Comfort Zone

A couple of years ago I taught an advanced rigging course at a local University. When I received an evaluation from the students after the course, their feedback didn’t surprise me. About 20% of the class really got what I was trying to do, pushing the students out of their comfort zone and making them think for themselves, it wasn’t easy but they stepped up and went for it. About 80% of the class hated it and just wanted to be spoon-fed information and told what to think.

Guess which 20% will be the most successful and will grow to become future leaders in the industry…





The problem with problem solvers is that if they don’t have a good enough problem to solve, they’ll invent one.


If you’re a problem-solver, have you ever been proud of any solutions you created even though they didn’t get you closer to your real goal at the time?


If you manage problem-solvers, do you always structure tasks in a way that allows opportunity for the regular small wins that they crave, while keeping them on the path to the result you really want from them?




Know Your Destination

When the shit hits the fan and everyone panics about completing a particular task before the deadline, I’ve observed that assumptions tend to be made. Progress is deemed more important than certainty. It’s possible that these assumptions may be correct, but very often they turn out not to be and they lead people in the wrong direction, costing even more time and creating even more panic.

Think of it this way. If you’re lost in a forest, you don’t know exactly where you are or where you need to go, running may feel good because at least you’re doing something, but you’re probably running the wrong way. It’s better to stop and figure out the right direction first.

Always have a plan. The first part of coming up with a plan is to know exactly where you are and exactly where you need to get to. Without it you’ll probably end up getting even more lost.




When I start work on a new shot or any other type of project I often find myself noodling around the edges at first. Most of the time I don’t even realise I’m doing it until several days or even weeks have passed. Even small tasks can seem daunting and slow me down until I actually have some tangible progress to measure towards their completion.

What tips and tricks do you use to create momentum when you start a new task or pick up the pace on one that has stalled?




Creativity is not an absence of rules. It does not mean that anything goes. That’s called anarchy, and anarchy has more to do with destruction than creation.

True creativity occurs in a space defined by rules, and it’s the artists job to decide which rules are applicable in every decision we make.





“Do not be a magician – be magic!” Leonard Cohen.


As 3D artists, it can so often feel like it’s other people who call all the shots. Hollywood execs, Ad agencies, managers, clients. But they come to us for our expertise, because we can create magic.


Art, whatever its form, can speak to the audience so much more powerfully if it’s not just assembled in a manufacturing plant production line, but created by passionate artists. Those who through their passion can add those subtle details that truly bring their art to life for the audience. Be that.






Today is Thanksgiving in Canada.


What better day to express the huge gratitude I feel towards everyone around the world who has supported and encouraged me and my vision for empowering animation and visual effects artists in their art and in their careers. We wouldn’t have gotten here without you.


And to all the artists out there, what you do is f’ing awesome. Even if you rarely get the credit you deserve, don’t ever let that stop you doing what you do and don’t ever let go of the passion to entertain, inspire, push boundaries, and keep learning.




Cabbage and Custard


A supervisor once told me that work is 80% cabbage and 20% custard. Everybody hates eating cabbage, but everybody loves custard. It was part of his job to make sure every one on the team ate their fair share of the cabbage and was rewarded with their share of the custard.


If you’re a supervisor, do you share out the grunt work and the really rewarding tasks fairly amongst your team?




The Cycle of an Artist


Thanks to animator/writer/director and all-round nice bloke Pat Sarell for this insight.


Junior artists are fueled by passion for what they do, through they may not have the skills, technique and knowledge to do it well. So they train to become better.


Mid-level artists learn the skills to become more competent, but in doing so they also learn to follow rules, particularly those that play to their strength and help them avoid aspects of the work that they are less adept at. Their knowledge of how they should work and of their competencies constrains them, and often with those constraints the passion that once drew them to their art fades.


Senior artists have developed sufficient knowledge, confidence and have broken enough rules over their career to have freed themselves from the constraints that held them back as mid-level artists. They can now re-connect with the passion they first had, but with the ability to fully execute on their ideas.


If you’re at a place where you’ve lost the passion for what you do, don’t give up, you will find that passion again. Now’s the time to dig deep, keep learning, know that you’re on the path to becoming a senior artist and that the path may not always be a straight one.




What’s More Important?


What is more important to you? The success of the shot you’re working on, or having a sense of ownership and individual accomplishment from your contribution to it?


Very often it’s just not possible to have both. So ask yourself this question: How prepared would you be to sacrifice your sense of ownership, that ability to look back in years to come and say “I did that all by myself”, for the good of the shot?


If you’re convinced that your ideas are the best despite differences with the rest of your team, or if you’re not even inviting input from the rest of your team, is there a chance it’s just your ego potentially sabotaging the shot? Are you putting yourself before your team?


I know I’ve been guilt of this several times in the past. Have you?




Filling The Gaps

When I was first in a position to make hiring decisions I chose people who thought and worked similar to how I did. It’s validating to be surrounded by like-minded folks and there’s less confrontation when everyone is on the same page.

I knew I had matured as a team leader when I started making hiring decisions based on skills or attributes that differed from the existing strengths in the team. Diversity was far more beneficial than uniformity had been, though at first it was tough to let go of the notion that my way of doing things is the best and learn to be open to other possibilities.





“To fill the creative, technical, communication, leadership and other skills gaps that can hold creature and character artists back from achieving their potential as artists and in building fulfilling and rewarding careers.”


At Dynamic Anatomy our mission statement comes in 2 parts. This is the first part, to provide education that empowers professional artists to be even better in all aspects of their work. To teach the things that most schools and employers are not even aware they’re neglecting.




“You can’t have your cake and eat it”


What a fucking stupid saying.


What’s the point of cake if not to eat it? If you have cake and don’t eat it that’s such a waste of cake. If you eat cake when you have none, that’s theft of someone else’s cake.


If you have some cake (real or metaphorical), then I’d suggest you eat it and enjoy it 🙂






“The most creative people have this childlike facility to play.” John Cleese.


Kids learn at an amazing rate, mostly through playing and experimentation, because they’re not afraid of what anyone else thinks. If they screw up, no biggie. Tomorrow’s another day with a whole world of new things to learn and try.


It’s only when we become self aware and start wanting to “fit in” that we stop taking risks and consequently stop opening ourselves up to the opportunity to learn at such a high speed.


As artists we should never be afraid to take time to play.




Results vs Process

Results are what really matters, but there can be so many unknown factors on the road to achieving results that we invent processes to take some of the unknowns out of the equation and improve efficiency.

Then we get tied in to the process and eventually how we do it becomes more important than why we’re doing it. The process has become more important than the result.

Keep questioning the process. If anyone tells you it can’t be changed that’s probably a good indication that it needs to.