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I, Animator

Faking It 'Til I Make It


I rarely say I'm an Animator. I say that I animate or that I do animation, but I rarely claim the title of Animator.

I should, I suppose. People hire me to animate their music videos, company promotions, poems, etc. I get paid for what I do. But I never set out to be an animator. It wasn’t my dream since I was a kid and I have no formal training. Everything I’ve learned to do, I’ve taught myself. And sometimes it shows…

I can't even really draw. I mean, I draw well enough to fake it, but poorly enough that my videos look deliberately unique and quirky. What I find though is that to do animation, you don't have to be a great artist, just a patient one. And one who's willing to draw a slightly different version of the same picture over and over again.

That's all animation is. An image that changes slightly frame over frame to give the illusion of movement. When you do hand-drawn, traditional animation as I do, it can get tedious. But the result, seeing all those images come to life, is worth the work.

I started with stop-motion animation, which is similar to hand-drawn animation, except you're manipulating a figure or puppet rather than drawing an image. It's also a lot of work—more work, actually. But equally worth it in the end.

I know my work isn't anything that will have Pixar knocking down my door. But for a person like me who's always wanted some kind of creative visual outlet, it's perfect. I don't have to be uber-talented, I just have to be determined.

As a writer, I have a certain audience who appreciates my work. But not everyone wants to take the time to read and comment on everything I put into words. When you're an artist, and I consider writing a form of art, you want to know that someone is seeing, reading, listening to your work. I suppose that’s why it was so important to have your parents stick your childhood drawings on the refrigerator door: you wanted to share your creation with an audience.

When I share a blog post to a social media site, I may get a lot of likes, but I can see in my blog stats how many people actually visited my blog from each site. Generally, I get more likes than visits, meaning people are just being nice and giving me the thumbs-up without ever reading what I wrote. It can be a bit disheartening.

With a visual medium, I find people are willing to take 30 seconds to watch a little cartoon and I get that bit of validation I seek. I'd like to say I do what I do just for myself and for the pure pleasure of it. But I must admit, I like a little positive feedback now and then. When you've put days or weeks or months into a project, it's nice to get some recognition.

But it's not always the pieces I've sweated over for eons that I'm most proud of. I recently spent months perfecting a music video for a client and it turned out amazing! He was thrilled with it, and I was thrilled that he was thrilled. And yet, one of my favorite animations is one of the simplest I've ever done. Just stick figures depicting a real conversion I had with my mom when she was zonked on Ambien. Animation doesn't have to be complicated to be fun or entertaining.

What I've learned from my foray into animation is that if there's something you want to try, especially something creative, you should go for it. It's not about being perfect, it's about finding another outlet to express yourself. It's about challenging yourself, taking risks, and growing as an artist. And who knows? You might get lucky like me and fall in love.