Erin O’Malley, Communications and Engagement Associate for The Sachs Program, recently interviewed Emily Fitzpatrick ( C’ 2017) who is currently working for Sesame Workshop as a production coordinator for the animation team. This is a feature in a series The Sachs Program is developing around alumni and their work in the arts.
Alumni Spotlight on Emily FitzPatrick
What is your role at Sesame Workshop? What is your favorite thing about working there?
I’m currently a production coordinator for the animation team at Sesame Workshop. We handle a variety of fun animated projects including “Elmo’s World” and “Abby’s Amazing Adventures,” a new segment of the domestic show that premiered last fall. As production coordinator, I help with the logistics of artist assignments, but I’m also lucky to contribute designs to the show (my character designs will premiere in fall 2019!) Animation is a really fun field to work in, especially at Sesame. Getting to see how the puppets are made and operated is awesome! But I think my favorite part about working here is knowing that we have a big impact on preschool kids around the world. I’m really proud to work for an organization that does so much for children (and their parents) on a global scale. Our mission statement is to “help kids grow smarter, stronger, and kinder” and I’m happy to contribute to that cause every day!
Share an image of an illustration you’ve recently worked on and say a few words about what inspired it.
I made this illustration recently thinking about the kind of smart, curious girls I looked up to when I was young. I always thought I wanted to be an inventor when I was a kid—I loved the idea of tinkering with things and was always drawn to inventor-type characters in the media I consumed. I drew on a lot of different sources for this; I wanted the workshop to mix really new technology with older vintage pieces, like the antique radio. I also wanted it to give a sense of the girl’s personality with the little trinkets she has on her table (they’re all things I have on my own desk today!) I also wanted to have the lion statue be a kind of battery/charging source – I’m Asian American, so I like to draw on that imagery in my work, and I’ve always loved the idea of plugging my laptop into an ancient statue. It also continues that idea of mixing old and new.
How did pursuing dual majors in Fine Arts and Cinema Studies allow you to study animation during your time at Penn?
I consider myself really lucky to have worked with the wonderful professors from both the Fine Arts and Cinema Studies departments at Penn. The Cinema and Media studies department taught me how to analyze and think about film, which is crucial to creating an animated movie with depth. The Fine Arts department helped me really hone in on my technical artistic skills—I particularly loved classes in digital illustration, sequential art, and (of course) digital hand drawn animation! In a way, these departments gave me the tools to answer the “how” and “why” of animated films. I’m also grateful to the Digital Media Design department and the resources they provided to open the world of animation to me.
You run Happy Pineapple Charms, an Etsy store that sells kawaii-inspired trinkets. How did you get into working with polymer clay?
I started working with polymer clay in 2016—it’s an interest that actually grew out of a 3D modeling class I took at Penn. Working in 3D requires really different thought processes, so I thought it would be a good way for me to practice thinking in 3D space, which is important for our current feature animation market. I taught myself using YouTube tutorials and tools I had around the house. It ended up growing into this new medium I loved working with! I personally am a huge sucker for cute things (occupational hazard when you work in animation/kid’s media!), so it’s really nice to be able to create those cute things I love. It’s particularly satisfying because so much of my personal/professional art is digital. Working with polymer clay adds some nice variety to be able to work with tangible physical materials.
What have you learned from simultaneously working on both your own original art and job-related projects?
I think working in a professional/commercial art environment has been a great learning tool for me personally. It’s brought a lot of structure to my original art creation. Passion requires discipline just like anything else, and learning the logistics of how to map out a project and execute your plan has enabled me to make larger scale art projects that I’m really proud of. Working in a commercial environment has also helped me hone in on the kind of art I want to make and to consider what audiences I want to reach with my work. It’s given me an insight into the impact of art that’s really motivated me to focus on the details of my work in a new way. I’m really lucky to have had the instruction I’ve had up to this point, and I look forward to learning and growing even more in the future!