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John Nevarez, Former Pixar Animation Studios’ Concept Designer, Shares His Knowledge
Updated 2015-06-29
Armed with passion, enthusiasm and the tenacity to excel in the world of animation, John Nevarez, former Pixar Animation Studios concept designer who was also involved in the upcoming animation movie ‘Inside Out’ as its sketch artist, could look no further than his dream to just draw for a living. In a 2-day intense lecture with The One Academy’s Illustration & Digital Animation students, John shared his personal story before teaching the basic principles in film design and drew with the students in an extreme drawing challenge.

John was the eldest of three siblings who grew up in East L.A. and was always drawing wherever he went. He pursued a math major with thoughts of teaching math and believing that a real career meant sitting in an office but fate has a different plan for him.

Although he loved drawing, he never once considered drawing to be a possible career until he watched Lion King in 1992. Back in school, John worked with the school paper, with a friend, and had to produce drawings very quickly, forcing him to work fast and to think under the gun. He subsequently spent lots of time figuring out more storytelling elements, copying and trying to get into other artists’ head. Through the years he tried to teach himself art and built his own version of portfolio which he was not prepared to show anyone else.

John ended up using that portfolio to look for a career in the animation industry but he kept getting turned down. It took him awhile to realise that his works didn’t tailor towards animation and therefore it was extremely challenging for him to get into the industry.

With that realisation, John took education into his own hands and enrolled for classes at the animation union, learning the basics of storyboarding and layout. The education programme there was more structured towards the industry, providing him better opportunities to work towards his goals. John was then able to build a better portfolio which helped him to open a few doors to step into the industry he always wanted to be in.

Now, John travels around the world to teach students by telling his story and sharing the finer details of film design and most importantly, how to build an effective portfolio. Details in which he shared during the seminar included film elements such as composition, lighting, storyboarding, ways to look at films and what does different camera angles say, exercising practical applications such as methodical research to build believability in stories, practicing elaborate thinking process, emphasis on storytelling, warm ups through gesture drawings, character design and other important elements that are essential to succeed in the animation industry.

“The One Academy students are extremely hungry to know more about the creative industry and that is good. To be in this industry, you need to have the passion, the hunger and the enthusiasm to know more. Never take things personally if your work gets rejected and never give up. If something doesn’t work, it is okay to just switch gears and try something different,” John said during an interview conducted after the lecture.

The creative institution organised this seminar as part of its ‘Masters Train Masters’ programme where experienced professionals such as John are brought in to engage and educate the students, with an aim to expose them to real industry standards and help them access to open doors in the art industry.


John Nevarez challenges The One Academy students to a 30-second gesture drawing marathon.



John Nevarez comments on The One Academy students’ works during the lecture.



John Nevarez posing in a group picture with The One Academy’s founder Tatsun Hoi, lecturers and students.