Wanna get inside the minds of GIPHY’s incredibly talented team of artists, illustrators, animators, and creators?! We are proud to present the first edition in our Creator Spotlight series! Each month, one of our artists interviews another creator within GIPHY to discuss a wide variety of topics on their careers, passions, influences, life advice, dolphins, and whatever else they feel like discussing.
Tianna Harvey is an Art Director, Motion Designer, and Animator living in Los Angeles. By day she makes GIFs and Stickers for GIPHY, and by night she dreams of living in an apartment with an in-unit washer dryer. In this interview, we’ll dive deeper into her juicy, thick mind and discover her unlikely motivations and inspirations behind some of GIPHY’s greatest GIFs.
Conducting Tianna’s interview is GIPHY’s very own Sazan Pasori. Sazan animates, designs, and art directs for brands and entertainment clients. As a creative professional, she provides motion graphics and production services for the creation of promotional content, short-form visuals, and merchandise. She’s currently based in Los Angeles and works for GIPHY as an Art Director.
Sazan: Ok, first question how dare you?
Tianna: I regret nothing.
Sazan: Thank you. So what did you want to be when you grew up?
Tianna: I wanted to be a figure skater. Pretty badly. But I didn’t figure skate until — not figure skate, just skating — I didn’t do that until I was nine or ten. And then that’s when I gave it up.
Sazan: Where did you get that idea? To be a figure skater.
Tianna: I used to watch TV with my grandma and I think the Olympics were on or something. I was about four and I was like; that’s it…It was the eleganza. It was definitely the outfits. It was just so graceful and smooth. It’s sort of like good motion design. You just get a feeling when you watch it.
Sazan: When they land it right on time…
Tianna: And it’s so graceful. It looks like they didn’t even try. So I couldn’t do that with my body, so now, I do that with my MIND.
Sazan: You’ve done some really rigorous animation projects in the last few months. How do you manage your workflow and process?
Tianna: There’s actually one thing I don’t like about my process. When I’m focused on something, I’m really focused and I give it everything I have. And when I’m not, I just drop it. Like 3D [animation], you can’t just drop it and come back and expect to know everything you knew when you were there last. It takes a lot of fiddling. For some things it’s fine. For illustrating it’s fine. For things that are less technical it’s fine. But, harder things — I’m not saying it’s not a great way to work. But it is my way of working. Because I always work better under pressure. Point a gun at me and I will make you a beautiful 2D animation.
Sazan: I feel you. In animation especially, there are so many ways to do it.
Tianna: …it can be really overwhelming to think of all of the things you have to do well to just put out an animation. And so, I would start doing something one way and then realize ‘wow, I should not be doing it this way,’ and then that wouldn’t work. And then I’d have to come back to step one. All of that going around in circles takes so much time.
Sazan: And sometimes that can feel good; the whole “discovery” process. But when you have a hot deadline…
Tianna: It does not feel good! I’ve definitely learned so much. I’m working on animation with dinosaurs and their bodies are human but also reptilian; like no animation plugin will work with that. The program just doesn’t understand it. My girlfriend manually rigged a T-Rex for me after I had a breakdown and cried.
Sazan: That’s love.
Tianna: Yeah, she was like: ‘I got this. I’m gonna learn how to rig today’ and I was like, ‘thank god,’ and she was like, ‘why don’t you go play some Tony Hawk and shut the f**k up.’
Sazan: Oh my god that’s so sweet…
Tianna: But after she rigged it, I found a whole other way to animate the character and I sort of started all over with a whole different approach.
Sazan: I find myself “starting from scratch” a lot in my work and I know it’s a bad habit. Do you find yourself doing that too?
Tianna: I actually don’t usually do that. Like when I get started, it doesn’t look good. It’s never gonna look good as soon as you get started. You really have to look for opportunities to push it where you can. Sometimes I will do a sketch or something…with illustrations I’ll get down some shapes and be like, ‘oh my god these shapes look terrible,’ and I’ll just delete and start over. But with a bigger piece, in pieces, I will throw things out, but I am never starting all over again.
Sazan: Talk to me about your artistic style.
Tianna: I do have my own style. Whenever I start any piece I am always looking at different styles and seeing ways to incorporate someone else’s…haha how I’m going to steal someone else’s style and put it in there. Especially with GIFs you have to. I would just get bored doing the same style. And I’m always looking how I can push it in some way. I do copy some styles. But I can never get it quite there. There’s always gonna be a piece of you in there. I’ve tried doing a lot of clean, vector looking stuff. But, still I can’t do it. I always have a hard time doing good, clean work. There’s always something a little dirty to what I’m doing.
Sazan: Why do you think that is?
Tianna: It’s kind of instinctual. I think it comes from painting so much which is where I started out. If you look at my first computer art class. I mean all the way through college, all of my stuff was very painterly.
Sazan: A lot of your work is really funny. Most recently, you’re working on a short animation featuring “sexy dinosaurs.” Where do you get the ideas that fuel these unlikely narratives?
Tianna: Well for that one I just knew I wanted to do something with dinosaurs. So I just sort of held onto that. Once I started putting together a deck, I saw an image of some dinosaurs in the water and I was like, “they’re kind of sexy…” so sometimes it’s just staring at paper and using something visual to enhance the concept more. But also, sometimes you just have a crazy idea. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but there’s this GIF [I made] of a dolphin. And on the GIF it says, “you disgust me.” I had drawn this sketch in college and it was this bitchy looking dolphin. And I’ve always kept it, I don’t know why. Hold on, I can show it you…so it looks really stupid but also very funny? I was just hanging out in my room and I was like…it can be anything. Especially for GIFs, they’re so short. It can really be anything. Noun, adjective, dolphin, bitchy. There you go. But personal work, I’m so bad at getting started on it because there’s no letter grade attached.
Sazan: You don’t grade yourself ever?
Tianna: I do. And I always know it’s gonna be an ‘A,’ so why even do it…
Sazan: It’s honestly really hard to carve out time for personal creative work.
Tianna: As creatives your work is your passion, and it’s just exhausting to go from putting all of yourself into a product and then having anything left for yourself to actually play with. Cuz it’s like, there’s been a lot of stuff I’ve wanted to make personally for GIPHY, and just like in my free time, just a GIF, and I end up using it for a different GIPHY project because I don’t have anything. The well…she ain’t always running baby.
Sazan: General creative advice?
Tianna: Girl, no one is giving me advice. I just think everyone is just figuring it out. I don’t like to put too much pressure on anything.
Sazan: Yeah, there’s no absolutes.
Tianna: I’m just trying to nap. My advice is get some sleep. I love sleep and I think it helps. But also I do think sitting alone in a room with a sketchbook. It’s kind of like working out. Being creative is like working out. So, it’s really hard to get out of bed and start working out. Like, that’s the hardest part. Once you’re there you’re doing it. Like ok, I never have trouble finishing — well I do, I don’t like it. I do finish it if I’m there. The chances of me not finishing it once I’ve started are not very big. But the chances of me never starting are huge. Just like: when I wake up, I’m gonna open my sketchbook, it’s not that you have to draw. If you want to write, go ahead and write down ideas, or free association, just do that. Just something to start the process.
Sazan: Dream collaborators? Go big.
Tianna: Honestly, I don’t like the idea of working with a hero. Obviously there are artists that I love and who I really look up to.
Sazan: What about for someone? Like a favorite actor or musician.
Tianna: Ok I am lying. There are some music acts…like, should I just..email them? The acts are mostly Latinx musicians and they mostly don’t speak English on their tracks. So I don’t know if they would work with me…
Sazan: Pero, name them…
Tianna: I love Ms. Nina and Tomasa del Real. They’re really funny and I enjoy their music. The genre is reggaeton, but more specifically ‘neo parejo’.. It just means like, getting down in the club music. So ‘neo parejo,’ is just like, “new” parejo music which traditionally is very masculine. I like that they’re bringing something feminine to it. Another person I’d like to collab with; she’s more of a photographer/does casting, but I’d also love to collaborate with Alondra Buccio (@kwlsey on instagram). I don’t know her but I love what she does.
Sazan: And for you that’s just native. You were born with it.
Tianna: If you’re not funny, just quit. Walk out the door.
Sazan: That’s actually great advice. Do you feel creatively fulfilled?
Tianna: Bro, why are you asking me that?