[Editorial Tuesday] How Hard is It to Be an Animator/Illustrator

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Many of us at some point or another have had some curiosity about becoming an animator. Over the years animation has evolved from using a 2D format to illustrious 3D polygon designs with amazing detail. The industry has also matured in itself, as now animators and illustrators can make a pretty decent salary depending on their skill level. When we watch our favorite anime series, we become so enamored by all of the detail on screen but fail to realize the sheer amount of work that goes into creating just one scene.

Animation began as early as the 1600's with the introduction of the magic lantern, which was an early predecessor of the now popular projector. Most of the designs were very simple in their style, but it was the movement of these still figures that really brought everything to life. Around the mid 1800's the flipbook, or as it was called the Kineograph, was a revolutionary way of creating animation through the use of simple characters moving along various sheets of thin paper. Fast forward to today where now animators and illustrators make use of advanced technology to create jaw dropping action sequences with amazing visuals. The insdustry has certainly evolved since then, and so now more people have shown a strong interest in being a part of it all. The difference between animation and illustration is that illustration is creating a still image, while animaiton takes those illustrations and brings them all to life.

While the dream of being an animator/illustrator is certainly lucrative in every aspect, the one question we ask ourselves is just how hard is it to become one. We here at Honey's Anime are going to dive in and provide for you reasons why we think becoming an animator/illustrator is no walk in the park but with enough hard work, it is most surely a rewarding experience.

Time and dedication is key

One thing that aspiring animators/illustrators should be aware of is that the industry requires a lot of your time. A lot of the shows we watch draw us in with their stunning effects and character designs, but just one frame alone can take hours if not days to complete. Being an animator is harder than it looks mainly because you really have to dedicate yourself entirely to your craft. Both the gaming and anime industry have become very fast paced with hours lessening due to quick deadlines. The salary can differ depending on your position and also your work ethic with regards to the specific piece you're working on. By no means is the salary high, but as mentioned earlier receiving a decent salary in this industry is common as they tend to be around roughly $50,000-$60,000 annually for entry positions.

Becoming an animator/illustrator requires a lot of your attention as every detail matters. As aforementioned just one frame can take up most of your time, since it has to match up with every other frame that you're either drawing or animating on screen. This shouldn't deter you from dipping your toe into the pool, but it's important to understand the challenges that come with animation. 2D and 3D animation also differ in their approach but also share some similarities. In the 80's, to create a 3D illustration one would have to draw the same image numerous times at different angles which resulted in over hundreds of sheets of paper being used. Now in today's advanced world, the work has been cut down severely but still brings about more challenges as programs such as Adobe Photoshop/Illustrator have a steep learning curve to master. To truly become one with your craft, a lot of commitment is needed which can be beneficial if it suits you but a detriment if it doesn't. This now brings us to the next reason why animation/illustration is a bit harder than we imagined.


Patience is a necessity

When animation was just seen as a 2D format, a lot of the work was done by sheets of paper but now everything is split between computer and traditional styles. Despite the ease of use with computing, the manual work of having to draw out each frame of your character’s movements is still a drawback. In most video games today, everything runs in 60 frames a second which is very fast when compared with the old standard of 24 frames in film work. Creating movement by hand drawing out 60 frames is a lot of work, especially when you first have to design your character, upload it to the PC for detailing in illustrator then render its actions on screen.

The entire process itself can be very taxing since not only do you still need to have a strong fundamental understanding of 2D animation/illustration, but now you need to transfer all of that hand drawn work onto a computer to complete your design. Patience is paramount when considering your position as an animator/illustrator because so much of your time will be limited. Anime and gaming differ in their respective ways, but both still carry the burden of having to combine both classical and modern day tasks to achieve the detail we see in our favorite shows.

When you watch Bakuman, Moritaka dedicates his time entirely to ensuring every frame of his creation was spot on. Throughout most of the show, there are moments where so much paper is thrown away because one off frame could spell trouble for the rest of your animations. Don't take this as something negative as the whole point behind our justification is that everything requires effort, and if you aspire to take your dreams to the next level you must also strengthen your resolve as you go forward. There will be nights of no sleep, but the end reward is that once everything is compiled together the feeling of excitement permeates throughout your body. Evolution is part of the ongoing process of becoming an animator/illustrator not just yourself, but more importantly the technology that surrounds it all.


Technology is evolving

To be consistent at what you do it requires a lot of practice and commitment to see any sort of result over time. One must learn to evolve along with the ever moving industry that is animation. Technology plays an extremely major role in the art of animation/illustration, and so therefore in order to truly see results from your hard work you need to have a strong grasp of the programs that exist out there. As mentioned earlier, programs like Photoshop and Illustrator have made a lot of harder tasks a bit less daunting, but still require you to understand the program itself to maximize the benefits.

Technology is evolving at a rapid pace, and so more programs are being released which make the job of drawing simple expressions a lot easier. 3D applications such as Maya and 3D Studio Max have been around for many years, and are industry standard programs that are used to create the games we all play and the anime we grow to love. Understanding both realms is where the hard work starts to take its effect, because you can't have one without the other. So while technology is evolving to make our lives easier, there are still many cases where we have to rely on the more traditional style of illustration to form a scene. If you intend on entering the industry, understanding the core fundamentals will take you a lot further over the span of your career.


The hard work pays off in the end

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Despite the many drawbacks that being an animator/illustrator can bring, the reward behind seeing your design come to life is uplifting. The sleepless nights and overtime start to feel a little less crazy as now a lot of your work can be easily uploaded through a usb and completed through various programs. Our article isn't meant to scare you away from chasing your dreams, but more to help motivate you to realize that any dream worth chasing will require a lot of sacrifice in order to deliver achievements.

The best way to begin is to do a lot of research, starting off with understanding the uses of both 2D and 3D respectively. Animation will always fall back on 2D and so when you're able to master the art of hand drawn animation, your overall design and ideas will skyrocket. One anime can take several months to put together depending on the team behind it, while others can take up to a year to see completion. Knowing this uphill battle is part of the everyday life of an animator but make sure you stay grounded in your approach not letting it deter you. Mind you this isn't for everybody since you're required to always be thinking outside of the box, and that may create a problem in this very hectic world. Just remember that you can't become anything over night, and that to truly see the fruits of your labor shine you need to stay consistent.


Concluding paragraph

The beauty of becoming an animator/illustrator is in fact the difficulties that come along with it. We are all driven by some form of a challenge, and so when we are confronted with a problem our instincts tell us to form a solution to cure it. The wonderful side of becoming an animator is that there is a feeling of freedom behind your work, and that despite having to spend countless hours correcting errors you eventually start to see movement not only in your performance but your illustrations as well. Never give up in this industry, because at the end of the long road is an experience that you can't get anywhere else.

We hope you found this to be insightful and informative, and that you will continue to strive to achieve your goals in becoming an animator/illustrator. Leave your comments down below and share some of your own aspirations. We would love to hear more about what your goals are, and how you plan to achieve them!
As always, keep it locked here for more anime entertainment. Leave a comment below and discuss your passions with everyone! Take care.

Rob

Editor/Writer

Author: Rob "NualphaJPN" B.

100% Vegan. A passionate fan of gaming, writing, journalism, anime, and philosophy. I've lived in Japan for many years and consider this place to be my permanent home. I love to travel around Japan and learn about the history and culture! Leave a comment if you enjoy my articles and join me on Discord! Take care!

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