Thanks, CalArts!

GUESS WHAT, WORLD! I’M A COLLEGE GRADUATE!
Proudly sporting a degree in Character Animation. Booyaaah!



There’s me eagerly anticipating graduation! I like that at CalArts we can wear whatever we want for graduation… kinda like how we can do whatever we want academically whilst attending (taking all sortsa fun classes across departments, I mean; stylistically, too).  There was a girl on stilts, a mermaid, and the guy in front of me had a party favor hat. We even had fireworks this year! No butterflies were consumed by bats (those who attended last year will remember this).

I thought it would be nice to do a little review of the last 4 years to see just how much of an impact this place has had on me:

  • 14 films (over 23 minutes of animation)
  • I built a pink, fluffy, interactive cat
  • Played in two gamelan ensembles
  • Jumped from two stories onto bouncy castle
  • Two films played at the Producers’ Shows
  • Other work screened for Music Tech and Theatre
  • Grown a true appreciation for homemade food
  • I opened my EYES to this crazy world!
  • I feel like a lil’ alien observing a foreign planet everywhere  I go
  • (That means I now take observation to a level I didn’t know existed)
  • My appreciation for creativity/art has exploded into a happily-varied bookcase
  • I LEARNED HOW TO THINK– or approach projects with the large and tiny details all equally in mind.

I must say that watching Can We Be Happy Now on a ginormous screen framed by two large Mr. Oscar statues was definitely a highlight that I would have never dreamt of when I got that acceptance letter way back when.

Things I learned at CalArts…

  • It’s possible to live a ramen-free college life
  • Design sensibilities can apply to any medium
  • Coffee, when saved for crunch time, can power one for three days straight
  • Expect at least a weeks’ worth of technical difficulties for large projects
  • Never run Arduino’s Serial Monitor without a delay (or you get a brick)
  • Snuggies for the win
  • Not to spill tea on a keyboard (during crunch time especially)
  • Don’t leave your car alone (or its battery dies)
  • Frozen Yogurt and fudgesicles make lovely meals
  • Don’t open a fridge that isn’t yours
  • Hugs make everything better
  • Bounce and share ideas
  • Open *all* the doors
  • yoooooou caaannnn doooooeeeeeeeit!

It’s bizarre– I was just going through my old blog entries from the beginning of CalArts and I don’t think my opinion of the place has really changed much. It is a very exciting place to be, there are lots of opportunities and you will always be surrounded by the most incredibly talented people and teachers. No regrets– that place was fantastic! I’m looking forward to working with everyone now that we’re “out in the world”, or I guess that could be rephrased as “not being required to attend classes”.

I wasn’t taught how to draw as much as how to think– how to design, how to consider story, how all the elements of a film need to compliment each other; how to people-watch, what details to take away… In the end I feel the acute observational skills obtained through attempting to improve my animation has given me the pleasure of enjoying everyone’s little mannerisms, paying attention to what makes their character… Some things I would have viewed in a negative light before CalArts I now have learned to laugh at. Laughing’s good, right?! I do lots of it (along with tea-drinking) and feel great. And way more mentally-satisfied artistically than I did four years ago.

Going into CalArts,  I didn’t expect quite the diversity I found. It was really easy to get stuck in one mindset, but once you shake yourself free of the cubicles and get out to see a show, you really feel refreshed… Even Friday-night lectures left me that way. I found it was important to not take it for granted and often remember how special a place it was, that all these people were there, together. Working, sharing, eating, drawing, not sleeping… It was a lot of fun!

I feel like that’s me– a happy little Tahnee-plant! (See, it’s black and white striped, that’s the identifying feature). I feel that I’ve learned how to learn. I clearly see where I could improve or discover new aspects of art/filmmaking, and practice what I discover and then keep growing and growing. Each one of those little branches is perhaps waiting to blossom into a full tree trunk… I feel that I’ve been left with a lot of opportunities and know what to do to keep improving. This is all very exciting! I got a really solid planter with good soil and got off to a nice start when in school, and now I’ve got the whole rest of my life to turn into a huge, whimsical, animated happy tree.

Hopefully I can drop little inspiration-seeds into other planters and make more happy animation trees grow!

And I think that’s a nice note to end on for this blog post!

Can We Be Happy Now

Can We Be Happy Now from Tahnee Gehm on Vimeo.


A man in a grey, drab world is awakened to the beauty and happiness of the real world around him, as the spirits of nature take him on an adventure.

This is my final film at CalArts, animated in TVPaint!

(It’s also on YouTube!)

CalArts Character Animation show 2012!



Soooo much amazing artwork! Such amazing friends! So many caricatures were drawn! The gallery opening last night was a blast and the art’s been lovely all week. Will definitely need to come next year (and the year after, and the year after that). This year I made 15 ink drawings on scrolls, which will be uploaded within the coming weeks :D

I’m a SENIOR!

This is what I look like as a senior.

Balancing a sketchbook on my head, keeping my arms shielded from the unpredictable A/C and being (happily!) wired on plenty of tea. Boot season hasn’t kicked in yet, but it will soon enough (as will my stripes)! I’m super-excited for all the classes I’m in– moreso for the teachers we’ve got (and will have next semester, too!) I’m finishing up some work outside of school and have been settling into the slow-but-steady growing load of homework. This is going to be a fantastic year. Crazy-busy, yes of course, but super-awesome and worth all the forthcoming sleepless nights! Eeee!

Corny Cole



“Beep beep! I’m the slowest roadrunner you’ve ever seen!” he’d say in the Character Animation hallway at CalArts, ambling along his walker not all that long ago…

I was fortunate enough to have Corny as my freshman mentor. When I showed him the animatic for VALUE BLiND and my sketchbook, he recommended that I animate small, and gave visual suggestions for the look of the film. By gosh was he right! This man spewed advice from a long life of experience.

“Draw, dammit!” (And when you’re sick of drawing, draw some more!)

I remember one of his most charming characteristics was a goofy mind. Here’s this old man with a wispy beard– giving sage advice on drawing cartoons?! Didn’t seem to make sense, but was it ever great!

He remembered my portfolio and recognized the model out of the first life drawings I showed him. And two years later, on his visit to CalArts (many thanks to Bob Kurtz), he recognized me– and said “she’s a good animator!” I’d never felt such honor before….

Knowing that night was going to be full of fun stories and experiences, I recorded the full hour and a half, and I wanted it out there for the rest of the animation community to enjoy. I now offer you a 42-megabyte .m4a of that night!

>>Corny Cole, Feb 16th 2011 @ the Palace (CalArts)<<

This is one guy whose brain I wish could have been magically preserved, hooked up to a computer… Something like that.

He also made that drawing for me at the top of this post!

He also made Heaven and Hell, Originally for the 1981 movie Heavy Metal. He told his employers yeah, yeah, I’m working on it– it’s almost done. The film deadline passed. Twenty years later, he finishes! What a rebel!

And here’s a drawing of him. Gonna miss him– but does an animator, one who creates life, ever really die?