It's that animation vs illustration thing again...

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    It's that animation vs illustration thing again...

    Hi everyone,

    I know this topic has been brought up before, but I was wondering if I could get a fresh perspective on animation vs illustration, as well as an opinion on which one would be better to help me reach my goals.

    For starters, I am in my late 20s now, and, after a somewhat disappointing education in graphic design, have decided to go back to school to further my studies. I've been accepted into an animation school out east (Algonquin College) and ACAD in Calgary.

    The best way to sum me up is that I love to dream up animated stories and write them down on paper. I enjoy dabbling with plot, dialogue, and pacing a lot. But I also like to draw and hope to get into children's comics, animation storyboards, and, if I'm lucky, write and illustrate a chapter book someday.

    Now the problem is that I simply don't know which educational experience would best suit my circumstances. I love illustration because of my love for sequential storytelling, but I know things like typography and colour might be a problem for me (they always have ) On the other hand, I'm lured to animation because of the bountiful job opportunities (do I have this right?) and because I love drawing cartoons. But I've also taken an introductory course in animation, and while I found the end result to fun, I've discovered that I was less than stellar at it and that it sort of wore me down.

    Then again, I could just be procrastinating, as both opportunities seem fantastic and I don't want to lose either.

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    Based on what you said, it sounds like you'd be happiest as a storyboard artist for film and animation. Do be warned it's a very competitive position, though.

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    Sounds like a no-brainer to me. All those interests you point to fall much more in line with animation than illustration. Many artists walk both paths of course...William Joyce being the top example I can think of. Basically an illustrator whose work is often developed into animated features and series.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Meloncov View Post
    Based on what you said, it sounds like you'd be happiest as a storyboard artist for film and animation. Do be warned it's a very competitive position, though.
    Meloncov- Hmm...I didn't know that being a storyboard artist was a much coveted position. Most of the people I've talked to consider the whole process boring.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    Sounds like a no-brainer to me. All those interests you point to fall much more in line with animation than illustration. Many artists walk both paths of course...William Joyce being the top example I can think of. Basically an illustrator whose work is often developed into animated features and series.
    Deep down I guess you're right. I love animation, but truth be told I hate the process of animating itself, which makes me wonder whether or not I should suffer through a whole 3-year program just to do one thing I love--okay, two if you count life drawing.

    I know that must sound snooty, especially because there are so many storyboard artists who have gritted their teeth and beared it to get where they are today. But if there is an alternative, I'll gladly take it before taking the final plunge.

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    You're not talking to the right people, then. Especially in animation, story artists have perhaps the most creative freedom and influence on the final film of any below the line employee. It's also one of the best stepping stones for eventually becoming a director.

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    Hmmm...I sort of get what you're saying about loving something on the one hand but not liking the actual bottom line act of it. My initial response is suck it up...but, on the other hand I get what you're saying. For what you sound like you want to do it still sounds like the best approach.

    Check out William Joyce, like I mentioned...and there are others as well I imagine. Maybe some of the animation folks can offer more insight.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    Hmmm...I sort of get what you're saying about loving something on the one hand but not liking the actual bottom line act of it. My initial response is suck it up...but, on the other hand I get what you're saying. For what you sound like you want to do it still sounds like the best approach.

    Check out William Joyce, like I mentioned...and there are others as well I imagine. Maybe some of the animation folks can offer more insight.
    I had never heard of William Joyce before and was surprised to find out that he was the creator of George Shrinks and other famous properties. In many ways, I kind of want to be like him (who wouldn't, by the way?), where you get to write and draw all day and have things made into films. And yeah, I can see how learning animation storyboards helped him, too.


    If there are any other animators/storyboard artists out there, feel free to chime in. Is it worth going to animation school to become a board artist and author if one isn't thrilled about animating?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Meloncov View Post
    Based on what you said, it sounds like you'd be happiest as a storyboard artist for film and animation. Do be warned it's a very competitive position, though.
    Just because there's a lot of people trying to get a certain kind of job doesn't mean all of those individuals are actually qualified for the job.

    Red Rover: If you are going to school, Animation sounds like your best bet - for a few reasons.

    Most animation programs DO actually talk about storyboarding, to a degree.
    As storyboards are turned into reels, understanding of how drawings and poses relate to one another is important. In TV Boarding, some understanding of the principles is even more useful as the boards are literally the blueprints for overseas animators. Animation programs will also generally talk more about character performance and acting than an illustration program would. While an illustration program might talk about acting it out and having emotion in the pose, would they talk about how to design a performance with multiple poses? Building into a pose with multiple drawings? Working within a pose to create a specific performance? How timing can affect the performance?

    That doesn't mean you have to be a top notch character animator - boards don't need the level of detail that require ease in and ease outs, for example. On some shows it's like being the key-animator. You get to do all the main poses without worrying about the in-betweens. It's true that some individuals have a natural grasp of this, but having a background in animation certainly helped me.

    As for the whole story being boring/exciting - it really comes down to the individual. Some people do hate it. You already sound like it's something you'd enjoy.

    Also: you CAN like the rest of the program without actually enjoying animating. Oh! And there's really no experience like making and animating your own film - it a lot of ways it can show you flaws that would have been apparent otherwise.

    (I actually did go through a double concentration in illustration and animation, which in retrospect, wasn't really the best decision. Fortunately it all worked out, but it generally means my bias is PICK ONE, STUDY HARD. Then study the other one later. :)

    Lastly, you don't need to attend a university to learn these skills - it's about the portfolio. That part is up to you - do you need the outside structure?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alice Herring View Post
    Just because there's a lot of people trying to get a certain kind of job doesn't mean all of those individuals are actually qualified for the job.

    Red Rover: If you are going to school, Animation sounds like your best bet - for a few reasons.

    Most animation programs DO actually talk about storyboarding, to a degree.
    As storyboards are turned into reels, understanding of how drawings and poses relate to one another is important. In TV Boarding, some understanding of the principles is even more useful as the boards are literally the blueprints for overseas animators. Animation programs will also generally talk more about character performance and acting than an illustration program would. While an illustration program might talk about acting it out and having emotion in the pose, would they talk about how to design a performance with multiple poses? Building into a pose with multiple drawings? Working within a pose to create a specific performance? How timing can affect the performance?

    That doesn't mean you have to be a top notch character animator - boards don't need the level of detail that require ease in and ease outs, for example. On some shows it's like being the key-animator. You get to do all the main poses without worrying about the in-betweens. It's true that some individuals have a natural grasp of this, but having a background in animation certainly helped me.

    As for the whole story being boring/exciting - it really comes down to the individual. Some people do hate it. You already sound like it's something you'd enjoy.

    Also: you CAN like the rest of the program without actually enjoying animating. Oh! And there's really no experience like making and animating your own film - it a lot of ways it can show you flaws that would have been apparent otherwise.

    (I actually did go through a double concentration in illustration and animation, which in retrospect, wasn't really the best decision. Fortunately it all worked out, but it generally means my bias is PICK ONE, STUDY HARD. Then study the other one later.

    Lastly, you don't need to attend a university to learn these skills - it's about the portfolio. That part is up to you - do you need the outside structure?

    Alice--You've raised a number of good points that I've failed to consider, particularly the posing and acting part, which is so important when it comes to laying characters out on paper. Also, the part about making my own film struck a chord, because I realized that I do want to make one someday, even if it's just crap .

    Given the consensus that I should study animation, I think it's probably a good idea--and I guess there's no way to avoid it. These days it seems as though animation jobs are eclipsing illustrating ones, so it's probably best to know both, though God knows I can't afford two programs at once.

    Your advice about picking up more skills down the road also comes in handy, and I believe I could do that, though it'd be a much slower process. Is being self-taught these days good enough to compete with art school grads in animation industry?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Rover View Post
    Alice--You've raised a number of good points that I've failed to consider, particularly the posing and acting part, which is so important when it comes to laying characters out on paper. Also, the part about making my own film struck a chord, because I realized that I do want to make one someday, even if it's just crap .

    Given the consensus that I should study animation, I think it's probably a good idea--and I guess there's no way to avoid it. These days it seems as though animation jobs are eclipsing illustrating ones, so it's probably best to know both, though God knows I can't afford two programs at once.

    Your advice about picking up more skills down the road also comes in handy, and I believe I could do that, though it'd be a much slower process. Is being self-taught these days good enough to compete with art school grads in animation industry?
    Either way just make sure you research each individual program. Some will require you start from the beginning and go through all four years, while others will permit transfers. Some may require studying 3D modeling, etc, while others will tread more into classical illustration techniques. Some will only actually have *one* animation course, which is 3D. Not all programs are created equally. Ask how many have alumni working in the industry. Also ask if they require a portfolio in order to be permitted into the program. Find out if the professors have any professional experience; unfortunately many schools will prefer instructors with a solid academic history and a terminal degree, vs. actual work experience.

    Beyond having conversations with co-workers about who went where, no one really cares if you're 'self-taught' or a graduate from an art school. Art School CAN give you an up in networking, but with blogs, CTN Animation Expo, etc, there are other ways to achieve that. Even if you don't have any connections, having a stand-out portfolio is key. Yes, many animation jobs say BFA/BS preferred, but that's just HR. Art school can also give you access to professors who have experience in the industry, and can give qualified, useful critique. But that just goes back to my point about not all programs being equal.

    Lastly, if you are not American and want to work in the US, I've heard (from Canadians) it IS easier to get a work visa from the government with a degree - but don't quote me on that. Apparently if you don't have a degree, you go into a different visa lottery system?

    Last edited by Alice Herring; May 28th, 2012 at 06:45 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alice Herring View Post
    Either way just make sure you research each individual program. Some will require you start from the beginning and go through all four years, while others will permit transfers. Some may require studying 3D modeling, etc, while others will tread more into classical illustration techniques. Some will only actually have *one* animation course, which is 3D. Not all programs are created equally. Ask how many have alumni working in the industry. Also ask if they require a portfolio in order to be permitted into the program. Find out if the professors have any professional experience; unfortunately many schools will prefer instructors with a solid academic history and a terminal degree, vs. actual work experience.

    Beyond having conversations with co-workers about who went where, no one really cares if you're 'self-taught' or a graduate from an art school. Art School CAN give you an up in networking, but with blogs, CTN Animation Expo, etc, there are other ways to achieve that. Even if you don't have any connections, having a stand-out portfolio is key. Yes, many animation jobs say BFA/BS preferred, but that's just HR. Art school can also give you access to professors who have experience in the industry, and can give qualified, useful critique. But that just goes back to my point about not all programs being equal.

    Lastly, if you are not American and want to work in the US, I've heard (from Canadians) it IS easier to get a work visa from the government with a degree - but don't quote me on that. Apparently if you don't have a degree, you go into a different visa lottery system?

    Alice- Thanks for the kind advice.

    The animation program I've been accepted into is actually a diploma program and not a degree. However, I already possess a business degree, so maybe that, along with a nice portfolio, would be enough to sway immigration services to let me come south.

    As for my decision, well...both of them present financial challenges at the moment and are going to require a little bit of ingenuity to overcome. I may have to take the more affordable route (illustration) and supplement my animation knowledge along the way.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Rover View Post
    Alice- Thanks for the kind advice.

    The animation program I've been accepted into is actually a diploma program and not a degree. However, I already possess a business degree, so maybe that, along with a nice portfolio, would be enough to sway immigration services to let me come south.

    As for my decision, well...both of them present financial challenges at the moment and are going to require a little bit of ingenuity to overcome. I may have to take the more affordable route (illustration) and supplement my animation knowledge along the way.
    It happens.

    Would you be interested in some book recommendations?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alice Herring View Post
    It happens.

    Would you be interested in some book recommendations?
    By all means, sure.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Meloncov View Post
    You're not talking to the right people, then. Especially in animation, story artists have perhaps the most creative freedom and influence on the final film of any below the line employee. It's also one of the best stepping stones for eventually becoming a director.
    I agree, but boarding is also farther away from making nice pictures and closer to movie making. I am not sure whether it appeals to OP who is at limbo between illustration and animation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by eezacque@xs4all.nl View Post
    I agree, but boarding is also farther away from making nice pictures and closer to movie making. I am not sure whether it appeals to OP who is at limbo between illustration and animation.

    Eezacque- I am indeed interested in movie making, but only to a certain degree, I guess. Like most people, I enjoy I coming up with my own stories (in this case cartoon stories) and bringing them to life in the real world. However, the physical product would most likely take the form of a graphic novel instead of feature-length film. Being able to direct a shot by way of a few pen strokes is just fine for me and would probably bring about more satisfaction than using an actual camera.

    So, yes, creating pretty pictures is important. And I would like to be involved in film, either by boarding or creating some very short shorts.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Rover View Post
    By all means, sure.
    I'm not recommending any books that deal specifically with the animation principles. First, because everyone seems to always recommend the same ones so they're easy to find, and second, you've already made it pretty clear you're not interested in actually being an animator - which is totally cool. If you go the illustration path you'll get a solid foundation in individual picture making, which can also open up the Vis Dev route in animation. It just means you'll have to study acting and film on your own. (Take acting classes, if you can!)

    ANYWAY.

    The two most often recommended books regarding filmmaking are:

    Shot By Shot
    5 C's of Cinematography

    I also found The Filmmaker's Eye interesting, and it's a little more accessible than Shot By Shot.

    A great way to learn is also study your favorite movies - try and do thumbnails for each of the shots in a short sequence. (I wouldn't recommend doing the entire film, just for the sake of time and sanity.)

    Here are books that talk more about character acting and/or story development:

    Prepare to Board! (note: this is NOT a how-to-storyboard book, but the development process that happens before boarding. It pretty much recreates my pre-production class at school in terms of information.)

    Animated Performance: Bringing imaginary animal, human and fantasy characters to life Also by Nancy Beiman - title speaks for itself, here. Some of the same topics are touched upon in Prepare to Board! But are explained further here.

    I also found Acting for Animators by Ed Hooks an interesting read; and again, it covered topics that had come up in a few of my classes. This version has been updated though - I have the older one.

    My last recommendation is a bit of both combined, although it's not a beginner book. The author takes you through the reasoning of how's and whys of choices of storyboarding a story while..well. Storyboarding a story!
    Directing The Story

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alice Herring View Post
    I'm not recommending any books that deal specifically with the animation principles. First, because everyone seems to always recommend the same ones so they're easy to find, and second, you've already made it pretty clear you're not interested in actually being an animator - which is totally cool. If you go the illustration path you'll get a solid foundation in individual picture making, which can also open up the Vis Dev route in animation. It just means you'll have to study acting and film on your own. (Take acting classes, if you can!)

    ANYWAY.

    The two most often recommended books regarding filmmaking are:

    Shot By Shot
    5 C's of Cinematography

    I also found The Filmmaker's Eye interesting, and it's a little more accessible than Shot By Shot.

    A great way to learn is also study your favorite movies - try and do thumbnails for each of the shots in a short sequence. (I wouldn't recommend doing the entire film, just for the sake of time and sanity.)

    Here are books that talk more about character acting and/or story development:

    Prepare to Board! (note: this is NOT a how-to-storyboard book, but the development process that happens before boarding. It pretty much recreates my pre-production class at school in terms of information.)

    Animated Performance: Bringing imaginary animal, human and fantasy characters to life Also by Nancy Beiman - title speaks for itself, here. Some of the same topics are touched upon in Prepare to Board! But are explained further here.

    I also found Acting for Animators by Ed Hooks an interesting read; and again, it covered topics that had come up in a few of my classes. This version has been updated though - I have the older one.

    My last recommendation is a bit of both combined, although it's not a beginner book. The author takes you through the reasoning of how's and whys of choices of storyboarding a story while..well. Storyboarding a story!
    Directing The Story

    Alice- I particularly like the last book you recommended. It seems to be the thing I've been searching for all along.

    And yeah, I guess being an animator isn't for me at the moment, but I still love cartoons. I guess I was just concerned that I would be barred from entering the field because my interests were a little different.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Rover View Post
    Eezacque- I am indeed interested in movie making, but only to a certain degree, I guess. Like most people, I enjoy I coming up with my own stories (in this case cartoon stories) and bringing them to life in the real world. However, the physical product would most likely take the form of a graphic novel instead of feature-length film. Being able to direct a shot by way of a few pen strokes is just fine for me and would probably bring about more satisfaction than using an actual camera.

    So, yes, creating pretty pictures is important. And I would like to be involved in film, either by boarding or creating some very short shorts.
    I suggest you make up your mind, as you cannot do it all in limited time. If you're interested in graphic novel, focus on that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by eezacque@xs4all.nl View Post
    I suggest you make up your mind, as you cannot do it all in limited time. If you're interested in graphic novel, focus on that.
    eezacque--I think this piece of advice is sound, too, as it often takes a lifetime of practice to become proficient at one craft. But it also feels scary sometimes, because it feels as though I'm limiting myself to just one outcome.

    Still, I know what you're saying.

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