Archive for the ‘instruction’ Category

Monday, June 20th, 2016

Art Education: Your Practice Habit

While practicing your craft you may find yourself wanting to devote time to practice, but finding either little available time, or a lack of motivation to begin work. Commonly, many artists will wait for inspiration to strike before they begin working, and then will feverishly work for hours on end while the inspiration lasts. Later these same artists many times leave their work unfinished, forever waiting for their fickle inspiration to return. Others are frequently paralyzed by indecision as they wrestle to find the right idea to work on in the right way. Even productive artists can suffer from their habits, working themselves sick by missing out on sleep and meals.

If these scenarios describe the way you work, then what you need is to form your own Practice Habit. Consider the many daily activities you do without any prompting: eating meals, brushing your teeth, watching a show, etc. For almost all of us, our daily lives are filled with activities which we perform at the same time in the same way every day, which we no longer even think about. We want your artistic practice to be one of these automatic activities (or at least we want starting practice to be automatic, not the work itself).

The Habit Loop

The_Habit_Loop

The core loop of habits

We can use certain psychological tricks to establish and reinforce behaviors until the become second nature. Doing this takes time and discipline, but once established, makes work pleasant and regular. I have experimented on both myself and on students in using this method and have had much success altering our habits for the better over a period of about a month before the habit was solidified.

It’s important to note that replacing an established habit with a new one is much harder to do than institute a fresh habit without competing. Therefore starting this process immediately following a vacation or the end of a school quarter is particularly effective. Additionally, any disruption of your routine which lasts more than a week may destroy your current habits and force you to establish new ones.

Cue

Firstly, you need a signal to activate your habit. This can be as simple as an alarm on your phone or computer, or you can piggy-back on an existing cue such as the end of work, class or a meal. Make sure that the cue is unavoidable and clear so that you don’t accidentally miss it.

Routine

This is your actual practice. You should set up your work space and materials in the same way, preferably in the same place every time you begin work. As we’ll see, the work itself shouldn’t be exactly the same day to do lest you risk artistic stagnation, but the circumstances under which you work should be as consistent as possible to reinforce  your habit and reduce distraction.

Reward

This is the positive feeling or result of having worked. You can also use a material reward on yourself if you find it necessary such as a snack or a game. With artistic work, this is usually not needed because the work process itself is quite rewarding on its own.

Be Consistent

We want to create a daily artistic practice, meaning that if at all possible, you should pick a time to work which is available seven days a week, every day of the month. Because of work and family obligations, working on your art everyday may not be possible. Obviously we want to skip as few days at possible, but if you must skip a day, try to make it the same day every week or try to pattern the days to skip the fewest number of consecutive days. The worst case scenario which will still work for establishing an art habit, is to work on your art every other day.

Weekly_Planning

Take the time of day into consideration as well. Most people have a particular time of day which is best for working, so try to think hard before choosing your’s. In the past when you’ve worked on your art and felt good about it, was it early in the day? Was it immediately after lunch? Late at night? Whenever it is for you, try to make that time your work time.

Similarly, you should pick a work space which is consistent as well. Being in the same place will help to reinforce your habit by making the physical location a part of the routine. Try to pick a place which is always available to you and free from distraction.

Plan to Begin

The goal for habit forming is to start working. That’s it. It doesn’t matter if you then proceed to work for an hour or for 10 minutes, the important thing is to establish a time to begin working and allow for time to continue if you feel like it (in my experience, most artists will happily continue working, but starting work is the hard part).

Now you may be saying to yourself, “Why shouldn’t I plan to work for a few hours?” Forcing yourself to work, although necessary in a professional environment, is not what we should do for our personal practice, and the reason why has to do with the Reward step in the Habit Loop.

Imagine that you begin work and can’t do anything right that day. You try and fail, and force yourself to keep going for the whole duration of your planned time. You feel awful right up to the end of the session and exasperated, quit when the allotted time is up, happy to be done with it. How will you feel the next day when you have to sit down to start work again? Do you think those negative feelings might influence your attitude when you start working the next day? For me, and for many of my students, it does, which is why I never recommend forcing a set duration of work.

Instead, I recommend planning a start time only, providing available time to work in if it happens that day. The benefit of this is a lower amount of pressure daily and permission to fail to work on a given day without heaping guilt on yourself. So you didn’t get anything worth while done today? So what? You worked yesterday and you’ll work again tomorrow due to the daily component of your practice habit. Consistency is very freeing, as it ensures that regular progress takes place, while providing forgiveness for work lulls.

Don’t Distract Yourself!

Remember that the purpose of this time is for personal work only. This means don’t turn on the TV or Netflix, don’t listen to podcasts, don’t start an hour-long phone call while working. Concentrate on only your art. As stated in Richard Williams’ “The Animator’s Survival Kit” this advice alone has the power to radically increase your productivity.

milt_kahl_richard_williams

Milt Kahl on working while listening to music.

The compound problem with working while distracted is that we’re trying to establish a practice habit. This means that if you establish a habit of working while watching Netflix, you will always need to work while watching Netflix! Don’t make a distraction a part of your habit.

If you’re working at home or in a school lab, set yourself up for success by letting people around you know to leave you alone at this time. Turn off your phone if you have to. Sequester yourself in your locked room if you must. Do whatever it takes to get time with just you and your art, you wont regret it.

Use Motivation Tricks

Get others to monitor your progress. If you promise your friends and family to show them your work daily, then you must have work to show daily. This little trap can make it a lot more important to you to work consistently than working alone.

Work near other artists (or at least in parallel). If you can arrange it, have someone else establish a practice habit at the same time you do. You don’t have to work in the same room, but you should frequently check in on the other’s progress. There’s nothing wrong with a little competition.

Keep track of the amount of work you’ve produced. This is very simple, whenever you finish an animation, or painting, or page of drawings, add 1 to the total you’ve completed and keep the total number visible. Human beings love watching numbers tick upward, and this tiny effort can have a noticeable impact on your throughput (especially when combined with the previous method).

Set a numeric goal for your work. Anything will do, such as 100 drawings, or 50 seconds of animation, etc. A medium to short term goal is a great way to push your work forward and keep the wheels of progress turning.

Finally, remember to set small goals which you can maintain. When you realize that your previous goal has become second nature, set another small goal which builds on your first. If you are able to incrementally ratchet your work upward by small degrees, you’ll find that before too long, you’re much more productive than you were before.

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

Instruction: Composition- How To Make Pictures

John Kricfalusi recently posted a series of great articles on composition and layout on his blog…

Composition For Layout And Background Artists: Framing
Composition 2: Intersection
Composition 3: Clear Staging
Composition 4: Staging Groups of Characters
Composition 5: Negative vs Positive Space
Composition 6: Asymetricality
Composition 7: Poses Working Together
Composition 8: Form vs. Detail, Lettering, Reference
Composition 9: Study Other Artists
Composition 10: Contrasts
Composition 11: Organic Shapes
Composition 12: Contrasts in Texture and Spacing
Composition 13: Scale
Composition 14: Form Over Detail
Composition 15: Form in Clouds
Composition 16: Flair
Composition 17: Reference and Inspiration
Composition 18: Scene Planning For TV Part One
Compostion 19: Scene Planning For TV Part Two
Compostion 20: More Inspiring BG Layouts

Famous Artists BooksFamous Artists BooksSeeing the fantastic examples by Mary Blair, Milt Gross and Jack Kirby reminded me how UN-designed many animated films and print cartoons are today. Mark Kennedy has a great post on Rhythmic Composition that you’ll want to check out too.

When I went to design school, I don’t remember any real serious analysis of compositional techniques beyond the most basic principles. Compositions were critiqued with “gut reactions”, which might be helpful in identifying a design that isn’t working, but it doesn’t help an artist trying to figure out how to improve and strengthen his work.

I dug through my reference shelves and pulled another invaluable lesson from the Famous Artists Course. This is lesson three from the Illustration Course this time. In methodical fashion, the famed illustrators Albert Dorne, Norman Rockwell, Al Parker, Peter Helck, Austin Briggs, Ben Stahl and Fred Ludekens team up to break down the nuts and bolts of what makes a picture work.

COMPOSITION: How To Make Pictures

Composition
Composition
Composition
Composition
Composition

THE FOUR MAIN ELEMENTS OF COMPOSITION

Composition
Composition

1.) PICTURE AREA

Composition
Composition
Composition
Composition
Composition
Composition

2.) DEPTH

Composition
Composition
Composition
Composition

3.) LINE

Composition
Composition
Composition
Composition

4.) VALUE

Composition
Composition
Composition

Famous Artists BooksFamous Artists BooksThe Famous Artists Course was created in the mid-1950s by Norman Rockwell, Rube Goldberg and Albert Dorne, among others. The correspondence lessons and educational materials are still available at www.famous-artists-school.com. Books from the three courses: Painting, Illustration/Design and Cartooning turn up on eBay as well. I highly recommend these great resources to students.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

INSTRUCTIONINSTRUCTION

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

Monday, June 6th, 2016

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.