In today’s installment of Schoolin’ Life, we meet animator Ariel Ries.
Give us a quick bio: who are you, what are you into, and how do you spend your days?
I’m a 21-year-old animation student by day, creator of the webcomic “Witchy” by night. I’m from Australia but I’m into my second year of living and studying in Denmark at the moment. In all likelihood, I’ll be living here for another two years. I draw a lot, watch cartoons a lot, and cook a lot.
What expectations did you have for yourself over the coming decade?
My 9 year (number of years until I’m 30) plan at the moment is: finish school, get a storyboarding job in LA, live there for somewhere between 2-5 years, either build a big enough audience that I can just make comics and live off my patreon, or be well known enough that I can get a steady stream of freelance and move back to my hometown, Melbourne, Australia (while working on comics on the side!). Hopefully it’ll work out.
In what ways did society shape your expectations of yourself?
Most of my personality crisis happened in my late teens. I was a mixed, white/Southeast Asian confused about my sexuality and how I should label myself in a whole bunch of ways. I had an athletic, bulky body, brown skin, and a big chin, and the only Asian women I ever saw in media were wispy, pale-skinned east asians. many people told me I wasn’t “Asian enough” but my appearance prevented me from ever feeling “white enough” or “feminine enough,” too. Learning about intersectional feminism has helped me so much. Learning about the social constructs of gender has helped me shed doubt about myself and learn to be proud of every part of myself, be it queer, Asian, masculine, or feminine.
I’m thankful that I never had to have this same problems with my career goals. I’ve been interested in art since I was 8 and my parents supported me wholeheartedly in my ambitions. I’m friends with a lot of people with very healthy views about art, authenticity, and the toxic opinions about artists held by people both inside and outside the animation industry.
What was your first job like?
My first long-ish term job was at an art supply chain store, and it was like working for Big Brother. The head office would send in people disguised as shoppers to spy on us, we had to up-sell everything, and we went through about 1 manager every 6 weeks because the bosses blamed the company’s performance on the workers, rather than, say, bad business decisions. We had to stalk everyone in the shop and ask if they needed any help constantly. It was definitely aggravating for the customers, but it was part of the business’s employee protocol. I hated a lot of it, but at least it taught me how to talk to strangers!
What was your first apartment like?
I’m still living in my first apartment and hearing horror stories from other people makes me feel blessed about the roommates I share it with. Rural(ish) Denmark is a great place to have a first apartment because you have easy access to cute furniture and all the apartments are super charming.
Did you experience any big life changes?
Well, I uprooted my entire life in Australia to study in Denmark, so that’s a pretty big one. I do occasionally feel homesick, and I do miss my friends and family a lot, but my friends here are cool too and I consider myself a pretty well adapted expat. the fact that everyone here speaks perfect English makes living here a lot easier.
If all goes to plan too, I’ll be living in LA in a few years. I visited LA earlier this year and I’m not gonna lie, I don’t love it, but I have good friends there and at least you can actually get good Asian food, which is almost non-existent in Denmark.
In what ways did your friendships change?
It’s very hard maintaining long distance friendships, especially when you have at least 10 friends that you wish you could keep in contact with. The time zone in Denmark is almost the reverse of Melbourne time, so I can only Skype people on the weekends, and there’s only about 5 hours in which I can call people! It blows. That’s not to say all my friends have forgotten about me, when I was back home in the summer everything with my best friends clicked perfectly back into place, so I’m lucky that way. That doesn’t mean I don’t wish I could be there for my friends though.
How did your relationships with your family change?
Since I’ve moved out, it’s a lot easier to deal with my mother. She’s super dependent on me and my sister for self-worth, and I think having both of us out of the house will help her to find fulfillment and self-worth elsewhere. so, less of a relationship change, more of a dynamic change. I think me and my dad’s relationship has improved actually. I probably talk to him more now that i set aside an hour a week to talk to him and mum. he’s worked 9-6 my whole life so I didn’t see much of him when I was back home. hopefully our relationships will continue to head along this path!
As for my sister, I think we’ll just miss each other. we get along super well but we’re both busy people and that’s hard when you’re 30 hours apart.
How did your worldview change over the course of the decade?
i don’t know how much my worldview will change in the next decade. When you’re a world builder, you naturally learn a lot about economics, people, and the structure of societies. I take a vested interest in social justice and the progression of humanity. I’m cautiously optimistic about our ability to overcome the climate crisis, the cannibalistic nature of capitalism as we know it, and the bigotry of the privileged. I only hope that in time I will become more optimistic, not pessimistic.
What was your biggest disappointment and how did that affect you later?
Thankfully, I haven’t arrived at this point yet, but I just assume it will be something job related.
Who was your biggest influence and why?
I can’t say he’ll remain my biggest influence, but we had a teacher last year named Mike Nguyen. I’ve always valued being sincere in my work, and when he lectured us on the importance of authenticity when creating something, I knew I’d found a kindred spirit. He told us that as long as our art is honest, it will resonate with others. Hearing an industry veteran say something like that helped me believe there was a place for someone with sensibilities like mine.
Is there any one experience that you feel defined the decade? Or one historical moment that changed you?
I mean, I’m still kind of hoping that one day a talking animal is going to give me a magic wand and tell me I’m a magical girl, but I’ve seen enough anime to know how that can go wrong.