VR helps concept artists to create stunning visuals faster. Jama Jurabaev (Ready Player One, Jurassic World) tells us more about his process blending 2D and 3D in virtual reality.(more…)
Your New Year’s resolution is “practice more”? Make it happen with these tips and tricks on how to practice art and animation.
Note: The following tips are about how to practice and not specifically what you should practice or how to draw. There are plenty of great “how to” videos out there that you can refer to for learning, as well as loads of practice exercise lists filled with prompts – for example, our article on 51 Great Animation Exercises. But here we’re just providing you with general practice tips that can be applied to pretty much anything you want to get better at. So, give ’em a try!
Why practice matters
If you want to become an artist, animator or illustrator, there is no way around tons and tons of practice. There are two simple reasons why this is a marathon and not a sprint:
- It’s much better to learn in small chunks. If you try to learn too much at once your head will not be able to process it all.
- Repetition is how the brain learns best. You need to practice the same thing many times so the neuron connections in your head become stronger.
Real work isn’t the same as practice
Sometimes it’s very easy to get stuck on your skill level – even if you are using your skill every day working as an animator, illustrator, artist or whatever it is you do.
The problem is: Working on a project is often not the same as practicing. In most projects and jobs you are doing the work that you are already good at. While this will still make you faster and give you a better routine, you will eventually get stuck on your island of expertise.
Conscious practice sessions in which you tackle new challenges can help you to grow your skills in new directions. The more you know, the more jobs you can apply for.
Oh and also, doing something the wrong way a thousand times, will also get you stuck.
Tip #1: Be specific
Vague goals are very intimidating. If your goal is “learning how to draw”, you are setting yourself up to never be satisfied.
First of all it takes months, no years, to “learn how to draw”. Also, you can’t even really measure if you have achieved it. The point where you think that you know how to draw good enough, might never come (and that’s a good thing – even professional artists constantly seek out new challenges).
So what should you do instead? Identify what exactly you need to improve! Or if you are at the very beginning think about what a very small first step could be for you.
If you want to learn how to draw, you could start with the anatomy of the head. Or figure drawing proportions.
If you want to learn animation, you should start with simple exercises like the bouncing ball.
If you already started learning a skill you need to find out what your weaknesses are. Just ask your fellow artists, a teacher or a mentor if you aren’t sure. Or pick a new software that you always wanted to learn.
Bottom line: Set small, but achievable goals and practicing will be a lot easier for you!
Tip #2: Make your progress visible
Don’t practice on loose paper. Always use the same sketch- or notebook or put your work in a binder. This way you can see your progress, which feels very satisfying. Also you can always compare your old work with your new work and really see how far you have come.
Tip #3: Establish a habit
Practicing is a whole lot easier if you manage to make it a habit. This way investing time in building your skills will become second nature to the point where it feels strange if you miss it.
But I myself have failed to establish daily or weekly rhythms for my practice sessions – here is what I do instead:
At the beginning of the week, put your practice sessions in your calendar as if they are actual appointments. This way no other appointment can take their spot and you can always pick a time that fits best into your current schedule.
Tip #4: Log your practice
To really get better at something you’re going to want to challenge yourself and practice what is hard for you. To do this it may be helpful to make a plan of what you want to practice when and use this list to keep yourself on track.
Probably the easiest form of practice logging you can do is to simply write out your goal at the beginning of your practice session and make note of the result at the end. How did it go? Was it as difficult as you anticipated? What areas did you struggle with the most? What do you need to improve? Questions like these will help you clearly see what you need to aim for in future practice sessions.
If you really like logging, you may want to try documenting your findings in greater detail. What materials did you use?How did you set up the software interface to be how you like it? It may also be useful to write down the steps of how to do more complicated tasks that you’re learning. This way, you won’t have to keep these steps in mind and can refer back to your notes when you’re trying to remember how to do these tasks months later.
All of these tips that we’ve given you so far, you can accomplish with just a pen and paper. But sometimes it’s helpful, and a bit more fun and motivational, to use certain tools that were designed specifically with your goals in mind.
Tools that help you practice
Tool for timed figure drawing sessions: Line-of-action.com
51 Animation Exercises to help you become a better animator.
Want to bring joy to an animator?
Here are some gift ideas for your favorite creative people!
This is basically a shopping list of things that we either own ourselves and can highly recommend – or something that we really, really want ourselves. Seriously, I will print it out and give this list to anyone who asks what I want for Christmas.
And since we are all highly busy with Christmas deadlines, some of these a purely digital, so they make ideal last minute gifts for animator friends.
Price range goes from $10 – $40
Premium rigs – waiting to be animated
Sure, there are some amazing free 3D rigs out there, but it can get quite boring to always animate Morpheus or Eleven.
These premium rigs add some welcome variety to any character collection. They are thoughtfully built and packed with features and controllers.
Animating on Pixar level for a demoreel or the 11secondclub is a blast with these characters:
Josh Sobel’s rigs (Maya)
The rigs created by Josh Sobel are not only charming, but also studio-quality. No wonder, because Josh has worked for ReelFX, Disney and BlueSky. I have used the Kayla rig for years and the performances you can get out of it are fantastic.
Anna & Kevin for blender
It can be quite tricky to find high quality rigs for blender. These two characters, Anna and Kevin, come with all the components you need for feature film quality animation. A picker with different selection sets speeds up your workflow.
Some handy digital tools to make the life of a digital artist easier.
With Epic Pen PRO you can draw on your computer screen. This way you can draw arcs, marks and annotations over any application – really handy for animation software that doesn’t allow you to draw.
With Lazy Nezumi Pro you can draw smooth lines in any application – even ones that don’t support line smoothing. The behavior of the line smoothing is highly customizable and it also features a bunch of perspective grids for very convincing background art.
While most animation work is done digitally nowadays, it can be really refreshing to do something analogue every now and then.
This is the pencil brand Chuck Jones and Don Bluth used. A very soft pencil that allows you to draw and write extremely quickly and with high contrast. The flat eraser keeps it from rolling down a drawing board.
While any other Faber Castell pencil is cheaper and of the same quality, it’s still an amazing feeling to draw with the pencil that the master’s used.
It can be quite an amazing experience to have a little tangible model of your own characters in front of you. Super Sculpey is a go-to brand for many modelers to create small and big character models. After a little bit of a learning curve, sculpting can be very relaxing and rewarding.
Tip: Get a set of sculpting tools as well. They will make detailed work and removing fingerprints so much easier.
Books that inspire
Here are some recommendations for books. Some of them are known classics, but all of them useful and inspiring:
Richard William’s Masterpiece tackles all the big topics of animation. Keyframing workflow, the principles, walk/run cycles, lip sync and much more. The exercises are well explained and very clearly presented.
Acting for Animators
In this book, legendary acting teacher Ed Hooks reveals everything that an animator has to know about acting.
As an added bonus, there are some excellent, thought-provoking analysis chapters about classic and recent films.
Merch can be the perfect gift
Any animator is a fan of some film or series. Help them celebrate their favorite world and characters with some figurines or other merch.
Tip: Look on etsy.com for merch handcrafted by fans!
Cool stuff for animators only
And of course this list wouldn’t be complete without our very own animation lifestyle creations. These fun items feature some inside jokes only an animator can appreciate. Surprise your friends and support Animator Island at the same time!
Did we miss anything that you think would make a great gift for an animator?
What presents are you giving this season?
What things are on your wish list?
Let us know in the comments below and enjoy the holidays!
In this Let’s animate we are going to do a bunch of zombie animations to get us in the proper Halloween mood.
Avoid these animation and story mistakes made in Disenchantment! ⚔👹😲