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The age-old question....

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The age-old question....

Hey all -

So I'm fairly new to animation.  I've always enjoyed art, I took a basic drawing class at community college and was floored by how much I learned and how much my work improved in a single semester.  I'm working towards an associate's degree in general studies and want to go to animation school once I'm finished.

Which brings me to several age-old questions: first, SCAD or Ringling?  Or neither?  My art prof is really amandant that Ringling is my place, but I'm hesitant. Here's my issue: I want a good solid animation education, not merely in computer work but with a solid background in fine art as well (due to the fact that I'm particularly interested in concept art and storyboarding).  But I'm not about big school names (or big school $$$).  Also, I'm from WI, which has no grand animation schools to speak of (we have 2, and one is a tech school, to be specific, and I don't feel like I'd do well in either).  Clearly I will have to go out of state, but I question if it would be more beneficial for me to head straight to CA and go to San Fran Art Academy or LCAD as opposed to down south....?  

Also (and this is more personal I guess), anybody out there with parental opposition to art?  Don't get me wrong with this one.  I have great parents, etc. etc. etc., but long story short I have a really traditionalistic father who is willing to help pay for my education, but is absolutely opposed to anything involving the arts (I quote, "it won't get you a job").  Not only is this a) frustrating and b) a strain to our relationship (since everything I enjoy IS art-related), but I feel like it's a narrow and old perspective, especially with animation.  Please tell me that I'm not the only one who's ever experienced a familial crisis like this.  Any advice on talking down Dad is appreciated, ASAP.

thanks all!

On the schools:  Do more

On the schools:  Do more research.  Vett more schools, and more importantly, vett the alumni.  Talk to the students that have graduated and gone off to work in the biz. They are the ones that can tell you how the schooling was for them, and help you decide if the school's curriculum will serve your needs. Vett the instructors too--look for schools that have teachers that have industry experience--and make sure that experience is spelled out.
I knew of a school that claimed their animation instructor had worked on Lord of the Rings.  He did.  He was a gaffer--a lighting guy. Guess what part of that wasn't in their brochure???

Schooling is so expensive that you can waste a lot of time at a shitty school......and there's a lot of them. But the best schools are not always the most expensive.
Do the groundwork here, don't skimp on any of it, there's no need to rush.
Get facts, do not guess.

On parents:  Yeah, I got the opposition too.  Here's the thing:  your parents love you, they want the best for you........but they know jack-shit about the animation biz.
They ARE NOT experts.
Oh, they may have "heard things", but they don;t understand the biz, nor have any clue about it. I'd bet that no one around you knows ANYTHING about the biz itself.

The animation industry is performance-based. In other words, your TALENT will get you in, and get you places therein.  Your parent likely came from a place/upbringing where talent..........specifically artistic talent, was pretty exclusive.  Not many, if ANY people around them had it, and certainly not to a professional level.
It's like decalring to them that you want to take up Alchemy, or to build a flying saucer.  
They've heard of such things, but they have no fucking clue as to how to go about doing such things.  So naturally they want to dissuade you from it. It's fraught with risk, even danger.
They look at you, and what they consider indeilibly to be a "hobby", and they gauge your demenaour and behaviours and.........they measure you from that.

Are you making any money, getting any work with your skills right now?
No?  That's a big strike against your career choice, as far as they are concerned.  You have NO tangibles, from what they can see--and THAT is how they gauge if a career is viable.  You've got to be able to provide for yourself, and not just chase an emotional pursuit.

So what do you do?

Either get really serious and start producing professional-level work, and making SOME money with it, or play the "game".

See, in my case, my parents and siblings didn't think I had a "real job" for the first few years I was in the biz and for many years prior to breaking in.  I would be at home, working on paying stuff, and they'd think I was available to do household chores and run errands.  They'd scoff at my admonishions that I was "working".

That, until I ended up making over $75,000 one year--more than my father made at that time.  Then all of a suddent I was a "cartoonist" in their eyes.

So what is the game?
Take up something that appeases them.  Take up money ( banking), or real-estate or law or something that they can grasp. Something that once you attain income working in that field, they'll ignore what you REALLY want to do and leave you alone to pursue the art-stuff. Pay for your own schooling, so it doesn't come out of their pocket. Turn the whole thing around into their faces and do it in spite of their attitudes and ignorance.

The other thing is to, like I said, get serious about the stuff.
Schooling is useful, be it is not the only path to take. There's a lot of people out there that are self-taught,  who have self-developed.  
I am one of them. I'm in my 30th year in the animation biz--25 years as a storyboard artist. I had a lot of on-the-job training, and a lot of mentors, but I've not set foot in a school per se.
So that avenue is possible.  It means reading everything you can get your hands on, it means working with every tool you can find, it means creating a helluva lot of work--and always aiming for a professional level. It means becoming an expert.
It is NOT just doing whatever "your stuff" is, but trying to match and better the stuff the studios are doing.  The examples of that aree everywhere.
Identify who the top arists are in the biz, and work to match their level of ability.  Get your work seen.  Get it sold, if you can.  The only way you well sell your work, will get jobs doing it, is if you can demonstrate that you can work at the level the studios require.
It's not a mystery......the gauge is out there for anyone to see.

But also understand this: until you get there, your parents will be along every step of the way. They will try to reason with you, they will throw every rationale they can at you. They will plead, they will beg, they will threaten........they will sabotage and even obstruct. They will tell you they love you.  The more stubborn you are, the harder they will push--so you need to learn how to be cagey.
They might even appease you, let you apply to a "local" school just to get the whole thing out of your system and to watch you fail getting work in the biz itself. Then they'll make their case for taking up another more "sensible" vocation.

If you listen.......and you will, their arguements WILL prey on you.  You'll consider them.  You might even give the dream up.

This is the gut-check. This is where you say to yourself " fuck me" or you say "fuck them".  Don't let them hear either......but make the choice for yourself.

The ULTIMATE gut-check is the "death-bed test".
Imagine you are laying there on your death-bed-- you're 250 years old, at the end of your life and looking back over all the things you've done, the choices you've made.
Do you really want to think: " Gosh, I'm so glad I lived the life my parents wanted me to have."??  For some people, based on their values.........that is enough.  For others, the level of disquiet they feel, the hunger they's not the life they want. 

The parents thing is also........always, a test.  It's the smallest speed-bump you'll face in this journey, and if you cannot surmount it, then this biz isn't for you.
Consider that.

Last thing is all on you.  You need to take a good HARD look at what YOU do.  How often do you draw?  What do you actually produce.  Do you just flick the pencil on the you draw for a 'little while" and then not draw for days or week?  Do you only draw "your stuff" and eschew others characters or subjects? ( keep in mind that in-studio, you will almost NEVER draw your own stuff, but will work on others characters)  Do you have "rules" against copying other art?

If you have baggage with any of this, then it's likely this whole notion of a animation career is an affectation.  Just a flight of fancy.  Don't waste your time with this then, go listen to Mum and Dad.

But, if you are OBSESSED with drawing. If you are drawing for hours every day. If you are creating work as close to professional as possible. If you are getting that work publsihed anyway you can..... getting it in print, getting it on-line ( on Deviantart, for example), if you are attending conventions and selling your work. If you are doing animation on your own and posting it to Youtube, or making comics, or painting concept art, or actually DOING stuff.........

If your very being screams " DRAW ( or animate, or create etc) OR DIE!!".  Then, yes, pursue animation as a career.  Because that it what it will take.

From this point on, the rest is up to you.


"We all grow older, we do not have to grow up"--Archie Goodwin ( 1937-1998)

Ken Davis -

Ken Davis -

That was so helpful and I thank you for it.  Particularly in regard to the parents.  I am the only artistic child out of their 8 kids, all of which are military buffs or pursuing psychology doctorates.  For the most part, they're happy living the lives my white-collar parents have in mind for them.  

So basically, if I understand correctly, I have two options.  My concern for option A is stupid but I'm going to say it anyway - assuming I go into medicine and become a physician's assistant (like they want) and get a fancy hospital job (like they want) and start making $$$ (like they want) (still fiercly wanting to go into animation) will I be too old to break in?  It's a dumb question, I know.  But it nags at me.  Granted, I will have had all that time to keep painting concept art and drawing and working on an online profile, but when it comes down to it, will I (at roughly 24 years of age) be considered too old to succeed?  Now I know the age-old spiel about how you're never too old to pursue a dream, but I want the straight truth.  If I consciously make time to continue improving my art as I pursue a different bachelors and come out with a great admissions portfolio and enough $$$ to pay my way through, but am well past the age of your typical freshman (even though I did graduate a year early, so I'm a year ahead of the game as it is), will I still be a successful applicant and future production company employee?  Or am I going to be viewed as a serious oddball with a master's degree in health and a bachelor's degree in animation, who doesn't really fit into any field?  Like I said, stupid questions, but as you pointed out, nobody around me knows jack shit about the animation field and I guess here is the place to finally ask.

Your closing thoughts about the hardcore pursuit of art and just "throwing the pencil around for a little while" were stirring for me.  I do draw (I always have, it's therapeutic for me), and I have taken up painting, but I don't invest as much time as I should to produce high-quality work and that was a good kick in the pants to spend less time at my minimum-wage job and more time doing what I actually want to do.  So again, thank you for that! 



Too old??

Too old??

What the hell does age have to do with talent? ;)
Critical question, that a lot of people just don't ask, or realize to ask

Age has NOTHING to do with talent.
I taught animation subjects at film schools for about 10 years, had about a thousand+ students go through my classroom doors.  They were aged 19-ish up to into their 50's.   And the 50+ yr olds would go on to successful careers in animation.  Most of my students were in mid-20's to 30's.

Age means nothing.
Talent is everything in the animation biz.

Just to expand this too..........a lot of young prospects get all caught up in the schooling thing.  Finding the best school, has to be the BEST school, the school makes the career etc.

Complete utter bullshit.  A couple of things to consider about schools:  There is NO common academic standard amongst any of them, certainly at least not in animation studies.  They might "borrow" from the curriculum of places like Cal Arts, or Sherdian, but there's little to no commonality.
The reason being is that they cannot always find the instructor cadre that can teach all of that material, because the instructors simply may not have that background.

That, and the schools local industry contacts may want a talent pool that is specific to certain kinds of animation, say......FLASH productions, or MAYA, as opposed to strictly 2D traditional animation.

So......animation curriculum is frequently homgenized at many schools to the point where a student can complete the programme, meet the "academic standards" of the material, and yet still not have the baseline talent need to work in the industry.  Oh, they might no procedures, they might understand and can use the tech.........but their drawing is weak.
Therefore the "paper pedigree" of a animation degree is.........well, it's value is speculative.  It looks nice framed and hanging on a wall... but otherwise, IN MY OPINION, it is useless if there's no developed talent behind it,. Talent is your only cachet, your only real asset as an animator/cartoonist.

As far as schooling goes; every single lesson you will take in an animation course, every bit of software, every tutorial, every book, all of it can be found on-line.  And 99% of it for free, if you know how.
And a lot of people do not realize this.
Furthermore, the depth and breadth of materials available is vast, and talent like myself didn't have as-easy access to much of it 30 something years ago.  Most burgeoning talent would have less than a 1/2 dozen books and maybe a decent art-supply store.  I say this only to impress upon you that the tool chest that exists now is far more powerful than it ever has been, making the opportunity of a animation/cartooning career much more achievable.

But if you don't foster the talent, you go nowhere.


"We all grow older, we do not have to grow up"--Archie Goodwin ( 1937-1998)

online courses

So I've been looking into (somewhat reasonably priced) online courses just to help me along... for criticism/growth and help with portfolio development (and as terrible as this sounds, this is easy to route around my parents - since they're mostly part time classes it's just like adding another class to my schedule).  Also, I find that I grow more when I'm involved an in artistic community of people (clearly an element that is lacking in my current situation) and have a couple deadlines.   Do you have any that you personally would recommend?  The ones that I've found -

1. Schoolism/Imaginism Studios

These guys look pretty good and they have a variety of that's a price tag I can stand without physically puking onto my keyboard.

2. CG Master Academy

These are expensive (like, full-fledged tuition expensive)...but do you think it would be worth the $$$?  Realistically, I couldn't handle the commitment of these right now.  But would anybody recommend these if I took them up further down the road?

3. CG Spectrum (short courses)

These are some of the priciest of all, but there is one-on-one mentorship and extremely positive student reviews (the reviews actually gave me faith that I don't need a degree to make this work).

4. The Lamppost Guild

This site only offers 3 courses total (but $99 apiece ain't bad).  They're not in any particularly relevant topics to me, but might be a nice supplament?

Any feedback or reviews of these courses would be so helpful!