I've been working hard the past month or so on another challenging TV episode and a thinking about what it was like when I first started out in the field of art.
When I graduated from SVA with a degree in illustration, I was sure that I'd be working for DC in a year or so. Little did I know that my career was about to take a detour into animation. I've been traveling on that animation highway for about 14 yrs. During that time I've been involved in quite a number of high profile projects like: Mulan, Tarzan, Lilo and Stitch, Brother Bear. I've also taken smaller roads off the main highway where I was able to learn and grow in other areas of story telling and experience different studios and production schedules: Straight to DVD featurettes, smaller feature film production, video games, and mass market publications.
During my travels, I have met and learned from a number of great artists and storytellers who were generous to share their time and experiences in animation. From talking with many of the talented artists that I admired and had the privilege to work with on those various animated projects, I learned that they too were on a similar path. They hadn't reached the "ultimate state of creativity" and they too strove on a daily basis to improve and exceed the previous day's performance. How could this be? My perception of their art and their ability was that they had soared into the lofty heights of creative excellence.
The mind comes up with so many complicated reasons why an artist is "awesome". We haven't seen the process they go through to create "awesome'. We just see the final result. So we can trick ourselves into believing that there is some "secret to awesome" they possess.
Now a bit more mature, I have come to realize for myself, that the journey is never over until it's over. There is "no" final arrival point for artistic growth, no "Creative Nirvana", no Pantheon of the Art Gods that bestows a vessel of ultimate artistic elixir to a select few.
No, there is only the select few that drive themselves and work their hardest at each sitting at the creative table to do their absolute best work every time. This constant toil to plum the very depths of their creativity and bring all of their tools/skills to the fore produces fruit which we view as "awesome". They study, practice, and work their asses off on a daily basis.
You may be saying to yourself right now, if you've made it this far into the entry, "No duh, Phil! I knew that already." Well that's good for you that you figured that out. For those yet to discover it for themselves, it may be something to keep in mind. I'm just coming to terms with the new direction that I need to take knowing the facts above. It all comes down to the sweat equity you put in to what you are passionate about. Sometimes when we're on the journey of our lives, careers you can distracted by the promises and hype from advertisers about "instant success", "Fast results now" or "instant anything". Which ultimately, distract us from the reality that artistic growth is anything but instant. It is for some a lifetime commitment to practice, study, and continued application of extreme effort.
You probably know that already too. Just knowing that the artist's I admire are "awesome" because they worked their asses off, put more time or experience into a work, takes the edge off that "awesome". Don't get me wrong, I still admire them. But thinking about the hours they put into training to get to what I consider "awesome" reframes my perspective and is motivating. "How much time have you devoted to your artistic growth?" I might ask myself.
If the answer isn't satisfactory, "Then you know what you need to do."
I originally started this post with the intention of sharing some of the ways which I have stimulated artistic growth on my own artistic journey. I also wanted to share insights with aspiring artsists who want to get into storyboarding and possibly pass along something useful to those artists already working professionally. With that in mind, I thought I'd just run down a list of helpful books that have helped me through the years keep sharp and inspired:
The Five C's of Cinematography by Joseph V. Mascelli
Film Directing: Shot by Shot by Steven D. Katz
Cut by Cut: Editing Your Film or Video by Gael Chandler
Animation From Script to Screen by Shamus Culhane
Rebel Without a Crew by Robert Rodrigez
The Animators Survival Kit by Richard Williams
Story by Robert McKee
The Business Side of Creativity by Cameron S. Foote
The Complete Guide to Perspective by John Raynes.
The Visual Story: Seeing the Structure of Film by Bruce Block
By no means is this an exhaustive list, merely a small selection of books that has aided and equipped me in various stages in my career. In the coming day's I'd like to share with you all some insights into storyboard production for television animation. I have a list of topics that I will cover at some length. No hard or fixed rules, just general observations or tips that may help you on your own journey.
Till then, hope that you get into some inspiring reading.