I am a good animator. Not a great animator, but I’m on my way (hopefully!)
Like most great-animators-to-be, I have a head full of exhilarating stories and personal projects that have yet to be produced. In the last year, I’ve written a story for a comic book that has yet see any real visual development, I’ve researched how to publish my own mobile games, and I’ve thumbnail-boarded a short film that I want to animate. Now, when there are students who can produce an animated project in a single semester, why why WHY am I still lagging behind with pre-production 13 months later? Am I just the laziest schmuck in the world?
The truth is, I suffer from Overly Critical Artist Syndrome. I tend to ignore what I’m good at and focus instead on what I can’t do. Last year, I had several Disney artists tell me that they loved my animation and they had no suggestions to make it better. Yet, rather than doing some more great animation, I spent most of this past year agonizing over the things I’m not good at – namely, digital painting and character design.
If you know the production pipeline, you know that you can’t start animating without finished character designs and at least some rough background art. Thus, my excuse for not animating anything yet. However, I got so mentally hung up on the poor character designs that I didn’t even move forward with things like storyboards and a color script, which are both well within my skill set to do. Production screeched to a year-plus halt while I spent well over THREE HUNDRED HOURS this year watching tutorials and demos from artists who are more experienced than me, and researching and dissecting the vague “science” of character appeal. Figure in the amount of time I spent making crappy designs (and then burning them), I probably wasted enough time that I could have finished a good chunk of the production.
Then, I found something on the JohnKStuff blog that really made sense to me. John says, “Not every artist or cartoonist has natural appeal. Since there are so few of these artists who can make almost anything look good, animation developed the concept of having specialists in appeal that we call character designers.” In other words, character designers are valuable because not everyone can do what they do.
I got a bit of a surprise at this year’s expo, after I’d gone around looking at other artists’ work. I asked a few of particularly good digital painters how they went about their trade, and mentioned passively that I wished I could paint the way they painted. Several of them responded back with, “I wish I could animate like you do!” It made me realize that, while everyone has one or two things they really excel at, successful artists don’t hold themselves accountable for every step of production. I’ve never seen a great environment artist beat themselves up for a lack of character design skills, or a stop-motion animator put themselves down because they can’t do fluid effects in Maya. And to my knowledge, Steven Spielberg never doubted his potential as a great film director just because his drawings… don’t quite hit the mark.
Steven Spielberg’s original Poltergeist storyboard……And the finished boards re-done by another artist.
This year, my big goal is going to be to move forward with everything I CAN DO, and learn to let go of what I can’t. If I really want to do what’s best for the project, it’s better for me to focus on animation, and bribe one of my talented friends to flesh out the characters.
HERE’S TO A PRODUCTIVE UPCOMING YEAR!