Meet and Greet: Josh "Hat" Lieberman

Welcome to the first Meet and Greet* session on From the Inkwell. In this segment, we sit down with an animator (from experienced artists to those still trying to get their foot in the door) and discuss what draws them to this field, their inspiration, goals, etc.

Name: Josh "Hat" Lieberman
Age: 22
Claim to Fame: Completed a pilot titled, "The Awesome Chronicles of Manny and Khan" with Joey Giarina for the Cartoon Network's "Cartoonstitute" program; currently working at Dreamworks on Madagascar 3

What do you do?
"Contractually, I'm a storyboard artist, however the term "artist" is applied rather loosely these days and not sure I even fall under its jurisdiction. I'm not naturally artistic, cartoons are just something I've always loved. I'm no better at drawing than anyone else who does it everyday and prefer the term "heartist" to describe myself. Animation is just something I love to do.

"The role of a storyboard artist can be interpreted differently depending on the studio you work for and the platform of a specific project (TV, feature, commercial), but more often than not revolved around presenting scripted ideas in a clear and readable way. Basically, we write with pictures.

"At the moment, I'm boarding for a feature. In essence, we create a comic book where the story is laid out visually. Each storyboard artist is launched on a particular scene of the movie and works closely with the director and head of story to try and achieve visually the desired emotion/impact/narrative their respective scene warrants. Ideally, that means incorporating cinematography, lighting, staging, composition, character's expression and posing all into your boards to try and tell the story in the most effective way as possible. Although with that said, I struggle to handle any two of those principles properly in a given panel, but I try and I'm learning new things everyday. I really just like coming up with gags."

How did you get started in animation?
"I've always just loved cartoons. When I was younger I would spend most of my time writing, drawing and making flipbooks in the bottom corners of textbooks. When I was 15 I attended CSSSA (California State Summer School for the Arts), which I guess would be my first official foray into the world of animation. After that summer I took what I learnt, got a copy of Flash and started making my own little animated shorts."

When/how did you get your "big break"?
"In the summer of 2007, I was granted an opportunity to intern at Cartoon Network, which was kind of my foot in the door. I was able to keep in touch with the studio, and about a year after my internship had ended they announced the "Cartoonstitute" shorts program. The folks at CN were kind enough to give me and my good friend, the very talented Joey Giardina a timeslot to pitch. We got a few notes on our concept, reworked it a bit, went back, showed them the changes, and the short was green lit. That was my big break."

Name your favorite cartoon/animated character growing up.
"It's hard to pick just one. I liked Filburt from Rocko's Modern Life, he was funny. You can't go wrong with Spongebob and/or Patrick for that matter... something like that."

Any advice for up-&-coming artists?
"In general, I think one of the most important things for an artist to do is to try and understand their craft fully. Learn the history, learn where it started and where it's headed. Learn the artistic aspects as well as the business side of things.

"For animation in particular, if it's something you're passionate about, you just got to do it. Animation is so accessible today, you can download a program in 10 minutes and start animating on your computer at home. There is also an abundance of classic animation available on DVD, all great for frame-by-frame breakdowns. And on top of that, there are some amazing blogs and websites maintained by very knowledgeable cartoonists who offer up invaluable information and insight for free.

"The internet is really helping to redefine the industry. There is some incredible independent animation out there, particularly Flash-driven, stuff like or Eric Pringle's Prophet Buddy, guys who animate in their spare time and yet their work is as effective as what the major studios put out. I encourage young artists to start their own website or blog, it's a good way to track your progress, network, and also acts as a great self-motivator."

Be sure to check out "Hat's" blog at:

***Are you an animator with years in the field, or someone trying to get your cartoons out there? You could be the next artist to be interviewed here on the Meet and Greet! Send an e-mail to, along with a brief description of what you do! You may find yourself as our next featured artist!

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