Tania Del Rio
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BFA in Animation
2002
Freelance Artist and Writer

Describe what you do for work.

I've been a freelance artist and writer since I graduated. Most of my work is in comics, but I am also the author of a children book series, Warren the 13th, that is illustrated by fellow alum Will Staehle. I love what I do, but since freelance can be difficult to make a living off of, I also work a day job at a fine art studio as an assistant, which is also creative and fun work.

What was your major and how did you choose it? Was it the right choice?

My chosen major was animation. I was very tempted to be a comics major, but I felt that an animation degree would be more beneficial for finding work. Funny enough, the reverse was true. After graduating, I wasn't able to land any animation work, but I fell into comics by chance. I don't regret my choice to focus on animation because I feel it has only strengthened my comic book and storytelling abilities and it's always been a passion of mine.

Who was your favorite teacher?

It's hard to pick one, but I really loved my comic classes that were taught by Peter Gross and Barb Schultz. I appreciated it when local professional comic artists like Gene Ha and Zander Cannon were brought in to teach as well. I really credit all of them for preparing me for my future career. In animation, I really liked Rich Shelton, Tom Schroeder, and David Sandberg. 

Tell us about your internship.

I was lucky enough to intern with David Sandberg before he became a full-time teacher at MCAD. I did in-betweening on a feature-length animation project he was working on with his wife, Mary. It was really special to get such hands-on animation experience with seasoned pros.

Best thing you ever got/saw on the free shelf?

I was always scouring the free shelf for books to read, but my favorite find was a pair of robotic looking gloves that I later incorporated into a Halloween costume.

What inspires you/your work?

I've always taken my inspiration from a variety of sources, but my main influences are Hayao Miyazaki, Disney animation, Wendy Pini, and Roald Dahl.

Current obsession?

The older I get, the more obsessed I am with the magic of children's literature, and content for kids. So much of what I consumed as a child went on to have such lasting effects on me, and I feel it's an honor to create something that could potentially influence another child in the same way. 

Has your work evolved since leaving MCAD?

I'd say my overall aesthetic hasn't changed much, but it's simply gotten more polished from years of experience. I have transitioned more into creative writing, which isn't something I did as much of during my MCAD days. But I've always considered myself a storyteller, regardless of medium.

How do you network yourself and your art?

I'm a little shy in person, so a lot of my networking has been online, by keeping active on social media, and making connections through Facebook and Twitter. I always felt networking has worked best for me when it's done organically, by forming genuine friendships which lead to other connections and opportunities, rather than by aggressively hawking my work to strangers. 

How did you get your job? 

I broke into comics after entering a contest held by publisher Tokyopop. I was the runner-up, but it was enough to get me noticed by Archie comics, who then hired me to reboot their Sabrina the Teenage Witch series. Over the years, through networking and staying consistent with my work quality and keeping up with deadlines, I was able to get more work with other comic book companies and branch out into writing for children. 

What advice do you have for current MCAD students?

I was definitely a straight-laced student who had a laser-focus on keeping up with deadlines and doing the best work I could. So while I missed out on some parties and being more social with my fellow students, I think it really helped boost me into the type of work I wanted to do. I built a strong work ethic that carried me into my professional life. However, looking back, I'd tell myself to take a break for some fun now and then because college is really a good time to play as well before real-life responsibilities take up the majority of your time. Balance is key!

Name your one biggest takeaway from MCAD?

I always look fondly at my time at MCAD as a period of freedom to explore my passions and creativity and make personal connections with people that have lasted years. I'm grateful I had access to so many great professors and tools that were able to prepare me for the real world—it was sort of like living in a cozy and inspiring dream for four years!