Kendall Hood: My Art Connects Me to God

by Nathan Foster

When Kendall Hood ‘25 decided to take a gap year after graduating from high school in 2020, it was truly a leap of faith. Hood had a dream on the line: She wanted to pursue a career in animation and felt that the best place to do that was a Christian university with an animation program led by professors with significant experience in the industry. Azusa Pacific University fit that bill perfectly. “During my gap year, I prayed and prayed that God would call me to APU, but it was way out of my family’s budget,” she said. “My dreams came true when I found out that I had received a Trustee’s Scholarship. I felt like it was a sign from God. I couldn’t do it on my own strength. He opened the door for me. Now it’s my job to continue pursuing my dream by working hard and doing all that I can.”

Hood discovered her passion for animation when she was just 9-years-old. She and her father downloaded free animation software and learned how to use it by watching tutorials on YouTube. She intuitively grasped the storytelling power animation offers. “Animation has a way of conveying a story that no other medium of art can match. It’s so cool that we can put our own stories, characters, and personality into the work we create,” she said. “It’s just so personal.”

Animation allows Hood to integrate her faith into her work. “What inspires me reflects God's love. Art can be a way of worshiping him,” she said. “Creating art, creating what’s beautiful, just sitting down and starting to draw, lifts me up because it’s a way to connect with God.”

In high school, she took a course with animation expert Chad Stewart, showing her the fundamental principles of animation. She used this knowledge to make videos that she publishes on her own YouTube channel, ToonZee Animation. She began by creating animation meme videos, simple designs with music. “I loved creating animation memes. Viewers loved them too, so people began to watch my channel more and more,” she said. Hood’s channel, which she started as a 14-year-old in 2016, now has more than 174,000 subscribers and approximately 18 million cumulative views.

When she started as a freshman at APU, Hood had several years of experience, giving her an edge in her animation classes. She used her knowledge of Toon Boom and the animation process to help her classmates learn how to bring their creations to life. Although she had a leg up, she said she had a lot to learn during her first year about things like storyboarding and networking. The biggest lesson she learned concerned life outside the classroom. “Relying on the Lord was so important for me,” she said. “I’d been homeschooled my whole life, so this was my first time being away from home and getting used to the regular routines of a school schedule. It was definitely challenging, but even when things felt like they were in shambles, the Lord was constantly there for me. I made time to read my Bible, to get off campus, and spend time with God.”

Hood was raised in a Christian household. Although she grew up going to church and got baptized when she was 7-years-old, it wasn’t until middle school that she understood what it meant to be a follower of Christ. In her youth group, she learned that she could have a personal relationship with God and that He would be there for her through any struggle. “My faith is my foundation. I couldn’t live without it,” she said. “I’m a doubtful, anxious person. It helps me a lot to know that God has a plan and a purpose for me. Many times I’ve tried to approach projects on my own strength and it just doesn’t work. Relying on Him daily gives me a lot of motivation, confidence, and hope.”

As her sophomore year quickly approaches, Hood looks forward to learning more about animation. She is also excited for the chance to teach and mentor others, including another freshman animation trustee scholar. “I hope to encourage her and others to use their talents that God has given them,” she said. “I came to APU knowing this is what I want to do. God gave me this talent. I’m not going to be happy doing anything else. I’m loving learning more about animation and I’m praising God every day I get to do it.”

Nathan is the public relations manager in the Divison of Strategic Communication and Egnagement.