From education to employment

The science behind animation: Creator of Soundimals supports Your Future with Physics careers site

James Chapman (@ChapmanGamo), Creator of Soundimals is a member of the Institute of Physics, who recently launched a new careers site, Your Future with Physics which aims to help young people and their families who are making decisions about what to study at A Level and above.

What was your career path?

It’s been a bit of a windy path. I didn’t really do art for quite a few years after GCSE and basically gave my life to science. I did a PhD where I was rubbing shoulders with the likes of Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov, who discovered graphene. But I didn’t think that I wanted to follow it through as a career.

During this time, I did a few little doodles here and there in my notebooks and lab notes, and posted them online. Then I saw a Wikipedia page about animal sounds in different languages.

I wasn’t sure if it was true, so I went around the department and asked: “Hey, you’re from Denmark, what sound does a horse make?” They went: “A horse goes ‘vrinsk’,” and then I asked the next person. I thought: “I’ll use my new passion for art to spread the word”.

So I did a couple of pictures of animals making various sounds in different languages, and people really liked them. That took off and became the Soundimals series, which is now going to be published as a book in a few months’ time.

So eventually I got to a point where people were more interested in my artwork than my physics work. I became a freelance illustrator for two years, before securing a job at Brown Bag Films as a background artist, which is an animation studio in Manchester that makes pre-school animations shows.

Could you describe a typical day for you as a background artist?

A typical day focuses on creating backgrounds that suit a theme for an animation. It’s like being a location scout, I guess, but for an imaginary world. I design a location or take a previously designed location, and then do the angles and the perspective and the views of different shots required for it. Then, I’ll do the colouring and painting in order for the backgrounds to look pretty for the characters to run around in.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I like working on things that bring joy to people. My paper about lithium-doped graphene nanopaper and its lack of superconductivity was interesting to a very small set of people. But I don’t know if it brought anyone any joy. Before, my goal was to change the world with physics, but now my goal is to make people smile.

James Chapman, Creator of Soundimals

Related Articles