A still from The Scarecrow, produced by Moonbot Studios for Chipotle Mexican Bar & Grill
“I came to the realization that, with art, the more you do, the more it鈥檒l give back to you.”
Many artists would think they鈥檇 hit the big time after winning an Academy Award, but for Adam Volker, this was just the beginning.
Like many artists, his story is one of getting into college and realizing he wasn鈥檛 the best anymore. It鈥檚 also one of job uncertainty, staying true to doing what he loved, and constantly pushing himself to work on challenging and exciting projects.
Growing up in Minneapolis, he started drawing from an early age thanks to encouragement from his mother, an art teacher herself.
At school, he soon developed a reputation as 鈥榯he kid who drew things鈥? and, after graduating, it seemed natural for Adam to go to art college.
However, once he got there, he soon realized he wasn鈥檛 the only one with artistic ability.
鈥淚t was like a light switch being turned on in my brain,鈥 he says. 鈥淚t鈥檚 then that I knew I had to up my game and work really hard. I came to the realization that, with art, the more you do, the more it鈥檒l give back to you.鈥滭/p>
And so, he got his head down, put all his efforts into his art and felt really happy with his achievements when he graduated. There was just one problem 鈥 he couldn鈥檛 actually find any work after leaving.
Midway Games and an Uncertain Future
After a few months of uncertainty, he got a phone call that would change the course of his creative career. A friend from college was working for Midway Games in Austin, Texas, and asked Adam if he鈥檇 consider moving there and working as a concept artist. Adam didn鈥檛 need much convincing. He packed his bags and prepared to re-locate more than 1,000 miles from home.
At the time, Midway Games was responsible for producing some of the world鈥檚 biggest games titles, such as Mortal Kombat. That鈥檚 why it was such a shock when the company went bankrupt in 2009, leaving its staff to continue working on projects they knew would never see the light of day.
鈥淚t was a surreal experience,鈥 explains Adam. 鈥淚鈥檇 only just started, and here we were being told the company was going into liquidation! At the time, I had no industry experience, so it was all very new and strange to me.鈥滭/p>
Thankfully, Adam managed to land a job at BioWare, and began making friends among the supportive and highly creative game development community in Austin.
One of these new friends was William Joyce, an artist who was working on children鈥檚 books and developing his 鈥楳an in The Moon鈥 titles into an animation with Dreamworks.
He suggested a move to Shreveport, Louisiana, where he and some other friends were talking about setting up their own animation studio.
Moonbot Studios and Winning Academy Awards
And, with that, Moonbot Studios was born and Adam quickly got absorbed into his new role as creative director. Together with William and fellow artists Joe Bloom and Brandon Oldenburg, he stared storyboard work on a short film, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore.
Their hard work paid off, and the film scooped an Academy Award in 2012. But, rather than resting on their laurels, Adam and the team knew they had to keep working hard to make Moonbot Studios a lasting success story.
鈥淪urprising as it may seem, it wasn鈥檛 such an easy ride after winning the award,鈥 explains Adam. 鈥淥nce you divide all the money up between everyone who worked on the project, it鈥檚 not actually such a huge amount. You鈥檝e just got to keep on drumming up work, which can be tough at times. You often find that only one out of every 10 jobs actually pans out, so the only way to keep on going is to take a lot of jobs on board at one time. Trying to juggle all this can get really draining at times.鈥滭/p>
However, it鈥檚 not all been an uphill struggle for Adam and his team. As he explains, 鈥淓ventually, you find people with real vision to work with on projects, and that can be really exciting. One such project was The Scarecrow, an animation to accompany the app-based game launched by Mexican food chain, Chipotle.
The film focussed on the importance of sustainable farming and was a huge hit on YouTube. If you haven鈥檛 seen it, you can check it out here:
As creative director, Adam鈥檚 job involves talking to artists and clients and bringing his vision to a project. He says: 鈥淚 like to get everybody working in tune with each other on a project. I always ask everyone involved 鈥榃hat鈥檚 going to make this an exciting project for you to work on?鈥欌€滭/p>
The future of Moonbot looks exciting, rewarding, and always challenging. 鈥淥ur eyes have always been bigger than our stomachs,鈥 laughs Adam, who says they often take on jobs where the whole project has been a process of trying out new things and working out how they鈥檙e going to achieve a quality end result.
Although Adam and his team are heavily involved in producing console-based games most of the time, they still find time to produce children鈥檚 books and short films. In his spare time, Adam likes working on comic book projects with Joe Bloom. They recently held a gallery exhibition which you can check out on Adam鈥檚 Tumblr feed.
So, what still excites Adam about art? 鈥淔or me, art is about communicating something you can鈥檛 say with words,鈥 he explains. 鈥淭he ultimate challenge is to create something that people can relate to. That鈥檚 what still gets me all fired up!鈥滭/p>
Listen to this week鈥檚 show and learn:
- Why you need to be committed to your art to succeed
- How a creative director role often involves dealing with many different people
- Why hustling for projects in an essential part of the process
People on this Episode:
Mentioned in the episode:
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