Thursday, May 24, 2007

ASIFA-East article: "Getting the most from an Animation Education"

Richard Gorey has written this great article in the ASIFA-East newsletter ("aNYmator"), about his experience teaching animation. He has some nice observations about what he sees in his students, and reasons why people study animation in school. His comments are very down to earth, but not negative. With the huge influx of students of animation entering the industry, there are more than a few negative perspectives about younger animators. I will not deny that some of it is deserved, but it's nice to read someone's views who looks into the deeper reasons as to why people act the way they do, (maybe even--*gasp*--relate to them?) instead of just being negative about it and complaining. Sometimes I think we all need to be reminded that for all our differences, people are pretty much the same--we generally want the same things in life, the human condition is present in the best and worst of us. I mean, as animators, if we can't relate to another person's problems, what hope do we have of relating to our characters?

So many of my students are distressed when I see their first tests, then I give notes for the next go-round. "I have to do this again?" they ask, and I answer, "Yes, you do. And again, and again, and as many times as it takes, to get it right. I've been doing this for twenty five years, and I still have to redo scenes several times to get what it is I want."

That shocks them, and it often is the dividing line between those who will continue and those who lose interest I don't think it’s fair to blame the modern generation for not wanting to struggle over such issues. I recall being resentful of this, too, when I saw my first tests (which were heinous, clumsy garbage). We all want our lives and our careers to be easy, as much of the time as possible. But animation, like any career, can be challenging, and obtuse. I tell my students, "any career you choose will have positive aspects and some unattractive ones. If you're going to be a plumber, sooner or later, you're going to have to stick your hand in a toilet. And if you're an animator, sooner or later you're going to have to handle a scene that is drawn from an uncomfortable angle, or do something that requires hours and hours of life study, or you're going to have to manage around a character that has such fussy design that every drawing will be a chore. Sorry, but in this respect, animation is just like every other job."

I think that has been one of the toughest lessons for me to learn, but I've already seen that it does get easier with time. I admire his ability to honestly teach hard lessons like that one, but also be positive:

I never tell my students that "they'll never earn a living," even though the financial rewards in animation can be . . . less than they should be. I prefer to consider the art and the career of animation as a more personal and meaningful method of expression for the people who choose to learn about it.

There's a lot more to the article than these excerpts, it's worth reading. Since I know we all love having tangible lists of advice to follow, Richard ends with 7 bits of advice he gives his students. "#6--Connect and Depend on your fellow students". How incredibly helpful were my friends in school, and still are!

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