Skip to content
By far the biggest challenge for me in creating and launching Dynamic Anatomy has been fear of judgement. I wholeheartedly believe that what I’m trying to do will be of huge value and will shape the future of our industry. However, I’m also very aware, perhaps too aware, that people don’t like change.
The closer I got to launch, the more I found myself procrastinating, delaying, binge watching Netflix. Anything to avoid putting my ideas out there where they could be criticized.
If you also suffer from fear of judgement, know that it is a good thing. It’s a defense mechanism which is there to protect you, and it keeps your standards high. It can also cripple you if you let it.
If you’re reading this then you know I pushed through that discomfort, and I know you can too.
There was a time that I wore the number of hours I worked as a badge of honour. I was especially proud of the time on one of the Harry Potter movies when I worked 36 hours straight, only leaving my desk for dailies and pee-breaks, just to meet an internal deadline. Stoopid. Working that way seriously impacted my health and happiness.
Please learn from my mistakes. Go home. Get some exercise. Get some sleep. However much you work, there will still be more deadlines next week.
… and if you’re in a lead, supervisor, or management position and have any respect for your team, it’s your responsibility to set the sustainable working conditions.
What kind of a leader are you?
Are you a crap funnel, who redirects and focuses all the crap that rains down from above to make sure it hits the most deserving individual below you?
Or are you a crap umbrella, positioning yourself to take all the crap from above. Creating a safe, sheltered space underneath you in which your team can do their best work?
I was a student around the time that 3D World magazine launched. As they still do today, they invited 3D artists to submit their artwork. There were 3 common themes to the pieces they printed, all so cliched that the idealist in me swore that I would never be involved in creating any of those 3 subjects. Spaceships, robots and unrealistically-proportioned women.
Of course, my first job after graduating involved creating and animating spaceships for a theme park motion ride. My first film job was on Tomb Raider II, in which I had to create and animate an unrealistically proportioned digi-double of Angelina Jolie. And one of the toughest challenges of my career was creating the animation rig for Chappie, a robot with so many moving parts and mechanical restrictions, but which had to behave and interact just like a simple human rig.
Sometimes artists need to compromise on their ideals to pay the rent. Sometimes artists need to compromise on their ideals in order to get a break that leads them on to better options in the future. And sometimes tastes change, especially when an idealist wakes up and realises that some things are popular for good reason. When done well, spaceships and robots are awesome!
Models of unrealistically-proportioned women though? Still not cool.
WTF!!! Effective carrots??? Fred’s really lost it this time!
True, but there is method to my madness. I’m thinking of the carrot and stick analogy for motivating creative employees and from everything I’ve thought about this subject I can boil it down to 3 key motivators.
Money works of course, but only for a short time. A pay rise is appreciated at first, but soon becomes the new norm and can even be resented if too much time passes before another one is given. If there’s any hint that someone else is earning more then money as a primary motivator can actually have the opposite effect.
I’m not suggesting for a second that employers shouldn’t pay their employees a very competitive wage, they absolutely should if they respect their employees. Salary on its own though is an ineffective motivator for loyalty and effective working practices.
Validation can be so much more effective, and is a renewable resource. For artists, feeling like our work is seen and appreciated is priceless, and costs a company or supervisor nothing except a little humility. A cost that is sadly too great for many to bear.
If a creative employee goes home each night with a feeling that their contribution to the team and the project was of value, and was valued by their superiors, then it is so much easier for them to keep putting in more and more effort.
Growth is another human need that has a double benefit. To be supported in progressing towards our career aspirations not only benefits the employee but also the employer who gains a more skilled and appreciative worker. If we work in roles that have no progression, where we know we’ll be fighting the same battles over and over for years to come, passion for the work can quickly fade. Some people like the stability of this, but often they’re not the passionate ones who want to work their butts off and make a difference. To really inspire continuous energy, most people need a sense of growth and accomplishment.
This can be very challenging for leaders and employers, as it can mean taking risks in moving people out of roles in which they are proven and trusted and into roles where they don’t yet have a track record. I would argue that it’s a bigger risk to keep them in the same role, as you risk either losing their drive or losing them altogether.
To be fully content and work with sustained passion and productivity in our creative jobs, the right combination of all three of these is essential.
I’ve heard several managers over the years say that they have an open door policy. It’s become one of those cliches that managers feel they need to say to make their minions feel like their input is valued. In a few cases they are genuinely interested in hearing from their teams, but in most cases I’ve experienced it’s just a platitude. In the worst cases it’s actually the last thing they really want.
If you are not genuinely enthusiastic to talk to your people and absorb the inputs they have to share, don’t claim to have an open door policy. In fact, just don’t use that expression. Period. You shouldn’t need to tell your team that you’re approachable. Just be approachable! Even better, make the first move and approach them, individually, human-to-human. If you’re not comfortable enough to just grab a seat next to any one of your team and say hi, then how can you ever expect them to be comfortable coming to you?
If the hero in our story has super human powers and can pull off crazy stunts without a single scratch or bruise, then where’s the sense of peril? Without danger, if our hero doesn’t have skin in the game and serious consequences at stake then there’s no incentive for the audience to be emotionally invested in the action.
The best stories take us on emotional roller-coasters, experiencing our protagonist’s highs and lows, fear and joy. Over the top action set-pieces may seem cool, but push it too far and you’ll deny the audience the full roller-coasters experience because there can be no fear when there’s no possibility of loss. So many Hollywood blockbusters are full of incredible action sequences that took hundreds of talented artists many thousands of hours, but leave the audience feeling… “meh”.
The key to most successful learning, whether in a formal educational context or in day-to-day life, is vulnerability.
It’s very difficult to take on new information and new ideas when we cling to the certainty of the old ideas. Especially as professionals, the more time we have spent doing similar work, the more of a comfort blanket we have wrapped around ourselves in the form of habits and ways of doing things. Comforting though it is, it can also blind us to the potential to do things better.
Being open to new ideas takes balls. Seriously big cojones. Because it requires letting go of the certainty that what you’ve been doing and the way you’ve been doing it was the best way.
Not everyone is capable of that level of vulnerability, but the ones who are have the best potential to stay ahead of the curve and achieve much better results in the long run.
It’s been a long road to get here, and now the real work begins!
Dynamic Anatomy: Advanced Training and Reference for Professional Creature and Character Artists is open for business!
How do you know when a website is ready to launch?
How do you know that all the links and emails and everything will work perfectly?
How do you know that the content is good enough and that it provides outstanding value and useful information that isn’t available anywhere else?
Answer: You don’t ever know for sure that it’s ready for launch without taking the leap of faith and launching it.
A real fucker of a catch 22 scenario! And one shared by every artist, inventor, or entrepreneur that’s ever taken the leap.
I knew months ago on an intellectual level that this site was good enough. But emotionally I was not ready for the vulnerability. The thought of releasing something that wasn’t absolutely perfect and opening myself up to potential criticism caused me to delay. I looked for every possible reason not to launch. I tweaked, and adjusted, and re-wrote, until finally I ran out of excuses.
Is it perfect? No.
Is it good enough to be of huge value to creature and character artists of all levels? Absolutely!
Am I terrified, but doing it anyway? Hell yeah!!!
To hell with all the procrastination and excuses. Tell your friends, tell your colleagues, tell anyone who might be interested. Dynamic Anatomy is open for business! 🙂
I hope you enjoy everything on the site and it leaves you hungry for more, because we’ve got a lot more on the way soon! Let me know what you think.
“Almost everything important is at first opposed by stakeholders in the status quo.” Steve Blank.
Human beings are tribal. We may have cars and iPhones, but evolutionarily we’re barely evolved from cavemen. We’re herd animals. We like to fit in and know our place, it gives us a feeling of security and safety.
We also have a strong sense of individuality. Especially for those with strong creative instincts. That creates quite an internal contradiction.
Doing things differently can appeal to our creativity but also trigger fear and insecurity. Innovation comes from leaving the herd, feeling that fear, and pushing ahead anyway. If you’re on your own, that’s individuality. If the herd likes what you’re doing and chooses to follow you, that’s leadership.
There will always be critics and trolls, who shout whenever they see any violation of accepted norms. Because they fear change, they fear being left behind if the herd moves on without them.
Dynamic Anatomy is here to be different. To challenge artificial boundaries that hold artists back from achieving their true potential, and to encourage those brave enough to do the same. That doesn’t happen by staying with the herd.
“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.” John Cage.
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”. Seneca
Some people may seem lucky, but perhaps they are just more prepared. More prepared to create opportunities for themselves. More prepared to see opportunities that come along. More prepared to take advantage of the right opportunity.
Begrudging someone else for their luck may feel good, but doesn’t help you. It’s much better to put your energy into preparing for your own.
Whatever it is that you celebrate this time of year, Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, or just overindulgence in booze and chocolates, the Dynamic Anatomy elves wishes you a happy holiday!
We’ll be taking a short break for the requisite feasting and merry-making then will be straight back to our desks, refueled, refreshed and ready to continue preparing some awesome new content for you. Stay tuned for more on that soon…
2018 is going to be an exciting year, I can feel it in my toes. At least, I would feel it in my toes if I could feel my toes. I wonder what the elves put in this punch…
Shiva is a Hindu God associated with destruction and is represented as dancing so fast he creates a circle of flame around him that can destroy the world. He is one of the most widely revered and most powerful of all the Hindu gods.
Why worship destruction? Because it’s a natural part of the cycle of creation just as death is an inevitable part of life.
Sometimes destruction as part of the creative process is helpful. Sometimes it is entirely necessary. Sometimes it’s only by letting go of the things we’ve achieved in the past that we can achieve even more in the future.
I know a lot about this subject… I need to write more about this… I’ll do it sometime soon…
When I was a computer graphics student about 18 years ago (boy does writing that make me feel old!) one of the most useful things I learned was from an informal chat with one of the animation lecturers in a car park one afternoon. I enjoyed everything on the course, from math and programming to animation and design, but was required to pick an area to specialize in for the second half of the course. My lecturer told me I had to specialize because that’s how you get jobs.
When an employer hires they do so to fill a need they have, so they’re looking for the best fit for that specific need. BUT, once you land the job, the more of a generalist you are then the more useful you’ll be because you can be adaptable and you can communicate with all of the other specialists in different roles.
The most successful specialists also have a considerable amount of generalist experience.
To all our American friends, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!
To all of our artist friends all over the world, we give thanks for what you do. Keep being creative. Keep entertaining. Keep inspiring. Keep pushing boundaries. Keep building bridges between communities. Keep making the world a better, more interesting place. Most of all, just keep being awesome!
Telling the story never gets in the way of your animated (or acted) characters looking good.
The reverse is not always true.
It can be very easy to lose sight of the bigger context and focus on small details of the movement, especially if you’re only animating 1 or 2 shots in a sequence. But it won’t matter how good those details are if the context doesn’t fit. When an artist tries too hard to make their work shine and stand out, rather than fitting in with the rest of the team, and the director’s bigger vision, it rarely looks good.
Get the details right, but get them right within the bigger context.