I feel honoured, blown away, light-headed, nauseous and proud to have taken the first NG tank for Waterlollies. If it weren't for Newgrounds I've no doubt I'd still be working in a studio churning out crap.
Everyone who has congratulated, commented and shown their support for the win, I truly appreciate it and this has inspired me to make more Brackenwood shorts in Flash (I had previously said that Waterlollies was the last Flash Brackenwood).
Ever since I submitted hitchHiker there has been a feeling in certain people that, having professional experience in animation, I should somehow be disqualified from the site. This seems to intensify whenever I win a daily, monthly and now annual.
In the beginning of my time here on NG, I was mortified that a handful of people felt this way so I spoke with Tom about retiring some of my movies. He convinced me that the community benefits from having high quality submissions (whether from professional or maverick) as it helps everyone lift their game a notch or two.
I don't think I've ever responded to the people who think I shouldn't be here, but here's what I have to say:
Short Version: I developed my skills in my own time. Disney hired me because of this.
Long version: My skills weren't handed to me on a plate at some elite studio. I only have a high school education which meant I worked in kitchens, factories and farms. In my free time though (every day after work and entire weekends), I worked my arse off to improve my drawing skill. I had big dreams of becoming a famous comic book artist, just like many people here have their own big dreams of becoming highly skilled animators.
I was employed by Disney only because I had worked hard to improve. If I had never worked on my skills on my own time, I never would have been employed by Disney, it's that simple.
When I was at the studio, I was an inbetweener (the starting point for a career in animation). I desperately wanted to become a character animator.. I did loads of tests to prove myself but they were rejected and I wasn't accepted. Meaning? I had to improve first.
I had also done some tests for effects animation and the FX supervisor was impressed with my test. So once accepted, I worked hard in order to graduate from the 3 month probationary training period.
Much of this work was in my own time. Whenever I was on holiday or just a day trip to the mountains or something, everyone else would be enjoying the sights while I'd be taking photos and video of water, wind, fire or smoke. My hard work paid off and I graduated from training. Once out of training though, every drawing, every scene and every day was a battle to prove that I was improving. Stagnation means you're out.
Finally, I WANT to be here and the numbers (and awards) tell me that most people want me here. Numbers aside, it's the best thing in the world for me to see someone else's work who has been inspired by my own and any of my characters making cameos in other people's films. I love helping people improve and offering advice (which admittedly is almost impossible to do 1-on-1 nowadays) and I will always be completely willing to help people get up to and beyond their goal standard.
You cannot fail if you can commit your life to your craft. I haven't stopped drawing or thinking about drawing for most of my life and as a result I landed a dream job where I was paid, not to sit back and go 'aaaah', but paid to improve.
You can do that too.
As a final thought, I was never a professional background artist, storyboard artist, layout artist or character animator. These are also skills I taught myself and am still working on improving.