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Work experience with Yellow Mouse

Animation in Exeter

Fig 1: Image is a still from Yellow Mouse Studios educational animation 2016

Here at Yellow Mouse Studios we believe it is important to make connections with up and coming talent, especially here in our home county of Devon in the South West. It is our long term plan to set up contacts with local schools and colleges in Devon, Somerset and Cornwall, so we can offer mentoring, work experience and apprenticeships where possible.

So when we were approached by a North Devon parent, to see if we could host her daughter's (Olivia) work experience week, we jumped into action.

Fig 2. Image from

It started with an email from Olivia's mother, explaining how Olivia loved drawing characters in the Japanese style of anime. Having seen our website and portfolio, she was excited to find an animation studio in Devon where she would love to do her work experience week. We where also very excited, and arranged a meeting face to face with them both, so we could get to know Olivia and her mother a bit better, and like wise they could get to know us.

Having looked through Olivia's sketch books and school work, we where very impressed and offered to give her a typical experience from the animation industry, as a remote freelance worker. This way we felt we could not only help Olivia to learn some practical software skills, but also give her some valuable experience in communication and file sharing.

It was agreed with Olivia's school and the week was set up in our diary.

The week before Olivia's work experience was due to begin, we emailed her some YouTube links. This was so she could could get to grips with the basics of Photoshop, as the majority of the practical skills we would be sharing during the week would be in this software. Here are the links we shared:

Animation in Exeter

Fig 3: A screen shot from our practical learning tasks 2016.

We began the week with training Olivia in some of the Photoshop tools, and how to find your way around. During this initial period, we spoke about layers and marquee tools, as well as bucket and compositing tools. The tasks were simple but engaging to begin with. As Olivia had very little experience using Photoshop, we wanted her to feel comfortable every step of the way, and not confused or overwhelmed.

We reproduced a number of international flags during this stage. This gave Olivia an understanding of the skills required to control the tools in Photoshop, and save them into file formats that could be transferred between the school and our office. It became apparent to us that Olivia was a quick learner, and we didn't spend long doing these basic tasks. Olivia was therefore quickly able to move onto the production phase, where she could create an actual asset for us.

Fig 4: A still from Yellow Mouse Studios educational animation 2016

Prior to Olivia's work experience, we had already created a character that would appear in an animation, but we wanted her skirt to have a modern tartan pattern, so we tasked Olivia to design a new and unique tartan.

Firstly, we asked her to research tartan patterns on the internet. Gaining information and references is a very important procedure for an artist when embarking on a new project. It is imperative, that we get a good understanding as to what the client is asking for. After a short period of research, Olivia emailed us her thoughts and examples of the tartan, and we discussed which way the design should go. During these discussions, we allowed and encouraged Olivia to guide the design process, as this was to be her unique design.

animation in Devon

Fig 5: Olivia's Tartan 2016

After some practice in Photoshop, Olivia started to send over the designs she had done so we could evaluate them. We discussed patterns, and finally when we were both happy , she was able to move on with the sizing and pattern repeat, so it would fit to the character's scale.

Yellow Mouse Studio Exeter

Fig 6: Olivia scaling and fitting a pattern to the character's skirt 2016

A few days into the week, we were extremely happy with Olivia's progress, and felt confident, that it was time for her to re-design a totally unique pattern, but this time without our input.

This allowed her the chance to revisit her new found skills from start to finish, and show her how much she had learnt - remember she had never used Photoshop before!

It had taken a number of days for us to get to this point, but now we were 100% confident that on her own, she would be able to repeat the processes learnt, and produce a design quickly and efficiently, which she achieved with flying colours. Olivia's final design can be seen in the animation which we will share later in the blog.

But before we get to that, we wanted to share another success Olivia had as part of our mentoring experience, which is just another justification as to why we find these experiences so rewarding. Completely on her own, and without any kind of prompting from us, Olivia was able to apply the new skills she had learnt, to create her own image. We were completely amazed at how she had adapted the information we'd given her, to then use it in producing a anime character. It was so cool, in fact, that we decided to use the little time we had left to explore some more tools in Photoshop. We showed Olivia how to make the image she had created into an animated GIF. Olivia quickly added a new detail layer to the image (eye lids), and we explained how to use the timeline tool to create the GIF.

Fig 7: Olivia's own Image which she had adapted from a found image and then coloured in and animated.

So to conclude, we wanted to say Thank You to Olivia for not only being an excellent student, and providing us with a brilliant pattern design for our character, but also for being a truly focused and creative individual. You made the week a learning experience for us at Yellow Mouse Studios as well. We enjoyed every minute, and we look forward to seeing more of your work in the future, and also hopefully working with you again!

If any young art students or animation students out there would be interested in doing a similar experience with us then please email us, we would be happy to here from you.

Below is a list of questions we asked Olivia and her mother in response to the work experience, so you can see first hand how they felt about it.

1. When we first met, how confident where you that we would be able to give a reasonable experience to Olivia?

After receiving a response to my first email I was confident you were happy and keen to support her and after meeting with you I was very confident that she would have an extremely valuable learning lesson from her work experience with you and YMS.

2. When we began the week where you worried about anything. I.E. from either our input or Olivia's involvement?

Not at all on the part of YMS, more concerned that Olivia would not ask you to clarify if she didn't understand. She can be shy, so I encouraged her to message or call you (or even me) if she was nervous.

3. Did you feel confident that Olivia was receiving a valuable experience.

Absolutely. You had been very supportive in the run up to the week with links she could try out, I felt she would be ready to "get stuck in" without any trouble which would make the experience more productive.

4. Where you expecting anything different?

I wasn't really sure what to expect, and I don't know anything about Photoshop and animation, but the daily support and end of week final submission was just what I expected.

5. Did we step up to your expectations?

Definitely! Olivia thoroughly enjoyed the experience, learned a lot, and the daily contact, support and encouragement was brilliant.

Olivia: As the trainee:

1. Did you feel you learnt something useful?

Yes, it was all new, including doing the research

2. Did you enjoy the things we asked you to do?

Yes, all of it

3. Were the tasks easily understood?

Yes, and if I wasn't sure you explained it well

4. Did you find it easy to communicate with us?

Yes, apart from some IT problems that the school had so I couldn't email you

5. Did you think we listened to your issues if you had any?


6. Were you happy with what you achieved?

Yes, it was really good

7. Was there anything you didn't enjoy?

No, nothing

8. If you were given the opportunity to do it again would you?

Definitely, I really enjoyed it

9. Can you think of anything that might improve the experience?

If we were using the same version of Photoshop, the school one is old

10. Would you recommend that others should apply to us for work experience/mentoring training?

Yes, they will find it fun and really helpful and interesting - it was a great week that went really quickly.

Final statement from Olivia's mum:

Thank you again, and I hope she can continue to be involved with YMS in any way she can.

You can see the final animated motion graphics project below, look out for Olivia's tartan! We hope you enjoy.

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