After graduation, alumni from New York’s School of Visual Arts (SVA) branch out to a wide array of creative professions. The proudest moment for each department is when those alumni return as faculty to help nurture the next generation of artists.
In a variety of courses and disciplines, instructors in SVA’s BFA Animation, BFA Computer Art, Computer Animation & Visual Effects, and MFA Computer Arts departments strive to mix the realities of career and passion for their crafts that challenge their students to push their art to the next level.
Victoria Arslani (BFA 2013 Animation) is a Brooklyn-based stop motion animator and fabricator who returned to her alma mater to teach stop motion in 2021. Arslani started her career as a freelancer working on projects for Nick Jr, Kellogg’s, and animating on various music videos (namely “Bad News” by Buddy & “Long Road Home” by Oneohtrix). These days, she brings her experience working at Buck and collaborating with Mighty Oak – along with many other New York studios – to the classroom and is now teaching the very class that she loved so much during her time as an animation student.
The stop motion class was invigorated when Arslani introduced students to the world of fabrication, puppet making, and animation. Students get to stretch their creative muscles away from the tablet, creating stop-motion puppets and developing short animated films.
Arslani was eager to share her favorite part about returning to the SVA community as an instructor:
… I get to be the teacher of what used to be my favorite part of the day. I love being an outlet for the students’ creativity. You really never know what kind of puppets everyone will make and it’s so rewarding and wonderful seeing everyone go from having some wire covered in couch foam to a finished puppet that they feel proud of. I am really looking forward to helping build up our new stop motion lab in the near future and upgrading all of our equipment to better suit our growing department.
Arslani’s advice for someone interested in pursuing animation in college, stop motion in particular, is to not give up and to make as many connections as you can.
Your community is what will keep you going, and there is always something new to learn and someone there to be your teacher.
BFA Computer Art
Shayne Ryan (BFA 2008 Computer Art, Computer Animation & Visual Effects) is an industry-leading cg artist with a passion for animated performances, shot composition, and visual storytelling. He has animated iconic characters such as the Hulk and The Pillsbury Dough Boy, with a clientele that includes LEGO, Google, Samsung, Dell, Nissan, and Mcdonald’s. His professional journey began at Oscar-winning studio Framestore in New York, where he grew into an animation lead and eventually the deputy head of the cg department. After leaving Framestore, Ryan co-founded his own boutique animation studio Free Range VFX in 2020.
In 2012, Ryan returned to SVA to teach the emerging 3d animators and vfx artists. His Thesis Production class for senior students emphasizes his passion for visual storytelling. Ryan enables students to refine their films and bring their visions to life with the same conversations found in professional studios and with directors. “What’s important to you? What are you trying to say? What composition will work best here? What shot needs to come next?”
Reflecting on his time at SVA, Ryan expresses his gratitude to his former professors for his start at Framestore while explaining that some of his students become his professional peers. When it comes to teaching, Ryan says:
Students come to SVA because they are inspired to create something. The only motivation is to make the best film possible, and I get to be a part of that process.
To aspiring animators, Ryan states there is no secret to animation and offers this bit of advice:
Be ready to struggle, to obsess, to delete it all, and to start over. That’s the process. Teachers can show you the fundamentals, give feedback, and recommend tips and tricks, but the truth is that developing the skills and a critical eye to evaluate your own work simply takes time. So keep practicing.
MFA Computer Arts
Ben Voldman is an animator and illustrator whose signature style includes quirky characters, friendly pets, and mouth-watering snacks. In his artistic career, Voldman has worked with countless notable clients including MTV and Coca-Cola. He has exhibited in venues such as the P339 Gallery, Society of Illustrators, and Bushwick Open Studios. Voldman attained his MFA degree at SVA, where he also now teaches in the MFA Computer Arts Program. He also teaches courses on 3d animation & modeling, advanced 3d techniques, and compositing.
Voldman’s career as an artist has helped inform his teaching practice and vice versa. When asked about how industry experience has aided his teaching, Voldman answered:
…in addition to talking to students about the technical aspects of 3d art – character design, modeling, rendering, etc… I also like sharing my work experiences and discussing the business side of the industry. How do you get clients? How do I promote my work? How much do I charge? Often these topics are shrouded in mystery and it can be challenging for an artist just starting out to find information on their own.
As an alum, Voldman also shares a connection with SVA that helps him mentor his students. When asked to describe his favorite part of returning as an instructor, Voldman recalled his own experience as a student.
[My favorite part of returning to SVA is] Getting to give back to the next generation of artists. Navigating a career in the arts can be daunting and I remember feeling so lost as a young artist. I was lucky enough to meet some artists who helped me find my path and shed light on how this works as a career. Now I have the opportunity to pass that on.
As a professional artist, Voldman is also in a great position to offer advice to the next generation of SVA students:
Find your point of view as an artist. Who are you? What are you interested in? What do you want to communicate? Why do you want to make art? Your artwork should answer these questions.
Every year, the SVA community grows as each graduating class finds its way in the world. Graduates returning as faculty help to foster an organic and thriving network where knowledge can be passed on and young artists can develop their artistic voices.
Apply to join our growing community at BFA Animation; BFA Computer Art, Computer Animation & Visual Effects; or MFA Computer Arts today. Animate your future at the School of Visual Arts!
Pictured at top: Stills from Halloween Tips, Tricks and Treats, Artworks from the Boucher Estate Collection, and Xyzal – Word to the Wise