Drawing simple animals and characters with backgrounds and basic shading and coloring sounds pretty simple but all these elements are used to put together a complex storyboard, which seasoned storyboarder Elyse Redwine says is a comic-like layout for a larger production such as a film.

By RIMSIE MCCONIGA
rmcconiga@leavenworthtimes.com


Drawing simple animals and characters with backgrounds and basic shading and coloring sounds pretty simple but all these elements are used to put together a complex storyboard, which seasoned storyboarder Elyse Redwine  says is a comic-like layout for a larger production such as a film.
Storyboarding is not a passing fancy for the Lansing High School junior, she has had an interest in art most of her life and it has all paid off because over the summer she got to teach a class sponsored by the Lansing Community Library as part of its Summer Reading Program.
The third-, fourth- and fifth-graders that Elyse taught learned not only to draw, they learned how to combine their drawings with backgrounds and also to structure it all with a short story to create a comic book or animated cartoon storyboard. They worked in four-student teams on the project.
This is Elyse’s second year teaching the popular, free class. But simply teaching a class was not her major goal. When she began high school she was determined to make a difference and find ways to volunteer in the community.


“I went to my school guidance counselor, Mrs. Kristie Wessel, and asked her about my options,” says Elyse. “Her advice was ‘do what you know,’ which led my mom and I to begin discussing ideas that had to do with my interest in art. I’ve often thought of pursuing storyboarding as a career, and storyboarding is a lot like comic-booking, which I know is something kids enjoy. I saw it as an opportunity to practice a hobby that I could turn into a career while also working with kids and showing them different ways of doing artwork.”
Once she decided on the direction she wanted to take with her volunteer work, she then worked out when and where she wanted to do it with the help of longtime family friend, and Lansing Community Library Director, Terri Wojtalewicz.


“I was aware that there was a summer reading program at the library, so I contacted Mrs. Wojtalewicz to see if she needed volunteers to help with her program,” says Elyse. She then introduced me to Ms. Emily Stratton, the children’s librarian, and we developed a plan.”
Her love of art began at a young age. She loved to draw and her sketchbooks from many years past are scattered throughout the family home filled with her basic, early endeavors, which over time, became increasingly adept.


Her love for visual art is equally matched by her affinity for writing stories. And her parents and grandparents have always been strong supporters of her artistic leanings. They always ensured she had a full supply of arts and crafts supplies, which fueled her passion to create. She was soon given more advanced tools such as a Wacom digital tablet and ToonBoom Studio, an animation program that can be installed on a computer. When she entered high school she took Intro to Art with art teacher, Tracey Schmidt.


“There’s something compelling about being able to create a world and develop characters with the ability to captivate a reader,” says Elyse. “When I was in the fifth-grade at Eisenhower Elementary, I’d become an avid reader of fantasy books, spending a majority of my free time with my nose in the pages. In my fifth-grade class taught by Mrs. Jessi Corriston, we’d do a writing exercise once a month in which we’d write a short story and then the whole class would edit and share it. I remember beginning my first ever draft of Destiny: Quest for the Four Elements, a story I’d later revisit and eventually turn into a full-length fiction novel and publish when I turned 12. From there, I entered an online community of writers and artists who introduced me to a world of fanfiction, digital art and animation. This was the beginning of my pursuit of an animation career. A few years ago, I was invited to visit Mrs. MaryAnn Hotaling’s second-grade class at Lansing Elementary School to speak to them about my book. Since I had met some of those students earlier in the fall, I recognized some of them when they attended my class the following summer. They were all excited to be there since we’d met before. The new faces I encountered were all very eager to learn new ways to draw and color, and I was excited to have the privilege of teaching them.  Mrs. Hotaling invites me back each fall, so I get to meet a new group of potential storyboarding students every year."


She has attended week-long high school-level classes at Kansas City Art Institute for the last four years to study illustration, experimental animation and digital animation studio where she animated her first short film. "I do believe KCAI is an excellent institution for learning many different mediums of art such as animation, illustration, drawing from life and more," says Elyse. "It's in close proximity to the Nelson Atkins and the Kemper Museum, which the students frequent for inspirational and assignment purposes."
When she was selected to attend the Art Institute's three-week resident Pre-College Art Lab recently she was thrilled but a little nervous.


The very competitive application process required a portfolio submission. The experience taught her many new techniques to explore for animation, life-drawing and writing, plus she earned three college credits.
Elyse's favorite part of teaching the class at the library was watching the kids create their own stories and working together to build a storyboard as a team. "The results were incredibly creative and I was very proud of how well they learned the material," says Elyse. "I mostly went over simple methods for drawing animals, such as cats and dogs, as well as the basics for drawing a human form. I touched on ways to draw landscapes such as hills and city streets, and then worked with showing the kids how coloring and shading can add depth and realism to a drawing. Once we’d gone over those parts, I showed them how to put together a storyboard and tell a story in a concise and coherent way."


While animation is challenging in many aspects, Elyse believes this process of creating builds patience since developing frame after frame using tedious movement requires time and focus. "Knowledge of how movement works across a wide span of creatures and objects can be difficult," says Elyse. "Writing creatively can require a wide vocabulary and the ability to understand what you need to improve. Being able to lay out a plot line and build a believable set of characters is challenging. But the most satisfying aspect of both animation and creative writing is the end result. Being able to sit back and admire this creation and seeing that you succeeded in making something coherent and interesting is worth all the grueling hours of work."
Since she has a love for both writing and animation, choosing a college will be a tough decision. "I’ve always loved writing, so much in fact that I’m taking a creative writing class with Mr. Casey McCord at my high school this year," says Elyse. "Both mediums tell a story, one through words and one through images, and both elicit completely different feelings. Overall, I enjoy getting to tell stories and creating plots and characters for anyone to enjoy."


She is considering California Institute of the Arts, Ringling College of Art and Design, Parsons/The New School and Savannah College of Art and Design for art and animation and Emory University, Northwestern University and Colombia University for writing.
After college her dream job would be to work for a studio such as Pixar, Dreamworks, Disney or Cartoon Network.


Elyse plans to keep working with children in the mean time.
She believes that since careers such as animation and storyboarding aren’t often introduced to younger kids since they are such complex and sometimes difficult-to-understand learning processes, it is very important for her to continue to offer this opportunity for learning to young children and introduce them to a possible life-long interest.  


She also offers advice for students who love the arts and want to pursue a career in creating.
"Go for it. Pursuing a career in art can be scary and uncertain at times, but if you believe art is the subject you love the most, nothing should stop you. If you wish to improve your artistic skills, always be sure to take any art and writing classes available at your school.  Sign-up for continuing education classes, such as the ones offered by Kansas City Art Institute or online. Draw every day and be sure to write in your free time. Always carry a sketchbook in case you get struck with inspiration. When you get to high school, find an art college nearby that offers invitations to the National Portfolio Review Day so you have the experience of presenting your portfolio to college recruiters.  For writing, I always have documents saved on my phone that I can pull out and add to whenever I have new ideas. Don't be scared to write fanfiction and share it online for feedback from different communities. You can even try teaching, because the best way to learn something is to teach it yourself."