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Blog . Alumni Stories: Aiden Burkley ’22

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Alumni Stories: Aiden Burkley ’22

02/13/24  |  Posted by Anthony Scalmato  |  Posted in Animation

Animation alum Aiden Burkley, class of 2022, discusses their career and time at CIA.

Where do you live and what are you doing to stay creative these days?

I am currently located in Ohio, in a small town a short distance from Cleveland. I mainly stay creative by working my job at Nickelodeon (I work as a Storyboard Revisionist at Nickelodeon Animation Studios) and always making sure I have an outlet to make personal work outside of it. When I lived in Cleveland, I’d go out to draw people walking or eating at restaurants, now I mostly take walks on my farm and draw my dogs, or even a chicken if I’m feeling crazy. I am also constantly writing stories with friends and sketching out ideas outside of work hours to keep my creativity flowing.

What’s been your most satisfying professional accomplishment since attending CIA?

I still think it’s totally unbelievable that my name is in the credits of a Nickelodeon show. When the opportunity came along I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to live up to the expectations of it. But now it’s been two years, and I feel like I’ve grown and learned so much from the position. I definitely feel accomplished from the work and dedication I’ve put into it.

What are your creative/professional goals for the future?

I dedicate a LOT of thought and ideation into stories that live solely in my head. I really want to see myself finally putting one of those stories out into the world. I still feel a sense of reservation with my ideas that I wish I could grow out of. If there’s anything that CIA taught me, it’s that when you finally decide to share your art, that's when it becomes alive. I’ve been working on it, though! And I think I’ll be able to put big stories out there soon—Maybe a webcomic? An animatic series? It will happen! It’s definitely my biggest goal for the future.

How did CIA help prepare you for your current role?

CIA really helped me with time management, presenting myself professionally, and networking. I would not be the artist I am today without the guidance the professors at CIA gave me. The fast-paced scheduling of project deadlines taught me the invaluable lesson of spreading my work evenly throughout the week. And the assignments of each class helped build my portfolio to where it is today. Your first three years at CIA are a lot about learning and growing, whereas in your fourth year it’s more about showcasing what you learned. Classes like the Professional Practices course, and Portfolio Building class in Animation really moved me a step ahead when it comes to presenting myself as a professional.

Was there a specific piece of instruction or advice you received from a faculty member that's proven especially helpful? If so, please share what it was and who provided it.

There are so many times I could put into words, but most memorably I look back on a moment when my professor Lincoln Adams was reviewing my portfolio during my senior year. At the time I was working on making a character design portfolio, and really felt like I was pushing myself in a direction just for the sake of finding work and playing to my strengths. I wasn’t passionate about it, but for a while I thought that this was the right thing to do. He instead took the time to look at my story portfolio. I didn’t have nearly the amount of confidence in my story work as my character work, but I loved doing it so much more. He told me that I was not meant to design stories but to tell them, and this piece of advice not only changed the trajectory of my career completely but gave me a total boost in confidence with my work. I feel like it was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. Something completely unique to being a student at CIA is meeting people who will not only get to know not you, but your work. Lincoln Adams, Anthony Scalmato, Scott Lax, Steven Rawley, Dave Schwartz, Nick Leysens, Jeff Simonetta, Hal Lewis… (I don’t know if I can possibly name them all!) were all a collection of professors that changed me as an artist during my schooling at CIA.

What's your fondest memory of being a part of the CIA community?

When I think about community I think about the Animation department. I have so many memories of late night studying in the studio with all my classmates who have become my closest friends to this day. Though all of our styles were different, we kept each other motivated and helped one another up when we were down. It’s hard to think of one specific moment, but I think a lot about all of our final thesis presentations. My class had seen all of our thesis films a thousand times over, through every iteration, but still laughed and cheered along with them at the end. That final critique felt like the culmination of all the love I felt at CIA, and it’s what I remember the most.

What advice might you offer to current or prospective CIA students interested in charting a career path similar to yours?

If you want to be a professional artist, CIA is an amazing place to be. My best advice I can give is to take full advantage of the opportunities CIA gives you. The school hosts a multitude of networking events, artist shows, and additional classes outside of your required ones. Get to know your classmates and professors and learn from both their successes and their mistakes just as well as your own. I really believe that if you take your education seriously and put forth the effort, CIA will help build you up as a professional, skilled artist.


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