tracking and visual effects. If I’m in professional animation mode then I tend to be really structured, there’s normally not much room for messing around on client work, you’ve got to hit all the milestones and get them signed off, like designed style frames and storyboards etc. With my personal work I take a much more winding route, although I always start by roughing things out in my sketchbook first. I’m not a particularly prolific sketchbook keeper, I’m always blown away when I see people posting pages from their sketchbook and they look like beautiful works of art in their own right. Mine tend to be really messy with scribbles and unfinished things crossed out and a shopping list written in one corner.
Are you able to support yourself independently as an artist? What has been hard about being a full time artist (assuming you are)?
I do make a decent living as a self employed animator. I think animation is a good art form in that respect because it comes with a lot of technical skills with practical uses. The majority of professional work I do is in advertising which surprisingly can be quite fun and pretty rewarding creatively but it can also be quite a high stress environment sometimes. I’ve also been enjoying teaching some skill-share classes recently, passing on some of my animation knowledge. However I’d say the part I find most difficult as a freelance animator is deciding where to progress to, there’s not that many choices and it’s tough to imagine doing this exact thing when I’m 57. Which I guess neatly brings me on to…
What are your plans and hopes for the future for your art?
Right now I’m really enjoying freelance animation and making personal work during the gaps between jobs. It seems to be quite a good balance, it pays the bills and also gives me the freedom to experiment and also look after our two young kids. In terms of my art skills I’m always working on improving my illustration and design, even though it’s something I do regularly I feel like I could push it much further. But like I was saying before I’m unsure if I can do this for literally the next 30 years or however long. The next logical step for a lot of self employed animators is to start their own animation studio, this is something I’ve been thinking about. It would be something to grow long term and could make good money but it could also be really hard and have it’s own pitfalls. Plus it could take me away from actually animating. The short answer is I currently have no answer, so I’ll probably just see how it goes over the next few years!
Is there anyone you make art for/do you have any sort of a target audience?
There’s definitely an aspect of making personal work to get more paid work doing the same type of stuff. But for me that’s not really where most of my paid work comes from. I get some work like that, maybe 10% or so, I guess it would be nice to get more, but to get more I think I’d have to try a lot harder to make my work more consistent or maybe more commercial or something, which might mean having less fun making personal work. The most fun I have when making personal work is when it’s just for me, if it resonates with other people then that’s a bonus.