Here is a letter written by Kent Alfred, lead animator at Reel FX Creative Studios.
Alfred’s feature film credits include Free Birds, Open Season 3, Open Season 2, Fur of Flying (short), Coyote Falls (short), and Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Furious Five (short), to name a few.
Alfred also offers one-on-one animation training through his apprenticeship program, Future Squirrel.
Never be satisfied…
This letter is about what drives me as an animator, and really as a person as a whole.
Never say you “can’t”!
A lot of people in this world complain that they “can’t” do certain things, for example, animation. Then you ask them, “Well, why not?”, and they say… “because I don’t know how.” …but…how would you know how to do something that you haven’t learned yet? Right?
So the conversation continues, and they usually respond with something like “Well, you’re good at what you do because you’re talented.” No way! Bull! It took a lot of hard work and dedication to do what I do. And even worse, just when I feel like I’ve “learned” animation, my world flips upside down and tells me I am wrong, or that there is another way to do it better.
There are people in the world that are more naturally talented at animation, but that’s not me, and I didn’t let that stop me.
Levels of Learning
Another huge aspect of how I look at learning animation is through leveling. I like to think of it as power levels **because I’m a huge Dragonball Z nerd**, but you can think of them as experience levels.
The point is… animation knowledge can be achieved in bits and pieces, and usually you get to the next level in small bursts. For me, it would always come suddenly, so that as I am working, I suddenly realize… “hey, I know how to do this now!” Then I’d consider myself on the next level. I’m not sure how many levels there are, but I know there are no limits to what we can learn about animation, so I always keep pushing myself to find that next level.
My advice to students of animation is to always strive for that next level, and surround yourself with people that are at a higher level than you, so that you can soak in what they know and grow as a animator.
Different people are motivated by different things, but this is how I choose to look at life and work. Being successful as an animator isn’t simply going to a good animation school… It’s about keeping your outlook on life positive, working hard, and fully devoting yourself to what you’re after.
If someone asks you to do something, don’t be afraid to say you don’t know how to do it, but absolutely never say you “can’t”. And no matter what, always keep striving to learn.
Kent Alfred (signed)