VMPA Senior Thesis

Taylor Santiago


Taylor Santiago is a 2020 graduate of Rutgers University in Camden, New Jersey, majoring in Animation. Based in Philadelphia and New Jersey, she has been working as a full-time freelance illustrator since 2016. Taylor’s specialty lies in digital illustration and character design, but she has extensive experience with many different artistic mediums. In addition to art and animation, one of Taylor’s favorite pastimes is powerlifting. Motivated by her passion for art, Taylor has been developing her skills as an artist for almost two decades.

Her dream job is to work as a game artist. As a hobby, she does visual development for a role-playing game that will go into development in the near future. She has also been approached to work on other games in recent years and has been commissioned to do some illustration & graphic design work for YouTubers. Taylor has also had some experience teaching an animation workshop to prospective freshman students during the 2020 Arts Day event at Rutgers — Camden. In the Spring of 2019, Taylor was inducted into the Athenaeum Honors Society of Arts & Sciences at Rutgers University and in May 2020, she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Departmental Honors in Animation.


Animation in many different forms has always been a huge source of fascination and inspiration for me. I have enjoyed watching cartoons, anime, and animated films for as long as I can remember, and I’ve always wanted to learn how to animate. I always found myself imagining that my drawings were animated and I can vividly remember wishing that I knew how to bring my art to life. Before coming to Rutgers, my only experience with animation had been very short, simple animations I made in an application for the Nintendo DSi called Flipnote Hatena. Throughout high school, I, unfortunately, wasn’t given many opportunities to develop my art or my animation in an academic setting, so I was over the moon when I found out that Rutgers — Camden had an animation program. While much of the focus over the last four years has been on 3D animation rather than 2D, I feel that I have learned so much.

I love exploring themes of female empowerment and strength in art, and this is evident in my 2020 Thesis Film. The short film features Stheno, a young gorgon woman — the same type of creature found in Greek Mythology. Gorgons, such as the infamous Medusa, have the ability to turn anyone who looks into their eyes to stone. In my short film, Stheno is continuously pursued by a minotaur who is very obviously interested in her. Being a gorgon, Stheno finally reaches her breaking point and turns the minotaur to stone. One thing I wanted to focus on when initially writing the story for the film was catcalling. Rather than silently enduring it, I’d like women to feel safe in standing up for themselves and putting their foot down against men who can’t take a hint. To show this, I decided to have my character turn her catcaller into stone as a way to show that she is strong and will not tolerate a catcaller.