THS grad pursues art career with Nickelodeon
Tecumseh High School (THS) graduate David Van Tuyle cannot remember a time when he was not drawing — endlessly drawing — and now that pursuit has paid off with a career with the Nickelodeon network in California. He is currently a storyboard revisionist at the network, working on the new “Wally Kazam” show.
“There are pictures of me when I was a kid and I was drawing in a lot of them,” said David, son of Bill and Sharon Van Tuyle, who graduated from THS in 2006. “My grandmother kept a lot of them.”
He also remembers a family vacation to Florida when he was five years old or so.
“We were at Disney World and we saw a statue of Walt Disney holding Mickey’s hand,” said David. “I told my mom right then that I wanted to be an animator. I was always drawing cartoon characters and stuff.”
His dad, Bill, who is employed at First Federal Bank in Tecumseh, said he doesn’t know where David got his artistic talent.
“He didn’t get it from me,” Bill said.
David recalls watching cartoons and films and started analyzing the art and motion pretty early on. His favorite animated movie was “Lady and the Tramp.”
“I watched that on the VCR until it broke,” he said.
While studying in art classes at THS and later 2-D Animation with a minor in Illustration at Kendall College in Grand Rapids, he honed his interest in animation.
“I would kind of analyze films and tear things apart, figuring out how they set up the shots and movements,” he said.
During his junior year at Kendall he started looking for internships to get experience and landed one at Creative Capers in California, which does animation projects for Disney World, Magic Kingdom and others. David came back to Michigan for his senior year and held a job with Game Studio. He said some of his instructors, especially those in the illustration area, had contacts in the industry, and he began to network through those and the ones he’d made himself while at Creative Capers.
Following a brief time after graduation in New York, he and his girlfriend, Breanne, moved to Glendale, Calif., after a networking opportunity led him to Nickelodeon and he was hired.
David said he works in the story board department which works to revise boards in the pre-production process.
“Basically before the animation is done, we do a story board and draw it all out, figuring out how the characters will act things out,” he said. “We listen to the dialogue track and just draw the poses for what they are going to be doing.”
He enjoys the job immensely, and said if one is going to be in animation, California is the place to be. He said his commute from Glendale to Burbank isn’t too bad — not the horrifying experience many picture with the California freeways. He didn’t quite expect the 4.4 magnitude earthquake that woke him up at 6:30 a.m. on March 17.
“Breanne had been through them before and knew what to do, because she said, ‘Get under the table!’” he said. “Fortunately nothing broke.”
When he was still living in Tecumseh, David worked for Game Frenzy at the Adrian Mall and hung out with friends while he pursued his interest in drawing. Now, he spends long hours at work, till seven or eight at night, and said he enjoys working — because he gets to draw for a living. He also posts a blog site on the computer at davidvantuyledraws.tumblr.com where visitors can see his unique artistry.
“I do the blog every day because it gives me an outlet, a place where I can put work that is just mine,” he said. “That’s important because I’m usually drawing for others, and this gives me a place where I can improve my work on my own blog.”
To those who might want to follow in his footsteps, David advises that they should keep drawing.
“Always keep working on your craft and getting better at what you do,” he said. “Even those going into computer animation, drawing is always going to be the foundation. You can learn and study art from film and movies. The biggest part is looking at why somebody chose to do that shot or why they wanted to put that on film.” He acknowledges that interest in the field is “huge” right now.
While David has not been back to Tecumseh in a long time, he plans a visit this summer. He’ll be here in June when his THS classmate and friend Merrill Murphy gets married.
“I miss my family and all my friends and everybody back home,” he said. “But I have adapted. Most of the industry is out here, and if you want to be a part of it, you have to make the move.”