Exhibit: Carlo Vinci Shows Us How To Pick An Animation School

National Academy of Design 1931

Today, I read a post on Cartoon Brew titled When Angry Animation Students Attack. Apparently, an animation student became frustrated by the poor quality of instruction at his school, so he crapped out his final film and ended it with a credit for his professor that read, "Thanks for nothing."

This particular post resonated with me, because the most common question I’m asked by young artists is, "How should I pick an animation school?" They always expect me to recommend a specific school, but my answer usually surprises them.

Carlo Vinci Artist and AnimatorCarlo Vinci was one of the most talented animators who ever lived. When he passed away in 1993, he left behind a remarkable legacy. But of particular interest to students of animation was his collection of student work. Tucked away in a closet was a portfolio full of studies that chart his education. Vinci’s family is generously allowing the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive to document this material with the intent of reconstructing his education as a model for current students of animation.

Today, I’d like to share a brochure with you… This is the course outline for National Academy of Design, the art school that Carlo Vinci attended… I hope you take the time to read over this material carefully, especially if you are a student looking to pursue a career in animation. It will help you know what to look for in an animation school.

National Academy of Design 1931

The Academy believes firmly in the development of individuality but denies that such development is helped by the ignoring of the universal heritage, the heritage of the graphic manifestations of Man’s temperament and impressions. It therefore approves careful consideration of the Art of the past and its correlation with the Art of the present. It encourages progressive experiment admitting the vitality of real Art under any form and condemning only ignorance, insincerity and the contempt which is born of them.

National Academy of Design 1931
National Academy of Design 1931
National Academy of Design 1931
National Academy of Design 1931

The students have at all time free access to the Academy’s large and valuable collection of standard and rare books on every branch of the fine arts… Of especial advantage to the student is the easy accessibility of the great collections in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Historical Society, New York Public Library, Brooklyn Museum, the City Hall, the Hispanic Society, and the galleries of innumerable private collectors and art dealers in the city, where the best American works and art treasures from foreign countries may be studied to better advantage than anywhere else in America.

REQUIREMENTS

National Academy of Design 1931
National Academy of Design 1931

SCHEDULE OF CLASSES

National Academy of Design 1931

The class schedule runs six days a week from 9 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon. First year studios in drawing from sculpture, life drawing, portrait painting, still life painting, and composition run from two to three hours apiece. Second year courses consist of life drawing, sculpture from life, portrait painting, etching, composition, and mural decoration. And three hour night courses are offered in sculpture, life drawing, drawing from sculpture and composition.

First year students receive lectures in anatomy, perspective and art history. Second year students attend lecture classes in color theory, various printing techniques, stained glass, mosaic and the history of art and architecture.

COURSE OF STUDY

National Academy of Design 1931
National Academy of Design 1931

Note that students first draw from still life and sculpture, and only when they have proved their abilities, are they allowed to advance to drawing from life.

National Academy of Design 1931
National Academy of Design 1931
National Academy of Design 1931
National Academy of Design 1931

INSTRUCTORS

National Academy of Design 1931
National Academy of Design 1931
National Academy of Design 1931

HISTORY OF THE SCHOOL

>National Academy of Design 1931
National Academy of Design 1931

PAST GRADUATES

National Academy of Design 1931
National Academy of Design 1931
National Academy of Design 1931
National Academy of Design 1931
National Academy of Design 1931

HOW DO I PICK AN ANIMATION SCHOOL?

Here’s the surprising answer… You don’t! Schools that specialize in animation as a trade do a lousy job of preparing you for a career in animation. While you’re a student, you should focus on your core art skills- drawing, design, composition and color. Look for a school that can give you a solid classical art background. Avoid ones that just teach computer programs. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to learn Maya!

Carlo Vinci was one of the greatest animators who ever lived, but he never took a class in animation. Instead, he spent three years of intense study to learn to be an artist. With the experience he gained at the National Academy of Design, he was able to learn animation and advance quickly on the job. It was the same for great animators like Marc Davis, Chuck Jones and Frank Thomas who studied at Chouinard on the West coast.

IT’S A LOT EASIER TO LEARN ANIMATION THROUGH SELF STUDY ONCE YOU’VE BEEN TAUGHT THE CLASSICAL ARTS THAN IT IS TO DO IT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. Start with the general skills and work your way towards the specific ones.

National Academy

Students at the National Academy of Design
around the time Vinci attended.

You have an advantage that the Golden Age animators didn’t have. Personal computers and inexpensive animation software make it easy to experiment and learn animation on your own. You have amazing resources on the web, like the $100,000 Animation Drawing Course, Mark Kennedy’s Seven Golden Camels and John Kricfalusi’s invaluable blog, All Kinds Of Stuff. You have no excuse for not learning to animate.

You can’t buy an education, but you may be able to buy a degree. Students graduate without any marketable skills from good colleges every year. But that isn’t the schools’ fault. Your education is your own responsibility. It’s not your professor’s job to MAKE you learn. Learning is a life-long occupation. Apply yourself.

If you can’t afford a university degree, you can still obtain a first class art education. Attend classes at your local community college and pick up copies of the Famous Artists painting, commercial art and cartooning sets on eBay. Self study is the key to becoming a great artist. Once you start to master the fundamental skills, THEN apply yourself to learning to animate.

If you follow this advice, you’ll never have to make excuses for your lack of skill as an animator, and you’ll never need to blame anyone else for your lack of education. Best of all, your education will form the foundation for any creative endeavor you undertake.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

INSTRUCTIONINSTRUCTION

This posting is part of an online series of articles dealing with Instruction.

TheoryTheory

This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit entitled Theory.

20 Responses to “Exhibit: Carlo Vinci Shows Us How To Pick An Animation School”

  1. Anonymous says:

    in reply to this line "Schools that specialize in animation as a trade do a lousy job of preparing you for a career in animation." I have to disagree, all well known animation schools in the country are very well aware of the need to teach their students the basics of film making side by side with animation skills. I don't want to advertise to any school out there, but some of the shorts we've seen lately coming from individual students are of high quality.

  2. Stephen Worth says:

    Filmmaking skills and the technical animation skills aren't what I'm talking about in this article- it's the foundation art skills: drawing, painting, composition, design, color theory, etc. Few trade schools offering degrees in animation do more than a cursory job of developing these skills in their students.

    I have a BA in Design from UCLA. When I studied graphics there, they taught me type specification, pasteup, how to calculate reductions on a lucigraph, processing film in a darkroom… Four or five years after I graduated the Macintosh was introduced and all of those skills became obsolete. The skills I still use to this day are the "101" classes- color, design and basic drawing. If I knew then what I know now, I would have focused more on the foundation skills and spent less time on specific technical skills.

  3. Jeremy says:

    Nice article Steve and thank you for sharing. I would like to post a link to it on Don's forum as well.

  4. Herman G says:

    It's funny that is core skills is indeed needed. I met a couple of 2d animators that were trained architects that were picked up to animate.. It must be the attention to detail and strong base that, make em a fit for it.. good post,,

    nobody can draw like that anymore, from what Ive seen lately , the advent of tv and video games kinda put a stop to total dedication.

  5. Guy Cx says:

    That's funny, I've been searching for animation schools in Canada and US for some time, and this single post made me change my mind radically.

    I have traditional art classes in college, but I've always seen it as something apart from animation or cartoon directed to animation. How silly I was… I'm gonna apply to an arts school right now! (It's true!)

    Thanks a lot for all the knowledge, Steve! You have no idea of how much this blog has changed my choices and my life.

  6. Stephen Worth says:

    Herman G, we see students who are dedicated to drawing that well every day here at the archive. Television and theatrical animation may not reflect the fundamental principles of art so much right now, but there is a new generation of animators coming up that might just change everything.

  7. Meredith says:

    It's an interesting post and the advice is well taken. But for someone who already holds a BFA and has an extensive background in drawing and painting, it falls short. While understanding that the ASIFA may not want to endorse one school over another, a list of schools offering animation would be extremely helpful.

    I'm most interested in workshops, where I could travel and get some hands-on experience with traditional animation. A 12-week class doesn't work for me, I need something a little shorter so I can afford the cost of a hotel for the duration. Suggestions are appreciated!

  8. Stephen Worth says:

    If your drawings are consistent and have solid construction, you're most of the way there. You don't need any more traditional schooling, you can start on self study from here…

    Work on the lessons in the 100k Animation Drawing Course and apply what you have learned from life drawing to cartoon drawing.

    Follow the blogs of the animators who are sharing their experience on the net… In particular, John K's All Kinds of Stuff, Mark Kennedy's Temple of the Seven Golden Camels, Michael Sporn's Splog, Will Finn's Small Room, and Sherm Cohen's Cartoon Snap.

    Get a copy of Maya/Toonboom/Flash/etc. and start doing animation tests on your home computer.

    Look for an entry level job at an animation studio to learn the ropes.

    Knock em dead!
    Steve

  9. Thankx, Mr. Worth, I just got started on buying all of the Famous Artists Courses, ’cause right now, I have a book from the Commercial Arts Course and the entire Painting Course, going for Cartooning and the rest of Commercial Arts courses.

    I really do agree with your (and Carlo Vinci’s) approach whole-heartedly, but, I just got started on the $100,000 Animation Drawing Course not too long ago.

    Your Friend,
    pauliecstuff.tumblr.com
    http://www.paulspaintings.tumblr.com
    polyvioscstuff.blogspot.com

  10. Mr. Worth, well, I was gonna get the Cartooning set from Famous Artists from eBay, but by some freak accident, I got the Commercial Arts set instead!
    I was gonna get my mom to return it back to its seller, but I decided to keep it instead, for I might learn some things about commercial art, design, and illustration!

    What the hey, who knows, if I learned all of that and Painting, I could just apply them to cartooning; I could just do caricatures of illustrations and painting backgrounds for cartoons and caricaturing painting styles.

    I got one more set to buy, and my collection is complete!

    Furthermore, I have the first yellow book from the Illustration set, but I’m willing to give it away.

    Your pal,
    Polyvios Christoforos
    Paul329869@hotmail.com
    http://www.paulspaintings.tumblr.com
    pauliecstuff.tumblr.com
    polyvioscstuff.blogspot.com

  11. Excuse me please, Mr. Worth, do you mean the complete sets of the Famous Artists courses, or just the general term of the Famous Artists Painting, Commercial Art, and Cartooning sets?

    Thank you.

    Your pal,
    Polyvios Christoforos
    Paul329869@hotmail.com
    http://www.paulspaintings.tumblr.com

  12. There are three FA courses, and the Commercial Art set had three different editions. They are all worth getting.

  13. Thanks for the feedback, Stephen, I think that the three editions mean three volumes in the Commercial Art course, don’t you?

    Your friend in mind,
    Polyvios G. Christoforos
    Paul329869@hotmail.com
    Paul329869@aol.com
    http://www.paulspaintings.tumblr.com

  14. Hey Steve, it’s me, and I just wanna tell you that I FINALLY got the Famous Artists Commercial Art Course off of eBay. The last one I got was just an empty box, so my mom went through all of that trouble to get my money back so that I could re-apply it to my next purchase, which succeeded on time!

    The set I have now is the 1960 edition, so it might be somewhat different to the previous ones; one’s from 1950(all four books), and the last one’s from 1954 (for it has the 4th additional one). What do you think of my wild guesses? Do you think they’re worth getting for me or do I have to avoid one of them? Is the 1954 set of Commercial Art up to your standards?

    Thanks for your time,

    Polyvios G. Christoforos
    Paul329869@hotmail.com
    Paul329869@aol.com
    http://www.paulspaintings.tumblr.com
    http://www.pauliecstuff.tumblr.com
    https://www.facebook.com/polyvios.christoforos.7

    • All three of the Commercial Art courses are quite different. They’re all worth getting. The cartooning and painting courses didn’t change, so any edition will do on those.

Leave a Reply