Blog Interviews Spotlight Students

Nataliia Gaida – Student Spotlight

Hi! I am Nataliia (you may call me Natalie :)). I lived in Ukraine before, and now I am back home to my small town in West Ukraine. I am a former illustrator and Fullbright scholar. This is my final quarter at SCAD, now I am a few weeks away from getting my MFA in Animation (hopefully, this year is full of surprises). Studying at SCAD I was involved in the making of the “Bearly” as one of the art-directors with Nick Pina at SCAD Animation Studio. Which was awesome!

What area of animation do you enjoy the most and why?

I was always in love with classic 2D animation. I love the way characters and environments were designed in old Disney movies, and I spend a lot of time trying to analyze, how and why they were created that way, and why are they so bright and alive. Also, I appreciate a lot of modern European 2D animation such as Gobelins, of course – they are one of my role models on my way to become a good visdev artist. Overall, I can say I am a very pre-production person. I love to be at the beginning of the story, to be one of those people who is deciding how everything will be told and seen. It’s like a fairytale for me. 

What is a challenge that you’ve had to overcome?

As for someone pretty… adult, that has spent a lot of time drawing, I was in a big panic with all the technical part that are very well presented at SCAD. For someone who never opened Maya, it was extremely hard at the beginning! But now I am really happy with the results. I fell in love with modeling and sculpting, and a few of my projects were presented as faculty submission at Siggraph 2019 (thank you, professor Valentine!). As I look back now, I can see that SCAD has changed my mindset a lot. I am much more confident in myself now, and I look further to find new interesting projects and collaborations to take part in!

What advice would you give yourself as a freshman?

The funny thing is, that I didn’t have any animation education before (as well as any art education – I was completely self-taught before getting into grad school at SCAD). But what I would say to past-me, the one panicking during her first year in Montgomery, that it’s doable. Don’t be afraid and take your time. More of that, appreciate your mistakes – they are the points where you learn the most. And don’t hesitate to ask others for help or advice! There are plenty of people around that are willing to help, and this is amazing! And please, please sleep well and stay fit!

What inspires you during a difficult project?

Mistakes! The ability to overcome a mistake and learn is amazing. I am always telling myself – you cannot imagine, what you will find in the end, so it’s nothing to fear, just search

What experiences have stood out to you?

Of course, Bearly! It’s sort of magical to be present at the beginning of everything, listening to the song, talking to people, creating ideas and then finally to see it shine! And I loved my TA with professor Valentine. Honestly, I feel I learned even more as a TA than at my modeling class :).

What are some things you are looking forward to this year? There is not much of this year left (and I really, really hope nothing bad will happen AGAIN, right?). But I started to work on a personal project, directing an animated series here in Ukraine, so I hope it will turn out great. I started my studies with another school, IDEA Academy in Rome (online because of the pandemic, of course), and I hope it will help me to reach a new level with my drawings and designs. So far, I feel I’ve learned a lot!

What inspires you?

People. I am deep in a character designs, so one of my work/hobbies is just to sit somewhere and look and listen. And draw. You can find a treasure anywhere.

What classes have you enjoyed, and why?

Like, most of them. I found out that I am an extremely multifunctional person, so I tried to cover a lot of topics. I loved all professor Simon’s classes because I always ended up with really cool ideas there. I also enjoyed professor Perrish’s classes too – for someone deeply in love with the character design, sculpting is a must – you will have a whole new perspective with your art there!

Have you worked on any projects outside of class?

I am always working on personal projects. I believe, they are the only real way for an artist to improve and show him or herself. And, as a freelancer for already 10 years, I was working with illustration too – during my studies I have illustrated 3 books for kids.

What type of studio would you like to work in when you graduate?

For now, I am already working with a small Ukrainian animation studio “Red dog”. Honestly, for a person like me, it suits well – despite the fact, those big studios have much more resources for sure, I feel much more freedom there.

What has been the best thing about SCAD?

For me, it was the acknowledging of the fact that I am capable of plenty of things. I am so much more confident now! Thank you, SCAD, this is priceless. And, of course, a lot of new friends I’ve found there, friends from all over the world. Love you, guys!

Do you look up to anyone in the industry? And why?

There are plenty of professionals I am always checking on social media. I am happy, that some of them now are my teachers at IDEA academy, like Izabella Mazzanti or Matteo Bassini. I am a big fan of Peter Emmerich. Also, I am following a lot of astonishing guys at Artstation to inspire me with sculpting – such as Hans Kristian Andersen, Elina Karimova, Nikita Veprikov, and many, many more.

Do you have a favorite animated movie? Plenty of them! I’d better name the studio, whose every project is genius – it’s Japanese Animation Studio 4°C. Check their works in case you missed them.

What are some things you enjoy doing in your free time? Well, I don’t have much of it. But usually in the middle of work I try to go outside and draw someone who I meet on the street. I love hiking also, now missing mountains a lot. And yes, I am into gaming, but knowing myself I try not to fall into games too much :). I found a good compromise with the Beat Saber – that’s how I make my body move more after hours of sitting near the computer :).

Thank you Nataliia! To see more of Nataliia’s work, make sure to check out her socials:



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s