Thursday, March 29, 2012

Words of Wisdom

I found these two articles by illustrator Gregory Manchess and animation director Paul Griffin very informative and motivating. It's always good to learn from the experiences of others and improve upon the foundations of your craft.

This article by Manchess, though geared toward illustrators, can apply directly to animators as well. Just switch out a couple of the words with 'animate' or 'animation' and the advice is golden!

 Check out the full article here:

// 10 Things to Remember about Training by ia Muddy Colors


1. Draw Now. Think Next.
Ideas without followthrough are useless. Conceptual art without skill is nothing. Ideas are cheap. One doesn’t get better at ideas by thinking better thoughts. You must train to learn how to create them, what to do with them. Train yourself to search for the good ones, to generate good ones from practice.

Draw. Draw your fool head off, but draw. Draw first. Think about it next. Contrary to so-called avant guard thinking, drawing doesn’t create answers, it creates more ideas.

2. Learn to be authentic.
No one is quite like you anyway. Forget about being original. “Oh, it’s so original!” Bah. You already are. Take the higher road, and learn to be authentic.

You are already connected. What you have to say is important because we all want to know. Learn to discern, of course, what is important from what is frivolous. It is all stowed inside, as you’ve been working on it already for a long time. You won’t find your style. If you are authentic to who you are, your style finds you.

3. Build luck and use it.
When preparation meets opportunity, it’s called luck. Create your own luck by being prepared to see it when it’s about to happen. Don’t wait for it. You won’t see it if you don’t know what to look for. Luck happens when you are ready for it, and you are ready for it when you’re prepared: training.

4. All painting is re-painting.
Do it again. Drawing it once is never enough. Painting it once isn’t either. Do it over and over, focusing on improvement each time. Got a favorite part of a painting? Learn to paint it out. Learn to paint over it. Do not try to save those good mistakes. Paint them again and this time shoot to get it right...under your control. Nobody is an expert by doing something good once.

5. Create momentum.
Finished one good piece? Great. I’m happy for you, but that’s not momentum. When one painting is done, move into the next as soon as possible. Repetition is key to keeping momentum, and momentum is key to gaining successful training. Repeat your successes.

6. Keep finishing.
Stop quitting. Finish the stupid thing already, so you can move into the next one. Do not allow failure to dictate your progress. You must push against that. Fail and fail again. You will push through that failure and keep moving. But learn from it as you do.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better. --Samuel Beckett

7. Seek advice.
Everyone has an opinion, especially about your work. It’s rather easy to recognize the parts of someone else’s work that are problematic. Finding your own? Tough as nails. When someone tells you what’s off about your work, they are usually correct. When they tell you how to repair it, they are nearly always incorrect.

*8. Take criticism well.
Which leads me to criticism: learn to take it, and use it well. Do not take it personally, but try to decipher what it is they are coaching you about. You can use that stuff, man. Grow some thick skin. Unless they’re a jerk, there are golden nuggets of wisdom in there. And remember: it’s meant for you, and you are the only one that can use it.

9. Work for good habits.
Training as a painter is like training as an athlete, musician, pilot. Learning a language lights up many of the same parts of your brain as learning to draw a hand. It is now an indisputable fact that the brain is plastic, even into old age.

To your last breath, the brain wants to learn and will do everything it can to get the advantage. It builds nerve fibers to speed up learning. It strengthens the nerves to send signals faster, for efficiency. Trick is, you want to build that stuff for good uses. The brain is just as happy to build strong nerves to reinforce bad habits.

10. Draw through, not around.
Years ago, I was ok at drawing, but I needed to get better. Here’s the problem: I wanted to be the kind of good that when I looked at my own work, I actually liked it. I had to do this, otherwise, I wasn’t about to spend all those years to come away feeling awkward about my attempts. And then quit. No way.

This interview with animation director Paul Griffin, who I had the pleasure of working with at Dr.D Studios, is very informative and provides a poignant view of the vfx industry. The excerpt below is a must read for those looking to break into the biz (and a sobering one for those knee deep in it).

Check out the full article and video clips here:

// Interview with Paul Griffin via Animation Insider

You can also follow Paul on Twitter here: Paul Griffin @grailpuffin

Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
I have three kids who all decided to go into animation and here’s kind of what I told them:  Breaking into animation is tough.  Frankly. You’re trying to bust into show business and, as talented or enthusiastic as you may be, you might just not be in the right place at the right time. ( Sadly sometime the reverse is true and I end up with the rare occasion when I have somebody with minimal talent working on a difficult project and I wonder, “How the heck did you get on this show???”) You have to keep mining all those network contacts you have for work, expand your LinkedIn base. Even at my advanced age, I find its people I’ve worked with before that trust me and will seek me out in a pinch and hire me. Burn as few bridges as possible (sometimes its not possible if you stand your ground when you need to, but be as gentle as you can), be honest and always do the best work you can do within the context (i.e. budget) of a show. The best thing you can do is be so brilliant you can’t be ignored.  I often hear career coaches talk about developing your ‘five year plan’. Um, sure. This is a business that changes so fast its often tough to set goals for five weeks let alone five years. So ok, now I’m taking off the gloves. Here’s the thing: set a realistic goal if you’re just starting out. If say, you’re trying to break into a job as an animator and you’ve kept improving your reel and bettering your knowledge, and after some time you’ve set, say 3 or 5 years, your not making headway, know when to move on or be willing to do something else: modeling, rigging, compositing, lighting, nuclear scientist, baker. The best thing you can have in your career is somebody who can honestly guide you and is willing to tell you, that you either have what it takes to make it or you don’t . Sound harsh? Yep, but that’s the reality. You might not have to quit, but you might have to change your focus or come back to it when the time is right — when you’re in that right place at the right time you’ll know it. And If you don’t have what it takes, its better to find out earlier rather than later. An attitude of perseverance is not enough, you have to be talented and in that right place sometimes.  Another thing to prepare for is long periods where you might not work in animation. A month, 3 months, a year, 2 years… It happens all the time. A wise person told me when I was just getting started, to “try and live off half of everything you make”. That was good advice back in 1979 and I’m still doing this job today because I’ve been able to weather the down times by socking savings away when times are good.  Of the 150 students in my first year class, 9 of us made it to graduation and I believe 4 of us are still in animation. I don’t mean to discourage anybody, but as I said, animation is tough and I want to be straight with you. Go in with your eyes wide open, and really, good luck out there.  …and oh yah, don’t work overtime hours for free. It hurts both you and your employer who thinks you’re getting it all done in regular hours, won’t know how to bid the next show any better and will eventually go bust.

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