I Moved to Los Angeles to Work in Animation original graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Natalie Nourigat
Editor: Shannon Watters
Publisher: Boom! Studios/Boom! Box imprint
Price: $9.99 US/$11.99 US/£7.50 UK
This skinny little book showed up on my doorstep a little while ago, and I’ve been picking away at it over the last couple of weeks. It’s truly a different kind of book, not the sort of read I typically delve into, but I found I enjoyed the change of pace. I didn’t know much about the book or its creator before opening it up, so I had expected something of a memoir, and there are segments here that fit that bill. But the material is much more matter-of-fact in tone. Nourigat offers something of a how-to guide to a career in animation, peppered with caveats about how one’s mileage will vary. But it’s not just about a specific industry and career, but how to navigate the titular locale. People with an eye to a viable career in illustration and art will no doubt find this book of interest, but it’s relatable for just about anyone who faces a big move, a big change, or who’s experienced such moments in their lives already.
Natalie Nourigat is a story artist working in the animation industry in L.A., but there was a time when she was a freelance artist living in Portland, Oregon, crafting her own mini-comics and webcomics. Here, she chronicles how and why she made the decision to pursue a career in animation in Los Angeles, the challenges and uncertainty it brought, and the many ways in changed her life.
I’m surprised I wasn’t familiar with Nourigat’s work before now (or at least that I don’t recall), as a scan of her IMDB page revealed that she’s worked in the past with writers whose work I follow and enjoy (chief among them, writer/editor Jamie S. Rich). Her cartooning is simple but incredibly effective. There’s a lot of personality and emotion to be found, especially in her more exaggerated images. The characters are delightfully cute but always relatable; a softness in her flowing linework emphasizes the humanity in her characters.
I also appreciated the soft, pastel color palette Nourigat employs throughout the book. It brought a warm, friendly aura to the book that was soothing and inviting. Her lettering was simple in tone but effective, and it reinforced the more informational tone of the book. Whereas the artist exaggerates with her figures, the lettering was clear and consistent, never extreme to make a point in the script. It served as a nice balance, visually. However, since this book is so information-driven, there are large blocks of text that Nourigat needs to incorporate on many pages (especially the addenda showcasing the voices of colleagues in the industry). Those giant bricks of text occasionally interfered with the attractiveness of the book, and would seem like amorphous swamps of black ink at times instead of viable perspectives on the topics at hand.
There’s a youthfulness to her figures that’s appealing, but I found that one never got a sense of age of the characters. Everyone seems to exude a mid-20s vibe, when the script (especially at the end, when we “meet” other people in animation) reveals some of them are a bit older. While there’s a cultural and racial diversity to be found in the various figures and characters, that diversity doesn’t include a visual representation of age range. That’s a minor quibble in what is otherwise a lovely book. I note now that I just wrote three paragraphs on the art and other visual elements of I Moved to Los Angeles, which is far more than I typically include on such aspects of a comic or graphic novel in one of my reviews. That speaks to the unique nature of this book and the strength of Nourigat’s craft.
I was a bit taken aback at first that this book didn’t follow the sort of storytelling structure I typically expect from a book, be it biographical or fictional. I had expected an arc about conflict, about overcoming obstacles, about an eventual professional and personal triumph, but that sort of approach isn’t to be found here. I wonder if it could have been reshaped into that form somehow, but ultimately, Nourigat’s purpose here isn’t to tell a story. There’s some advice to be found here, yes, but the real foundation of the book is pure information. It’s about pulling back the curtain, not just on the animation industry in L.A., but on life and culture there. It’s incredibly effective in that regard. And even if one isn’t interested in L.A. or animation as a career, it’s easy to see parallels to similar lessons in one’s own life — notably when it comes to anxiety over taking risks, about the importance of socialization and stepping out of one’s comfort zone.
Nourigat is quite frank about her journey from Portland to L.A., from comics to animation, and she’s honest about how what worked and didn’t work for her might play out in a completely different way for others. That’s one of the reasons I was pleased she included others’ points of view at the end of the book. But overall, the tone of the book is thoroughly positive. Just about everyone heralds the L.A. animation studio system — the collaboration, the financial security, the benefits, the energy, etc. Honestly, I was a little skeptical, since my experience (in other industries) is that a work environment is highly dependent on management style, and change is the only constant in management. But I realize that doubt stems from my own biases and experiences, and I take Nourigat at her word. She’s clearly trying to be forthcoming here, and more importantly, she’s trying to be helpful. I think there’s definitely some wisdom — and more importantly, some valuable tips — to be found in this book if one were interested in a career in art, in animation specifically and in collaborative storytelling in general. 7/10