Arcus Advice – Alex on How to get Started in Digital Design

Arcus Advice – Alex on How to get Started in Digital Design

At Arcus, we get emails from hundreds of people asking for advice about how to ‘break into the biz’.  In this new series of articles, we’ll be posting answers to some of the most commonly fielded questions we get from young people, students, recent graduates and people looking for a change in career.  First up, our Illustrator and Graphic Designer Alex shares her story.

Did you start in education or transfer from another job area?

I actually ended up in animation from a very wiggly route! I had a job as a jeweller, it was a lovely job and I found myself very comfortable at work, but I realised I just didn’t care about jewellery and needed to go study what I’ve loved my entire life, which was animation. So, I went to do an FdA in Animation at Newcastle College.

How did you go about first finding work?

After my FdA in animation I still needed some real work skills, so I set about getting myself a paid internship. I would get up every morning whilst unemployed and call (not email) every creative company whose work I admired in my chosen area of Newcastle. I eventually got a paid internship with Studio Precept as a Junior Creative after sending them my Instagram! Whilst there, I supported myself with a second job as my internship paid an apprentice wage, I made some great connections with local businesses there too.

Have you done freelance/worked for other companies or is Arcus Animation your first creative job?

I’ve been a Junior creative for Branding Studio Precept, and a Junior Graphic Designer for Capita. I also have freelanced on bits and bobs in-between times!

How would you suggest going about getting work seen/networking and making contacts?

Honestly, this varies an enormous amount from region and area of expertise. I knew I wanted to work in Newcastle – creative jobs here are rare, and Arcus, being a 2D animation studio was exceptionally rare, so I knew I had to have as many skills as possible to make me more diverse and desirable. If you can be trusted with multiple tasks rather than just one you are a better asset!

That said – my good friend Vic Bell is an illustrator who’s work is incredibly popular on dribbble. She focuses purely on one style of illustration and does that all day long. She is an absolute inspiration and one of the hardest working people I know. She went to the same college as me! So different approaches work very differently based on what exactly you want to do for your career path. Write down exactly what kind of creative you want to be, if you want to be freelance or employed, where you want to work, how much you want to earn, visualise as much as you possibly can and be very very precise in what you want, then the steps in that direction will be easier to figure out.

Do you know of any events that would be good to attend for making industry contacts?

If you’re on twitter, at least have your twitter handle as your name, or have your face or logo as your twitter icon. Quite a few people I’ve bumped into have recognised me because I have my face as my twitter icon! I think this can work well in small cities where there might not be that many networking events in the creative area, in bigger cities there tend to be more face-to-face events. Also, if a networking event you want to go to doesn’t exist – make it yourself! I did, and it’s a good lesson in planning and organisation and gets your name out there into the local community really quickly. Arcus started their own too with aNEmates.

Would you say it would be better to learn other skills as well as just illustration, or to keep improving that?

I think learning as many skills as you WANT, not as many as you CAN, is the key. Only ever learn something you really have an interest and want to do. I genuinely have a love of typography and it’s come in useful in animation! Graphic design, in my opinion, is always useful, at least for creating CV’s! Stick to the things that you find genuinely engaging, and with each new thing you learn you’ll want to learn ten times more!

Arcus Loves – Meal Time

Arcus Loves – Meal Time

One of our Animators, Tom, introduced the studio to this smashing animation recently: Meal Time by Tiffany Wei.  I asked some Arcus goons why it was so great.

Tom said:

I love the characterization of each group. its so expressive that all the personality just bursts through the screen.  The art style is simple but gorgeous and really helps to sell the adorable feel of the whole animation, which couples perfectly with the delightfully innocent music playing throughout.  Makes me wish I hadn’t skipped lunch!

Alex said:

YES!! It has a messy, choppy animation Ghibli-esque style that I love, with vibrant, characterful line-art. The characters have the super fun look of Natasha Allegri’s work but as if they were drawn on a whim of the moment.  It is also edited extremely well, adding a lot of humour in with jump cuts.  I love when the sports dude kicks the bowl of popcorn and the timing of the cut JUST after the little girl makes her monster face.

The walk cycles are also fantastically diverse and obviously painstakingly drawn to get as much character into them as possible. The middle ‘cool girl’ walk is amazing with her arms flapped outward.  Also, the unrealistic proportions are so charming – the mum’s big ankles and the glamorous dinner-date girl’s huge bum. Its the best thing Tom’s ever shared with me!

Miguel said:

I liked the old blokes getting wrecked on sake.

We Make Explainer Videos!

We Make Explainer Videos!

We thought it was about time that we made an explainer video… about how we make explainer videos!  The video is made with the voice talents of our own Illustrator Alex, the creative input of the whole Arcus team and the audio skills of Forged Sounds.  We thought hard about why explainer videos are important to businesses, then had an amazing time thinking of the best way to get our conclusions across to the viewer – so obviously we decided on delicious food!  Enjoy!


Manchester Animation Festival

Manchester Animation Festival

The  very first Manchester Animation Festival took place last week from the 17th to the 19th of November at ‘Home’ – Manchester’s spectacular new cinema and theatre venue. We sent Lead Animator and Arcus co-founder James Taylor down to acquaint himself with the North West animation crowd.

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Staff Interview – Nicholas Waterton

Staff Interview – Nicholas Waterton

Talented animator Nicholas Waterton joins the team this week, relocating to the sunny climes of Newcastle to help during a period of unprecedented growth for Arcus.  We though we’d ask him a few questions in advance of him taking his rightful place at the desk by the window.

How’s it going, bro?

Very tired, there’s an awful lot going on at the moment, but I’m also excited and optimistic.

What’s the highlight of your career?

Getting this job obviously! A close second would be an animation I worked on for Iffley Road, which was drawn with charcoal and pastels. I also got to live out a childhood dream of writing and producing the soundtrack.

Flattery will get you everywhere, Nick.  What’s the lowlight of your career so far?

It’s impossible to pick one particular flop from a lifetime of them, though I should add that these were before I started doing this professionally.

What are your favourite things in life?

Making stuff. Art, animation and music.

What is a weird fact about you?

I’ve a black belt in Ju-Jitsu

Remind me not to mess with you!  What is your favourite animal?

Cats. Because cats.

What is your favourite Nicolas Cage movie?


Oh man, all work just stopped in the studio while we basked in the glory of that.  Thank you for that gift!  Do you believe in ghosts?


Do you believe in aliens?

The universe is a big place, I’d be surprised if there wasn’t life somewhere out there.

Just so I know whether I’m removing the PC speakers from your desk, what is the best album of all time?

The Sound of the Smiths, The World of Chopin or Selected Ambient Works by Aphex Twin.

Okay, the speakers can stay.  Why is your best friend your best friend?

He knows every detail of my life and can still stand the sight of me.

Good Lord, Nick!  What have you done in your past life?  What secrets do you have?

I don’t give up my secrets just like that!

Well, I’m terrified for my life now but I can’t wait to have you in the office!  Cheers Nick!

Arcus Loves – Lord by Leonie O’Moore

Arcus Loves – Lord by Leonie O’Moore

This week sees the release of our pal Leonie O’Moore’s graphic novel Lord.  Set in Ireland in 1972, a 13 year old girl named Aisling misbehaves one time too many and is sent to attend a strict summer school on a nearby island.  There, she and the other girls in her class begin to suspect that the goings on in this isolated community, and the intentions of the fearsome Sister Assumpta, might not be what they seem.

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Staff Interview – Tom Lavery

Staff Interview – Tom Lavery


Tom Lavery joined the team three months ago and has been an invaluable source of animation skills, wrestling moves, Errol Flynn-style facial hair and anecdotes.  So that you can get to know him, we decided to ask him about a few random questions.

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Staff Interview – Mark Hughes

Staff Interview – Mark Hughes

We love Animator Mark Hughes.  He came to us fresh from Newcastle College’s superb animation course and dominates every project we throw at him.  He also has a nascent talent as a voice over artist, surprising everyone around him with his perfect impressions and uncanny accents.  We asked him a bit about himself…

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