Have you ever scrolled through your feed, clicked the play button on an amazing animation, and thought, "I love that!" Animation is becoming more and more accessible thanks to newer, more affordable art programs, and there are several artists out there that are even offering animated commissions. For today's article, I sat down with a few of those artists and talked about their history with animating, and even got a few tips at the end.
Before we move onto the interviews, let's take a look back at a brief history of animation. The date was August 17, 1908 and the Gaumont company in Paris released Fantasmagorie; the first fully-animated film without the help of live action. This set the foundation for later forms of animation like Steamboat Willie and modern movies like Coco. Though I am honing my skills as a digital artist, I personally have no experience in animation; which is exactly why I grabbed a few artists with varying levels of experience to help me out.
I asked a regular contributor to AnthroBrand (Yurusa) several questions starting with "why did you start animating", here's what he had to say:
I've always wanted to animate just because of how versatile it is. You can tell a lot in one picture, so what kind of story do you think can tell in 10, 100, or 1000 pictures? It's absolutely insane what one can do. You can imply a character dancing in one picture, but they’ll always be frozen in time. But once you turn that into an animation, the character is now alive. They really feel like they’re a part of something more.
Yurusa proceeded to tell me he's been animating off and on for about 4 years and the first animation he did was in his senior year of high-school. I then asked what the hardest part of those starting animations was.
I would say understanding how a character moves in a 3-dimensional space. When you draw a single illustration, it can have plenty of mistakes and that's okay. Those "mistakes" could even be part of the stylization. But once you take that and try putting them into a 3-dimensional space, things get a whole lot different. All of your style choices, and even artistic mistakes, you make when you create a single illustration become clear very quickly when animating. You really have to understand what you are doing, and the purpose behind it, to make a convincing animation.
I asked another of my favorite artists, HoneyFoxCafe1 who's been animating for over 4 years as well, how she got started. She replied:
What made me start animating was the thought of making a beloved character come to life. I watched all kinds of artists make whole scenes and was mesmerized thinking: "I wanna do that".
I also asked Honey what the hardest part of animating was for her:
The hardest part when I first started out was probably trying to get any of my animations to look smooth, lol. Also learning how to copy and paste a freaking layer!
The third artist I asked is newer to animating, but clearly has a passion for it. He's known as Akitokit and has been animating for around 2 years. I asked what brought him to the animation scene, and this was his reply:
I always thought of myself as a storyteller, and sometimes a picture with words can only express so much; so I started animating to better tell a story.
I then asked what the hardest part was for Akitokit and I was happy to have his insight since he was the newest to animation out of the three I spoke with.
I am still starting out, but I do remember giving it a try several years ago. I gave up immediately. I regret not sticking with it to this day. What made me give up was the fear of long dedicated hours to studying how to animate before even attempting to produce something which may just end up being mediocre.
Finally I asked all these artists if they had any tips for people who want to start animating.
Yurusa was the first to respond:
Study animation like anything else you would study! It might be easy to want to just dive in, but it’s still an art form. Take a video of yourself doing something; dancing, playing around, doing a backflip, anything! Once you do that, draw it. Watch that video, take frames from it, and then try drawing those frames. Make observations on what is happening, how the forms move around a 3-dimensional world, and try to understand the mass of those characters. Afterwards you can always make a 3-dimensional plane, draw a simple character, ball, or even a bag of flour moving through it. But I would definitely take the time first to make your observational studies in the real world.
Akitokit then replied:
Make it fun. The sad truth with any work you do is: you have to put in the hours before you get good with it. They say 1000 hours would make you a solid beginner, so making it fun for you would be the key. If you have been drawing on a regular basis, I would say you are part of the way there to animating. Next is just the fact of making your shapes move. Make it simple. Start small. Would you like seeing your favorite OC slowly smile or blink? Or sitting on a couch playing with their phone? Ultimately, complicated animations and techniques will require the basics. So once you are confident with doing some simple animations, give the more complex tutorials and basics a quick glance. I definitely plan to.
And Honey completed our interview with:
I guess my number one tip is to have patience. Animation is a lot of drawing things over and over, but the end result is always worth it! I used to only be able to animate some blinking eyes and now I can animate my character fully! It took time, but I cried the first time I animated her fully.
As you can see, there are some common themes when it comes to animation: time, study, and patience. I hope that this article can inspire you as an artist to take the leap into a new medium or possibly provide some fresh insight to someone who may be stuck. Animation takes a lot of work, but as you can plainly see for everyone who is currently in the process of learning how: The outcome is always worth it.