How Animating a Daily Piece Keeps Everything Fresh


animating a daily piece still
Alex The Pea

By Alex Nelson

First year student studying animation at the University of the Creative Arts in the UK


A piece a day

Hello Craft fans! My name is Alex Nelson and I’m a first year student studying animation at the University of the Creative Arts in the UK. I have worked as a freelance artist for about 4 years now working on such projects as creating animations for Idubbbz, making steam trading cards for Forsaken Isle, and ranking third in this year’s Albino Blacksheep Animation competition.

The current big project that I’m working on (outside of university) is something more personal. In this project I aim to try and create a small animation everyday for as long as possible using softwares such as TVPaint and Photoshop.

Choose a skill to improve

I start out by thinking about what I’m going to animate before I get started. This part can be done anywhere, whether I’m lying in bed, down at the shops, or even procrastinating in class. When I’m trying to come up with an idea, it usually helps to focus on what skill I want to improve on when creating that animation. You can see below the first animation that I created for this project; in this animation I wanted to focus on moving 3d objects around in a 2D world:

Day 1

I started the habit of creating daily animations in order to try and better my animation skills more broadly. With each animation I try and develop a specific skill. I often try to create animations that test my ability’s limits. This often occurs in the form of animating liquids or 3D objects: I’ll usually choose a technique that I’m not particularly strong at, or haven’t tried before, and I’ll try and incorporate it into the design in a way that turns out to be aesthetically pleasing. If, when creating the animation, I have to stop and think about how something would work, then I know that I’m testing my brain and therefore learning.

By challenging myself to come up with an animation everyday I can watch as I gradually improve in a number of areas, especially the speed at which I can animate and my confidence in starting new projects.

The skills that I learn through this can then be applied to my work both at university and while freelancing..

Choose a technique

When creating the animations, I almost always work using the Straight Ahead technique, as opposed to Pose to Pose. I do this because it gives the animations a much more fluid feel to them. The downside to using this technique however is that sometimes it’s difficult for shapes to remain consistent – they can unintentionally morph during the animation causing the object that you are animating to look less realistic (in the sense that it doesn’t fit into the world around it, rather than looking any less “real” in the traditional sense of the word).

Barriers that might, but shouldn’t, keep you from doing this

Another issue that I occasionally run into is the limited amount of free time that I have each day. This can add a lot of pressure to finish an animation, and can often lead to a lot of frustration if I can’t quite come up with an original animation idea or if I need to start again.

When creating a project like this, the main barrier tends to be inspiration. Coming up with ideas each day can prove to be a difficult task. Fortunately there are a lot of ways around this animator’s block that I’ve found, the simplest likely being just going for a walk and taking in the inspiration that’s around you. Look at everything, no matter what it is; it can still help inspire you. Look at the way people are dressed, look at insects on the ground, look at the clouds in the sky – anything can be inspirational if you view it with the right mindset.

Another important way of getting inspiration (which, given that you’re reading this article, is one you’re probably very familiar with) is to look at other artists, especially artists that are more talented than you or use different techniques that you. Try and think about the thought process behind their ideas and explore the various possibilities that are then presented, perhaps even taking it in another direction entirely. Some of my favourite projects have been ones that have taken direct inspiration from the styles of artists such as Ian McQue, Jamie Smart and Mike Mignola. My recommendation to you would be to find inspiration in things that you love; make sure you enjoy what you’re drawing, otherwise there’s no point.

Feel free to contact me on Twitter or via email with any questions you may have!