Meet Justyna Kurbiel

commonvision: What is your role at commonvision? How long have you been working there?

Justyna Kurbiel: I was hired summer of 2015 at commonvision as a motion designer/ amimator, to create animated advertisements mostly for the televisions in UMBC’s The Commons. I was also pleasantly surprised with the amount of fine arts and film work I’ve been given during my time here.

cv: How/When did you know that you wanted to be an animator?

JK: I believe I decided to become an animator somewhere around middle school (a glorious age, let me tell you), after my family and I had watched Toy Story 3. My dad started geeking out about how crazy it was to see the first Toy Story where he saw for the first time a full length feature, made entirely using computer graphics. We started watching videos comparing the new and old Toy Story, some behind the scenes stuff and out of the blue my dad said, very casually, “Hey maybe you could do this.”

He’d known that I had always had something in me that gave me the urge to draw. Perhaps it was boredom, or maybe I inherited a high artistic productivity from my mom, but regardless, drawing came first, from my early childhood.

cv: What is the best thing about working at commonvision?

JK: The best thing about working at commonvision is the job experience. My free time in my schedule is filled up by my job, and thankfully my job is constantly adding new things to my portfolio. By working with other talented artists I can both draw inspiration and compete with them. I’m always learning something new. Even if I’m working on something that I have done before, I push myself to do it even faster than before.

cv: Are there any projects that you are particularly fond of having created? 

JK: This has to be the hardest question for me. I have a really hard time appreciating my older artwork, and older in many cases can be as short as two weeks after its completion. Although it sounds bad, it pushes me to keep creating something new. I’m pretty proud of the bumpers I made for the different departments of The Commons. I made the assets in a few hours and quickly animated them after. Before this piece, I always felt as if my animations looked scrappy, like guess work. It was the first time I felt confident in my animation. It  feels professional and clean.

cv: So, why do you fear getting your fingers stuck in a bowling ball? This ever happen to you before?

JK: I forgot that I told you guys this. It’s never happened to me before, but the reason behind it is that when I go bowling I use the lightest balls (is that a 7 or something?). Those are designed to be for little children with little fingers, and my fingers have grown.

cv: Speaking of fears, you ever get a sunglasses sunburn? You do not like that look?

JK: I haven’t ever gotten sunglasses burn, no. Have you ever been in a tornado or a tsunami? Not many people want to or have experienced their biggest fear. I was a lifeguard in high school, and I was always switching between sunglasses and squinting, because I didn’t want my eyes to be white. Some days I would hide under my blanket and ignore the swimmers. I do not like that look. I don’t want to look like an inverted raccoon.

cv: What would you do if you ever, in fact, caught one of the geese on campus?

JK: You know, I really do wish that I could do that, but only the baby ones. That way they could do that imprinting thing they do and they could follow me around! The trick though would be keeping it a secret from the CD. Let’s just say that I haven’t been on the best terms this year with Harbor Hall’s Community Director.

cv: You like to draw a lot, how long have you been drawing and how would you describe your style?

JK: I don’t know; I feel like I’ve been drawing forever. I don’t want to be one of those people that says something like “I started playing soccer when I was 4,” ‘cause yeah right. Honestly I have no clue. I had to write a journal in 1st grade about my life and each page we could include a drawing. I drew a very nice bird feeder in there (It really really sucked, but! I was trying to understand perspective! So even at that age I was trying to draw from observation… In third grade I drew dogs and horses. In 6th, cows. In 8th, sea gulls and anime? In 9th grade I started drawing people and by 12th I knew how to paint.

Aah, yes, let’s talk about style. I am a person that grew out of whining “It’s my styyyyyyyle,” every time I received a negative critique. Before I decided to make this change, all I was doing, stylistically, was either drawing from my head, or imitating other artist’s styles. When I transferred to art school my art teacher told me I had to break out of this bad habit. I entirely scrapped my style and started drawing from life.

After that point my style became like a talent boundary on my skills as an artist. If I couldn’t draw noses, for example, and drew them all the same, it would be my style. The word style became a bad word to me. I would get angry at myself and say “Ok, from now on, I’m drawing only noses.” While I started to become more comfortable with the cycle of scrapping and rebuilding my style, I somehow created a style.

This is getting redundant, isn’t it? I just want to say that I didn’t choose this style, this style chose me. I was focused on constantly improving. By drawing quickly and constantly, I was able to make more mistakes. By correcting those mistakes I improved. Because of this quick pace, I personally prefer to use a gestural line. I also like to make things cute. But if someone asks me to imitate a style, I’d like to say that I could get pretty close to it.

cv: What do you think you want to do when you leave UMBC? 

I’m hoping to get an internship at one of the big name animation studios like Pixar or Dreamworks, but I’ll take any job honestly. I love working; someone should just let me work. I feel like I’m going to have a midlife crisis though, after I realize that the animation industry is a tough one to be in and become a flight attendant or a dentist or something. Or maybe, I’ll start my own animation company; who knows? I definitely want a german shepherd husky mix. And I want to touch a red panda. And I want to see New Zealand.


To see more of Justyna's work, please visit