Hi. I've seen your work and your absolutely amazing. And well I'm not really sure how to ask this but, where would you suggest getting started..? I've been drawing all my life and now I'm trying to get into animation and I've researched and even tried jumping headfirst into animating but I don't really have any direction. How did you first start out..?
Hi there! Thank you so much for the kind words. Sorry for the very late reply, I have been very busy with work lately - but I’ve always been dying to answer this ask for a while now.
Like you, I didn’t really have a direction when I first started animation. Growing up, the study of animation was never a popular field with my south east Asian friends - so there was no real access to any professional animation desk and tool there. I’ve experimented with Flash a lot, making stick figure fight scenes, little skits and animatics, and just mere tests. I’ve always surfed around online communities with people who also shared a similar interest in animation. I think that helped a lot, and it gave me a more niche focus on the medium itself. So from my education and career so far, here’s what I can advice how non animators can get into animation.
1. Get a software or equipment to animate with.
When I started animation, I’d say it was with Flash. Flash for me was accessible, and it could do the things I needed it to do. It wasn’t until later on, I studied traditional animation and focused more on a classical training. However - if you just want to just start animating and experiment with the medium, I’d say get a software first. Experiment with timing, sequential drawing, poses, just get the hang of the medium itself. Flash (now called Animate CC) is a popular choice within the internet, but you can also animate in TVPaint, Photoshop and Toonboom. I have been trying out the open source software that Ghibli and Dwango released for free (its called OpenToonz, I’ll def make a video for that someday), and for it’s value; it can be a pretty good animation software! I’d say just try it out digitally with a drawing tablet, and see if its something you still want to pursue - then I’d recommend studying it traditionally! The reason I say this is because that one requires a lot more patience and discipline, so I’d recommend people to try it without investing too much on it before you are really interested.
You can practice animation basics like the bouncing ball, the squash and stretch, arcs - just to get that feeling of animation in general.
2. Get the Animator’s Survival Kit by Richard Williams
I don’t usually recommend books because the goals of one book can be different from the ones that are reading it. However, Williams’ Animator’s Survival Kit is basically that - a Survival Kit. It’s my go to book when I need help on timing tips, spacing, walk cycles - there’s a lot of basic yet useful information in that book for both beginners and adept animators. I still use it time to time. The great thing about that book is that it breaks down the mechanics of why good animation works - and shows how you can achieve the same thing. There’s a lot of great things you can refer to from that book when animating.
3. Study scenes from animation you like!
You can like the sakuga style of animation, the disney old school, the experimental, the don bluthy, the looney tunes, study the ones that inspire you. Things like basics and mechanics can be taught - but studying animated scenes you like will help you think more about placing your drawings. You can study them by redrawing the keys, watching it frame by frame, and breaking it down analytically.
4. Join online communities!
This helped me a lot when I was still trying to find an interest to study after high school. The animation community online is so big - theres a lot of access to community help! Yotta Studios has recently set up online animation forum - and everyone there so far has been pretty swell to deal with. A lot of talented folks there too! You can post your work in places like those - tell them your goals and what you are trying to achieve - and im sure you’ll get some great feedback. The 11second club is an online monthly challenge where artists can animate to a line of dialogue (usually 11 secs long) and submit it for that month. There’s a forum there too - but I haven’t used it in such a long time.
5. Get a hold of animators you admire
This one is tricky because the folks you may admire might just as well be very busy. However, if you get a hold of someone you respect and ask them for their guidance, they can steer you in a direction that can help you grow. From my experience, I was told from my mentors that my work was too “all over the place” - so they adviced me to keep things more subtle, controlled, and less frantic. One of my mentors told me to think more about giving life than thinking too hard about the overall performance - and wisdom like that from a veteran animator can help a lot. Although some may never respond - it never hurts to ask!
6. Start getting the hang of drawing fast and loose
I’m not sure what one’s drawing background may be - but animation (especially hand drawn) requires a more gestural mind set. You’ll be drawing a lot more in quanitity than illustrating a fine detailed piece - and you’ll also need to draw bolder/graphic statements. Things like tying down and fine tuning a drawing can come later - but for hand drawn animation - they usually look for the performance in the acting, the timing, and how pushed the poses are.
I hope this helps! I find it hard to give advice for non animators because I have to think a bit more vaguely, but those are the top ones I can think of at the moment. I might have made it sound intimidating because it is in a way, a lot of work - but it is a fun medium to work with,