By Doug Geyer
As a young girl, Gina dreamed of becoming not a Disney princess but an animator. Playing dress up may be fine for some, but drawing was how she had fun.
“I have had a pretty clear plan for what I wanted to do for a long time. I decided when I was five that I wanted to work for Disney. It’s definitely based on Beauty and the Beast,” Gina shared. She’s excited for the live-action version with Emma Watson but is partial to the original.
“It eventually expanded to wanting to tell visual stories. That is what I want to do with my life. I’ve always leaned toward animation and film because whenever I draw things they tend to be on the cinematic side, like I’m looking up at the screen.”
Gina’s interests were encouraged by her family growing up. “My whole family has always been super supportive. They never gave me that, ‘You can’t do art because you’ll never make any money’, but more, ‘you can use your talent and translate that into earning a living’.”
Gina began connecting as a young teen to what would become another supportive family – the Art Academy. She took classes on a couple occasions as a teen before enrolling initially at the Columbus College of Art and Design. Eventually, Gina returned to Cincinnati and the AAC to finish her portfolio and earn her degree.
“Over the last couple of years, there many teachers who have really helped me get through my work, to best exemplify what I can do. Ken Henson was really instrumental. He’s been a huge help. That’s the great thing about the Art Academy. They really zero in on what you personally want to do. They aren’t just preparing you to go out into the working world, they’re also preparing you to do so by expressing your unique talents.”
Gina continued to pursue her dream, honing her own unique talents through a mixture of illustration, animation, with a dash of comics. Watercolor painting, digital work, storyboards, animatics, and a diverse array of other offerings opened her eyes to the possibilities.
It was Ken Henson who reanimated her love for comics through a class assignment. He also helped her land an internship with Cincinnati-based Flaming Medusa Animation in the spring of 2015. But it was his relationship with Jay Kalagayan that helped get Gina a job in the sewer.
In addition to his work as Director of Community Engagement at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and founding the Know Theater, Jay recently launched the new comic book series, MeSseD. The comic chronicles the exploits of the diminutive Lilliput as she battles a surreal array of creatures in a labyrinth of sewer tunnels. Like Gina, Lilliput probably wouldn’t get lost in daydream about being a princess in some gilded tower as she pined for her prince. She’s too busy making things happen, dispatching all manner of monsters, carving out her own destiny as she finds her way up and out.
When Ken heard about `Jay’s new project, he thought of a few AAC students – including Gina. She was thrilled to work on the bonus story “Paperwork” that accompanied the first chapter in the series and is looking forward to new opportunities to contribute to this local gem.
While grateful to be a part of Lilliput’s dark and dangerous world, Gina still has her sights set on working somewhere in glow of The Golden State. With her tendency to see the world through a cinematic lense, it’s only natural to be where much of the movie magic happens. Just don’t expect to see her holding a magic wand or royal scepter. She works her magic with a pencil.