Andrew Lawson racks up experience while working toward his dream.
With an impressive body of work already under his belt, Andrew Lawson is well on his way toward achieving his dream of a career in film animation.
Lawson is a graduate student from Knoxville pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in digital media at East Tennessee State University.
His interest in digital media springs from his childhood, when he was captivated by Disney cartoons and Tim Burton’s claymation films, especially “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” Because his family moved often, he needed something to entertain himself, and so he turned to art.
“I started out getting into illustrating and drawing,” he said, “and I used to make comic book pages for myself. I spent a lot of my youth trying to be where I am today, essentially just very focused on the craft.” Lawson learned of ETSU’s renowned Digital Media Program – ranked No. 1 in Tennessee for both animation and game design – through a friend with similar interests who had enrolled.
“Knowing that my friend was coming here, knowing it was close to home but far enough away to where it felt like a new adventure, I felt like ETSU would be a good choice,” he said.
After graduating from ETSU with his B.S. in digital media in 2020, he took a couple of years off from school. During that time, he gained experience through numerous jobs. He completed an internship in which he created advertisements for a startup energy drink brand and worked for other clients.
Lawson also spent eight months in Orlando, Florida, with the Disney College Program, in which he worked in guest services at the Animal Kingdom Theme Park.
Currently, Lawson performs contract work for LEGO® and the National Entertainment Collectibles Association (NECA).
With LEGO®, he has created artwork for promotions, trading cards, magazines and more featuring minifigures from such brands as “Star Wars,” “Jurassic Park” and “Minecraft.”
Among other projects he’s worked on with NECA, he helped design collectible accessories for “Phantom of the Opera” and the USA/SYFY television series “Chucky.”
In addition to these projects, Lawson has been involved with the production of Rob Edwards’ forthcoming animated film “Sneaks,” in which misplaced sneakers lost in New York work together to get back to their “sole mates.”
Andrew Lawson had a hand in designing this Phantom of the Opera collectible figure.
While he continues to learn and hone his own craft as a graduate student, Lawson shares his knowledge and talents with the next generation of digital artists.
At ETSU, he is an associate instructor in the Department of Digital Media, teaching “Modeling for Entertainment” to undergraduate sophomores and juniors. “These are essentially very highly detailed models that can be used for games or film,” he said.
Lawson also spent four years as a lead instructor in 2D and 3D animation at iD Tech Camps, a company that collaborates with colleges and universities to conduct summer STEM camps for youth.
When he completes his master’s degree, Lawson plans to focus his work in filmmaking.
“I feel like I’ve already taken that first step into that field – I want to make assets for animated films,” he said. “To this day, I’m still heavily influenced by Disney, and working for them definitely gave me a sense of inspiration to want to continue to do so.
“So, I want to continue making characters or props, or whatever it needs to be – helping to create something bigger than myself, bigger than my art, and coming together with a bunch of other talented artists to make cool stuff.”
The work produced by students in the Department of Digital Media is just one example of the hands-on learning opportunities at the core of ETSU’s approach to education.
East Tennessee State University was founded in 1911 with a singular mission: to improve the quality of life for people in the region and beyond. Through its world-class health sciences programs and interprofessional approach to health care education, ETSU is a highly respected leader in rural health research and practices. The university also boasts nationally ranked programs in the arts, technology, computing, and media studies. ETSU serves approximately 14,000 students each year and is ranked among the top 10 percent of colleges in the nation for students graduating with the least amount of debt.
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