To new beginnings

Editor’s note: Today we’re happy to bring you this amazing Guest Post that focuses on the perspective shift and the changes you encounter in your life and career when you jump into the deep end of being a parent. Penned by none other than the amazingly talented Henrique Barone, this is definitely an article you’ll want to check out.


Photo credit: Emmy Lou Virginia

The dream job thing

I don’t have a background in Motion Graphics. I come from Animation for TV series and the dream, back then, was to either create my own show or to work with feature films. I had absolutely no idea what Cel, Staff Picks, Wine after Coffee or Motionographer were. The goal was to be in one of those awesome behind the scenes you see on DVD extras, which I had watched many many times. With that in mind, Fernanda and I moved to Canada to study Classical Animation at Vancouver Film School.

Goals and dreams apart, once we graduated, we really needed jobs to pay the bills. In retrospective, it’s funny to think that I would probably have said yes to any offer. I’m just really really lucky that life made its ways for that offer to come from Giant Ant and within some months – and that I remember quite vividly! – my professional goals completely changed. I went from imagining how I would decorate my awesome Pixar cubicle to “oh man what was I thinking? being one more name on a huge credit list? here I’m heard, I can express myself, wear different hats, work with so many different styles on quick turnaround projects and be super in touch with amazing people and inspiring artists…THAT is the dream!”

Yes. I was super excited.

And, yes. Dreams and goals change. They should change and they will change.

With no euphemism, I lived the dream for an incredible 6 years. I was an immigrant to Canada, with no connections to anyone or anything, fresh out of school and super hungry to express myself as an artist and an animator. Having the safe port of a steady job like that was such a gift and it gave me the peace of mind I needed to be as creative as possible, while being as calm as possible to enjoy my personal life and, most importantly, to plan ahead. Giant Ant was my north; my keystone.

The parenting thing

Being first-time parents, of course, we downplayed how much a child changes your routine. We were clear that things would be a bit bumpier at the beginning but then, of course, everything would settle back and we would keep going. With that mindset, Fer and I decided to take 6 months for that bumpy start and then we would go back to normal. I would go back to work and she could slowly pick up her freelance career.

Looking back now, it’s a bit silly to think how innocent we were on that matter.

Throughout the whole pregnancy, Fer and I were very focused on becoming parents. We were really enjoying the moment. We had taken a long and amazing prenatal course; we had watched a bunch of shows like Netflix’s The Beginning of Life; our Instagram feeds were slowly showing up more baby stuff rather than art or animation posts. We were on heavy nesting mode.

And all that really paid off. We had the best 6 months of our lives, welcoming Manuela to this world and living, to its fullest, all that we’ve had been preparing ourselves for. Family came to visit. We went to visit family. Some nights were great. Some were not so great. Everything was magical; and I really recommend people taking long parental leaves, whenever possible. I’m really thankful for that time and for the connection the three of us were able to establish.

Photo credit: Emmy Lou Virginia

However, the closer we got to the end of these months, the more clear it was that things wouldn’t go back to normal that easily. We did give ourselves some wiggle room to see how things would play out. Incredibly, Fer managed to pick some projects and work at night, starting after Manu went to bed, usually around 9 pm. Definitely not ideal. And I had to go back to work, starting at 9 am and finishing at 6 pm, from Monday to Friday.

I believe that at that point we both knew – quietly – that we would have to reconsider things.

Nine to six

I always tried to walk the line pretty straight with work stuff so, with our new situation, I started to feel bad about constantly asking for favors. First, before Manu was born, I had to take a bunch of mornings off to learn how to drive so someone could drive us to the hospital when the time comes. And when the time came, I asked for 6 months off. Then, with Manu being around I was asking for time off to go with Fer and her to doctor’s appointments, to visit daycares, to do swimming classes…

It bugged me to be that guy and it bugged me even more to know that I would, most likely, keep being that guy.

To work around this stiff day structure, I initially thought about suggesting ways around our new routine; maybe being hired as part-time or re-negotiating salary, considering I’d work 2 hours less every day, starting at 10 am and leaving at 5 pm or something along these lines but, the more I thought about it, and the more Fer and I, as a family, chatted about it, the more clear it was that the 9-to-6 routine wasn’t feeling right anymore. We needed much more flexibility and we needed to be able to split work and parenting tasks so we both could be our best selves as parents and as professionals.

And so, leaving my 9-to-6 dream job and start striving for a non 9-to-6 dream career started to make sense.

It was time to change dreams again. Time to replace that keystone.

Photo credit: Emmy Lou Virginia

The eternal apprentice

Strange as it sounds, I don’t consider that a professional decision but rather a personal one that affects my profession. And, as hard as it was to get to a conclusion, saying it out loud was even harder. The one surprising thing that started coming out of my mouth, once I started voicing my decision, was well, it’s just a test…let’s see how it goes, almost as if something inside me still wanted to sabotage the decision.

But here is a funny comparison for this moment of indecision, playing on a question that I’m asked a lot: I want to animate better. Should I learn Flash or After Effects? To which my answer always is: Well, learn about Animation principles first… and then be open to see where that leads you; a path will show up in the right moment. It’s not about the software; it’s about the principles. Ultimately, it’s about understanding who YOU are and who you want to become.

And the comparison: I want a better career or I want more money or I want more time. Should I strive for a dream job or should I go freelance?. To which my thinking is: Dream about your life and your personal goals first… and then be open to see where that leads you; a decision will be presented to you when the right time comes. It’s not about going to work on a specific place or to work for yourself, it’s about your principles and your goals. Ultimately, it’s about understanding who YOU are and who you want to become.

Of course these are all pretty neat and brain candy afterthoughts I had once the decision had already been made. Before that, I was pure doubt and anxiety for a long long long time, especially knowing that the freelance world can be no piece of cake at all, with very oppressive and intense weeks, slow payments, slow confirmations and very dry months. After being a freelancer for a couple of months, I can surely see all that but, as of right now, I’m in a honeymoon with the change.

On a personal level, I’m loving to see great moments like first steps and first “words” and also day-to-day things like picking up a spoon the right way. I’m loving to take long lunches and especially long breakfasts, whenever possible. Basically, loving to be more present.

On a professional level, I’m excited with the world of possibilities ahead; keen to work with people whose work I really admire and happy to see where the wind will blow. Excited to have more time to teach again and trying to find a good balance between day rate commercial jobs and personal stuff where I can creative direct more.

All that considered, I’d still have absolutely no shame in knocking Giant Ant’s – or any other studio’s – door if the goal changes again and having a stable job start to feel right one more time. After all, I feel like something inside me still takes everything in life as a big test.

Photo credit: Emmy Lou Virginia

A keystone gets replaced

Every moment in our life, once you look back at it a few years later, has a sentence or two that sums it up and defines it well. You probably have said it many times and its echo is what remains as an initial memory of that time. I remember well, when Fer and I moved to Vancouver on December, 2010, we’d say a lot this is both a professional and a personal decision. We wanted to improve our artistic skills, while also escaping the grind in São Paulo. We wanted to become better professionals, while also becoming a better couple.

From the very beginning of our relationship, as we meet in Design University, it’s very hard to see the line between professional and personal lives. We’d do class projects together during the day and go out with friends at night to only ended up talking about these same projects. And I’m not even considering the times when the night out was to stay late working on said projects, because we were having a good time. For better or worse, that does happen when you turn your hobby and your passion into your profession. You do movies, go for movies and talk about movies. I’m sure everybody can relate to that.

For the first years of our time in Vancouver, these two aspects walked side by side pretty well. It was a great time and we did get to focus and have fun on our careers and in our relationship, simultaneously. However, as time passed, we noticed that our professional side started to take the lead in our decision-making process. And we were ok with that. We were hungry young fresh grads and it was definitely the time to go for it.

Photo credit: Emmy Lou Virginia

Fast forward a bit, life is getting more relaxed and we are starting to make a constant effort to work less or, at least, be less career-driven. I’m given a PS4 for my 30th birthday so I could have some hobbies other than animating on side projects. Fer starts to draw more personal stuff and soon launches her freelance career. She definitely made the switch from career-driven to life-driven way before I did.

Sure, I was having a much better understanding of separating personal and work life but, the big decisions were still work-driven. I was at Giant Ant. A dream of a steady job which I never stayed late at. The perfect opportunity to relax and focus on personal life. What better way to use all that free time other than creating an online animation course and taking on more side projects such as Olympia and Supergirl? I was definitely failing at this life/career balance thing.

Fast forward again to November 2017. Manu is born. It took me then around 14 months to finally let my personal side take the lead on a decision making process. Possibly, for the very first time.

Photo credit: Emmy Lou Virginia

Having kids it’s the only real and unbreakable life long commitment someone will ever do. Everything else, every other commitment or agreement can be either undone or broken but, from now on, Fer is a mom and will forever be a mom; I’m a dad and will forever be a dad. This is our black and white spot in a grey and ever-changing world. A solid point on our liquid lives. That is our new, and stronger, keystone.

I actually question myself if I would be motivated enough to let it go of a dream job and venture myself into the world of freelancing if it wasn’t for Manu. Both on a practical standpoint, as she needs mom and dad to raise her but, most of all, from an inner-strength standpoint. If it wasn’t for her, I’d probably keep moving forward the way I was going, which was pretty great.

But I think that’s what kids do. They change us. They make us reset, restart, rethink, review, reflect.

They make us begin again.

Photo credit: Emmy Lou Virginia

Photos by Emmy Lou Virginia

About the author

Joe Donaldson

Joe Donaldson is a director, designer, and animator who worked on Motionograpgher from 2014-2020. Previously, he was an art director at Buck. Over the past decade, he's lived and worked in Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles and has directed work for clients such as Apple, Google, Instagram, The New York Times, Unicef, Etsy, and The New Yorker. In addition to his creative work, in 2018 he started Holdframe. He's now working as a professor at Ringling College of Art and Design and when not teaching he can be found spending time with his family or out running.