Whether it’s hand-drawn, traditionally animated classics like Bambi and Beauty and the Beast, or computer-generated favorites like Toy Story and Shrek, we’ve all enjoyed the work of animation artists. Independent animators like Don Hertzfeldt have also created beautiful, inspiring work worth checking out. But what does drawing cartoons have to do with writing advice and your next writing project? At Writer’s Relief, we know that writers can learn a lot from the skills animators use to breathe life and energy into their work. Here’s the best writing advice from an unexpected source: animation artists!
Writing Advice And Tips From Animation Artists
Draw From Life. Animators often draw from life to sharpen their skills and build a mental library to pull from while illustrating. Many of these artists carry sketchbooks everywhere so they’re ready when inspiration strikes. Animators also attend figure drawing sessions. Drawing from a live model helps artists challenge themselves to capture the subject in realistic or exaggerated renderings.
Carrying a sketchbook to draw from life is similar to a writer carrying a notebook to write in when inspiration strikes. Being able to accurately describe what you’re observing in your everyday life will help develop your writing skills. And you never know what clever descriptions you may jot down while people-watching or when spending time outside enjoying nature!
Start Small. Artists will draw thumbnail sketches—tiny drawings—in their sketchbooks to explore an idea. Before animating a character, animators will often sketch the different poses and expressions a character will make before creating the entire final animation. In these thumbnails and rough drawings, animators will work out different aspects of a character’s movement such as how a character’s feet are planted on the ground or how their arms are posed.
Before you start writing your entire project, try “sketching” your ideas and settling on some specifics. How does your character sit down in a chair, for example? Does your character have a quirky way of taking a seat—with a long pause before sitting down, or spinning the chair around to sit on it backward? These little character-building considerations will help you add details that will enhance your writing.
Be Clear And Concise. Traditional, hand-drawn animation consists of countless drawings. Viewers take for granted all of the pencil mileage that goes into a character walking around or speaking on screen! Animation is achieved by carefully adding or subtracting drawings to create the illusion of movement. Too many drawings can result in a character moving very slowly—too few drawings and the character will move very fast on screen.
Writers have similar considerations to make. Is your reader losing interest because your descriptions ramble on and on? Or are you quickly glossing over key details, which will result in confused readers? Be sure that, like an animator, you’re providing enough information for your reader to “see” what’s going on in your short story or novel.
Consider Paper vs. Digital. Many animators work digitally, using a stylus to “draw” on a computer screen, but they’re still creating, by hand, the art that is necessary to achieve their animated vision. But some artists still prefer a pencil and the grit of actual paper. They use an animation disc, placed on a lightbox, to see through the several layers of paper necessary to animate a character. Many animators mix working on paper with drawing digitally.
For writers, it can be easy to forget that writing with a pencil or pen on paper is an available alternative to typing on a laptop or cell phone. But it may offer an inspiration boost to switch up your writing routine by doing some work digitally and some the old-fashioned way!
Just as animation artists spend hours getting every detail perfect, balancing action and narration, and reworking their projects until the characters seem alive and real, writers can use similar techniques and tips to breathe life into their writing!
Question: Which animation technique will most help your writing?