When it comes to animation, I’ve found “do it for fun” is not great advice.
It’s probably because I’ve heard it many many times, and many many times it has not helped me. It’s incredibly vague, and describes the end goal, rather than the means to achieve it. One might as well just say:
“Live a good life.”
“Believe in yourself.”
These are weak phrases that (by themselves) carry no punch. And when we’re looking for advice, we’re looking for that punch. An emotional hit that’ll kick us into gear and do something with our lives!
Of course, the punch really comes from the context surrounding the words. I prefer to deliver this punch via animation. But in the mean time, have a blog post.
So here’s why “do it for fun” is the way to motivate yourself to keep animating. Why? For “fun” of course.
The Best Thing about Fun
I think Spongebob did an awesome job on fun:
What I find funny is that the sponge had a lot of trouble describing fun at the beginning. And I think that’s the best thing about fun: You can’t exactly pinpoint it. You can’t truly explain it. It’s just a good, happy feeling.
So when I tell you to “animate for fun” I want you to have that good, happy feeling when doing work. I mean, I can’t MAKE you have fun. Fun just happens. It is spontaneous like that.
But here are some ways to increase your chances of fun:
Make a Game Out of It
Sometimes, when I’m live-streaming, a real life event™ will crop up and I’ll have to end the broadcast early. It is at this point I can make a game out of finishing my remaining work before I have to leave. It can be good fun to challenge yourself with a reward or light punishment. Doing so shifts the focus away from the drudgery of labor (animation). Make sure the challenge isn’t too difficult, or you will lose flow.
- Set a time limit with consequences if you do/do not finish in time. See if you can finish the current scene within the hour. Cool punishments include: Chores, giving away goodies, or doing something embarrassing for the amusement of others.
- Marathon. See how many frames you can animate without giving up. Test your stamina!
- No Undoing (Ctrl-z). Test your precision and see how far you get into the project without having to undo a mistake. This really helps me be more mindful of how I do my line-work.
- Compete. Screen share with a friend and challenge them to any one of these games. Winning is fun y’know.
For this to work, you gotta pay extra attention to your game’s “objective” when drawing. Treat every pen stroke like an archer’s arrow, or jogger’s stride.
Do Something Fun while Animating.
A revolutionary idea. If you mix a fun activity while animating, the whole thing becomes fun. Although you’re technically not making animation itself fun, you’re having fun. So who cares.
- Listen to music. Easy. Everyone’s favorite past time.
- Listen to an audiobook. It’s like a movie, but for your ears!
- Chat with a friend. You guys never look each other in the eyes anyways!
- Any other fun activity. You’d be surprised what you can do with split-attention. Animating can become your default background task with enough non-concentration.
Multi-tasking can only work when your task is rather simple and repetitive. I find this works best for the coloring, shading, and in-betweening phases of animation.
Flow is a tranquil feeling a person gets when they are doing something that challenges them, but it does not stress them out. Video games are very good at eliciting flow from players. They gradually gear up the fun by slowly increasing the difficulty (new levels, enemies, power-ups). Hell, there’s a game series named after “Flow”.
Try to shoot for a flow state when animating. This means picking a project/scene that fits your skill level. Attempting something too easy becomes boring labor. Attempting something too hard becomes frustrating study.
Flow is the perfect balance between easy and hard.
- If weak at perspectives, go easier: Flat 2D planes. Easy camera angles. Abstract, simplified backgrounds.
- If good at perspectives, go harder: Moving camera shots. Tilted/Dutch angles. Shifting depth of field.
- If weak at smooth animation, go easier: Use simple subjects (balls). Non-living subjects (gravity, snow, special FX).
- If good at smooth animation, go harder: Subjects with moving parts. Live subjects with intent (body movement, expressions).
When you successfully animate something that wasn’t easy (for you), and you didn’t break your back over it, it is fun. There’s this moment of joy and surprise when you play back an animation that you’re really proud of.
Not Really Fun
So after describing all these ways to make animation fun, I still feel like I’m missing the mark.
It’s like I’m covering up the art of animation in these side techniques and tricks to make it more appealing.
Truthfully, art is frustrating, difficult, and time-consuming. It is also challenging, satisfying, and freeing.
But peeps don’t want to hear all that. Peeps like me want to be promised that art is pleasurable and fun.
Though, I want to sell you guys on something even better than fun: Love.
Love is when you do something and you don’t know why, nor do you need to know why.
Even when it feels bad, you keep doing it.
It’s a very rare thing, and needs to be safe-guarded when found.
But, you probably won’t be convinced by plain black text on a white background.
So for now, do it for fun!