FACULTY SPOTLIGHT: Art Director Dave Chambers joins VFS’s Animation Concept Art department

By VFS, on April 24, 2024

Vancouver Film School is pleased to welcome Dave Chambers to our Animation Concept Art faculty. Dave comes to us super-charged with such a vast animation background that it begs the question, “is there such a thing as TOO MUCH experience”?

Short answer: no.

Currently the Art Director for Kickstart Entertainment, an animation and live action production company that’s produced 600+ episodes of television and 20 feature films, Dave has over two decades of industry animation experience under his belt. He’s worked in a variety of roles from Graphic Designer to Concept Artist, Set Designer, & Lead Artist, for some of the biggest studios in animation from Electronic Arts to Next Level Games, Sony, Nerd Corps, Microsoft, & Atomic Cartoons, AND on projects like Need for Speed, the Super Mario-verse, Age of Empires, Monster High, Blaze and the Monster Machines, & Mattel’s Hot Wheels series.

But what might surprise you is that Dave got his start in completely non-creative roles, working as a Police Constable for the RCMP and later as a Deputy Sheriff for ICBC and the BC Government. Dave’s career pivot (quite common in the creative industries!) came in the early 2000s when he started as a Designer for Studio B Productions and worked his way up to Kickstart Entertainment’s Art Director.

Dave’s had the pleasure of working on a handful of noteworthy projects, from Need for Speed to Age of Empires and Mattel’s Hot Wheels series.

At VFS, Dave will be teaching select ‘Digital Painting’ and ‘Design Studio’ courses. While the former teaches students to hone their colour theory skills while developing their understanding or colour relationships, composition, light, and shadow, the latter helps students strengthen their core skills in one and two-point perspective, orthographic drawings, and the application of research in the design process. (Interested in experiencing VFS’s Animation Concept Art program? Check the bottom of this article for your invite to an exclusive event.)

We were able to connect with Dave to chat about his career pivot from Police Constable to Artist, advice for aspiring creatives, and everything Concept Art:

Welcome to the VFS Family, Dave! What do you look forward to most in teaching our Animation Concept Art students?

I just love teaching! Not only helping students become better artists but better people as well. I strive to give them the best instruction I can, to share my experiences, give them tips that help them become professionals, and warn them of stumbling points and pitfalls. When I instruct, I try to provide a constant dialogue of what I'm doing and why, answer questions, and talk about processes that will best serve them (that is, until my voice gives out!). I love when students provide feedback on how I can better teach them so we can improve together. I have had some very kind people help me in my career and I feel it's my duty to pay that kindness forward.

Tell us all about Concept Art. What makes it stand out as an art form not only within animation but within the creative industries as a whole?

Concept Art is crucial. It helps build amazing things and inspires others to create. Concept Art can be both dynamic and technical and it ultimately provides the visual blueprint for a production.

You’ve had quite the career pivot – from Police Constable to Art Director (and now VFS Instructor!). What ultimately led you to the creative industry?

As a Constable, I found my brain cells were leaking out of my head; I needed more of a challenge in my life. I needed to break free from process and doctrine, doing the same things day in and day out, and I needed to work with non-rigid, creative people who think outside of the box. As a cop, I became a First Aid Attendant, a Criminal Law Instructor, and volunteered for high security trials – but it didn't give me what I needed. Only this amazing, creative Concept Art industry has provided that.

“I needed more of a challenge in my life.” – Dave Chambers commenting on his early days as a Police Constable.

Is there a favourite project or studio you’ve worked on/for? Any particularly fond memories that come to mind?

EA, Zipper/Sony, Microsoft, and Kickstart have been my favourite companies for different reasons. EA because of the variety and responsibility. The Need for Speed vehicle team had a great culture and my bosses allowed me to create my own outsource team. I was part of development, promotions, marketing, outsourcing, voice recording, and mocap. It was a full plate and I loved it. Zipper was my first time as a senior decision maker, and I was the only Concept Artist. They were kind, generous, and treated you very well. I was part of all its development and promotions, and I loved it.

Microsoft hired me on faith. I only knew that what they were working on was “groundbreaking and cool,” and it was up to me to take the leap. I worked on many things, but the 'Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS)' for the US Army was the coolest. I even got to don a kit with a wired up AR15 and go through the hostage scenario demo set. For a techie like me, I was in heaven. Finally, Kickstart Entertainment is the studio where I get to work on Hot Wheels – need I say more?

What advice do you have for aspiring/emerging Concept Artists as they enter the industry?

I've learned, and continue to learn, this: Keep at it, be enthusiastic, don't complain, don't sweat the small stuff, and protect your reputation. Pick and choose your battles. Help and be kind to others for the sake of being kind. Appreciate those who are kind to you. Learn, learn, learn, and keep learning. You only stop learning when you die.

“We’re so excited and honoured that Dave has joined our team” said Colin Giles, Head of VFS’s School of Animation. “His extensive art direction and design experience with some of the leading studios in our industry is invaluable to our students. Having Dave only strengthens our curriculum, improves the career preparation of our students, and maintains our reputation as one of the leading animation schools in the world.”

VFS All Access Pass if your exclusive backstage pass to VFS’s industry-leading programs.

Looking to train as a Concept Artist and enter a $400 billion animation industry? If you have an interest in animation, VFS is hosting All Access Pass on May the 4th (be with you) in Vancouver (we promise the date is a complete coincidence!). This event is your exclusive backstage access to VFS’s Animation Concept Art program.

You’ll meet Program Head and Animator Colin Giles (Sausage Party, Eight Crazy Nights) to learn about the program’s award-winning curriculum, experience demos in AI, sketching, & digital painting, enter exclusive door prizes, and learn how you can join an Animation alumni that’s worked on Across the Spider-Verse, Resident Evil 4, The Last of Us, and so many more amazing titles. If you live in Vancouver or are going to be in town on May 4, register here for FREE.


With Dave’s background in both law enforcement and animation, how does the intersection of these two seemingly disparate fields influencing his approach to teaching Animation Concept Art?
Dave’s background in law enforcement instilled an appreciation for structure, discipline, and attention to detail, all of which are essential not only in law enforcement but also in the creative industry. Teaching Animation Concept Art allows him to blend these seemingly disparate fields by emphasizing the importance of critical thinking, problem-solving, and adaptability, skills that are highly valuable for a Concept Artist to possess. Additionally, his law enforcement experience taught the significance of effective communication and teamwork, both of which are integral to VFS’s curriculum – not only in the Animation Concept Art program but in all VFS programs.

Moving from roles like Graphic Designer to Concept Artist, Set Designer, and Lead Artist must have involved a diverse skill set. How has Dave’s multifaceted experience informed his teaching methodology?
Pivoting between various roles within the creative industry has equipped Dave with a diverse skill set that he utilizes in the classroom. For example, his experience as a Concept Artist has honed his ability to visualize and conceptualize ideas, which is translated into class work that allow VFS students to develop their own design skills. Similarly, Dave’s background as a Set Designer informs his approach to teaching spatial awareness and composition, essential elements in creating compelling concept art. By sharing real-world examples and insights from his own journey, Dave strives to provide students with a holistic understanding of the industry and equip them with the skills they need to excel in diverse roles.

Dave’s career journey showcases a significant pivot from law enforcement to becoming an Art Director and now an instructor at VFS. How does this non-traditional career path offer unique insights and perspectives to aspiring Concept Artists navigating their own professional journey?
Dave’s unconventional career path from law enforcement to the creative industry offers unique insights and perspectives that can greatly benefit aspiring Concept Artists. His pivot underscores the importance of embracing change, taking risks, and pursuing one's passions, even if they diverge from conventional expectations. As an instructor, Dave emphasizes the value of resilience, adaptability, and self-discovery, encouraging students to explore different avenues within the field of Animation Concept Art and to embrace their individuality. By sharing his own experiences of navigating career changes and overcoming challenges, he hopes to inspire students to pursue their creative aspirations with confidence and determination.


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