Why Grit Matters: Holly DePetrillo on Learning Blender Animation

Every awesome digital art project is the result of a journey.

And while it's easy to be dazzled by the outcome and not think about the hard work behind it, let's remember that determination is the best indicator of future mastery. 

Holly DePetrillo showed me of what grit can achieve

Holly (ohsnapholly), has been a CGC member since 2016 but has really been taking her learning seriously in the past 12 months.  She worked her way through all of the animation courses, uploaded all her exercises and worked tirelessly to improve every single one.

As a Blender animation instructor, I like to go above and beyond when helping students, in fact I spend a lot of my free (unpaid) time helping them along.  Now why would I do that?

Because if you give me 100%, I will give you 100%.  That’s the way I roll.

Holly gave 100% and the results are astonishing

Every time I advised her to have another go at the exercise, she did.

Every time I advised her to take another look at a certain section where she could improve, she did.

Then came this lip sync shot.

I saw the potential in this shot, but knew it would take a lot more work to get it to where it was something she truly could be proud of.  So I pushed her further and asked that she take a pause on that shot and go and do the Acting for Animators course to learn how to make this feel better.  

And like true champion, she did!


So after her brief acting interlude, and a few more critiques, here is her final result.

 Animation by Holly DePetrillo, rendered by Kent Trammell


Well done, Holly! That’s something to be proud of.


We asked Holly a few questions about her CGCookie journey.

What got you into wanting to learn 3D art?

I've always had a passion for animated movies since I was a child. I think it is amazing how a story can be brought to life from a computer. I love the look of 3D art and  animation and have always been fascinated by all the work and different jobs that goes into it. I wondered how people created these characters and brought them to life. I thought that it would be amazing to try to learn animation and eventually be able to make something like the movies I grew up with. 

How long have you been learning Blender with CG Cookie?

I joined CG Cookie in July 2016 with the intention to learn as much as I could about 3D art, modeling, animation, and more. I started off with doing 3D modeling and sculpting. Through doing these tutorials, I learned how to navigate Blender and the different workflows needed for certain situations. Once I got used to Blender and did some modeling and sculpting courses, I went over to learning through animation courses which I really enjoyed and learned a lot from.

What is the best things about learning at CG Cookie?

I really like that CG Cookie offers feedback with the artists you are learning from and it really helped me to improve my work. My favorite thing was exercises where we post our work and then we can see other people's posts of the same assignment. I liked these assignments because I could see how other people approached the same exercise as me and it was also a way for me to gain feedback from the community.

What learning method do you use to boost your skills?

I focused on courses and tutorials that were specific to what I wanted to learn and what interested me. I try to work on CG Cookie tutorials and learn almost every single day which is basically whenever I have free time.

Why did you start the Blender animation courses?

Animation is what interests me the most about digital and 3D art. I want to pursue a career in 3D animation so my focus is learning as much as I can about it.

How did you keep yourself motivated?

I was super excited to start learning animation and I liked how I saw that the courses involved a lot of what needs to be learned to be a successful animator. I saw courses on the fundamentals, lip syncing, acting, rigging, and what really excited me - character animation! I also love how the courses include a short film production at the end that will show the entire work flow of making an animation. I didn't know the results I would get since I hadn't done much animation before this, but the results I ended up with were astonishing. I am very proud of the 3D Baker animation I did and the improvements I made along the way. I tackled the same exercise multiple times as I kept learning more and my animation was getting better. I think it is amazing how much I learned and am still learning from these courses. I made sure to spend a lot of time going over all of the tutorials, taking notes, and listening to feedback to get better. 

How do you feel about receiving critiques and feedback?

I had received some feedback in the past when doing other CG Cookie tutorials but never experienced as much feedback as Wayne Dixon, professional animator and teacher of many of the animation courses. He gave me detailed feedback on each of my exercises and was always quick to answer my questions. He challenged me to keep trying and honestly, without all of his help and tips I wouldn't have learned so much. I take feedback very seriously because I want to try to be the best I can and my goal is to learn and improve.

Why should artists actively seek feedback?

Feedback has helped me to see things I didn't see before. When working on an animation, sometimes you become blinded to things because you've been staring at the same thing for hours and for many days. Having that new set of eyes really helps to notice glitches and things that need to be fixed. I also enjoyed doing the Actors for Animators course and getting feedback on how I could improve my acting to use as references for animation.   

How can digital artists develop determination and grit?

I think I have the determination I have because I want to strive to do the best I can and it feels amazing to look back on where you were before and how much you have improved since. When I lost all the work of the 3D baker animation, I didn't let that stop me from tackling the exercise again even if it meant starting from scratch. I saw this as an opportunity to start over with all the new knowledge I had and I ended up with a more successful animation. Tips I have would be to never give up even when things get hard because you're going to encounter a lot of obstacles throughout your learning but it's whether or not you make them a chance to get better that matters.

What do you plan to learn next?

I plan to keep learning more about animation and finishing up the remaining animation courses on the website. I also will continue to advance my knowledge on 3D modeling, rigging, lighting, and more subjects that relates to making a successful animation.

Follow Holly on CG Cookie or check out her website.

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  • crew
    Jonathan Gonzalez (jgonzalez)

    Great job Holly! Always great to hear member success stories.

  • smurfmier1985

    Who Holly, your Dumbledore animation turned out great! All that great acting you did really paid off. Keep doing what you're doing :)

  • Philipp Bauer (cruento)

    Very nice!! Keep it up :)

  • Adam Janz (copperplate)

    Nice job, Holly, and great article Wayne. It's so true that Wayne's excellent feedback has been very instrumental in pushing all of our skill further. :-)

  • miecz

    Keep it up Holly, good job!

  • Deborah Douglas (choyce7)

    Your story is inspiring! I hope to one day get where you are with animation.

  • Michael Wanyoike (brandiqa)

    Great job Holly! Hope to see more of your works!

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