Animator Biographies
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Joanna Priestley
Portland, Oregon USA

Joanna Priestley was born in Portland, Oregon. She began her artistic experience as a fine artist, working with both painting and printmaking materials, at the Rhode Island School of Design, UC Berkeley, and California Institute of the Arts. As her artistic skills began to increase, she worked with other media and finally, became interested in animation. One of her biggest inspirations for working with animation was award-winning animator Norman McLaren because of his different techniques in each of his films (Animation world Magazine online). It was because of his uniqueness that she began working as an "experimental animator", which means that she used her 2D experience in painting and printmaking as well as other materials (candy, meat, stamps, etc) and created animations ( She created many animated films, 17 of which won film festival awards. Joanna began digging her fingers into the world of animation, experimenting with flash animation, such as "Dew Line". She continues to produce amazing and unique animation films.

Joanna Priestley is a very successful independent animator and teacher who has spent the last 20 years creating animations. She has been called the "queen of independent animation", and rightly so with over 15 animations under her belt. Joanna has her own film company, Priestley Motion Pictures, and she has produced and directed 18 award winning films with them.

Joanna studied printmaking at the Rhode Island School of Design and graduated with honors from UC Berkley with a BFA in painting. She also studied at the California Institute of the Arts under Jules Engel, where she earned her MFA in Film and Video along with the Louis B. Mayer Award. After graduating from Cal Arts she returned home to Portland, Oregon, and in 1988, she became the Founding President of ASIFA-Northwest, part of the International Animated Film Association. This ASIFA chapter is comprised of Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver B.C. and is now known as ASIFA-Seattle. Joanna is very involved in the animation world, and her background also includes being coordinator of the Northwest Film and Video Festival, director of Strictly Cinema, editor of The Animator, member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, regional coordinator of the Northwest Film Center, and co-director and co-founder of FILMA: Women's Film Forum. Other than all of this exposure, she has also been running an apprenticeship program since 1986. She has taught the history of cinema, animation, and media for teachers at the Pacific Northwest College of Art, Northwest Film Center, Volda College in Norway, Humboldt College, and many other colleges and media centers. She is currently teaching at the Art Institute of Portland. She is a proponent of animation as an art form and has presented papers on this at the Society for Animation Studies Conference. She is also working to improve the status of animation in academia, museums, galleries, and the media.

Joanna Priestley claims that her interest in animation comes from a toy zoetrope that she had as a child, the rain in Oregon, and her grandmother who did china painting. Her animation influences include Norman McLaren, Len Lye, Jules Engel, and Oskar Fischinger. Besides animation, she enjoys medicinal herbalism, gardening, and hiking. Because of these interests, many of her animations have shapes and colors that are very plant-like. Her animation style is experimental, meaning she is more concerned with the technique and process of creating her work than the narrative. She has created animations using everything from plain white index cards to candy, glass, meat, and sand. No matter the medium, there is always a warmth to the stories she tells. She has produced animations for Sesame Street and music videos for Joni Mitchell ("Good Friends") and Tears for Fears ("Sowing the Seeds of Love"). After 20 years of animations, some of her work has now been collected and put on 2 different DVD's called Fighting Gravity and Relative Orbits.

Joanna's animations have been awarded at several different film festivals, including the National Independent Film and Video Festival, the National Educational Film Festival, the San Francisco International Film Festival, the Big Muddy Film Festival, the Athens Film and Video Festival, the Canadian International Animation Festival, and the USA Film Festival. She has received three Individual Artist Fellowships throughout her career from the National Endowment for the Arts, the MacDowell Colony, and the Djerassi Foundation. Retrospectives of her work have been shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Center for Contemporary Art in Warsaw, Poland, the Stuttgart International Animation Festival in Germany, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and have also been featured on PBS and the BBC.

Animations Produced:

  • The Rubber Stamp Film , (1983, 7 min., stamps on paper)
  • The Dancing Bulrushes, (1985, 5 min., sand) Co-directed with Steven Subotnick
  • Voices, (1985, 4 min., drawings on paper)
  • Jade Leaf , (1985, 5 min., computer animation)
  • Times Square, (1986, 4 min., computer animation) Co-directed with Jules Engel
  • "Good Friends" Music Video Segments: Sequence director/animator , (Joni Mitchell, 1985, color xerox animation)
  • "Sowing the Seeds of Love" Music Video Segments: Sequence director/animator , (Tears for Fears, 1988, color xerox animation)
  • Candyjam, (1988, 7 min., drawings/ puppets/objects) Co-directed with Joan Gratz
  • She-Bop, (1988, 8 min., drawings and puppet animation)
  • All My Relations, (1990, 5 min., drawings on paper with 3-D frames)
  • "The Lumps: Rejection Victories" Sesame Street Productions, (1990, 30 seconds)
  • "The Lumps: Social Skills" Sesame Street Productions, (1990, 30 sec., drawings on paper with 3-D frames)
  • After the Fall, (1991, 6 min., drawings on paper, location shooting)
  • Pro and Con, (1993, 9 minutes, 2-D puppets, drawings and clay painting) Co-directed with Joan Gratz
  • Grown Up, (1993, 7 min., drawings on paper, pixillated hands and object animation)
  • Hand Held, (1995, 7 min., drawings on paper with pixillated hands)
  • "Making Peace" Television Series Title, (1996, 60 seconds, drawings on paper)
  • Utopia Parkway, (1997, 5 min., drawings on paper. replacement animation)
  • Kali Yuga, (2000, 4 min., pixillation, objects with live music and performance)
  • Surface Dive, (2001, 71/2 min., replacement sculptures/objects/drawings)
  • Andaluz, (2004, 51/2 minutes, drawings on paper) Co-directed with Karen Aqua
  • Dew Line, (2004, 4.5 minutes, computer animation)
  • Streetcar Named Perspire, (2007, 7.5 minutes, computer animation)


Submitted by: Anne Miller and Andi Terhune
as part of ARTC 400, Principles of Animation
Bowling Green State University
Prof. Bonnie Mitchell