Wanna be a storyboard artist?

2022-08-16 17:52:46

Me being awkward in front of the camera for a Media class.

Storyboarding for animation is an intense but rewarding role. Storyboarding is the creation of sketches that form the blueprint for a final animated or live action film or show. It is often not given to beginners in the field because of how rigorously you are expected to draw. I was lucky however, to be able to start my career immediately as a storyboard artist. I have around 4 years of experience with storyboarding creating a 10 minute storyboard every 4 or so weeks. The storyboard is then sent overseas for the animation process. This work is highly sought after by animation aficionados, but few people are cut out for the speedy pace and solid drawing required.

Do you think you have what it takes to be a storyboard artist?

Drawing for animation

Firstly, storyboarding takes a specific draftsmanship that is competent in drawing clearly and fast, getting to the point and expressing everything, even more than the script calls for. This isn't found at any program at any school but instead comes from self discipline.

Recent life drawings. Source: Vela Noble (me)

It is required to be strong at life drawing and I cannot emphasise this enough! This means quick poses of people, animals, props and places. Long anatomical poses with thought out shading are just as beneficial, but shorter Ďgesturesí, quicker poses, are more suitable for a storyboard artist. This drawing is not for the faint hearted beginner.

Clarity of expression is vital for creating drawings that are easily understood by most viewers. This means the character forms strong silhouettes with minimal confusion. From this page in the book Drawn to Life by Walt Stanchfield, he visually depicts the nuanced language of lines in order to convey form.

Source: Here

Using the complex language of drawing, you are required to convey meaning through characters actions and poses using as few lines as possible. 

Acting in the characters skin

The ability to understand a character is vital for being a storyboard artist. Often, it is your job to add to what the designers and other creatives on the team have done. This means, extrapolating off of what you know about a character, thinking in their shoes, treating them as a real living breathing human/animal/robot/etc! Acting and storytelling is essential for this job, a passion for visual storytelling will show through in someone's storyboards. 

Making film studies is beneficial for being a storyboard artist, as it shows your understanding of composition and screen language as well as character performance.

Film studies. Source: Vela Noble (me)

Understanding of 2D character animation

It is essential to have a sense of how 2D animation works. This is because studios work with industry standard program Storyboard Pro, that now means the storyboard is heavily concerned with movement, conveyed through spacing and timing.

In terms of animation software, one industry standard is TvPaint, but this may be too expensive for a beginner animator. There is the free alternative of Krita which although not intentionally built for animation, has a decent timeline to accel the process. I followed the exercises on this list for a few years. With free programs, there really is no excuse to not animate!

Other Skills 

Time management. In art school, it may be acceptable to be a bit late. Not making deadlines however, was considered unforgivable in my workplace. It is vital to consider the workloads of your colleagues such as animatic team, who need your storyboard in order to do their job. This is where being a competent, speedy and time conscious artist will be beneficial. 

Dealing with others. You are required to express yourself when there is an issue such as interpersonal challenges in the workplace. Art is subjective, so differences in opinions are bound to pop up. Although unsavoury, sometimes incidents arise in the workplace where you may feel uncomfortable, and itís important to speak up to someone about it.

Be brave! Storyboarding is about putting yourself into a story. Bravery means as well, promoting yourself when necessary. It is a good idea to have a blog but even better to have a few pages on a neat website advertising your work. Employers want to see that you are honing your skills and not stagnating or 'coasting' so to speak.

After my break from work, Iím confident Iíll find work again due to having some years of work on my resume. Some of the biggest challenges for me is simply staying strong and focusing on improving my skills, so I hopefully can work in live action film or animation again.

Post done for my MDIA1020 class, hope this has been informative!