Teaching Animation … To Myself

It doesn’t matter how tired I am: I simply love to teach. For me, teaching means encouraging people to find their own voice in whatever artistic medium they choose. Interestingly, and to my great joy this works quite well with most of my students.

Yesterday I was wondering why I’m able to encourage my students, and how they always let me encourage them, but at the same time I’m not following my own teachings myself. My students trust me as a teacher, and they really want to learn something about making art. Even though I graduated in 2009, I’m still a student somehow: I’m still (and probably will always be) learning about art and animation.

I’ve been struggling with my stuckness for weeks, but yesterday I had an Eureka! moment in which I started to talk to myself like I’d talk to my students if they need help during my classes. I asked myself, if it’s working for my students, why shouldn’t it work for me as well? (And yes, I am talking to myself, constantly. You definitely should try that, but make sure that you’re the only person listening…)

Talking To Teacher Me


Teacher Me.

“Need help?”

The internal dialogue was like this:

Me: Hey Teacher Me, can I ask you a question or two?

Teacher Me: Of course, what's the problem?

Me: I have this idea of how my piece should look like, and I really don't know how to turn this into reality, I'm afraid that I won't be able to design the puppets and the remaining sets as I have them in my head. And I'm totally afraid that my piece of art (aka the Orpheus film project) isn't going to be gorgeous and nobody would come and watch is.

TM: The first one is a technical problem, isn't it? Do you need more research about the materials you use?

Me: Yeah, I think so. I like the idea of puppets made of paper, but I do favor to animate a puppet made of cold foam. But I have no idea how I achieve that the cold foam looks like paper.

TM: What if you do a test run with a small amount of these materials first? Remember when we draw something, and you aren't sure how it's going to look like. You test it on a piece of scrap paper first, and if it works you'l place it into your main drawing.

Me: So you mean doing some kind of rough sketch with the materials?

TM: Exactly! And if it doesn't work you could ask the kind folks at stopmotionanimation.com for help as well.

Me: Sounds good to me!
Working with foam puppets would be great, and I'm now having some more ideas of how to solve the cold foam looking like paper problem. I could cover the original model with a thin layer of paper before I cast the mold from it. If I use plasticine for the model, the final puppet cast will appear a bit like plasticine. Perhaps this is also going to work for a paper surface... Thank you!

TM: And what about your fear that it may not be good or interesting at all? Is it getting better?

Me: A little bit. But I still feel this certain pressure in my belly... Somehow I think I need more time to work on my film – not in the long run but right now.

TM: Yes, I totally understand you! You work as hard as you can at the moment, and there's a lot of other stuff in your life going on. You're absolutely allowed not to work on your film during the next week. After Christmas, you'll have two free weeks, and up to that time you simply move on with what you already do: decluttering your (work) spaces, cleaning up, and being good to yourself as in curing your sleep deprivation by resting and napping a lot. What do you think?

Me: That sounds lovely. Thank you!

You’ll get the idea.

Why I am telling you this wacky-me stuff? Because dialogues like the one above help me solving my problems. I often struggle, and sometimes it’s so hard to move on with what I love to do, even though (or just because?) I love it so much. Hopefully this may help you as well if you suffer from the same issues, hopefully you’ll learn from my experiences…

18. December 2010 by Jessica
Categories: Stuff | Tags: , , | 3 comments

Comments (3)

  1. YOu have a smart Teacher You, Jessica! Way to go!

    Another idea for the paper-y surface…

    tissue/sandwich paper maché!!! It’s works great in all the molds I’ve tried; Ultracal, silicone, etc!

    I call it “latex maché” and it’s so lovely easy to do. You simply paper maché several skin layers in your mold with Japanese rice paper (must be TORN [not cut] into small pieces for seamless look at the end) with using straight latex as the wetting medium.

    Safety NOTES: I have just ordered extra small non-latex (nitrile and vinyl) gloves for handling the latex in this way as a sensitivity can spontaneously attack apparently.

    Use with respirator too or at least near an open window for the ammonia fumes.

    Just maché a single thin layer, let it dry, repeat until desired skin thickness is achieved. And then the rest of the void around the armature can be back-filled with anything from foam to shredded newspaper!

    The finished dry de-molded puppet looks for all the world as if it’s made from paper!

    The thinner the paper used, the more wrinkle texture in the character’s skin. Relatively heavier paper results in smoother skin.

  2. Shelley, now that was helpful! Ideas start to flow, and everything seems at least do-able again… Horray! And thank you again for your support!

    Just a few more questions: What kind of mold do you use? Is it one of two parts? And do you then repair the cut line with another layer of your crazy-but-amazingly-helpful technique? How do you dye the latex, and how do you deal with its aging? Because I once used it for a puppet that looks a bit sunburnt these days…

    So many questions…

  3. Thinking out loud often helps… I don’t know how often I found the major crux in what I planned to do while trying to explain what I want to do to someone who really listens and is interested in what I am saying. And trying to understand. This helps a lot I think. Another strategy, next to writing down and making a list and drawing the lines between what is going on.

    And about grandmaster Shelley’s recipe… I missed so much from the halfland blog, but every time I take a short look over there I am stunned. And impressed. And I just know that I will again spend many afternoons just reading and feasting.

    Really nice drawing too [you did]. It’s a pleasure to come back again and again here and learn. Much about creativity and evoking the potential too. And seeing the progress.