Hi everybody and welcome to Courtney Mason Illustration!


My goal is to translate written and verbal ideas into visual imagery that is colorful, compelling, and clearly communicate the objectives of the client. I pride myself on my versatility and am confident in my abilities to tackle any challenge both effectively and efficiently. I am open to creative opportunities in a variety of markets such as but not limited to Graphic Design, Advertising, Editorial, Book Publishing, and especially Post Production for Entertainment.


My "dream job" is to someday have a career within the animation industry. The holy trio or trifecta of skills will be in character design, storyboarding, and character animation. I have experience in experimental animation, stop motion, claymation, 2D and 3D animation using Autodesk Maya, Photoshop, and Final Cut Pro. In 2011, I received a grant from the Women's Education and Leadership Fund to conduct a study of animation through research and practical application. I learned the fundamentals and foundations of 3D animation through the Ianimate Advanced Character Animation Program and I am continuing my education through Animation Mentor School for Character Animation online starting this upcoming fall 2012.


I am very much a team player, but also a self starter and driven towards success. Since I was a child, I was an entrepreneur, a quality I believe I enherited from my father. This sense of leadership and drive has always helped me optimize every opportunity and has given me confidence in the value of my ideas. While I am very dedicated to clients needs before my own needs, I always feel like I have something to learn and something to give.

Friday, July 29, 2011

California bound: Chasing the dream!

Day 1:  Although we were jet lagged slightly from our travels, Mom and I ventured forth into San Jose to get a better idea of the area. I must say both of us were overwhelmed by culture shock.  San Jose's  richly diverse in appearance reflects the vast variety of people that the city consists of.  Driving up and down the streets, we were slightly disenchanted and dazed from the unfamiliar.   Still, we tried to keep an open mind for our tour we had scheduled the following day. 

Day 2: To our surprise, once we were within the university we were awe struck at just how beautiful it was. From its stucco roof tops, Spanish architecture, mosaics, palm trees, and highly maintained facilities, our first impression was far from accurate.  What was even more remarkable were the people, with each encounter a new friendly face eager to make us feel welcome.  I met with David Chai, one of the department heads for the illustration/animation department.  He introduced me to every student there working, showed me their past projects, the different tracks in which I could take, explaining in full detail with energy and enthusiasm.  He went above and beyond coming in on his day off to show me all around the art school, discussing what we would be doing and the community and networking opportunities the program offered.

I fell in love with everything I saw more and more, radiating overwhelming good feelings as I continued to roam the campus.   I felt at home...that this is the right place for me.  Literally, my heart was surging through my chest.  We spent the late afternoon by the pool, and that night, I got in touch with Alice Wong, a UHA alum from the illustration program and a current grad student at SJSU.  We met up at a sushi place called Kazoo in Japantown for sushi.  Her insight on California life, the animation program, and the industry itself was sensational.  She explained everything with so much spirit and charisma that I couldn't help but hang onto every word she said.  She told us her story of how she adjusted to west coast living, the initial obstacles she had to face, and all the wonderful things she has learned in light of difficult situations.  She was open to all my questions and gave me an un bias perspective on everything, which was very helpful.  After dinner, I met their new puppy (a beagle named Bagel) and their room mate, whose boyfriend works at Blue Sky. 

Day 3:  We left San Jose today and drove down to Salinas to meet my Aunt Stacy.  We were originally going to spend the weekend at fancy spa in Monterrey, but decided to be more spontaneous and try a much more rugged residence for the night.  I happened to stumble upon an add for a safari style bed and breakfast called "Wild Things" at Vision Quest Ranch in Salinas.  The ranch is for retired animal actors, from domestic to exotic.  What immediately excited me and caught my attention was that the ranch was home to five beautiful elephants.  My mom surprised me that we were not only going there to visit, but spending the night in one of their canvas cabins, which offered us one on one time with the elephants.   On the drive down, we made some pit stops at a marina to check out some sea lions and had lunch at a place called "The Whole Enchilada."  It had to be the BEST Mexican food I have ever had in my entire life.  The artichokes were huge (since we happened to be in Castroville, which is the artichoke capital of the world, I'd expect nothing less)  the veggie quesadilla with artichoke hearts was perfection,  and my mango margarita was smooth, not too sweet, and came with a fun little mermaid inside.  Not to mention the interior was a treasure trove of knick-knacks and outlandish decor ranging from beach to Latin themes.  When we finally got to Salinas we wandered the "Savannah"  and peered over a large enclosed area where the elephants, ostriches, zebras, and water buffalo grazed.  The trainers brought by a baby kangaroo and an armadillo, which was sort of cool to see but I was far more interested in you know what!   Later in the afternoon,  we got some private elephant time feeding them right before they went to bed.  I could tell one of the elephants was watching as I sketched her.  She got curious and felt the need to whack my sketch book...than she sorta felt me up.  It was after the sketching that I started to feed them, and one girl in particular was fond of me.  She blew hot air in my face, sending all my hair flying backward.  I got a whiff of whatever fruit she had just ate...and the feeling of a giant harry trunk in my face.  But all and all it was a very cool experience for me!
Later, we went to a nearby small Italian restaurant with HUGE portions.  My artichoke bisque coupled with a baked brie in honey with grapes and crackers was delicious.  We returned back to our canvas cabin, got cozy, and fixed ourselves some wine and gossiped a little bit.  I found myself drifting off into sleep, but waking up now and again to hear what sounded like some frisky kitties.  It was pretty funny at the time...definitely didn't envision falling asleep to the sound of lions roaring and grunting, but I eventually got used to it.

Day 4:  The next morning we woke up, made some coffee, and had our breakfast brought to us by the smallest but most adorable of the elephants.  We fed her once again, got some great video and pictures, and than went on our way.  Most of the day was spent driving or flying.  L.A. at first glimpse was a massive concrete jungle, bordered with beaches and mountains.  Unlike San Jose,  there was little to no areas of green and the entire layout of the land was an insane looking grid (sorta resembled a computer chip...but less shiny).  I found pockets of beauty towards Venice beach and the marina, which seemed to attract a more bohemian vibe. Even the campus of UCLA was lush with beautiful architecture, grounds, and surrounding residential areas (Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Hollywood.)  As we approached Gnomon, the area fluctuated drastically between high class-middle class suburbia to urban decay and broken dreams.  The school itself was located within a 1920's television studio with many different stages, dance studios, and vacant spaces.  There were five computer labs, one drawing studio, and one sculpture studio, along with a number of offices and a student lounge.  Though small, the decor on the interior had this archival kind of beauty, and 3D art on every surface you could see.  The work itself was impressive...but the vibe was completely different than San Jose.  It was a dark, brooding, creative atmosphere.  The curriculum sounded brutal, and the competitive nature intimidating.  This is not to say that I wasn't impressed, but it seemed unrealistic for someone as social and well rounded as I am to commit 2 years, 16 hour days, everyday with only one week off in the summer.  Forget about maintaining relationships...there would be no time for that.  Still I will definitely apply for the experience, and who knows maybe I will change my mind. But the downtown Hollywood scene kinda sucked the soul right out of me and I couldn't wait to leave.  There was nothing beautiful here like there was in San Jose.  No green grass and blue skies to inspire you, just asphalt, astroturf, and smoggy with a chance of smog.  We quickly grabbed lunch at a vegan cafe called Muse down the street (cause at that point, I NEEDED inspiration to keep an open mind) and surveyed the area one last time. This would be a very hard for me to adapt to.  The remainder of the day we drove up to Valencia, which is closest to Dream Works and CalArts.  We hung out and watched that 70's show sipping on wine and rested up for the following day, which was the most important one yet.

Day 5:  Dream Works here I come!  Today I met with my Ianimate professor Bill Tessier to grab lunch and tour the studio that houses my dream career.  In order to get onto the campus, we had to get special VIP passes (which I kept and will scrap book eventually).  After those were made, we walked along the pathway, and it was than that I became overwhelmed and awe-struck by how truly dream like the atmosphere was.  The campus was abundant with beautiful fountains, coy ponds, exotic flowers and ivy which weaved along the archways and around the winding paths.  The main courtyard was surrounded by benches and tables (for lounging and dining), an outdoor grill, and table games.  The grounds themselves were filled with young brilliant people; I didn't see one face over forty years old, but the the majority were young males in there 20's-30's.

Bill walked me through the story and animation department.  He discussed with me many things to think about, gave me advice, and personal experience.  I think the coolest moment was walking into the cafeteria knowing that this massive room contained all insanely talented and brilliant individuals and artists.  It was ethereal to say the least.  Never would I have imagined myself seeing with my own eyes a dream so very close, and yet many years away from being attainable.  The pipeline process is pretty impressive, more sophisticated than I imagined.   Bill dedicated 2 and a half hours to this meeting, imparting a lasting impression upon me.  It was the most inspiring day of life as I know it.  Incredible, absolutely incredible what they do. I purchased a tote, a t-shirt, and how to tame your dragon, but that is nothing compared to what I have gained in inspiration and determination.

The rest of the day I transcended from nirvana and we grabbed dinner at a place in Valencia called "The Elephant Bar"  which was a fun animal themed restaurant (couldn't help but keep up with the elephant theme). And had some great appetizers and a cool beverage. The town of Valencia was upscale...kind of reminded me of West Hartford...but with palm trees and much more spread out.

Day 6:  Cal-Arts tour today was interesting to say the least.  We got onto campus around 11 AM and had an info meeting specifically tailored to the film/video department and what major programs we were interested in.  Although I do want my masters,  the program for undergrad character animation sounded exactly like what I wanted to do.  She explained it as "highly narrative linear way of storytelling through character."    Experimental sounded a little more painterly, which isn't to say I wouldn't also be interested in learning as well, but mainly I want to focus on one aspect of animation and that would be character.  Our  tour guide was over dramatic and condescending to say the least (that's an understatement, but I'm just being honest) which was a little bit of a turn off.  The very cool thing about this school was that it was founded by Walt and Roy Disney in the 60's after the making of Snow White for the purpose of collaborative arts.  It is also the birthplace of Pixar, John Lasseter, Brad Bird, Tim Burton, and many other great directors and artists.  I got to walk through their character animation department, knowing that the 9 old men and Walt Disney himself used to roam these hallways, and that within itself was inspiring.  What wasn't inspiring was the tuition price...and the acceptance rate...and what I would have to do to get accepted, let alone go there, would take me forever and a hefty penny.  So, maybe not the best choice for me...but I will try not to be biased and keep an open mind.We spent the remainder of the day shopping at Valencia's giant Good Will and a very cool oriental themed warehouse that I loved!

The rest of the trip was a little pit stop in Las Vegas, since I had never been before and mother couldn't get enough, we figured it would be the perfect place to let loose.  We gambled, drank some yummy cocktails, saw two fabulous shows (Cirque du Soleil and America's Best Dance Crew) and roamed around the strip.

Overall, I have to say this is the most inspiring and enlightening trips of my life (and that is saying something considering the places I have traveled in my life time.)  I think I learned as much about myself as I did about the programs and the industry.  My heart swelled where I felt I was the right place...around the DreamWorks Studios...and at SJSU, and driving through the winding back roads of California.  I now have my direction. I have seen the promise land, and it is good.  I know what I have to do to get there.  And I will fight to make it mine.  I will have to start a new chapter of my life...leaving the people I love behind and the things I know to be familiar and safe.  But its a choice I can't help but make. I have to do this...because if I don't put 110% into this pursuit, I will be letting down a life time of dreaming.  My inner child inside me will die and suffocate in some dead end 9-5 job, and I won't let that be my reality.

I have been very blessed with family and friends to support my passion.  Nobody ever told me to become a dentist, or a teacher.  Everyone who my art has touched or inspired have been so encouraging. It's those people who believe in me that get me through the long nights in the studio when my energy and creativity is drained.  And I cannot thank them enough for that.  My mother, my life coach and practically my art manager planned this entire trip for me.  Because she knows how much I dream of a life in California, a life making art for pixar or dream works...a life that includes palm trees.  It tears me apart thinking I will be so distant from her, and my dad, and my brother.  But I am hoping the ones who love me most will follow me.

if not physically to California, at least keep in touch :)

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