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 stepping stones

Part I
A rigorous Dutch high school education, heavy with the academics necessary to prepare one for university, but lacking in the arts, still left me at a loss with what to do with my life. A few years of part-time jobs while I studied drawing and sculpture with local artists, helped me decide to use my best talent to make a living:
I would pursue something arty.

sandra groeneveld

Having no wish to be a “starving artist”, the pragmatic path was to obtain a degree in Commercial Art. During my studies, the flying logo on the intro to “Monday Night at the Movies” mesmerized me. I wanted to make things move … in 3D.

With portfolio in hand, I was able to land a job with a firm that had what I wanted: a computer. This was the age of Genigraphics, a turn-key computer system used primarily for presentation graphics in the corporate world. Many years of long hours and tight deadlines, producing the bread & butter graphs, charts and copy slides followed. The perks were the occasional magazine cover and movie ad, converting an abstract concept into a picture. Squeezing art out of a vector-based machine that could only display 256 colors became the classic right-brain / left-brain challenge.

sandra groeneveld

But the 3D world remained elusive.

Part II
My search started for a company with a bigger computer. Disney had some.

Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida wasn’t interested in my previous experience; they only wanted to see drawings. A new portfolio with sketches, secured me a spot in their 3-month internship, a crash course in animation designed to measure your talent and mettle.

My successful completion of this internship was awarded with an offer for a full time position in either character or special effects animation. The latter was my choice, since this road was at the time, the only road to 3D animation.

I had the luck and privilege to arrive on the scene just at the start of the Second Golden Age of Animation. My work started with traditional effects and character cleanup on none other than “Beauty and the Beast”. After “Aladdin” and Roger Rabbit’s “Trail Mix-Up”, I started work in the 3D realm on computers running Unix. I finally lived in the world of CVs and pixels! This led to credits on “The Lion King”, “Pocahontas”, “Mulan”, “Dinosaur”, “Lilo & Stitch” and “Brother Bear”.

sandra groeneveld

The work was challenging and rewarding. You could go from positioning a character in a single frame to choreographing hundreds of riders on horseback while animating a camera to reveal the start of a pivotal battle (Mulan). In Florida, the close-knit team of artists and technicians made the impossible, possible. Animation is hugely collaborative and thus in turn becomes the greatest education anyone could wish for.

Part III

Walt Disney Feature Animation left Florida in 2004. It was time to unplug and invest in myself.

A year off rekindled an old interest in small squares. Not pixels this time, but tesserae. The seed planted long ago during a class on “how-to-glue-broken-tiles-to-a-pot”, started to grow. Scavenged broken tiles quickly gave way to more refined materials and methods. It was crucial to retain more control on the final product; I wanted the expressiveness and design of the underlying drawing to shine through. In mosaics I actually found an art form that can be even more tedious and time consuming than animation.

sandra groeneveld

Stacks of books initially helped me get started experimenting with various materials and techniques. Though the medium was new to me, the underlying principals of my previous work for design, composition and story telling still guide me in every piece. Valuable hands-on instruction with mosaic artists from the US and Europe continues to enrich my knowledge.

Looking at what has come before is of utmost importance to me. Studying the ancient works is primary in order to learn the language of mosaic. As I continue to build my own body of work, the techniques I use become second nature and my own voice and style comes through.

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