What are studios looking for? How can I get into a good animation school? What should I be studying?
I get a lot of these types of questions now and again, and I never know how to answer them. I can’t be sure of what studios are looking for, I don’t control admissions policies to schools, and I have little idea what makes for a current and relevant curriculum. There are a lot of variables in your bid for a career in animation, and it’s kind of impossible to control most of them. You must be crazy to want this job!
I find it helpful to focus on the things I can control. Among those things are your study habits and how you spend your personal time. It’s good to work hard and have goals—without them we would get nowhere. Study hard and make decisive strides towards achieving your art goals. But in the heat of that pursuit, don’t forget to go out and live your life!
If you spend any amount of time looking at artists online, you’ve probably figured out by now that there are about a million dudes and dudettes in internetville who draw better than you (I relive this realization daily). Once your have done your best to rise to their level, the only tool you have to compete with these crazy talents is your background, your personal character—is you!
Consider developing your whole self with the same raw focus and intensity that you develop a particular skill set. Get focused. Go out, have adventures. Run, jump, skin your knee, fall in love, root loudly for the away team at a baseball game, barely escape a crash of stampeding rhinos, live to see another day. Experience things big and small. Go for a walk. The world is full of wonders.
I know this advice is not particularly animation-specific, but maybe that’s for the best. At any rate, it is something I feel strongly about. Animation is great, and there are few things that I enjoy doing more than drawing and storytelling. But in order to have stories to tell, first you have to live them.
Be good, and see you soon!
PS, if you were looking for advice on draftsmanship you should probably be reading this.
“You always grow up to be your parents.” Well, that’s what they say anyway. It’s one of those things you hear as a kid and immediately dismiss with a laugh and a battlecry of “Not me!”, unaware of the cosmic joke that is being kicked into motion with its mere utterance. The punchline, of course, isn’t that we actually do grow up to be our parents but that once we reach a certain age, a certain sense of self awareness, that we realize we actually are and, well, maybe that’s not so bad. We start to see, in ourselves, all those little idiosyncrasies that make them who they are; We laugh at the same things they laugh at, we find ourselves making decisions using logic they have used to make the same decisions, we cry, yell, smile, work, struggle, believe, triumph, and succeed for same reasons we have seen our whole lives in them.
It’s an inevitable manifestation, but not one devoid of choice. Part of that realization is that our parents are not infallible, that they, like all people, make mistakes. They have good sides and bad, positive and negative, their own mistakes and successes. They try their hardest to make sure we see more of the good and limit our exposure to the bad. They do their best to make us into better people with their experience. Such is the role of a parent. The choice we make as children is to understand that fallibility, to see and understand the good and the bad, and choose to let the good live on in us. To be not just an example, but a mirror for their lives. The choices we make, our successes, our failures (make no mistake, we inherit that same fallibility) serve as a reflection for their teachings.
So, in my life, I choose every day to try to reflect the joy, humor, creativity, love, hope, and strength instilled in me by Jean Mercury, my mother. I choose to be brave, to fight, to be passionate and tenacious in my pursuits because these are the life lessons she has taught me, and continues to teach me. This is what she chose to share; this is the good she has given to me. This is why I am proud to admit that I’ve grown, and am growing, up to be like her. And just as she is still teaching, I am still learning.
I am thankful for her, every day. For the lessons I learn, every day. For teaching me that I need to be honest and brave, every day. For the hope and love that I have, every day.
Today is Mother’s Day, a day for recognition, affirmation, and appreciation for everything you have done for me. I want you to know, though, that I hold those feelings in my heart, that love, always, every day.