We had the good fortune of connecting with Kamille Rodriguez and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Kamille, the decisions we make often shape our story in profound ways. What was one of the most difficult decisions you’ve had to make?
I would say in terms of career there are two major chapters in which I had to make difficult choices.

After completing my BFA, it soon became clear that my education left huge knowledge gaps in everything from industry standards to basic business acumen. My portfolio was a mix of random figure drawings and still life paintings with a few out of context gouache illustrations. Digital painting was not as prevalent as it is today. I hadn’t even touched photoshop or illustrator until I was a junior in college so there was still a lot of learning ahead of me. Today we have so many resources for online classes, tutorials and mentorships that can guide you through this process. I didn’t have that. At the time, the industry was incredibly opaque and if you didn’t go to one of the top art schools, it was almost impossible to find answers on how to break into concept art or visual development.

After graduating, while I was struggling to pick up random freelance illustration gigs in the San Francisco area, I became aware of the up and coming motion graphics industry. I figured that I could pick up After Effects and finally find work as an artist, even if it wasn’t what I really wanted to do, it was miles apart from the retail jobs I was working at the time to stay afloat. My mother had just passed away and I had an urgent need to take control of my life to make her proud. I decided that I needed a fresh start. I started looking into MFA programs on the east coast and I eventually landed a spot at Parsons in New York City.

Moving across the country alone with no savings to pursue my dreams was the first difficult decision I had to make. Cut to two years later, I learned everything I could about not only motion graphics, but the entire pipeline of 3D animation as well as a broad understanding of several other skills including web design, UI/UX design, game theory and so much more. Throughout my studies I remained focused on my goals of becoming a marketable working artist. With that mindset, I was able to craft my own path that allowed me to play in several different sandboxes. I started my career as an artist for games and eventually made my way up to an Art Director of Video and Motion Design for a major brand in New York City. It was a thrilling experience to work in the fast paced industry of advertising. Eventually, I started to get that pull inside me to make another big change. I needed to go back to my roots. I needed to paint and draw again.

To cut this long story short, after working many long nights and weekends over the course of a few years on my portfolio, while maintaining a full time job in advertising, I decided to move my whole life that I built in NYC to LA. Again, I was looking at a place where I had no work or family connections to pursue another dream. Thankfully, I had been preparing for a long time, and I quickly started working as a concept artist, and matte painter for games and animation. It was a surreal experience but I can at least say that the hard decisions paid off.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m most proud of the versatility that I have built over the years and I think my unconventional path sets me apart in terms of my approach to my work. When you are in the learning phase of your craft, it’s hard to see your own progress. It’s even harder to see how things will connect over time. I have had so many different roles over the course of my career, and I have learned to bring something of value from each of them with me on my journey to whatever’s next.

There were many years of blindly trying things. I have an obsessive quality to my pursuits. I think that has helped build discipline in the face of uncertainty. It was not easy but I wholeheartedly believe that learning things the hard way is unfortunately also the most effective.

I had a strong motivator to make my mother proud. Of course, I wanted o make everyone proud, myself included, but having to find my path while grieving was a powerful tool in overcoming any challenges thrown at me. It made me extremely focused and shielded me from getting distracted, which I think is the ultimate deterrent of all creative endeavors. I buried myself in work, and I made sure that I wasn’t in a vacuum, so that I could quantify my training in a tangible way. That’s where community and mentorship comes in.

One of the most important things I have learned is that being easy to work with is one of the key ingredients to making you essential. It’s easy to get frustrated and complain when projects shift and deadlines are tight. However, if you can remain calm through the storm and deliver the best work you can possibly produce, people will remember that and you will not regret it.

I take a lot of pride in my unconventional path. I think it’s important to share our stories and own them. Working as an artist is difficult enough as it is. We need to dispel the notion that there is a right or wrong way to build a career. I would like people to know that I took a chance on myself and I didn’t know if it would work out, but what I found was something that I would never have imagined if I didn’t try. It’s the same way I feel about sitting down to make a new painting. Sometimes we don’t know how it’s going to turn out, but we don’t even know what questions to ask until we start. I hope more people are encouraged by my story to start, and keep starting over and over again, rather than looking for a finish line, because there isn’t one.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
This is such a hard question to answer for me because I would not be the best LA tour guide! When I moved here it was right before the pandemic and I have spent most of my time in the immediate area of my house.

However, since things opened up again in the past few years, I have thoroughly enjoyed visiting LA’s museums. There are so many more than most people hear about. The Norton Simon is my favorite. They have a stellar collection with some of the most beautifully curated spaces I’ve ever seen. Not to mention the sculpture garden in the back where you can grab a snack or a drink and enjoy the sun on your face near the lily pond.

Beyond that, if I had to host someone here for a week that has never been here before, then we would definitely hit up a few beaches in Malibu and splurge on a fancy dinner at Nobu.

There’s a beautiful botanical garden in my area that allows dogs to visit on Sundays, so we would definitely spend a sunny afternoon there with my pups and a picnic. I also learned that LA culture has a huge obsession with donuts so we would have to grab something at Sidecar. My favorite is the butter and salt flavor. A day trip to Catalina is only about an hour’s ferry ride from the coast so that would be a fun little outing as well. We could parasail and hike along the nature preserve.

To end the trip, I might suggest a comedy show and some street tacos because that’s just what you do in LA. I know that was a bit all over the place and there’s so much more LA has to offer, but I hope I covered the basics!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My family was always incredibly supportive. I started drawing as a hobby with my dad when I was a little girl. My interest in the arts and my decision to go to art school were met with nothing but love and support. I am truly grateful for that. There are countless friends who I could lean on for emotional support as well. You know who you are!

During the difficult years of building up my skills to work in animation, I worked closely with Tyler Carter as my sole mentor. He was instrumental in my artistic growth. Through all that time I was burning the midnight oil, I was in a supportive relationship with my partner, Vince, who I also need to shout out for his patience and always believing in me.

I do have a book recommendation. When I first began my freelance career in New York, I read The Freelance Manifesto: A Field Guide for the Modern Motion Designer by Joey Korenman. It was incredibly helpful in more ways than I can count, particularly in guiding me through the delicate strategies of cold emailing and building professional relationships. The content is applicable more than just motion designers so I recommend it to anyone in any industry looking to build their soft skills in a creative freelance market.

Website: https://kamillustrator.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kamillustrator/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kamillerodriguez/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kamillustrator

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutLA is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.