Julia Wells / Legacy Media
Children and adults alike are swept up by romantic, flowing ball gowns and swashbuckling heroes, eyes widened in wonder, mesmerized by every detail as the result of painstaking animation. Such films have captured the attention of the world since 1906, and still do today. While many hold such childhood memories in their hearts, a select few talented individuals take their passion for animated film one step farther.
Senior Michelle Inciarte spent the summer delving into the art of animation among the best of the nation at the prestigious California State Summer School of the Arts (CSSSA), one of only 20 students selected from out-of-state.
Founded in 1987, CSSSA is internationally renowned for its animation program, turning away half of its applicants annually. Part of the selective application process includes two required letters of recommendation, one of which came from art teacher Mike Hall.
“Michelle is the first I know of from KCHS to apply and go to the program,” Hall said. “It’s a great opportunity; it always helps when students take the initiative to embrace these experiences.”
Inciarte applied the summer after her freshman year, but was rejected, causing her to lose hope. Getting admitted into the prestigious animation program seemed like a distant dream then. It was only after encouragement from her friends and family that she applied again. One of her friends, fellow senior Zeeshan Hussain said he was glad she got the chance to explore amd improve her talents over the summer.
“I was really happy for her,” Hussain said. “She worked really hard for it, and I knew she could do it.”
After absorbing all the information that she could during the month-long program and meticulously going over her work, Michelle showcased her final project, a short animated film, with the entire camp watching, an audience of over 400 students. She felt that this was a defining moment in her artistic career.
“During our final screening I was super nervous to see my film on a big screen with a theater full of people watching,” Inciarte said. “It wasn’t until after it was over and it was silent again that I could tell my film made people cry. It was cool to see that my art affected people. It made me want to keep making things that made others feel something, whether it was happiness, sadness or hope.”
As for advice for other students who want to be animators and artists, Inciarte stresses the importance of drawing daily.
“A common misconception about art is that it’s all talent, but it’s just like sports,” she said. “Artists have to have natural ability, but without practicing they won’t be the best they can be. They can’t let rejection stop them. Just because someone doesn’t like their art doesn’t mean it isn’t good.”
She advises all aspiring animators to apply for the program, even if they do not think they will get in.
“CSSSA helped me find my artistic soul and helped me define my style,” Inciarte said. “I learned how to put myself into my animation to make the story clearer. I know I’m a better artist because of it.”