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Last time we checked in with 2019 Student of the Year and BFA in Digital Art and Animation graduate Shannon Parayil, she had just begun the prestigious Nick Artist Program. The full-time apprenticeship, awarded to five aspiring artists a year, gave Parayil a chance to work on an animated show with professionals at Nickelodeon. For the last six months, Parayil has been working on The Loud House, a quirky series starring Lincoln Loud, the middle child and only boy in a family of 11 children. Once Parayil’s apprenticeship period ended, she received more exciting news — an offer from Nickelodeon to remain on The Loud House as a full-time background designer.

A headshot of DigiPen graduate and Nickelodeon artist Shannon Parayil.
DigiPen graduate Shannon Parayil officially joined Nickelodeon as a full-time artist after a six-month apprenticeship.

“It made me feel like I did my job well and that everything I was second guessing and scared about was really just in my head,” Parayil says. “I feel super honored to be on the team and be recognized among such a talented group of producers, writers, editors, designers, and directors.”

As a background designer, Parayil says she’s assigned an average of 20 backgrounds per episode, although the number can fluctuate anywhere from 12 to 30. “I usually get my assignment at the beginning of the week and have about two weeks to complete it. They give me the storyboard, Photoshop files, and a breakdown of the backgrounds and how they are split up between me and one or two other background designers,” Parayil says. Once her backgrounds are complete, Parayil meets with the art director, who provides feedback and gets final revisions from the show’s production team. “As a result of being an in-betweener and clean-up artist on my DigiPen film teams, I was fairly comfortable with adapting to other people’s styles,” Parayil says. “So when I started doing background design, I had an idea of how to approach adapting to The Loud House style.”

While keeping her work within the show’s visual style is a big part of her job, Parayil says her time on the team also helped her understand how her own style fits into the mix. “Keeping the style consistent really is just about practicing and understanding the language of the style. One of the things that I think is cool is that all the background designers draw very differently, but there’s something innately Loud House about how they draw,” Parayil says. “It helped me realize that embracing the style is about embracing how you draw naturally and how your individual style contributes to the evolution and elevation of the backgrounds.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Parayil, like many other across the country, is working from home these days, having temporarily relocated back home to Bellevue from Nick Studios’ Burbank, California, location. “My average day is just sitting at my desk drawing backgrounds,” Parayil laughs. “It’s been incredibly fun, despite the challenges of working from home.” The move has kept her closer to her family too, meaning that once the The Loud House episodes she worked on air on TV, she won’t need to look far to find an eager viewing party. “I’m sure it will be very exciting and surreal, probably with lots of pausing and pointing and saying, ‘Look, dad! I drew that!’”