What Should an Aspiring Cartoonist/Animator Be Doing?

Advice from Chris Schweizer, Graphic Novelist

Recently, I had a 16-year-old acquaintance ask about what she should be working on. She wants to go into animation, which I know very little about. So I asked Chris Schweizer, a published graphic novelist, for his advice. His reply had so much good information, and he gave me permission to share it on this site. I’m sure you’ll find it just as helpful as I did.

From Chris Schweizer:

“Draw a lot. And draw a lot of different stuff. Draw what you’re bad at: horses, cars, hands. Draw people interacting with their environment – leaning on steps, pushing tipped mailbox, stepping in too deep a puddle. One thing a lot of early animators have trouble with is placing figures in an environment, treating them as separate entities, so the more practice that you can get getting past this roadblock, the better you’ll be.

“It’s important to not get discouraged when you’re bad at drawing something new, or drawing a certain way. We take a lot of delight and joy and pride, rightfully so, when we draw something well, but the trap of this is that it leads us to only draw what we draw well, because we get all of the opposite feelings when we do poorly, and we’re guaranteed to do poorly when we’re leaving our comfort zones. Just remind yourself that you’ll only get better with each piece.

Black Cat Jug Band by Chris Schweizer

“Filling sketchbooks, like, filling the whole thing over the course of a month or two, that’s helpful, too. Not finished, pretty drawings — quick sketches. Character designs, people you see at the mall/church/school/airport/park, things around town – telephone poles and delivery trucks and rusty old tractors and shoes and cereal boxes… anything you haven’t drawn before.

“There’s an adage that I really like, pertaining to comics and animation: first you get fast, THEN you get good. We get better by working on successive pieces, a little each time. The more pieces we do, the quicker we’ll get better. I worked with a pair of twins who were 19 when they were offered the job of art director on a TV show. 19! That’s usually a job people get in their 30s, MAYBE, because it requires a lot of skill, a good eye, etc. But from the time they were 13 they were hammering away, studying the best people, doing thousands and thousands of drawings, and so they got good a lot faster than most people do, who are a lot slower. (It didn’t hurt that they each had a partner who was doing the same thing and that they could learn from each other’s successes and failures). “

Chris Schweizer received his BFA in Graphic Design from Murray State University in 2004, and his MFA in Sequential Art from the Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta, where he went on to teach for five years.  He now spends all of his time making comics, and lives in Kentucky with his wife and daughter. He is the cartoonist behind The Crogan Adventures and The Creeps.