We love a good Hartnell success story, and Jeff Wester, creator of our “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” animated promos and founder/director of Wester Creative in Portland, Oregon is no exception. In an interview, Jeff tells me about how animations are made, how he followed his passion in art to create his own business, and how Hartnell College helped him along the way.
Jeff, tell us a little bit about what you do and about your company.
I own my own graphic design and branding company called Wester Creative and my main point of focus is in developing brands. If someone wants to create a business, they need an identity, they need a logo, colors, fonts, and a way to speak to their audience, explain what they do. So we do graphic design primarily.
Tell us about the process of creating the promotional shorts you did for BBAJ.
I worked with an animator named John Gaskin and I have a few animation contractors that I work with when I need something like that done – who I just hit up. For this project, I provided the overall direction and storyboarding and then I drew all the illustrations and laid them all out, and then once those were all finalized and approved, we sent them over to John [Gaskin] and he made them move and aligned them with music and things like that.
I was mistakenly under the impression that these things were a “one man job.” So it’s more of a team effort?
That’s actually a conversation I have a lot. I would say that in my business I have to do a lot of explaining that things don’t just “exist.” People look at a logo and you don’t see that that was probably 30-40 hours of work by maybe three or four people. In an animation, for example, like for this project with John, he’s primarily a graphic designer who does animation, but he has a certain level of animation skill. If you need a more advanced skill level, you’d have to go to a more expensive contractor who can do something really crazy. There are people out there who do 2D characters, 3D modeling, some just do lighting, textures. There are people that just do rigging – they just make the skeleton that a character moves around on. It just so happens that I’m an illustrator and a designer so I was able to put that all together myself, but I’ve worked on other projects where I write the script, hand that over to a copywriter, who fleshes it out and makes it nice, and then we end up having to create storyboards to convey each part of the animation. So if you’re going to hand a drawing over to someone who’s going to make it move, you have to tell them exactly how you want it to move.
I ended up drawing the illustrations for this [BBAJ] animation three or four times each. Just because I had to do the initial sketches to get approval, and I had to do the storyboarding to tell the animator how to do it, and I had to do the first round of drawing, and then finalize it to make it work for the imagery. It’s a long process.
What led you to attend Hartnell? What was your educational goal?
This was years ago, you’ll have to forgive me [he laughs]. I graduated high school in 1998. At the time, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I knew that it was probably going to be connected to artwork. I’d been drawing and making comic books since I was six years old. So my time at Hartnell was mostly spent in creative work. I called myself an Art Major and I took art classes and creative drawing and things like that, as well as knocking out my prerequisites.
After your time at Hartnell, what brought you into the position you’re in now?
It’s a bit of a side-winding story. I got involved in non-profit work, specifically Christian non-profit events, stuff like that. I ended up becoming a pastor and went to a theological school that I didn’t finish. But that was the direction I was in for 17 years. Then I had some life changes – happens to everybody – career changes. And I decided I didn’t want to do that anymore, so I had to go back and ask, ‘What was I doing before that I really liked?’ And art was always at the forefront, so I shifted directions to graphic design. I was lucky that I had a foundation of basic education, because I really didn’t have any higher education that is related to my field. I’ve seen a lot of people that have struggled to make their way because they didn’t have that baseline education. So I got lucky. It also just so happened that what I did in non-profit really transferred well into marketing.
What are you/your company currently working on? Any notable brands we may have heard of? I’ve been told that you’re working with Dutch Bros. Coffee. Anything else?
I’ve worked on some notable brands like Intel, Power Rangers, Digimon, Paul Frank, AAA, Omission, Franz and Rose City Comic Con. I’m also currently working on projects with Phone Love (Portland) and Rogue Barbers (Grants Pass, OR).
If you know of a Hartnell Success Story, particularly in the Arts, we want to know about it! Contact Media & Marketing Associate, Heather Osteraa, at firstname.lastname@example.org