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.