If people only knew how hard I work to gain my mastery. It wouldn't seem so wonderful at all.Michelangelo
If you are looking to master your animated art style, a congratulation is in order. To master your style you have to have found yours! Finding your style as an animator is a big accomplishment.
Your animation style answers abstract questions like who you are as an artist, the work you would like to do within the animation industry, and how you perceive the world. Essentially it is the vocabulary animators use.
Now, you find yourself wanting to master your animated art style. With mastery comes cohesion between all elements of your animations. Mastery is technical and painstakingly specific. You will need to look at your animations with a magnifying glass and dissect even the smallest inconsistencies.
In this blog, we will be discussing tips to consider and actionable steps to execute to bring you closer to the mastery of your animated art style. We will look at the value of branding as well as ways in which you can employ “practice-makes-perfect” to elevate your personal animation style.
Let me get you on the right path …
Do NOT change your style to match any and every brand that contacts you.
DO develop your own brand - your animated art style as a brand: [Insert your name], animation artist.
An artist’s style is their calling card. It is an in-your-face business card and every piece of work is an artist promotion if and only if your work can be identified as yours and attributed to you.
Establishing your style as a brand goes further than the business card analogy. It creates a spot on the proverbial animation market shelf allocated to you and attributes your animated art style to an industry niche.
B2B marketers are not the go-to choice for retail advertising. Similarly, the elements of your style cater to a specific purpose or audience. Edgy animations speak to one market, a range of projects, or a type of client as colorful or rounded animations speak to others.
Any attempt at mastering your animated art style will be aided by having a clear direction. Branding your animation provides this direction. Branding looks further than the visual aspects and considers the industries you want to work in and the values you would like your work to support.
When done successfully, animator branding says “I am here” to any person or business looking for an animator in the industry or project niches you are interested in working in.
Pro Tip: See which niches your current animated art style speaks to naturally and push those. Do not try and change what comes naturally to you to fit other niches.
If you are looking to change your style as an animator, working with a plan is best.
Finish your animations! Animation artists often have great ideas. Before we start executing these ideas, we fall into the loop of trying to perfect our animations before we even draw anything! This throws us into a spiral of indecision and results in us not animating anything.
If you have an idea of how you would like to change your animated art style, it is best to go to the drawing board immediately. Ideas are too abstract and cannot be evaluated reliably. A completed animation on the other hand, can be evaluated fully and provide valuable insights.
You can see if you like looking at the adjusted animated art style. You can address the elements you don't like. You will know if you can technically execute the idea with your current skill set as an animator. You will have an idea of the time investment needed to refine this new idea or style.
Very importantly, the final product might not look anything like your idea. This can be an extremely positive inspiration as it leads you to discover an animated art style you would never have thought of.
The following techniques will help you develop a cohesive animated art style. It is important to realize that true improvement and mastery only come from diligent practice and efforts to better yourself as an animator.
Your animation style and branding as an animator go hand-in-hand - one influencing the other. Your artistic inclination, animation skill, and technical ability are the foundation. You can only be as good as your command over your medium.
Feeling comfortable drawing and animating in your animated art style will bring everything together.
The only way to improve is to take an honest look at your current animated art style. Investigate the elements you use as an animator as well as the universal principles of animation. Extreme consistency within animation places the animator above the rest.
The consistency of an animator's style is not due to some finely tuned artistic eye or direction. Rather, it is the product of a very analytical set of rules. An animation style guide if you will. By looking at your current style and evaluating certain aspects of it, you can establish the rules you already follow.
You are essentially auditing your animated art style: you identify common practices which reveal gaps. These gaps are elements in your animations that are inconsistent, for example, the way you use color or structure a character’s movement. These inconsistencies are the areas ripe for improvement!
Evaluate the 12 principles of animation and develop clean-cut rules you will follow when using these principles to create a character.
Artistic elements you can consider auditing within your own animated art style are:
1. Minimizing & Emphasizing:
When looking at characters, this translates to what you are drawing attention to. You can emphasize the nose (draw a big nose) and minimize the character’s joints (draw limbs with no joints like in adventure time) for example.
2. Roundness vs. Sharpness:
Does your animated art style make use of straight lines and sharp corners or are all your shapes rounded? The use of shapes is a language on its own. The way you ‘speak’ will dictate the information being shared with your audience as well as the overall feel of your animations.
As an animator, you will have to decide if you want to proportion your objects, characters, and scenes in a realistic manner or are the proportions open to your artistic interpretation. When considering character proportions it will be useful to establish the way you will be expressing emotion namely through facial expressions or body language. If you make predominant use of body language, you will benefit from having small or regular-sized heads and larger, more visible bodies.
4. Camera Shot:
Camera shots are often overlooked when it comes to the personal animated art style of animators starting off. However, signature camera shots are very impactful and can be very brand specific … think Tarantino.
As frustrating as it is, practice does make perfect. In the case of Mastering your animated art style, the practice also helps you develop your style. The only way you develop a style as an animator is by animating.
The more you animate, the more you discover what comes naturally to you and what you like. The more you animate, the better you understand how long different kinds of animations, characters, or objects take you to complete. The more you animate, the faster you animate because your style-specific shapes and looks become a habit.
The technique to practice here is literally to animate anything and everything. To achieve a deeply developed animated art style you must know how you would draw a banana in your style as well as how you would draw the facial expressions of a character undergoing profound relaxation. A by-product of this practice is an impressive animation portfolio.
Knowing how long certain elements take you to complete within your style is also very relevant to your work. If a specific type of character movement takes ridiculously long to animate, it is best to develop a style that does not contain these movements.
At the end of the day, your animated art style should cater to you making money and working efficiently as an animator. If you are getting paid per project and one movement takes you 2 weeks, you will not be affording yourself a comfortable financial situation.
Muscle memory is a great advantage to any artist including animators. Building up muscle memory and engraving your animated art style into your brain requires you to consistently repeat the action of animating in your style.
As we become advanced in our animation practices, we often tend to forget the basics. A good way to establish a consistent animating practice and keep your fundamentals sharp is to do exercises - self-chosen homework. Many websites, blogs, and animators share exercises for developing animation skills, so you do not even have to come up with these yourself!
It is important that this isn't a once-off practice but that you regularly schedule time for this. See it as career development or industry training.
Dissecting your current animation style and making the time to diligently practice and repeat animating basics and desired skills undoubtedly sounds like too much to take on!
The important takeaway is that mastery isn’t some abstract skill or scared talent … mastery is work! This means that it is attainable for anyone, even you!
Although attainable, perhaps do not attempt to eat the whole elephant at once. Start with mastering one aspect of your animated art style. When you are satisfied with your improvement, move to the next aspect.
Before you know it, you will have become the master you seek to be!
To further yourself on your journey to becoming a master animator, it will be beneficial to master running your own animation business as well. Learn How to Start an Animation Studio or join our Animation Business Accelerator program.