16/12/20 • Animation Insights

How to be an animator: part three

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If you missed part one and part two of this three part series, be sure to check them out here. 

“Applying for your first studio jobs can be discouraging or even feel unfair at times. It’s hard, and it can take a long time, but YOU CAN DO IT. Keep it up with patience and persistence and take care of yourself for the long haul.”

Wise words from Marc Hendry, one of our Animators here at Lighthouse. But what other advice do our crew have for those starting out?


Make self-care a priority

“Be kind to yourself. Once you crack into your first job it’s important to remember it can be hard to be an animator at times, especially in TV animation. You can put a lot of your creative energy, a lot of yourself, into each shot. Then, once it’s approved, sometimes it can just be taken away and you have to do it all over again. It can be emotionally draining. So, remember you are more than the work you produce. You’re a person who needs to take care of themselves. If you feel drained or feeling the dreaded burn out, get up, drink some water and take care of your mental wellbeing. Animation is amazing, but you can be amazing too.” – Estelle Sharpe, Animator

Estelle Sharpe, Animator

“Remember to take care of your health, physical and mental. Online we see a lot of messaging about ‘maximising’ each minute of the day and are encouraged to monetize every hobby. Remember to rest each day – when starting to work full-time in animation you often feel completely drained after work, and it’s okay not to always be working on a bunch of other stuff in your free time like you might have been doing beforehand.

“The HSE provides free short-term therapy on turn2me.ie, but checking out flexible fee therapists in your area (or a service that does video calls right now) can also be really fruitful. Art is very subjective and you can often feel like you’re not progressing fast enough, or your worth gets tangled up in what you produce. Finding the right kind of therapy for you can help untangle this all and be a safe place to release your stress” -Kate Hughes, Animator

Satisfy your own creativity

“If you are struggling to find work right away, do not think less of yourself or your art. I’m the same person now that I was when I was looking for work. You shouldn’t look for validation from being hired at a studio. It’s no good to put your opinion of yourself in the hands of someone that you don’t know, and their reasons for hiring this or that person over another probably aren’t bad. Primarily, the work that you make on your own should satisfy your own creativity, and if you do that you are an artist, whether it’s your job or not.” -Marc

“If you haven’t encountered critiques or rounds of feedback before, they can often feel like personal attacks. Thankfully I went to some classes practicing getting and giving art critiques, but a lot of people go into the workplace never encountering that format. Remember that for the most part these are just pointers to help you get closer to the style of the show. Often, they aren’t value judgements on your overall skill, since every show and movie and short (or any piece of media) has a completely different style. Doing some freelance work for an ad agency really helped me there – you work with a lot of different clients with a much faster turnaround, and you start to realise what works for one project doesn’t always work for another.

“Working on bigger animation productions, usually the goal is to get dozens of people working in the same headspace, so it looks all done by one hand. That’s a real challenge at the best of times. It can take some time but remember when you get fixes, it isn’t you the person being criticised. The notes should always have something constructive to say and pointers for you to follow – ideally the more of these notes you take in, the less you’ll struggle as the production goes on. That’s something I always try to keep in mind, at least!” -Kate

Kate Hughes, Animator

Learn, constantly

“When you enter work, remember that there are so many people bringing all sorts of knowledge to the table! Take an interest in what people are doing, and don’t be afraid to ask for help and tips if you are struggling. On one of my first productions, I learned a wealth of animation tips and tricks from my head animator, Nicola. After sitting with her for a few hours, my struggles with the animation style evaporated and my work improved a lot after that. When working on another show, I sat with an amazing matte painter called Phil who was really nice to us newbies and taught us so much about translating traditional painting skills into photoshop.” -Kate

“Learning good time management skills will help you out a lot more than if you are the strongest animator on the team. Learn to work smart instead of to work hard. Finding fast and efficient solutions while maintaining the quality will open a lot of doors. Spend the extra time to pick your supervisor’s brain to really make sure you know what they want.” -Allie MacQueen, Senior Animator

Take control of your own work and be assertive

“It can feel like your future is out of your own hands, but here are some things that are within your control-

· Make the best portfolio or reel that you possibly can, update it as you get better, and cut work that you’ve outgrown

· Show off whatever you’re good at! When it’s time to study, work on your weaknesses, but use your strengths for portfolio/public work

· Anything you don’t know can be learned

· If you need to fluff your CV a bit, go into more detail about your student projects. The programs that you used and how you collaborated

· Outright ask for a test in your cover letter

· If you don’t get a certain job, try asking for feedback” -Marc

“Know your worth and learn to be assertive. I say this because a lot of young animators, including myself when I first started in the industry, tend to be extremely self-critical and have a hard time speaking up when they aren’t happy or are very concerned about something. It could be along the lines of not understanding what the expectations are to feeling like they’ve been given too much work to make a deadline. The deadlines on animation productions are very tight and if people can learn early what a realistic amount of time they will need for something is, that will help them out a lot more instead of saying yes to everything. This kind of goes in hand with what I mentioned earlier about time management. If you’re able to accurately assess how long something will take you, you will be in a good place.” -Allie


We hope you’ve enjoyed our latest blog series on How to be an Animator. Stay tooned for our next article which will include more helpful hints and tips from crew. In the meantime, you can find parts one and two of the series here!

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