Just who is this Ward guy, anyway?

I wasn't sure if I wanted to expose the "mystique of Ward" so early in the existence of this blog, but since it's my birthday today, I felt that maybe it was sort of appropriate. I know that most of you already know me personally, but there are a good many visitors to The Ward-O-Matic that have no clue who in the heck this Ward guy is. "What's his deal?" "Why should I care what he has to say?" Well, you don't have to actually care, but I do hope that you enjoy what I say. I'm having fun with this thing, and so I'm hoping that you do too.

I am an Atlanta native, but don't sound like I'm from the South. Whether that works to my advantage or not, I don't know. I'll get back to you on that. I grew up with a bad habit of getting obsessed over things. I'd get SO into something, and learn all about it, and then would move onto something else at the drop of a hat. I drove my teachers crazy, as I never could commit to a certain project, whether it be on Tutankhamen, cars, custom vans, sharks, dinosaurs, American Indians, airplanes, birds, the United States, maps, you name it. It didn't help that I pored over our World Book Encyclopedia set either, as that just fermented my desire to gather as much information out there as possible. I lived and died by that entire set.

I drew all the time. During my typical boy "gross" phase, I drew monsters, aliens, creatures, limbs and lots of blood! My parents just let me do my thang and my mom was probably praying each and every night that I would get over this crazy phase. I did...to a certain degree. I still love horror and monster films, sci-fi and special effects flicks. I'm not a die-hard fanboy for these things, but I just have a great appreciation and fascination for those types of films.

My dad took my sister and I to see ALIEN when it was released back in 1979. I was 11, she was 9. That movie gave me the most disturbing and horrific dreams imaginable. And thus, like any typical human being, once I was scared poopless by something, I instantly wanted more of it. I wanted to see it again. It was like a catharsis for me, helping me to face my fears, I guess.

My first animation I ever did was in 9th grade. It was for one of those career planning classes, as part of this IMPACT program. I was a terrible student for this, as I could never work on my project at school, so it looked like all I ever did in class was sit around and draw all day. There was practically nowhere to go for any animation help at this time in Atlanta, so my mom found this guy who was teaching an animation class to adults at nights as part of a continuing education sort of thing. Jim McLean was his name and he was very gracious in letting me borrow his camera and camera stand and lights. Why would this guy allow a 13-year old and his mother to take off with his equipment, I will never know. But, I eventually was able to produce a very short clip of a little guy walking and then having things happen to him, a la DUCK AMUCK. I loved all the Looney Tunes and whenever there was a situation where the characters broke the fourth wall and interacted with the viewer or creator, it was gold to me. I shot my project on Super 8 film, so it took forever to have the film sent off to be developed and then sent back. In the meantime, my teacher was getting furious with me, as the deadline for everybody's projects had passed and I still had nothing to show. I had to come in on a teacher's work day and set up my 8mm film projector and thread up and show my short film to my teacher personally. She flipped out. She loved it and couldn't believe that I had produced something that moved. Instead of the F that she was prepared to give me, she ended up giving me a C. This will be the first time of many where my talent saved my butt.

I dismissed art in high school because the art teacher was a fuddy-dud. When I realized that we would be doing basket weaving for the third quarter, I was out. Not for me. So I just drew Adam Ant, Billy Idol and Prince for my friends whenever they'd ask.

Throughout these years, I loved watching animation even when it was considered "uncool." This was the 80's, so animation was thought to be only for kids. There was not much to be excited about during this time, but when WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT? and THE LITTLE MERMAID came out in 1988 and 1989, respectfully, those films got that fire in me belly burning like nothing else.

So, what to do? I studied as much as I could on my own about this art-form by finding a copy of DISNEY ANIMATION: THE ILLUSION OF LIFE by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, two of Disney's Nine Old Men. Again, I pored over this book like it was going out of style. I studied animation in motion by frame-by-framing Tex Avery and Chuck Jones shorts, as well as afore-mentioned MERMAID. The more I learned, the more I felt like this was IT for me. I was hooked.

I had gone to several colleges at this point, but did not settle into a program until I got into Illustration at Georgia State University. I could not afford to go to art school, but GSU did have some classes on animation so I took this only option available to me. I was able to take two animation classes, Non-camera Techniques and Basic Animation. There was only one guy teaching these classes. His name? None other than Jim McLean! The very same guy who helped me out back when I was in 9th grade. He did not remember me specifically, but did recall loaning his equipment out. Jim was great. He was this 60-something old codger so full of zip and life. He really believed in me and my work. I owe a great deal of gratitude to him for getting me started in this crazy world of animation.

I graduated with a BFA in Illustration in 1995, with my portfolio focused entirely on gesture drawings, paintings of figures and anything that animation companies were hopefully looking for. I got an internship the following January at DESIGNefx, a design and animation company here in Atlanta (now defunct). After my internship, I was hired as a freelancer right away and worked there at DESIGNefx until the end of July. In August I got a gig at a new company in town, Click 3X, who then hired me full-time two months later. Needless to say, 1996 was a very good year for me.

So there. You pretty much know the rest. After my 4-year stint at Click, I got a call from Primal Screen, asking me to be their newest animation director. With a new baby on the way, they couldn't have called at a more appropriate time. It was a perfect fit for me. I've done my best work at Primal and cannot wait to see what else is around the corner for me there.

I'm married to my soulmate, Andrea, whom I met while going to school up in Cincinnati. We just celebrated 10 years of glorious marriage this year. She's a dance teacher as well as full-time mother, so she deserves a break. She also collects and sells vintage and vintage-inspired items at a booth at Kudzu Antiques in Decatur. I call her my secret weapon, as she has a great eye for design and knows exactly what looks good or not. She is honest with me about my work and I can always count on her for an intelligent, insightful response. We have two wonderful kids: a daughter, Ava, who's 4, and a son, Ezra, 5 months. Ava's got a sense of humor like I've never known, and Ezra has the brightest smile that you'll ever see.

So, I apologize for rambling on. Hopefully you've gained some insight to who this Ward guy is. As for me, I'm still trying to figure that out. But I do know this: my life has been a grand one thus far and I'm looking forward to 36 more fantastic years.

Have a great Thanksgiving!


  1. mrs. ward-o-matic here. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! when we first met, you were just starting to scratch the surface of your capabilities. actually, you had no idea who you were as an artist... in the 15 years that we've celebrated birthdays together, it has truly been a joyous thing watching you evolve into what you are today- a brilliant animator, painter, designer, illustrator, graff writer... you constantly amaze me with your talent and love for art. I remember way back when we were first together and you would talk about how you wanted to be an animator and I would just think, well, that's great, honey. we're probably going to be poor for the rest of our lives. with both of us being artists, I figured that was the life we had ahead of us, anyway. and I didn't really care because it was (is) who we are, what makes our lives worth living. but at the time, it seemed so unattainable, so impractical. then you took those animation classes at GSU and you were working on your first project and you were doing drawing after drawing after drawing... and I thought, this is it. you'll quit after this because what SANE person can do this for a living? I looked at the unbelievable stack of 400 or so drawings that was 'prominent features' (I think?) and thought well, he's crazy. and then you told me how much you loved it- loved doing all the drawings and I knew right then and there that I had married an animator. we haven't looked back since. and just look at you now- you're all growns up and you're all GROWNS UP... hahahaha... well, birthday boy. I am proud of you. now it's time to wake you up with loud singing and breakfast in bed. here's to 36 more years of great art-making, great living.

    And Happy Thanksgiving!
    - Lili (fwak! blog)

  3. As "Ward's sister" -- I took the proverbial back seat to you and your talent growing up, but I'm over it now. No, really..I mean it...I'm *sniff* fine. Just teasing, sweetie. Hmmm, my first memories of your madtalented art skills was probably when I wrote a book. Okay, it was more of a pamphlet, really, but I think it was about whales. I distinctly remember that the cover said "Written by Amy Jenkins, Illustrated by Ward Jenkins." Wow, considering what you do now and what I do as a hobby, I doubt a more prolific statement could be made about you and me.

    Before anyone asks, YES...I can draw. I have what may even be considered above-average talent in the artistic department, but it was never at the level that your talent was and is. More importantly, I didn't love it like you loved it. Like you still love it. So I took that back seat with pride and became your resident art critic. An eye for balance and brutal honesty -- I must have been a bear to live with, but I have been nothing but proud of you since day one.

    I, too, have moved from obsession to obsession, devoured information like it was going out of style. Growing up with you has made you the one person who probably understands me and where I've come from better than almost anyone else. My own husband doesn't understand why I absolutely HAD to call you after I got the Extended DVD edition of The Two Towers...or after watching any animated movie that has come out. My kids are amazed at my cartoon knowledge, but its nothing compared to yours. And I know I can call you anytime and spend an hour deconstructing Star Wars or LotR or school you on Harry Potter.

    One of my greatest joys over the past few years has been watching the artistic talent that you were born with, be born again in my own son. I joke about the unfairness of having to raise a "little Ward" - but getting to watch it all over again, from the beginning, is secretly a thrill. The only downside being the 12 hours that separate you from getting to witness it, too. Of course, your own children make up for that, eh?

    Okay, I've rambled long enough. I love you, big brother. And I am incredibly proud of you. Now, if I could just get you and Andrea obsessed with Alias...;)

    Love, your sis

  4. Thank you all for your birthday wishes, guys. It's a great feeling knowing that you're loved. And I'm especially proud of my entire family, as we all share that strange common bond together. Strong and unbreakable. Remarkable.

    And many thanks to the guests on this blog and for your comments. I'm very appreciative of your time and energy spent reading my ramblings and ruminations about art and life. I do hope that you enjoy what I talk about here. It's a continuous thing and I do hope that you visit again!

    Thank you all. I'm very blessed.

  5. I didn't know it was your birthday?? After all this time working under you, it was nice to skim through your bio. Of course, I noticed that you left out your brief stint as a circus acrobat. No worries.

  6. Hey Ward, I just read your who is this ward guy anyway post. Cool story on your life. You have a wonderful family bro! See ya at a show!

  7. I have no blog account and so have to post anonymously, sorry-- I know I'm more than a month late for your birthday, but I'm glad you had a happy one. :) I just wanted to say that I'm glad you got so far with your animation! I'm a junior in high school right now and hoping and praying I can make it up to the big leagues and help create animated films in some way. Animation is what I've focused on but concept art of all sorts, and especially storyboarding also interests me extremely. It's really great to see others' success stories and I wish you and your family lots of happiness and prosperity in the coming years. Happy Birthday, and Happy Holidays! -Katie

  8. I know that most of you already know me personally, but there are a good many visitors to The Ward-O-Matic that have no clue who in the heck this Ward guy is.I would be one of those clueless folk. Just wanted to give you a friendly hello.

    But I do know this: my life has been a grand one thus far and I'm looking forward to 36 more fantastic years. Also, I first read this as you expecting only to live another 36 years. So my sentiments to you - even though I realize it was only your 36th birthday - is that I hope the rest of your years, including the ones past age 72, are enjoyably memorable.

  9. This was the sweetest post I've ever read, including the responses. :)

  10. Wow. What a great blog!!!! It almost brought a damn tear to my eye! I especially love.....the mama, and wife, and sis comments that follow. I'm instantly in love with your family, and hope that is what my own future holds for me. Congrats on creating something so wonderful!!!!!

  11. It's no crime being a dilettante, last time I looked, and you used it to find your niche. I did the same, and have the advantage of looking back after those "next 36." From what I can see, from reading the bio & some of the comments, you have all of the really important things....keep it up, man.

    “The good life depends on intimacy and small number.”

    — Aristotle

  12. I like the black and white photos.

  13. What's a nice guy like you doing in a place like this?@?@?@?

  14. Hi WardO, I've admired the retro kid for sometime now (I'm an illustrator also LOVE retro things, I have tons, still from my childhood, which I must scan and upload for you guys one of these days. Until that joyous occasion...), I wondered if you and the mini ward-o-matics would like to take part in my project - anyone can take part. Have a look at www.foundmeagain.com

    I've got 90 tins (well, I had 90, I haven't got 90 anymore!) some I've been hiding, must hide more, some I've been sending to people, some I've just handed to strangers - they all have a little gift in them. All I ask in return is that you take and keep what is inside the tin, and replace it with something of your own to pass on to someone else. It can be someone you know, a stranger, you could just keep a tin going around the retro kid members if you liked - the only rule I have is that you must write about your tin on the website (and the flickr site if you want to) and it would be lovely if you would send a few piccies in?

    Do you fancy a go? If so, where would you like me to send your tin?

    All the best,