Friday, July 27, 2007

A Mantra for Independent Animators

I was in Tucson, AZ in June hanging out with one of my mentors and the chair of my graduate thesis committee... Becky Wible-Searles. Becky is an accomplished artist, poet, animator, and director. She had her own animation studio in NY city for some 14 years and has taught her subject for a number of years in New York, Savannah, GA and now, Tucson, AZ. She is also a lot of fun to hang out with, as is her husband Jimmy. During my visit she described a problem dealing with a talented student who was having difficulty getting his final project over the finish line. Becky is the absolute master of getting it done. She told this young student of hers an elegant mantra to chant...


Powerful words for any self respecting animator and/or artist to live by.

So, I've been lurking around on Keith Lango's blog a lot lately... doing my best to make a total nuisance of myself. One item that I mentioned in a comment to part 2 of Keith's The Fool's Errand series caught his attention. That item was Becky's mantra.

Later in part three of the series Keith mentioned that independent animated short production should probably be fast and fun. So, I just put the two ideas together and got SIMPLE, GOOD, FAST, FUN, DONE. It sounded okay, although not as good as the original... not as basic... but, it had flavor. FUN was the critical part that seemed to be improving the formula.

Well, I spent some time with the phrase today and decided to remove the "fast" part of the mantra. SIMPLE, GOOD, FUN, DONE. Seems to work better. Even more so if I put FUN before GOOD. Sounds good because it has a nice Rhythm.

Pulling from my print production and graphic design background I created a poster with this phase. I like the way my typographical layout makes FUN larger than the other words. Included with this post is a link to a PDF I created that gives you a tabloid (11in x 17in) poster of the image below.

Click the image or the link above to download the attached PDF. Print it and use it in good health. Credit Becky Wible-Searles and Keith Lango for its intellectual impact.

Credit me only for the graphical layout.



Anonymous said...

Hi Erik,

I was wondering what Becky meant by "good" in her mantra. "Make it look good"? "It's good that it's simple"? "Good enough, let's move on?"

It's very powerful, though. I was struggling until I read it in your blog, and was inspired to shear my set in half, and put the two pieces next to eachother. This solved a lighting problem, and it brought more texture out in a fence. It also gave a purpose to one half of it that didn't make sense where it was.

I first came by your blog while looking for infomation about strong poses. There's a lot of great animation here. I will definitely stick around!


b_wible said...

Hi Don,

That's really cool that you were inspired by that! I came up with it off the top of my head when I was desperate to help a struggling student who just couldn't move forward to get a body of work done. My friend and superb animator, Erik (Westlund), added the "fun" part, which I really love and totally subscribe to. Dang, why didn't I think of that?!

That's great that you are doing stop motion! From the moment I started my company in 1985 -- with Rob Niosi, the guy on the YouTube video with me -- people have been telling me that stop motion is a dying art. All I can say in 2008 is "Ha!" I think, as you probably do, too, that it's particularly telling that two out of the 3 feature films nominated for best Animation in 2006 were stop motion... and one of them won! I'm really excited to hear that Tim Burton recently signed a contract with Disney to do, yes, a stop motion film. So, "Ha!" indeed!

Where are located? Are you doing stop motion professionally? In school? On your own?

So now to the "what does good" mean? That's so subjective. I think every artist has to define what that means to them in a given situation. I know a lot of students seem to default to good = lots of details which in animation it almost never does, for lots of reasons.

I can tell you what good means to me, but it's not a hard and fast definition. I have to redefine it for myself every time I'm in a situation where I'm setting standards for myself to do something... which is of course pretty often and certainly not just on art projects! So I encourage you to take in what other people have to say about that, but ultimately define it for yourself.

When it come to animation or any writing or any creative thing I'm doing, I'd say these are the questions I often ask myself to decide whether what I'm doing is good or not: Did I do the proper extensive research to learn about what I'm exploring? Did I take a look at what other artists have already done like this? Did I consider many different ways to go about this before deciding on the approach? Am I setting realistic goals for myself that I can reach technically, financially, and time-wise? (Nothing will be good if it's out of your reach or means you can't pay your rent or don't have the time or skill to do it!) Have I discovered anything along the way that's suggesting I should change course, redefine my goals, try a different approach? Am I still as excited about this while I'm doing as when I started? If not why not?

Knowing when to stop on a creative project is tough. Should you push that one more thing or leave it alone? Is it good enough as is or could it be better? This will sound kind of goofy, but I think there's this magic undefinable moment when a work of art takes on it's own life. It is somehow no longer something you are making, but a little (or big) spirit entity in itself. At that point a I do a lot of staring at something and ask it to tell me if it's good and if it's done. Weird I know, but it seems to work. I believe this is called artistic intuition and it involves a lot of trust in yourself and your vision.

I guess the final question I ask myself is Do I like this? I have a pretty quirky aesthetic, so especially when I'm making things for myself, I actually don't much care if other people think it's good or not, because some always will and some always won't. I've got to trust my own standards and gut feeling and go with that.

Of course if you are on a job or in school, presumably there are pre-set criteria for what will be good and satisfy the client or the assignment. It gets into an interesting situation when occasionally a client's definition of what's good and your own definition of what's good don't correspond! I certainly ran into that sometimes owning a business. What do you do? Well, I would try and educate the client about where I was coming from, giving them as many facts, examples, and substantial info as I could to demonstrate my perspective. But at the end of the day, that's the privilege of the people who were paying me to do what I was doing. They ultimately get to define what they think is good. Period. To bad what I think. Here's the paycheck.

So how's that for a vague answer?! Hopefully some stuff to think about. Do you have thoughts about it?

Thanks for telling me about the YouTube video -- I believe my partner, Rob put that up and I didn't realize it was there. YouTube is really something... :)

Thanks for your interest and let's keep proving those stop motion skeptics wrong!!!

-- Becky

Erik Westlund said...

Wow. Thanks for the post Becky. Its great having your thoughts included here. I think the part about 'do I like this' is critical. I find you have to learn how to listen to yourself, to one's own intuition regarding what it good.

In all things it seems, intuition knows best and when I listen to mine I'm never disappointed.

I'm very glad that pram, and numerous others, have navigated to this blog and demonstrated interest in this phrase.

Its flattering. Especially since my role in this has been primarily that of editor and graphic design "tool". Becky invented the original phrase, and I adapted it while participating in a discussion on independent short film production started by Keith Lango.

If this phrase, and the poster I created with it helps with more getting more independent animation created, then I'm a happy man.

Anonymous said...

Hi Becky, Think you were a great student of mine long time ago. Still have some slides you made of Spring celebration in Cincinnati. Good to know you are thriving and teaching others. I am long gone from UC but still in Cincinnati. Laura

Anonymous said...

Ah, so you made the poster hanging in the 3D lab? I noticed it for the first time yesturday. But that one said "make it good, keep it simple, have fun, get it done" something like that. Wow, must be catchy cause I remember it!

-Laura Dillon

Jean Waltz said...

I was looking for random three word mantras after reading an article in "Seven Days," about Neutrino and a group of people who are building a HUGE raft out of recycled materials that they will live on and "sail" down Lake Champlain. They basically set their goals in three words. Triads such as “participate/redirect/leave,” “float/go/stop” and “give/take/share,”
BUT crazy thing is I took Becky's class back at Pratt in 87. She brought the class to her then studio and made a lasting impression on me. Thanks to her I sang my baby to sleep with Ricky Lee Jones lullabies. It is so great to hear she is still teaching. Please tell her thanks!

Eric Stefani said...

This is a good mantra for music too. I have a hard time with the last part after "good" too. I'll let you know if it works for me.