We're Animating Masses, Not Lines

Do you ever feel like you're getting in a design or animation rut? 

You're putting a lot of effort into getting better and making strides here and there.

But you just feel like you're work is following trends or sticking to a style that's hot right now.

I've been a fan of drawing for a long time, but I read something last week that I thought was profound.

In The Animator's Survival Kit, Richard Williams talks about the importance of becoming really good at drawing. And not just cartoons. He is talking about life drawing - understanding perspective and the form, structure, and weight of the human body.

"What we want to achieve isn't realism, it's believability.

But don't confuse a drawing with a map!

We're animating masses, not lines.

So we have to understand how mass works in reality. In order to depart from reality, our work has to be based on reality."

This is huge! 

We're animating masses, not lines. 

When we copy a style or a trend, we're doing the equivalent of just drawing lines. But that's not what leads to becoming great at animation or design.

Whether you're animating a character or a lower third, each thing that moves on the screen should represent specific characteristics.

What is its mass?

How flexible is it?

Can it crumple?

Is it as thin as paper?

Does it jiggle?

In order to make believable animations, you have to understand how different masses move.

So if you're like me and you want/need to get better at drawing, one super easy thing to do is carry a sketchbook with you and draw something in front of you when you have 15 extra minutes. Since reading this, I've focused on capturing the mass of a thing in my sketches. I can already notice a difference in the way I think about drawing because of this.

Hope this was as insightful for you as it was for me. And if you don't have a copy, I highly recommend ordering The Animator's Survival Kit today. 

And don't just skim and skip ahead to the drawings. Read from the beginning. It's a wealth of amazing animation history and thought and stories and ahh... it's just so good.