Friday, October 13, 2017

Learning to be an Animator

I am very excited to be in the final prep for The Big Draw: Living Lines tomorrow afternoon at the Academy Center of the Arts here in Lynchburg, VA. I have wanted to participate in this wonderful event for years, but when the focus was animation and Living Lines this year, I had to jump. I am most indebted to Kelly Posenaur and the Academy for the green light. Delightfully this is a free family event, everyone gets in on the fun.

We are planning 4 tables of animation activities including some old pre-film devices. In fact I learned that the zoetrope or at least the concept of a spinning object to simulate motion has been part of the human experience for 5,000 years. I need to figure out how your pronounce thaumatrope before tomorrow. It's two drawing on each size of a small piece of paper that are twirled around with two cords. One image might be a girl's face, the second side a pair of glasses. When twirled, the images appear as one, i.e. the little girl is wearing her glasses. This is a great way to introduce the concept of persistence of vision or the fact that our eyes retain an image for 1/20 of a second after it's gone. Persistence of vision is what makes animation (and the movies) work. We know they are a string of single images but screened fast enough they simulate motion.

I won't even tell you how long took me to end up with this salad spinner zoetrope....lots of experiments.

I love the idea of taking a line for a walk, so we will make accordion books for that purpose, paper for flip books, storyboards and templates for stop motion capture with iMotion. Here was my inspiration from the Big Draw blog. I made templates the families can use or ignore as they make multiple images of figures dancing to upload to make an animation with iMotion.

Getting kids interested in animation is a total no-brainer. What thrills me is to introduce kids to all of the ways they can become animators right now. My favorites involve iPads but I am learning some web-based tools as well. I can't help thinking how much it would have meant to me to learn these things as a kid. 

Not to totally destroy my street cred, I am self taught as an animator. I was a relatively early adapter of computers in the 80's and animating my artwork was a primary objective. Fortunately for me, After Effects, or rather CoSA's After Effects existed and I jumped in. My first lesson was over the phone with an animator friend in San Francisco. You can guess how that went. I stuck it out and eventually found lots of teachers.

My education continues to this day, but isn't that true for all we do in life. It has been wonderful to get back to linear animation after spending a few years making iOS app. 
After Effects in conjunction with Photoshop, Illustrator or Procreate make me sing with joy. In my perfect world I would have studied animation at MICA or some other fabulous institution, but I jumped in and off I went. A major milestone of those early days was all my work the HBO Family. That was my validation that I was doing something right. 

During a lull in my production schedule now,  I am watching tutorials again and have off and on all these years. There are some amazing teachers and of course Lynda Weinman is a genius. She is not only an excellent teacher but a brilliant business person as well. I am learning about expressions and some other tricks I may find helpful as I move forward. There is certainly no shortage of tutorials online, but these are generally spot on and easy to understand.

Happy Animating and a special thanks especially to two of my assistants tomorrow, Stephen Kissel and Siri Johnson, both are former students.

Learn more about my work at and my current project at


  1. Sounds fun! So wish I could bring granddaughter Charlotte tomorrow. I know we would have a blast!

  2. I wish you could both be there too. Thanks for reading and keeping up with my work, it means a lot to me.


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