Meet Animate 101s Seth Taylor

  Seth Taylor
animator Seth Taylor

Your Shapeshifter Animate 101 Instructor

*Every 2 weeks, instructor Seth Taylor is posting a new lesson in the forum, which teaches an important principle of animation. aniBoom members are invited to participate in this informal course using our free online animating tool, Shapeshifter.*

I suppose that I'd always been interested in animation in a theoretical way. I've always loved watching animation, but making flipbook animations just didn't do it for me and since I have been a traveler for most of my life, I never had space in the backpack for a computer. So, computer animation was a whole other level of consiousness for me.

       Shapeshifter Animate 101
shapeshifter free online software

Even though I have always been a compulsive doodler, I always thought that animation was out of my reach. When I stumbled upon Aniboom and ShapeShifter I started making doodles move. It was one of those artistic turning points. From that point on I don't think I have drawn a line in a sketchbook without wondering what it would be like if it moved.

I have always been a self-taught kind of guy. If I am interested in something I go to the library, get on-line or find an expert to pester with questions. For awhile that kept me busy. Then I found out about Animation Mentor, an online animation school, and signed up for classes. What an experience! It was like drinking from a fire hose. I got to spend a lot of time with professional animators and was lucky enough to have two             3D Work In Progress
seth taylor 3d animation
amazing mentors and classmates who became an awesome support network.

I had to take a break after class two though. By class two I'd amassed about three years worth of ideas and projects to work through and I got married and started a business. AM is not a part time kind of place so I had to take a break for awhile. Once we've got our business sorted I am planning on hitting it again.

            Japan Girl
cartoon image

I spent roughly 16 years of my life, traveling around Asia and the US, learning languages, sketching and teaching. Everything around me changed every couple of months. Through all of that, my sketchbooks were always the place I would go for continuity and connection. That paper became a world I could always go back to no matter how alien the environment. The one thing missing though was movement. Once a sketch is finished it stops moving. What I love about animation is the idea that the sketch doesn't have to stop living and breathing.

On top of that animation is, I feel, the most expressive art form. Every emotion, mood and experience can (if you're skillful enough) be shared, explained and experienced. Until we can plug into each other's brains directly via some kind of frontal lobe USB connection, I think animation is about as close as we are going to get to sharing each other's thoughts and feelings and seeing the world through another person's mind.

     Flash Concept in Progress
cartoon image
My mentors at Animation Mentor Paul Allen and Dimos Vrysellas had, and are still having, a tremendous influence on me. They were so generous with their time and experience that I suppose I'll be indebted to them forever. Animaticaly, Pascal Campion and Nacho Rodriguez are two Aniboom names that come to mind as big inspirations. The most influential book I've read on animation would have to be a tie between "The Illusion of Life" and "The Animator's Survival Guide."

In the more general sense, Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli really embody the kind of spirit I hope one day to be able to put into my animations. They just never fall for the easy way out of a story.

      Sketch: Money Chasing
animation sketches

Animate! Don't wait for the computer you want or the software you dream of or the skills you wish for, start working. Staple some copy paper together and work on that, use the margins of books, post-it notes or get online and fire up ShapeShifter or Microsmotion. Get started now! Don't worry about not having animation skills. Too many people stop early because they feel like everyone else is better than they are. Do the best you can do and then get on to the next project. The more frames you put behind you the closer you are going to get to creating the jaw-dropping animation you dream about making.

Get in the habit of carrying around paper and a pencil or pen. If you think it, draw it. If you see it, sketch it. Make lots of mistakes. Love those mistakes! One of the most entertaining drawing exercises in the world is to just make a random line on a paper, a big bold mistake to begin, then make it into something. The best things that ever happened to me in art and in life, started off as big, fat embarrassing mistakes.

Pick up art and animation books and play around with how other people do things. I don't think copying is the best answer. To me, that is too much like work. Rather, grab the book and goof around with an idea or two then head out and sketch some more. Look for ways to apply those techniques to your own projects.

                    Thailand Doodle
animator seth taylor sketches
But most importantly, ENJOY yourself. If you aren't having fun animating you are probably doing it for the wrong reason. Find ways to make it fun. To get good at anything you have to enjoy practicing. Get yourself to the point where you have to work hard to stop. Loving the end result is not enough, you have got to love the process of making things and being creative.

I like ShapeShifter because I don't have to worry about a lot of terribly clever gadgets getting in the way. Even though I have been doing a lot of work in Maya and Flash I still love to come back to ShapeShifter to work on ideas. It always feels like coming home.

Besides, if you can make something look good in ShapeShifter, pulling it off in another program with all the bells and whistles is a snap. If you can make something come alive in ShapeShifter, it is proof of some serious animating ability.

            Idea for Flash Animation
2d sketches

To me Animate 101 will be all about me coming up with challenges for the community and watching as all our creative genius's take the idea and the skills to the next level and higher. I am most excited about being able to create a space where people interested in animation can come to challenge themselves.

The lesson will be based on the basics of animation. My goal is to put together very simple animations that display the fundamental concepts behind solid animation and to do this to the best of my ability.

I'd like to close with a big thank you to all the people who have supported me here. The Aniboom team has put together this awesome site and made animation available to everyone. Thanks to our community here that puts so much energy, care and attention into developing their animating skills and bringing across their message. And, thanks to my family for putting up with my sometimes too long hours pushing pixels. My wife has got to be one of the world's avatars of patience and love just for putting up with me and all of my hobbies.

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