Nichola Latzgo BFA '18 (Animation)

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Nichola Latzgo BFA '18 (Animation)

Q: When did you first think that you wanted to create animation, not just enjoy it?

My parents would rent and re-rent the Yellow Submarine for me as a child, and that film is absolutely what sparked my need to animate. I was obsessed with the sea of monsters scene, and to this day, I pretty much only draw strange creatures. I always wanted to see my drawings come to life, but it wasn't until I started to research UArts and watch some work of previous students that I realized that this dream could actually come to fruition. I was under the impression that going to school for animation these days meant toiling away doing minor effects for movies or commercials. Once I saw the work emerging from the UArts program, I realized that my dream of becoming a 2D character animator and bringing my monsters alive could actually come true!

Q: Whereas most college students tend to head directly from high school into college and a 4-year degree cycle, that hasn’t been your chosen path. Can you elaborate on your educational journey up to now?

I graduated from Parkland High School in 2007, and chose to attend Lehigh Carbon Community College for graphic design. I studied under a phenomenal professor named Steven Weitz, who worked for years as an animator. With his help, I developed a solid grasp on the Adobe Creative Suite. Towards the end of my two-year degree, I became involved in my schools FM radio station, 90.3 WXLV. This interest turned into a passion, and after graduating in 2009 for graphic design, I threw myself right into a second associate's program for music and sound design. I hosted my own radio show for the next two years, and had the privilege of working with Harry Snodgrass, whose accomplishments include sound design for MallratsNapoleon Dynamite, and an Emmy for Flight 93. After graduating with my second associate degree, I moved to Philadelphia with ambitions of transferring into a four-year university. I was initially overwhelmed by the options that the various Philadelphia art schools offered, and decided to focus my time on saving money and establishing myself in the city. During this time I was producing tons of art, and exploring a wide variety of mediums, including street art, fiber sculpture, and knitting. I was also working in a kitchen, and while this work was creative in it’s own right, I became anxious to develop myself further as an artist. Four years after I moved to the city, I pushed myself to applying for the University of the Arts for animation, and I was accepted for the Spring 2016 semester.

Q: Can you talk a little bit more about your street art, fiber sculpture, and knitting work?

Philly has a very dynamic street art community, which I became involved in when I first moved to the city. Sticker meet-ups were an awesome way for me to meet artists within the community and practice my drawing skills. Sticker art is often focused on developing a character that acts as your tag. My character is a little ghost who haunts Philadelphia, and it interesting to see how he has developed over the years. Sticker art is a great practice because it deals heavily with repetition. I have drawn my ghost character thousands of times, and I feel like I get to know his personality a little bit more with each repetition. It also trains you to develop less of a physical attachment to your artwork, considering most outdoor stickers are destroyed quite quickly.

My mum taught me how to knit almost three years ago, and it has become one of my absolute favorite mediums. I started off knitting lumpy scarves and poorly fitted hats, but with the help of youtube tutorials and the supportive community of, I quickly progressed to stranger things. I aim to knit surreal outfits that shroud the wearer in color, secrecy, and excessive folds of fabric. I love to imagine a world where personal identity is completely private, and alien beings are never seen without their strange and completely concealing outfits on. Many of my outfits mirror those worn by characters in my sketchbooks. I enjoy the contrast between soft, bright knitwear and sinister hidden faces. My series of masks, started in 2014, plays on all of these themes. Wearing them out in public is a lot of fun!

I first voyaged into the world of fiber art sculpture with my ambitions to create puppets, as a means for bringing my characters to life. My first puppet was Toad.

I sculpted his head from a massive ball of foam, and found the fabric for his skin, mouth and eyes from a discount upholstery depot. Making him was some of the most fun I have ever had on a project, and I vastly underestimated how much I love puppeteering him. I went on to make various other live hand and rod puppets, who bring me a lot of joy! I combined my love of puppetry and knitting in the creation of my Shaman, who was a proud participant in The University of the Arts' Art Unleashed show in 2016. He is knit out of a rainbow of acrylic yarn, with extensive embroidered and beaded adornments. I have more of these knit creatures in the works right now!

Q: Why animation? Why not comics or illustration or graphic design or “fabric art” or knitimation?

I view animation as the pinnacle of traditional art practices. In order to animate, an animator must also be an illustrator, a color theorist, a sound designer, a costume designer, and a director. Many of my favorite comic artists were animation majors because in order to animate, an artist has to first learn how to storyboard and convey motion and plot. The animators that I know can capture the human figure with all the skill of a drawing major, and can light and frame a scene with finesse of a cinematographer. Arguably the most important skill an animator needs to develop is the ability to create and convey story, and therefore most animators are skilled creative writers. I struggle to think of another field of study that produces a more rounded creative student.

There is virtually no limit to what one can create with animation, and I am looking forward to incorporating my fiber art and knitting into an animated feature! As long as you can make something move, you can animate it. It is rare to find an art practice where the only limit is your creativity!

Q: What were you thinking about when looking at animation schools? Where did you look? What made you select UArts?

I was interested in staying in Philadelphia, so my school search focused on the plethora of art schools that Philly has to offer. As an adult student footing their own bill, a big consideration was how much my education was going to cost.

Tyler School of Art is a fantastic school with amazing resources, but the closest program that they offer to my interests is studio art, which was not appealing to me. I toured PAFA, and considered applying to their brand new illustration program, but I was concerned that their focus on traditional methods of rendering were impractical in a field that is moving almost entirely to digital creation. The University of the Arts had the ideal program for my interests, and I was impressed by the tour that I received of the campus. I have many friends who have graduated from The University of the Arts for film who are working within their fields, and I have continuously been impressed with the caliber of their work.

The University of the arts is also known for giving impressive scholarships to their students, and helping their students afford their education. For me, the University of the Arts was the perfect choice, and I was absolutely thrilled when I was accepted into the animation program.

Q: Did UArts seem like an animation school that would prepare you to a) write/direct your own independent films as an author of original work, b) learn the fundamentals of animation and the history of the form, and/or c) gain viable production skills to get an entry level job in a commercial studio soon after graduation and/or d) other? 

When I first applied to UArts, I was under the impression that I would learn how to animate, and that in two years I would join the post-college struggle to find employment to pay off my loans. I have been blown away by how the animation program prepares its students to direct, write, and animate their own work. There is a strong emphasis on developing organizational skills and time management. My future has never looked brighter, considering that this program has opened my eyes to the plentiful opportunities for jobs after graduation. UArts gives its students the resources to set up internships during the summer, which often turn into full time jobs upon graduation. When I first joined the program, my goal was to animate for an adult swim show, and now one semester in, I know that I can make that happen.

Q: Did you have an opinion about Philly at all before deciding to enroll at UArts? How did the school’s location in Center City affect your decision to attend? 

I have been living in Philly for almost five years, and I dearly love this city. Philadelphia has so much to offer. It has a thriving art scene, tons of good places to eat and drink, and a number of amazing museums. It’s easy to get around both on foot and public transportation. It’s a big small city, considering that there is a ton to do, but nothing is too far away. 

Q: Where would you like to take your animation skills/degree in the future?

My dream job would be working for Titmouse studios, animating shows for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. Apart from that, I would love the opportunity to storyboard for animation, and am inspired by the work that I see coming out of Disney and Nickelodeon Studios. As long as I am working with a driven, creative team of people on strange and crazy cartoons, I will be on top of the world!

Q: What was the first animation you created? Was it as great as you had hoped?

My first piece is called 7 O’ Clock, and it’s my baby! I spent a good two months storyboarding and tweaking the plot, and another two months animating in TV Paint. This is my sophomore piece (the first time this class has been offered at UArts), and I was provided with excellent guidance and feedback from my professor Chris Magee. It’s incredible to me that in January I had never made as much as a flipbook, but by April I was showing a two-minute short! 7 O’ Clock was selected for the Princeton Student Film Festival this year, which felt fantastic! Hearing a crowd of people laugh at my animation is the best feeling in the world. I adore 7 O’ Clock, and look forward to animating with this character in the future!