Often times people will ask “What can I do to be better at animating/drawing/art?” The most obvious (and one of the most true) responses is “Practice.” Practice indeed gets you farther faster than any other method. There’s another secret technique, though, that can also dramatically improve your creative skill: Going fishing.
How Fishing Makes You A Better Animator
Alright, so maybe that doesn’t tell the whole story. Fishing, by itself, is unlikely to suddenly skyrocket your skill at much other than “the art of fishing.” It’s important to understand, though, that apart from practicing actual animation perhaps the greatest thing you can do for yourself is to go out and experience different things.
There’s an old adage “You don’t know what you don’t know.” What this means is if there’s something you’ve never heard of or experienced, you can’t use that knowledge in your life because you don’t have it.
No one wants to sit and look at another painting of a bowl of fruit on a wooden table. It’s great for practicing, but boring to view. Paint that fruit skiing down the snowy peaks of the Alps and you’ve got something interesting. If you don’t know what skiing is, though, you CAN’T paint that painting!
In the same way, we’ve all seen certain “animation cliches” time and time again. And because we’ve all seen them, they are part of our creative makeup. The only way to bring something new to the table is to experience something different, and if no one has animated something different that means you need to go out into the big wide world and find it.
Get a Life
As artists we can become extremely absorbed in our work. It’s natural, we’re passionate about it and we often dedicate the most time to our passions. Just as important, though, is to introduce new elements to our own personal little world. If you’ve never gone fishing, go fishing. Suddenly you’ve got a new set of experiences to draw from, and you never know where that might lead.
It’s not limited to fishing, though. Go experience life, and don’t say “no” to opportunities when they present themselves.
I am not a huge fan of contemporary installation art most of the time. Over the weekend my wife wanted to go to a local museum of contemporary installation art because they had free admission for the day. My initial reaction, in my head, was “Please NO. What a waste of time!” (My second reaction was “You mean some days they CHARGE people to see that stuff?”)
Thankfully I have begun to train myself to keep my initial reactions inside until I can stop and think for a moment. I work on training myself to be open to the possibilities that something I might not be thrilled about doing can bring, and you can too.
An hour later I found myself in a big white room with black scribbles on the walls filled with ping pong balls scattered over the floor. You could stand around and kick the ping pong balls until your heart was content, and they would bounce around and collide with each other, the walls, and people in the room.
Now I can’t say that I found it to be the best “Art” I’ve ever encountered (or even that the thought “This isn’t art at all” didn’t cross my mind more than once) but the experience was one I wouldn’t have had unless I was open to something new. Unless I went out and lived life.
Doing New Things Is Hard
Experiencing all sorts of different and new things isn’t always easy. Some days you’ll have to TRY to keep an open mind, and force yourself to experience something new. It’s much easier to sit and watch the football game from the couch (or dive into the animation project you’re working on and never see the light of day). It takes effort, but that effort is well worth it. You don’t know what you don’t know, so get out there into the world and know more, new things.
And I feel compelled to advise, at the same time be smart. There are some experiences that come with more harm than good, so use your common sense and don’t get into something that will cause damage to yourself or others. Not including contemporary installation art museums, of which I have been emotionally damaged by several times, but are still worth experiencing.