We had the good fortune of connecting with Charlie Bryant and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Charlie, have you ever found yourself in a spot where you had to decide whether to give up or keep going? How did you make the choice?
I think the biggest part of keeping momentum is that experience of almost giving up. Especially with art.
Every time I sit down to create, whether it’s for work or for me, I have these same patterns. I think about how great it’ll be when it’s finished! Then I start and…nothing.
Putting something down on a blank page is just so personal and emotional. It’s like going through all the stages of grief, but over how to hook up your shots! There’s so many steps to get to that level of internal acceptance, I swear I almost give up every time. I’ll daydream about throwing in the towel, giving up everything and becoming an accountant.
But then… you make just one single drawing that you like. Just one, and everything grows out of that. You put a piece of yourself into it, this spark, and you build on it. It’s that spark you didn’t know was inside of you, that might have been there the whole time! It’s this rush of touch and go and highs and lows. That’s why I love working in animation, it has a natural emotional flow.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Animation fueled my journey to LA, but it took many years. It started when I realized all my favorite shows were made here. These artists from Adventure Time had started sharing behind-the-scenes work online. It inspired me, it’s when I knew what I wanted to do. I attended animation school and found work at Toronto studios, but the real hustle started with social media and showing people what I could do.
Whenever I had a moment between deadlines, I put personal projects online. It was a lot of fan art, like sketches of Sonic the Hedgehog or a re-interpretations of Legend of Zelda. I tried to output stuff on a frequent basis, just having something out there and versus what I considered perfect art. At one point I posted on Instagram every day for 100 days, just to see if I could, and I went through a huge artistic growth. I started to get a small audience who liked how often I’d put out stuff.
I didn’t know this at the time, but this was the secret for International artists looking to move here – I was getting eyes on me. For a sponsorship to work out, you have to prove to studios AND to the USCIS that you are unique, irreplaceable and 100% worth the hire. So because I threw all my energy at my online presence, almost every job offer I’ve ever received has been through Twitter DM’s.
I got to work on American projects from Canada. Capybara Games hit me up for animation on Cartoon Network’s OK KO: Let’s Play Heroes!, a game based on the show. Then DisneyTV called, they were looking for storyboard artists for The Owl House. I worked on that project from my basement in Toronto for a whole year. It all led up to the biggest win – Netflix offered me the opportunity to move down here with a work visa. I’ve been here for almost two years now!
Making it down to California has been a whirlwind. My expat friends know the ups and downs of visa sponsorship, the hoops you need to jump through. I will never forget the four flights in one weekend for my visa interview. But after all the stress and time and work, when everything finally lines up perfectly, the joy of finding yourself exactly where you’ve always wanted to be is incredible. I have chances now to work with artists and friends I’ve known online for years. Charlie from 5 years ago couldn’t have imagined this. Even now, though we’re all working from home again, I’m so grateful for landing here.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’m a big Mall Rat. I love wandering around, seeing what’s new in the windows, grabbing a pretzel. My absolute favorite spot is the Americana. I mean – A mall that’s outside!? And you can go there in February? And there’s not 3 feet of snow? I can wear shorts!! Los Angeles winter feels like Toronto Spring to me, it’s wonderful.
So much of my life has been landlocked, so I’ll never get over looking at the ocean. One of the first get-togethers here, I went to this barbecue on Dockweiler Beach. Some friends grabbed a fire pit early in the morning, and we just sat out the whole day. We stayed there from sunrise to sunset. I’d only been here for a month at that point, and I’m pretty sure that’s when I fell in love with this place. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I want to shout out to my great friend, Mike Horowitz. We met on an art forum over 10 years ago when he drew one of my characters. We became tight online penpals, he’d drive 5 hours to the Toronto Comics Art Festival (TCAF) every year to hang out. Years later our online friendship evolved into my being a groomsman at his wedding.
Mike has this drive and this vision that I deeply respect. He will wake up one day and say “I’m just going to paint every day for a month and see what happens.” I’ve seen his artistic growth burst in such short periods, I strive to be just as good as him. He is such a versatile artist- he animates, he does Inktober every year. He just doesn’t have limits!
Our friendship sometimes feels straight out of Pokémon. Sometimes he’s a dear friend, other times he’s my greatest rival. He probably doesn’t know this, but I often see him as a mentor. He’s the first person I try to bounce an idea off of. If I had an infinite budget, I’d just throw it at him to see what he’d make.
OK KO Let’s Play Heroes belongs to Cartoon Network Studios The Owl House belongs to Disney TVA