It took Bruce DeBiasse away from his schoolwork, but that was a price he paid happily.
While preparing for an exam, the Santa Monica High School sophomore-to-be learned that he had been named a California Arts Scholar.
“I was very excited,” he said. “It impeded me from studying a little bit, but I was very happy.”
The distinction means that DeBiasse will be attending the California State Summer School for the Arts, a prestigious program in creative disciplines for talented high school students. The four-week program at the California Institute for the Arts in Valencia helps students develop their skills in animation, music, film, theater, dance, creative writing and visual art.
DeBiasse, an animation student, will tackle a rigorous curriculum as he learns traditional and experimental techniques. He’ll study the work of animators from around the globe, take part in drawing classes and learn from professionals.
The group also typically takes a field trip, and past students have visited the Los Angeles Zoo, the Museum of Jurassic Technology, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Venice Beach as well as area animation studios.
Only one in three applicants to the animation program is accepted each year, according to the CSSSA website. The program begins July 9.
“It is our expectation that some CSSSA graduates will become professional artists,” the program’s mission statement reads. “Others will go on to apply their creative skills in other professions. The goal of CSSSA is to provide an educational experience that goes beyond the practice and improvement of aesthetics and technique. We want to broaden our students’ understanding of their creative potentials, regardless of their eventual life paths.”
DeBiasse took a liking to animation by watching movies throughout his childhood, including Tim Burton’s stop-motion masterpiece “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” When he asked parents and others how those movies were made, the answers he got often involved animation.
“I decided to research it a little bit,” he said.
DeBiasse then started producing his own work, doing everything from stop-motion to computer animation. The alumnus of Franklin Elementary and Lincoln Middle schools said he’s mostly self-taught, although he has attended art classes for drawing.
After hearing about the CSSSA program from a cousin, DeBiasse and his mom looked into it as a potential summer opportunity. He submitted an application with drawings and other materials, including pieces he selected from portfolios he had previously compiled.
He said he hopes the program makes him a more well-rounded artist.
“I’m hoping to learn different mediums, have a lot more movies under my belt than I do now and learn techniques from professionals and people who know what they’re doing,” he said.
DeBiasse likened stop-motion animation to directing real actors because of the vision required to position particular shots and anticipate challenges.
DeBiasse did not take an art classes at Samohi as a freshman, but he submitted a portfolio to be considered for Advanced Placement art next year. He got in.
Heading into the upcoming summer program, DeBiasse said he could see himself being an animator or illustrator in the future.
“I’m still on the fence,” he said.