By Indiana State University
Dec 16, 2020
A freelance character designer for Warner Brothers since July, Trea Bailey, ’11, relocated from Los Angeles and is working remotely from Terre Haute since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think, in the early stages, (Indiana State) opened me up to an inclination toward art,” he said. “I had great instructors in the ceramics studios and graphic design marketing class and professors who encouraged and pushed me toward art before I even considered it as a career option.”
A native of Greene County, Bailey received his bachelor’s degree in English from State, where he excelled in short fiction and took classes in graphic design and advanced sculpture.
“I took classes that felt ‘artsy’, including two semesters of advanced ceramics and graphic design marketing classes,” he said. “For a lot of college students, it’s easy to get tunnel vision and not want to explore and try new things, but I don’t know if I would be doing what I’m doing now if I hadn’t been open to exploring and trying new things.”
After graduation, Bailey moved to Sydney, Australia, where he was trained in leadership and developing creative leaders. It’s also where he developed a love for animation, particularly Disney and Don Bluth, character design and the art of a great story.
In 2015, Bailey came stateside again. He moved to Nashville, Tenn., to pursue a dream in music. He joined a band before realizing his heart was really in art and storytelling and decided to enroll in animation courses at Lipscomb University.
“I always enjoyed drawing and even took a lot of art classes at ISU, but I didn’t see art as a viable career until I want to Australia after graduation,” Bailey said. “I needed a hobby to do while in Australia, so I started sketching and really loved it. When the band wasn’t fun in Nashville anymore and I needed something else but I didn’t want a corporate job, so I met up with industry professionals in Nashville and moved toward a career in animation.”
Animation isn’t the easiest field to break into, Bailey admits, but he can attest to the truth of the old adage: It’s about who you know.
“A lot comes down to networking. You do have to meet a skills threshold, but once you do, it’s about who you know,” he said. “When I quit the band in Nashville, I reached out to industry professionals in the area and built relationships with professors at a school where I started taking classes, and they started recommending my name to people here and there.”
Bailey’s workdays vary based on his projects, but he tries to keep a typical 9-5 work schedule.
“I start my days by doing warm up drawings before I dive into the gig for that week,” he said. “Most of what I do is animation or character design, but the length of an animation project depends on the scene. For character design, each stage takes about two days. It’s a pretty quick turnaround, maybe one to two weeks.”
After deciding to make the career change from music to drawing in 2017, Bailey snagged his first professional gig in 2018. Now his creativity can be viewed in projects like the Sesame Street 50th special, music videos for Hunter Hayes and Blake Shelton and the Netflix series, “Green Eggs and Ham”.
“I love making my living in animation because it allows me to convey emotions through drawing,” he said. “It’s crazy to be able to take out a tablet, draw a character and make it move and watch as this non-living character suddenly comes to life.”