This Notable Alumni Spotlight focuses on Cuesta College graduate Cynthia J. Halley, a background design artist working in Los Angeles’ animation industry.
Halley attended Cuesta College from 2006 to 2009 before transferring to ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., initially to pursue illustration before discovering a passion for the entertainment arts. To this end she decided to pursue a major in entertainment arts, with a focus on background design and visual development.
“Cuesta’s program is pretty incredible, and I would also say their art program is stellar,” Halley said. “Several of the teachers that taught me while I was there could easily have taught at some of the very high level art schools.”
Halley has worked for several major animation studios, including Sony Entertainment, Disney Interactive, and Nickelodeon. Her projects include the 2018 film “Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
Halley didn’t know how to pursue this career initially, and cited the fact that she hadn’t always known this was the path for her as one of her greatest challenges.
“One of the biggest hurdles for me was coming into it late, because most of my peers had known practically since birth that they wanted to work at Disney and do animation and I just didn’t realize until halfway through my college experience that I was interested in entertainment,” Halley said.
Halley always knew the spirit of what she wanted to do: To design and create things involving worlds and worldbuilding. She credits much of her inspiration to films like “Labyrinth,” “The Dark Crystal” and especially “The Lord of The Rings” franchise.
Halley believes now is a great time to pursue a career in entertainment arts, and that the market has never been easier to break into, thanks in large part to how much behind the scenes coverage the industry receives nowadays.
“It’s actually much easier now than it has ever been to get into the industry,” Halley said. “It used to be that you had to know something about it or someone to get into it and now I think it’s a lot easier to get started on that path and ultimately if you’re persistent and you’re good you can find a way into it.”
Halley has returned to Cuesta College several times to provide guest lectures in the Fine Art Department, and has a message for students struggling in their artistic pursuits.
“Think about what areas you are most interested in, not in terms of the industry but in terms of creative practice,” Halley said. “What is the stage of creating something that you’re most excited about, because that can tell you a lot about where you might do well or what you’ll enjoy the most in the industry.”