Womenize! – Inspiring Stories is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. For this edition we talked to Jenny Harder, Senior Concept Artist at Karakter. She speaks about her evolution in artistic storytelling, reflects on directing her own animated short film and tells us why she became an instructor. Read more about Jenny in this interview:
Hi Jenny! With over a decade of experience in art direction, visual devel-opment, and concept art for animation and games, how has your approach to artistic storytelling evolved over the years? Are there any specific projects that significantly influenced your artistic style or approach to visual development?

I think one of my main learning curves was understanding that research is actually the most important part of any good design process. Nowadays I spend a lot of time writing character sheets and defining the personality of a character that I am designing. It assures that your character has actual depth and credibility. I often ask myself “would my character really wear this?” or “what is their mood on this day and how does it affect expression and posture?”.
I started thinking more about this when I worked on my short film “Being Good” and started teaching at universities. You see a lot of great artworks that students do, but sometimes they lack a story or intention. I teach a lot of courses now that emphasize visual storytelling and the importance of developing ‘not just a character – but a personality’.

Can you share some insights into your journey directing your own animated short film “Being Good”? What inspired you to take on this creative leadership role, and what did you learn from the experience?

I have been working in games for a long time, but I have always had great passion for animated films. I found out however, that transitioning from one industry to another is pretty hard if you don’t have any experience in making films. After a lot of rejection emails I decided that I had to ‘create this experience myself’ which is when I started ‘Being Good’. I very much enjoyed the process of building a team, defining the stylistic vision and even taking on a producer role during the project. It was a lot of hard work, but I learned more than any course could have ever taught me. I experienced the whole animation pipeline first hand, made valuable connections and finally, I was offered an art director position in animation after my short film was released.
I think that it’s often these kinds of passion projects that lead to the greatest achievements and opportunities in our career as artists.

As an instructor at various art, game schools and universities. What motivated you to share your knowledge and expertise with aspiring artists, and what do you believe are the most crucial skills and insights you can pass on to the next generation of artists and game developers?

I have always loved working in teams. There is a certain energy and passion to creating something together. I participated in a lot of game jams at the start of my career as well as countless art events, where I received a lot of valuable feedback from other artists. This really helped me improve my art, but also taught me how important it is to show kindness and a willingness to support each other. I really wanted to be that person for someone else one day. That is why I eventually decided to start teaching, doing workshops and giving portfolio reviews at events.
I think our industry is a lot smaller than we think and we are destined to meet twice.
The person next to you at university might be your art director one day. My advice would be: be kind, be supportive and let’s enjoy this journey together as a team, not competitors.

Thanks for this interview, Jenny!

Jenny’s links: LinkedIn, Portfolio

Womenize! – Inspiring Stories Feature by Madeleine Egger