Monday, May 26, 2008

brief aside, animation, inspiration, invevitable frustration

While some of you blog readers are graduated, gearing up for careers in animation, I thought I'd mention a few things that keep me motivated when things get challenging. Just some thoughts I thought I'd share when faced with frustration.

When you do any kind of commercial art, the only round you can really take personal ownership is the first pass you present. I used to work with a great art director who was really amazing at letting her work get reworked to the point where the end result had little semblance to her initial pass. I asked her how she managed to be so open to losing her idea, and she just shrugged and said, "The first version is mine. After that, it no longer belongs to me". It seems very obvious, but it struck me at the time as very profound. Much of this business is subjective and when you work at a company, producers, directors, art leads, etc..their opinion holds much more weight than that of the animator. That's ok. Effectively, they're the client you need to please. Sometimes the client needs to change things a bunch of times to feel like they're getting their money's worth. Sometimes you impress them with your clever problem solving. Sometimes this turns on a dime, and back again.

So there is much you don't have control over in doing any kind of commercial art, but there is a lot you do have control over, mainly your attitude and drive. The image above is from one of the most effective teachers I had over the years, Irwin Greenberg, a watercolor artist in NYC, who got a lot of really talented artists started. When I lived in NY, it seemed any sketch class I'd drop in on, I'd see Mr. Greenberg in the front row, painting away with a quiet intensity. In his class, he told us to drop all goals and frustrations and think about Rembrandt, who despite all the hardships he faced in his life, would continue pushing on making better and better paintings, year after year. (I'm avoiding the whole cliche of despair into seems more of a marketing scheme to sell the idea of the artist to buyers than anything else). What he said was to the effect of 'when you engage in the activity, you're a member of the club (said in a slight NY accent). That's all I ever set out to be.'

Another nugget of wisdom. It's all about the activity, and with animation, if you spend what free time you have focussing on it, you too are a member of the club, part of the tradition of talented people figuring out how to muscle through the mechanics of motion for the goal of entertainment - of yourself, of others. That in itself can give you a sense of personal achievement - committing to the work for the sake of the love of the activity, maddening as it often is.

So when you look at your animation and feel like 'this is the best i've got' - don't despair - just know that there's a century of amazing animators who have run through the gamut of emotions we all go through, but use that frustration and tension to go forwards with more determination and focus.


Steve Masuda said...

Great words of wisdom Jeff!

kent brown said...

jeff amazing article and right on target. I see so many of my fellow students struggle with letting go of their initial idea in class and take the suggestions of the instructor (client) without getting upset. If they could only remember the first past is theirs. I also took classes in NYC with Irwin Greenberg. His class changed my approach to making art as well as made me a better watercolorist. What a small world.