Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Learning to Talk: Art is about Experimentation and Endurance

An artist developing their skill is very much like a person learning how to communicate.  The words of an infant are, at first, the sounds of gibberish, erratic vocalizations as the child learns how to control the muscles in their mouth and throat.  


This is very much like the artist learning the most basic technical aspects of their medium - they experiment and adjust the outcome based on a conflict between the internal and external response.  The internal is the desire to make themselves understood by the outside world.  The child hasn't yet been crushed by the knowledge that the whole of humanity doesn't share the same thoughts and feelings as they did with their mother in the womb.  There is great frustration - a concept needs to be communicated, but the intended recipients of the message aren't receiving it.  Sometimes, the internal and the external are in consort, and the message is received and understood - the reward being some basic needs is met (the basic need for an artist, of course is simple authentic appreciation).  Often they are not.  


If the child is lucky, they've the benefit of a nurturing and supportive environment in which to fully explore, but often this is not the case for the artist.  The struggle to persist and endure through all the 'bad' work that comes from the beginning stages of inexperience can solidify the convictions of the artist, or it can completely destroy them. 


If the artist can endure the humbling 'slings and arrows' of failure and master the technical aspects of the meduim, the challenge then becomes that of basic sentence structure.  A student learning a second language understands the difficulties in mastering word usage, tense, homonyms, participles and all the other bizarre rules required to communicate clearly.  And the deep frustration that comes from knowing how to communicate in one language, but not in another.  An artist intimately understands this painful frustration as they learn color usage, composition, perspective, negative space, and all the other bizarre rules required to clearly communicate their nebulous feelings.  


Another layer of frustration is added when the impetuous emotion fades during the process of production, and the inexperienced artist is left with hollow, half finished work.  An emotional callouss needs to be developed - not to dull the senses, but in order to cocoon the initial impetus, the first spark, so that it can be called on again and again to rejuvenate the failing energy.  Like a marathon runner, the endurance required to finish is something that is practiced through the completion each project - wether the final product is considered successful or not.


The artist must give themselves time to experiment, and room to fail, in order to create furtile ground in which to grow.  Creating regular habits of playful experimentation, and time to exercise communication muscles through drawing, research, and studying life are the building blocks of successful artistic communication. Making opportunities to create simply for the sake of creating - steadfast to the the idea that whatever comes out, no matter what it looks like, it is the intended result for this exercise.  One nice side effect is the perfect opportunity for the artist to laugh at themselves, and their art, and reconnect with the joy of creating.


What do you do it help build artistic endurance?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Dying World of 2D Animation

Making a career of 2D animation here in the US is, quite frankly, very difficult. Even the top union animators only make between $25 - $35 per hour. Finding a job at a studio is nearly impossible. The lower level tweening positions are all outsourced, and studios normally hire from within for the higher level positions.

That's the cynical, realistic view. Now, for MY VIEW -

JUST GO DO IT!!  At this day and age, whatever you want to accomplish is possible - all it takes is a bit of determination and tenacity.

The Cocoon Phase
Don't worry about getting into a prestigious art college right away.  Start off somewhere cheap and close to home to get your basic credits out of the way - you'll save a BUNDLE, and your artistic growth won't be hampered by the sudden liberation you gain from being completely unsupervised. Use that time to strengthen your life drawing skills and work on your own animation projects.  Build up your portfolio, and you'll open the up the possibility of gaining a scholarship or grant.  Use this time to MAKE ABSOLUTELY SURE this is what you want to do.

While your at this 'cocoon phase' find other animation communities online. Facebook has quite a few (2D Animation, Independent Animation, 2D Detroit), and there are many blogsites devoted to the long and rich history of traditional animation (Cartoon Brew, Animation World Network). In hanging out with those people, you'll be able to get first hand information about the current state of the industry - along with tips and tricks and history you'll never learn at school.

Putting Gas in the Car
As far as making money - there are many opportunities for freelancing, even for those with no prior experience. Don't limit yourself by waiting for someone to give you permission to be an animator by hiring you - find the work in your community and do it. There are two places I know where you can turn a quick buck as a freelance animator with little experience - web videos for small businesses, and gaming apps. All you need is Flash (and maybe After Effects) and you're ready to rock and roll. You'll have to do your first couple jobs for free -that's just the reality of the world - so find a local non-profit or a start up business you can get behind and make something for them.  Not only will you be gaining experience, you'll be supporting something you believe in - double rainbow!

Basically, the opportunities are where you make them. The job market isn't the same as what it used to be, so don't restrict your view to archaic 'career planning' sites, or well meaning relatives. You can get far by being friendly, polite, and above all - passionate.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How to Make Money in Animation

There are a lot of little, quick, ways to make a couple bucks while you're waiting for Pixar to give you a call.  And if animation isn't exactly your thing, this also could work for graphic designers, and motion graphics artists.

Local Small Businesses
The first thing I would recommend is to get in touch with a local small business that could use an animation for their website. If you have a family member that owns their own business, that's perfect opportunity for your first job. Make something short and simple - something you can get done in a weekend. Then, once the animation is posted, share the link with everyone you know - Facebook is a great place for getting the word out. Go looking for other small business that could use an animation like the one you made, and share the link with them. Before you know it, you'll be making enough to pay your way through college!

Gaming Apps
Another place to look for work is to see if any of your friends are making iPad or iPhone apps. They need animation, and you do animation, so it's a great collaboration. You probably won't get a lot of money for that, but it's GREAT experience for getting your foot in the door at the larger game development companies.

Stock Photography Sites
Another more anonymous way to get a quick buck is to create animated clips for online stock video companies like Pond5. You get paid a commission every time someone downloads your animation.  The company takes a huge bite - but if you have one or two good clips you can count on beer money every month.

For more advice, and to hang with people doing what you want to do, do a quick search for groups on Facebook.  There are tons of people who've gone through what you're trying to do right now - ask to hear their 'glorious failure' and 'sparkling success' stories!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

How to Get Hired at an Animation Studio (or anywhere else)

So many artists graduate from college, degree in hand, and then find out that the jobs aren't as easy to get as your favorite teacher lead your ego to believe.  Getting someone from your dream studio to talk to you, much less get an interview is near impossible.  No one's hiring!

You're EXACTLY right. The job world is totally different these days - going 'old school' and waiting for an opening doesn't work anymore. You've got to get in front of the right people, and convince them they need you - whether there's an opening or not!

Now, I don't mean going in there and acting like a jerk - but if you have talent and experience that's over and above the norm, they're just shooting themselves in the foot by not hiring you! Sometimes, just having a warm, charismatic, friendly attitude goes a long way.

But, when it comes down to it - the squeaky wheel gets the grease. If you're REALLY serious about working for a specific studio, you've got to get a little unconventional in your approach. Regular, friendly, and consistent contact will wear down even the thickest walls. Keep drawing and creating your own projects and posting them online, sharing the link with your contacts in the studio (don't keep sending things to HR! branch out to the production manager, the creative manager, the animation department head, etc.). Create a blog that explains tips and tricks of animation production, and share those links with the studio members as well. After a few months of regular follow up, start pushing to set up a informal meet and greet - say, 'I'll be there on Thursday at 2:00, would really like to stop by and say hello!' Don't leave it open ended, make them say 'no' or 'yes'. It may take a while to get the meeting, but keep at it. Gently, politely, respectfully. Eventually, you'll get something, either a meeting, or a restraining order! (jk)

The point is to be unconventional - and don't wait for someone to 'allow' you to animate. Just DO it, and let them come to YOU!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Automotive Alphabet Flashcards

Here's an interesting project from artist Mike Yamada. Alphabet flash cards with an animal and automotive theme.  A great way to teach Motor City kids the alphabet AND our heratige.

Check them out.



Monday, August 1, 2011

Mayerson on Animation : Kirby Estate Loses Copyright Battle

This article stirs up discussion on the 'fairness' of corporations and copyright.

Blog: Mayerson on Animation
Post: Kirby Estate Loses Copyright Battle
Link: http://mayersononanimation.blogspot.com/2011/07/kirby-estate-loses-copyright-...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Setting up Social Media Connections


Part of an independent animator's life is self promotion.  Thankfully, this day and age provides a myriad of promotional outlets with the potential of global reach - the challenge is to figure out what outlets are best for you and your art.

Here's a few of the steps I go through to create an identity for a new project -

1) A unique gmail or yahoo account - this will be the primary communication 'entity' for creating all your subsequent accounts.  Link this account to push all emails to your normal personal account if you don't want to go back and check it individually.  It helps to name this account the same name as every other social media identity you'll be creating. If not exactly the same, something similar.  That way, your 'fans' will know they're in the right place.

2) Posterous blog - the beautiful thing about Posterous is that it seamlessly auto posts to everything you connect to it - which is almost every other social media site on the interwebs.  Make sure the blog name is the same as or similar to your new email address.

3) Twitter account - even if you don't tweet a lot, park this name so no one can take the social ident you're so carefully crafting.  Once you create the twitter account, go back to Posterous and link the twitter account to the Posterous blog.  Every time you post to your blog, it will auto generate a tweet.  Pretty sweet!

3) YouTube and Vimeo - it may seem redundant, but creating a new account in each of these sites spreads your visibility to a greater audience.  YouTube reaches more eyeballs, Vimeo reaches 'the right' eyeballs for creative types.  Both enable you to embed their players inside your Posterous blog, and send the view count back to your account for accurate stats. IMHO - the Vimeo player is prettier. If you have a couple bucks, and are serious about your animation, sign up for the Vimeo+ service to get more detailed viewer information and other neat services.

4) Facebook Page - you can create an entirely new Facebook persona for your project, or create a 'Page' as part of your own ident.  Either or can be linked through Posterous.  You can even link your YouTube account to post to the Facebook page whenever you do anything in YouTube.

There are many many more services available - feel free to comment with any others you would recommend.  These sites will provide you with a good start to get your project seen by millions all over the world, and to hopefully gain recognition and funding for your next project.

Happy Animating!