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3 reasons why animation is a great skill to master as an illustrator

Pete Clayton is Made in Plymouth’s Creative Columnist; an illustrator, animator and graphic designer based in Plymouth. Not a born native to the city and region, but a fully bred Plymouthian who’s lived here most of his 41 years… man and boy! In work, Pete’s purpose as a multidisciplinary creative and writer is to share his love of what he does and in turn give people an inspiring creative lift. Today he adds a little “je ne sais quoi”.

It’s always important to add more creative strings to one’s bow, I feel. I’m forever the guy who if I don’t know how to do something, if it’s needed, I’ll learn it. In my Plymouth creative practice it’s definitely been wise of me to grow, learn and pivot where necessary into new disciplines. Mainly, learning how to animate has been an awesome skill set to master. I say master but like with anything, there’s always room to grow. However, being an illustrator with a good grasp on animation now has given me a much needed leg up into the type of work I can offer. So if you’re an illustrator and on the fence about animating consider these 3 points below.

1. Animation enables you to bring your stories to life
The biggest pull for me initially in taking up animation was that it could help bring the concepts within my illustrations to life with character further. Initially this was mainly around the subject of coffee… a strong and key theme in my personal practice as a creative. Today, I keep on exploring through lots of different subject matters and different types of animation styles. From traditional cell animation which you can do in Photoshop and in the new Procreate Dreams Ipad App to Adobe After Effects motion and even in the Adobe Fresco drawing app. Sometimes I even combine a few programmes together to create different sorts of animation styles. Whatever software you have at hand there’s always possibilities to add a little something extra to your once static creations.

If you’re wondering how you can start… just Google or Youtube some tutorials. That’s what I did anyway. There’s a wealth of knowledge out there if you’re like me and have a very DIY mind set. If you need a bit more guidance and structure then definitely check out Skillshare or Domestika. These two are subscription learning based platforms that I use with so many cool classes for lots of different programmes.

2. Motion is golden on social media
I personally always stop on video and animation content when scrolling on Instagram. Indeed, my own reels and video content get A LOT of traction and attention on the platform. There’s a lot of rumours about algorithms and Instagram pushing reel content over static images. I’m not an expert in that sort of information though. For me I post like there’s no algorithm and just do my own thing. For my animation work, I mostly create short films and even animate over still images from time to time. Instagram is a great place to post experiments and sometimes I treat it like a sketchbook or creative playground. Whatever you’re thinking now you’re halfway through this article consider Instagram and it’s reels feature to post your animation’s to. Not on Instagram? Consider YouTube shorts maybe? Whatever your choice of social media platform there’s bound to be some kind of ‘posting video’ content option. In any case if you’re stopping followers in their tracks as they scroll… you never know that there might be a future client or creative director looking for something exactly like what you’re posting. Just a thought!

3. It can get you more work
For me at least, having animation in my creative utility belt has opened up a whole new world of creative opportunities with the type of commission work I get. Also, I’ve always found that there’s a higher price point for animation work too.

I have done everything from short form pieces to long form explainer videos and I’ve even got to animate a burping unicorn in my time too. No jokes! If you’re worried about the daunting task of doing something long form when you’ve only done little shorts for Instagram or for your own practice then I must say this: no matter the job, big or small, long or short it’s always a big task for me. In any case if you have your first commission getting underway remember we all have to start somewhere. Sure I’ve agreed on projects where I wasn’t 100% sure on how I was going to achieve the end task. But I’m an enthusiastic creative and I learn on the job sometimes. Google and youTube have always been my sidekick for a lot of great advice for things I don’t know. If you are nervous though, do reach out to other creatives and I’m sure some animators would be more than willing to help.

So three ideas why you should consider delving into the world of animation. From adding a little “je ne sais quoi” to your work to getting more traction on social media to getting more work with higher commission fees. Whatever you’re thinking, animation is not something to be sniffed at. You probably have some of the software I mentioned above at your fingertips already so if you do anything at least play initially and see where it goes and you never know where it might lead. That’s what I did and the fruits of my play have been very rewarding throughout my career.

Thanks for reading. Pete 🙂


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