MontaQue Ruffin is a 2013 graduate from the School Of Visual Arts in New York City. While attending to SVA, he’s worked on a variety of short films and has directed one of his own, Puggums. In 2014, he worked on Cinderella and Terminator Genisys as a character animator at MPC, (Motion Picture Company). He now lives in California and is working as a Fix/Crowd Animator at Pixar Animation Studios.
The college experience is the beginning of a new chapter in your lives. My experience at the School Of Visual Arts helped me discover and harness my hidden talents and qualities. I can tell you that college is what you make it. The college experience will be an invaluable investment if you fully engage in maximizing the opportunity. My advice is to take time out in getting to know yourself. Whether it is through journaling or taking time to center your thinking about what you find exciting in life. You will be amazed by how many answers you will find in life. While in college and even post college, you might have discovered that spark, and if you have not yet, no worries. Like with all tasks given in life, if you keep at it long enough, you will find answers. All you have to do is believe in yourself and allow that belief to influence your instincts and train of thought. Follow where your passion takes you, even if it diverts from your original career plans prior to college. You will find that life is really a journey of self discovery and with each piece of information or event that you expose yourself to, something from within will emerge and lead to the very thing that will ultimately bring you life satisfaction. Stay open and don’t settle for anything less for yourself.
I encourage you to take time to journal and record your thoughts. Take note of patterns and the direction your passion takes you. I cannot emphasize how crucial this process is not just during your college experience but throughout your life as well. Your words and thoughts will always leave clues, and will ultimately help anchor you whenever the storms of life come your way. Renew your mind on a daily basis and own the fact that you are a one of a kind. You will want to give up or think that you are entering into the game too late. There will be moments when you feel confused and unsure. You will have your seasons of making strides and you will also have seasons of personal drought. Your fears do not determine what you’re capable. Do not allow them define who you are. As the old saying goes, fear is nothing more than false evidence appearing real.
You do not have to know all the answers in order to take a leap of faith and to act on what you feel is leading you. All you have to know is what you know at the time, but you must act on what you know. When I had enrolled into the SVA’s Computer Art/Animation program in the fall of 2009, I did not know that character animation would be the profession that I would ultimately pursue. All I knew at the time was that I had a strong interest in computer graphics because of my love for video games. Like many of you, I found myself in a big world with big goals and big dreams. But I also had fears and self doubts. I had often questioned myself as to how would I make my dreams come true. Despite my strong faith, I clearly remember feeling overwhelmed and I can say that it is normal to feel that way. Be encouraged! We’re all human, so we expect these seasons. However, I can tell you from my own experience, that you are not limited by them. You have something unique to contribute to society and it goes way beyond any job or career could ever offer you.
Despite feeling overwhelmed, I knew that at the end of the day, all I could do in any given day is give it my best. I did all that I knew that I could do. I resolved and promised myself that I would live with no regrets and that if I went all out and at the end up day and had still fallen short, then I could not really be upset with myself since made sure that I gave it all that I could.
Given the college environment and the endless amount of possibilities, it’s worth giving it your all. Take a balanced approach and make every minute count. Do not wait for a teacher to tell you what to do, and don’t hesitate to reach out to professionals who are currently working in the industry that you are trying to pursue. You will be amazed by the response you will get back, the wisdom you receive, and the friendships that are awaiting you. Throughout my college years, I was always reaching out to professional artist/animators, whether they were alumnus or not. I kept myself plugged into interviews and podcasts of professional artist, and ultimately it served as a constant reminder that my small beginnings were just part of the process. My faith kept me rooted and continues to keep me rooted till this day. My message is to not underestimate the essence of who you are. If you ever find yourself in a pickle or tight situation, strip down your life to its core values and to what matters most. You’ll find that your values that makes you whole is already within your grasp. For me, it always goes back to that foundation of love and family.
Just like Walt Disney, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Oprah Winfrey, all the way to the everyday workmen and women who make a difference in this world, you have something special to share to the world. All of us have something unique to share. You will only go as far as your mind takes you, so take time to renew your mind everyday. Hold on to the truth about who you are. Each and every one of you matter! Never believe otherwise. You are the one who will determine how far you will flourish.