I am an artist passionate about animation and creative design processes that involve coding. I started teaching as a lecturer at the University of Alabama in Huntsville in Fall 2018 after graduating from the MFA in Creative Technologies program at Virginia Tech. I had worked as an animator, illustrator, and storyboard designer back in my home country, Iran, before I came to the United States in 2014.
Telling stories is what I am passionate about as an artist. Sometimes these stories are told in their conventional barriers such as storyboards and animations. Some other times, stories find their way into my drawings, illustrations, or even still renders of a 3D model. No matter what the medium is, the story is always in the heart of my art practices. “How can a story be told in one frame?” you might ask. Imagine a picture of someone smiling at the camera. Is the smile a genuine smile or a fake one? Does the person look calm or excited? All these questions roam around in our mind as we see an image and we try to make up answers for them, that is where the story begins. My challenge as an artist is to create something that sets a start for a story in the mind. Something to be hooked on to and imagining about, whether a short animation or a rendered image. Technology and science are also an inseparable part of my creative processes. Although art in its pure forms such as drawing brings me comfort and freedom, I always feel the need to engage with more interdisciplinary art forms such as 3D animation to challenge myself. Before joining the Creative Technologies MFA program at Virginia Tech, I used to think I need to choose either art or science when it comes to deciding on my future research path. However, learning more about art practices in the digital age, I realized art interacts with and borrows from many science and technology fields. Taking courses in Creative Coding with Processing, my art practice became more engaged with technology. Since then, I welcome any opportunities for doing research and contribute to projects in which my two favorite subject areas, art and science, overlap.
I believe my most important role as a teacher is to nourish my students’ passion and motivate them for trying to reach their goals. The interdisciplinary nature of the 3D animation attracts students from a variety of disciplines with a wide range of skills, interests, and expertise. Some art major students may feel confident dealing with the artistic obstacles while some others with science and engineering backgrounds are more comfortable encountering technical challenges. My goal is to help my students to know their strength, not to feel intimidated by the skills and abilities of their peers, and to understand they can achieve any level of expertise if they keep trying. To be persistent and confident are qualities I try to nourish in my students. It is important to teach them not to give up each time they fail or progress slowly. Drawing their attention to the role of failed attempts in the learning process, I inform the students that their effort and improvements are considered when they are being evaluated. To boost their self-confidence, I try to draw their attention to their strengths and assign them projects within their range of expertise as they first encounter the subject. Then gradually, push them outside their comfort zone of knowledge through more challenging assignments. Most students who take animation courses are already interested in the subject matter. However, keeping them motivated as they face challenges of producing quality works is not easy. Having said that, most students tend to passionately work on challenging assignments if they find them meaningful. To provide such vision to my students, I try to design creative assignments that introduce them to the best practices in the animation and game production workflows, and empower them for their possible future encounters with the subject. Some of the students in my class may take the course as a requirement for their program, for some others, it might be their first exposure to art. They may find their passion in the subject and follow it or find out they don\'t want to continue this path. In any case, my attempt is to create a welcoming inclusive learning experience for them all.