How Sports Helped Him Score A Career // Tony Hocevar
We asked our Lead CGI Animator, Tony Hocevar, about his work.
Q: As Indigo’s lead animator, I wonder if you had dreams of creating your own animation one day. What were some of your early influences as a child?
A: Oh, I absolutely loved cartoons when I was a kid. I was that kid –- Saturday morning in PJs, glued to the TV, fascinated with the animation. But I had other inspiration as well. My grandfather was a fantastic artist. He drew realistic drawings, mostly of his own horses. I can still vividly remember his drawings.
Q: What are some of your other early memories as they relate to art?
A: One thing I totally remember is getting in trouble all the time in elementary school for drawing, doodling, and being engrossed in my artwork instead of what was going on in class. Luckily for me, my parents saw that I had some talent, and signed me up for art classes. Later on, as a teenager, I took art classes, but that was only in school. Outside of school I was really into sports.
Q: What kinds of sports did you like?
A: Well, I grew up playing hockey — ice hockey and roller hockey — and soccer too. Even as an adult I played in a hockey league. But that was before my wife and I decided to expand our family.
Q: Did you get involved in art in college or did you play sports?
A: Both. I went to Mississippi State and got my BFA in figurative oil painting with an emphasis on computer animation. I truly believe that getting that solid background in traditional art makes me a stronger visual artist, no matter what format I work in. I feel that I come to the table with more to offer — a depth of knowledge and a keener eye.
Q: What were your work opportunities after you graduated college?
A: My roommate, his dog, and I loaded up a U-Haul and drove out to LA seeking our fame and fortune. My first job out there was working at an Art Gallery in Venice, but I really wanted to work in 3D. Knowing how competitive it is out there, I never stopped working on my own animation portfolio. I worked to hone my software skills but also made a point of continuing to work on my art. And luckily, I was still involved in hockey.
Q: Why do you say luckily? How did that help you?
A: While in LA, I played in an ice hockey league, and one of my teammates worked for Disney as a 3D animator. He helped me get a job there and that really jump-started my career as an animator. I’ve always been grateful that I have interest in both sports and art –- and this was a perfect example of synergy!
Q: What else helped you grow in your career?
A: I went from Disney to become a game tester for EA but I realized that’s not what I had a passion for, and it was too corporate for me. I guess discovering what you don’t want is as important as knowing what you do want.
Then I went to a company in Sacramento where I created medical animations. I had a wonderful mentor there. I think having a great mentor can be very powerful. I was there for five years, and learned a ton. Then I put feelers out for jobs back in Atlanta to be closer to family and friends. I landed a job at Indigo, and here I am…8 years later.
I guess discovering what you don’t want is as important as knowing what you do want.
Q: And the rest is history. Can you describe some of the work you do for Indigo Studios?
A: One project that stands out for me was creating animation for a local Atlanta company that was pitching a project for a major bridge in Turkey. The bridge was going to be a sustainable causeway — having green spaces as well as a water duct. The quick turn around time was a huge challenge but we did it, and they got the gig. I still feel really good about that project.
Q: Do you have any words of advice for those coming into this field?
A: Stick with it. Don’t give up. It is so competitive that sometimes it’s easy to get frustrated and change course. But just keep working on your portfolio and your work will improve, and you’ll get better and better. It’s not just about growing with the new software; it’s about plugging away at your art. Like they say, you can have the best sporting equipment and uniforms, but if you can’t play the game…what good is it?