The last class I took was the Art Evaluation class. In the very beginning we had to pick a discipline, such as Animation, Compositing, Rigging, Set Up or Lighting and Shading. I chose the Animation.

  I had to say, that I had hard time deciding between Compositing and Animation. I still want to learn more about Compositing, because it is such a fascinating field to be in.

  But I stopped at animation. And then we were given two projects to work on for a month. The goal of the class was to determine if we had enough skills and knowledge to start creating our professional demo reel based on the chosen discipline.

  It was a tough class. I had a feeling, that I was taught to swim in the kids pool and then got thrown into the ocean with active hazard warning. Yes, I remembered the lessons, but it was very different to be on my own without tutorials walking you through the projects, like it was before.

  Several times I had a thought that I am going to fail. I had thoughts that I made a wrong decision about animation. I questioned my skills and myself. I thought I knew something. This class showed me that I have a very long way to go. But the most important thing is that I never thought of giving up. I only realized that if I want to be really good at animation, I have to reconsider my approach to the learning process. I got a good kick in my butt that month. You can call it a wake up call.

  Yes, I was doing well at school and had good grades. But I realized, that if I want to really succeed at animation, I have to step up. I usually have to step on the same rake twice to learn not to do it again.

 So learn on my mistakes..

 Here are 3 major mistakes to avoid when learning the 3D Animation.

1. Forget the word “procrastination”. It is your worst enemy in animation.

  Let me give you an example. We started working on our branding part of the program. It means, that we have create our own brand, card, website etc. You have to define what color theme and fonts represent you the best as an artist, what design of the website and portfolio is you.

  We had to work on that along with the main animation projects. Well. I left branding assignments for the last day of the week, right before the deadline. And I regret about it big time. First of all, it turned out, there is a whole science about branding. There is also a whole science about fonts. Apparently there is a whole World of Fonts out there. And every little detail has a meaning. Right font can kill your design or enhance your design. It all takes time, a lot of time. You cannot just sit down and come up with your brand in couple hours.

  So I had to come back to it in week 2 and start over, so I ended up spending double time with it.

  Do it right or don’t do it at all.


   The same applies to animation. Even though there are certain rules and principles of animation, it is still a creative process. And as a creative process, animation ALWAYS takes MORE time than you thought it would. And even after you think you are done.. well, I go to sleep happy that I finally figured that shot out, I wake up next day, open it up and think to myself, “Nooooo. No way I submitted that crap last night”.

  Don’t procrastinate in animation. Payback is a bitch. The sooner you start with the scene, the better.

  Not kidding. Don’t procrastinate. Forget words, “lazy”, “not feeling it”, “no inspiration”, “I am not sure how to approach it”, “tired”. You are not being asked to work on construction outside with below zero temperature for 8 hours.

  Just get your ass to the laptop, log yourself out of facebook/snapchat/instagrmm/ you name it, and start animating.

  I am also addressing this to myself. I think after last month I finally got it engraved in my brain.

  Also.. some people (like me) like to set yourself a major goal, procrastinate and think that, “I am off tomorrow, so I will sit down for 10 hours and get it done”. Never happens.. It is much more efficient and productive if you work for an hour here, an hour there, another hour here and you will get your work done in no time.

  Here are some links to the great websites, which can help you with time management and organization. 

FOCUS BOOSTER  “..focus booster is a digital pomodoro timer. The desktop and HQ timers sync sessions to the web. Never fill out a timesheet again. Visualize your progress through dashboards and export reports. Time management has never simpler…productivity is here..”


EVERNOTE  “..For everything you’ll do, Evernote is the workspace to get it done.”


2. Do your Pre Pro and Do it Right. 

  Did I say, that payback for procrastination is a bitch? Well, skipping on Pre Pro is even worse. How?

  Imagine simple scene. You have two poses. A character is sitting on the ground, one leg in bent in the knee, one arm is resting on it. He is sitting there, chilling. And second pose where the character is standing.

  Now, how would you transition him between two poses? Sound simple, right. Just get up. It turns out there are a hundred way to get up, depending on the situation, character’s complexion, physical shape, mood and so on.

  So I did my pre pro, but not really good enough.  By the way, when you hear words Pre Pro in animation, it means the following.

  You have to brainstorm the scene first. Who is your character, why is he sitting, what is the situation, mood and feel? What personality he has, what gestures, what temper?

  That’s how you create a backstory.  Then you need to gather reference. It can be pictures or videos. I videotaped myself getting up from the ground, trying to do it in different way.

  Then you are supposed to create gesture drawings and key poses. You need to have a solid understanding of what is happening in your scene from the physics point of view. I created some sketches, but not enough.

  I did not have a solid understanding and jumped to animation. Big mistake.

  Mistake, because I still had to come back to the beginning and figure out the key poses and weight shifts AFTER unsuccessful block out. My character did not look natural. It was a very weak block out. And block out is a fundament for all the further animation. So.. my house would crash if I kept building on top of bad fundament.

  Never skip on Pre Pro, even if you hate drawing and don’t feel confident in it. It doesn’t matter. Gesture drawings are not supposed to be esthetically beautiful. The whole purpose of gesture drawings is to figure out the most appealing key poses, meaning the strong poses with good silhouette. And good silhouette means that if you paint it black inside, you will still be able to clearly read the pose.

  And also, gesture drawings help you to figure out the weight distribution during the key poses and breakdowns. Think about your body. You never have your weight equally distributed when standing, getting up, walking or running. There is always a transition of shift.

 When you are given a rig or a scene, first step is of course, open it up and familiarize yourself with it. But don’t jump into animating.

  Create a solid Pre Pro first.

  • Think of a scene, think about the action, think about it all the time, while driving, walking or going to sleep.
  • Then think of the reference. It can be movies, cartoons, people around you, friends, animals. Go outside, go to the public place and watch people.
  • Then create a backstory.
  • Then pick up a sketch pad or graphic tablet and start on gesture drawings. It doesn’t matter, if it is not pretty. It needs to read well, that’s all what matters.
  •  And only when you have a SOLID understanding of each step in your scene, all the weight shifts and transitions, then you can go into Maya.

  I learned all that in hard way, that Pre Pro is a step, that you can not skip. Just do it, and you will be very thankful to yourself.

 3. Be open to feedback and critique.

  It sounds simple. But it took me time to stop taking things personally and not to be stupidly stubborn. If someone gives you a feedback about your work, never take it personally. No one is trying to bring you down and say, that you are bad artist by pointing out the weak spots.

  It is the opposite acutally. Feedback usually comes from someone who has better eye, more experience or someone who has a new perspective on your work. I started loving critiques after a couple of animation classes, because our teachers are amazing when it comes to critique. I love that about my school. You always get feedback. You post your work online, thinking “I rock”. And then you come back later to long scroll down feedback where all your “I rock” thoughts are being blown up into pieces. I usually get frustrated for a sec or two. But then I get excited. Once you implement the feedback and fix what needs to be fixed, you work looks significantly improved.

  It can get confusing if you ask for critique several different people, because each animator has different workflow and different perspective. But it helps you to improve.

  It also helps you to develop an eye for animation improvement. You are starting to see where to look for things to improve.

  Never refuse critique and never take it personally.


  I emphasize it, because I have been there myself and I also know several artists who are good, but they could do so much better if they were open to critique. Stubbornness can only be good in a way of being persistent about your goal. Being stubborn and not willing to try different approach to animation is simply stupid.  

 So, forget the word procrastination, get organized, do your Pre Pro and listen to feedback. And you are all set and prepared to create a successful animation work. 🙂

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