Friday, November 13, 2009

Balancing Creativity and Draftsmanship

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Lack of balance leads to turmoil, as depicted by this Artist Rendition of Turmoil.
Too much attention to draftsmanship leads to stiffness. Too much attention to creativity leads to lack of professionalism. To work in animation, we need both. Many examples of creativity can be found literally in front of your nose, with homegrown YouTube videos, lo-fi music, student films, etc. On the other hand, we see plenty of slick Hollywood films and big record label music that lack uniqueness and care. Lack of sound technical skills leaves more to be desired, amusing the consumer for a second, but when he asks himself "But would I pay to see this?" the answer is usually no. Lack of creativity leaves one uninspired, and often times bored, even insulted. The response then, is "that wasn't worth my ten dollars" or "that wasn't worth two hours of my time." To be appealing to employers as 'animation artists' (as CalArts teachers like to say), we need to demonstrate both. Professionalism usually suggests one is operating at a high level on a consistent basis - the confidence that he or she can meet expectations. They say the difference between a professional and an amateur is that a professional gets paid to do what he does. We must observe what this means. We must ask ourselves "would I pay someone like me for my services?" There are athletes, cooks, and artists all around us, but what makes a professional basketball player, a professional chef, a professional photographer? They are the ones that show both inspiration and technical skills at a high level, regularly. For animation artists, this translates to creativity and draftsmanship. I mention this now because I often see the imbalance with many students trying to get their foot in the door for a paid position. Some demonstrate great creativity, but their portfolios show little-to-no evidence of fundamental drawing skills, storytelling skills, etc. On the other hand, there are the ones who draw fine, but their drawings and stories are uninspired and bland. This is a shame because these are the ones who have the means to say something but have nothing to say - like a vehicle with no driver. For the animation student, figure out which side of the coin is lacking and work on it. Creativity? Or drafstmanship? Then demonstrate it, through shorts, reels, and portfolios. If both sides suck, then expect the bumps ahead in this path we call Our Career to be the size of mountains.