We had the good fortune of connecting with Elizabeth Wheeler and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Elizabeth, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
In college most of us were taught that those in the Animation Industry need to have a very poor Work/Life Balance. I had professors or friends who were very adamant that a work-a-holic mindset was the only way to make it in the industry. As I graduated and started breaking into the industry I realized that such a lifestyle wasn’t for me, and better yet, it didn’t have to be. In my experience, my extracurricular hobbies, interests, and outside life have truly helped me be a better artist, and often times have led to opportunities and inspiration that helps me stand out among the crowd. I practice fencing, and beyond it being great for my mental and physical health, I have obtained jobs through the people I have met through that hobby. I still try to be creative in everything I do, it’s just that I’m letting those muscles get stretched in other areas, beyond my career or business. Art imitates life as they say, and I don’t think I could make the things I do if I wasn’t also living a full life. That being said, It can be a struggle. Especially during the pandemic, as work related tasks are often the only things I can really do that are of interest to me. Still, I try to schedule weekly movie nights with friends and other non-work related activities. A certain part of me and my work is lost if I’m not connecting with the outside world in some way. For me, the balance is about making sure I am filled creatively so I can go and make things based on the wonders in life that inspire me.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I “label” myself as a “Cartoonist and Filmmaker” as I’ve worn a lot of different hats over the years, and I really enjoy it. I’ve worked on both live-action and animated projects, and while my main passion will always be traditional animation, I’ve loved being an editor, gaffer, storyboard artist, writer, and director for live action projects as well. Additionally, during the 2018 Holiday season, I started sending personal holiday cards to my friends and family. This sparked a major interest in stationary and card making, and I just opened an online stationery shop. It’s a whole new journey and I am excited to see where it goes. For me, creating is about making something that will hopefully make a person’s day a little more magical and inspiring, while also exploring unique and out-of-the-box concepts. The medium or genre is irrelevant. That being said, all of my work starts with a drawing, and that is something I wouldn’t be able to live without. The first major challenge in this journey was getting my first full time job as a Character Designer for Animation. It was the job I wanted since I graduated college, but it truly was difficult to get that proverbial foot in the door for a first gig. It’s no secret that Hollywood is an industry heavily reliant on networking. Animation is no different. After a couple years of not hearing back from recruiters, I was blessed to have a friend who worked at a small studio show her boss my portfolio for an open position. I was hired the following day, and the rest is history. As my career grows and I explore new paths, it can be tough to know which patch to follow. What avenue should I explore? There is a risk of being a jack of all trades but a master of none. It’s trying to find that balance between maintaining passion for the work and creating things that people want to see. Overall I want to create work that will take others to new worlds, whether that is by watching a screen or opening a letter.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
n a pre-pandemic world, I would take them to every park possible. In LA, going anywhere can seem overwhelming. At a park, we can just talk, catch up, or do nothing at all. Some of my favorites include the Mar Vista city Park, and the Ballona Freshwater Marsh in Marina Del Rey. If they are an animation nerd like me, we’ll probably want to head to Gallery Nucleus for some animation art and prints, and to Stuart Ng Books for some rare art-of-books and zines. For eating spots, The Stinking Rose is an all garlic restaurant with a unique decor and setting. They even have garlic ice cream (it’s actually way tastier than it sounds). Another one of the best spots is Guildhall in Glendale. It’s a bar with free board games and great food. Most of my birthdays have been spent at either of these places. And if one has a great sweet tooth, The Café D.er is a Corgi-themed shop with amazing soufflés and drinks. Then for the evening, we might go to for a concert at The Welters or he Hollywood Palladium. If we are feeling particularly sociable and daring, we’ll head to my local HEMA club (shout out to Einhorn Los Angeles!) where we’ll hit old and new friends with swords, while getting a good workout at the same time. Hopefully my friend will be visiting during December, when my club has our annual Pirate-Night. We all dress up in pirate outfits, play some sea-shanties, just spar and have a good time.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My parents first and foremost have always been my biggest supporters. They were always adamant that my sister and I follow our passions, even if we didn’t make a career out of them. They wanted us to have the education to do the things we love. They did everything they could to help us get there, and continue to offer love and support to both of us in our lives.