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Zen and the art of cartoon making


Or: Wrong, do it again.

I have three daughters. They are all aspiring artists with different levels of talent, as you would expect from kids of different ages and mentalities. This past weekend we had an interesting debate around the dinner table. My oldest, (14) was concerned that we didn’t praise her art enough. She felt that when she brought us a drawing that we didn’t get as excited about it as she did. It sort of stunned us into contemplative silence for a moment. My first thought was, am I being harsh or non-committal when looking at my child’s work? Am I not giving praise or encouragement? Am only pointing out what was wrong and not what I liked? We discussed this at length and all agreed that this was not the case. We do praise their work. We do let them know what we feel is well done and we do discuss with them what may be done better and give them encouragement as to how to make things better. We also provide examples of other artist’s work and resources that may help them to evolve their own art.

What we don’t do is give false praise or misdirected feedback. Meaning that we don’t always simply say, “that is great” or “perfect”. We don’t take the easy way out with whatever our children bring to us for our input. That isn’t to say we do things like “that sucks, do it again”. No we don’t do that. We encourage their talents to grow and help them realize that getting something wrong isn’t bad it’s part of the process of learning. Diner was done and everyone went off to do his or her thing for the night.

It got me thinking though. Why do we, as adults, get so irate when we are given a revision to our work by our superiors or clients? Does this go back to our childhood desires to impress those we look up to? Are we looking for some form of validation as a being? Are those that give the revisions aware of how fragile our sense of self is when it comes to our art? Am I completely full of it and this is nowhere near the truth? Probably the latter….
One thing is certain; most peoples first gut reaction to a retake/revision is one of pure frustration. It may not show but it is there. I suspect it has much to do with the emotional involvement one gets when creating something and one feels that making a comment on the art is also a comment on the self. I know that I have felt it many times.

We work in an industry:

(noun ( pl. -tries)
1 economic activity concerned with the processing of raw materials and manufacture of goods in factories : the competitiveness of American industry.
• [with adj. ] a particular form or branch of economic or commercial activity : the car industry | the tourist industry.
• [with adj. ] informal an activity or domain in which a great deal of time or effort is expended : the Shakespeare industry.
2 hard work : the kitchen became a hive of industry.

Sometimes we forget what that means.

Sometimes we forget that we are individuals with feelings that are doing the best that we feel we can but we as individuals can also forget that this a business that relies on consistencies of style and delivering a specific product in a certain amount of time. Truth can be subjective.

When getting a revision try to remember:

A. It isn’t personal
B. As far as the scope of the project you are on it isn’t up to the required level of completeness.
C. Don’t be afraid to get more information on how or why it is wrong.
D. Remember that you are dealing with a human being and all that entails.
E. Do it again.

When giving a revision:

A. Remember that you are dealing with a human being and all that entails.
B. Don’t just point out what is wrong. Give constructive input on how to make it better. If needed give examples.
C. “I have no time to explain” is not an excuse. You are supposed to be leading not complaining.
D. Ask yourself, “How would I feel getting this note?”
E. Never make it personal.

My all time favorite retake note was, “This does more to destroy than it does to create”. Needless to say this ended up on the wall for all to see. And laugh at.

In the final analysis I hope to never be the supervisor to one of my kids on a cartoon.

Look me up

One Comment

  1. Mark Douthwright Mark Douthwright February 8, 2010

    It’s a challenging road to travel, raising artistic children. I try to emphasize to mine just how far they have come. I point out how the creations, that weren’t what they had hoped, were all part of what went into the next creation that they were pleased with. I once heard a wise person say to me, “It’s not just the notes that make the music, but also the space between the notes”. Once I truly realized what that meant, I began teaching it to my little artists.
    When it comes to my work in animation, I treat my revisions that same. Some times you nail it, some times you don’t. It’s perfect really.

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