Wow. This is a difficult question to narrow down. I don't think there is one thing that one single person has told me that has helped me more than anything else. Everything I have learned from countless different people over the years has been beneficial to me in different ways. If I had to narrow it down I guess actively pursuing feedback has been the most beneficial thing I have done.
When I started working on my first feature film Ice Age: the Meltdown, most of the feedback I got was from the director and supervisors only. My work only began to grow and improve when we started doing pre-development on Horton. I had made more friends by then and I would stop by and see what other people were up to, what kind of ideas where floating around. The animators would get together in small groups and brainstorm fun ideas for different characters in the movie. It was a very exciting and eye opening time to be at Blue Sky. Everyone was forgetting about their egos and just listening to one another. When production finally started I had a completely different way of approaching a shot. I would get a shot kicked off, and after the sup or director gave his take, walk around to several different people and ask if they had any interesting ideas for it, BEFORE I started doing anything. Then I would do thumbnails or reference for it, often using others to help with reference. After narrowing down the reference and ideas, I would show a few animators the options to see what they liked. Then the best would be shown to the director and he would make his notes.
Once I did start animating, I would constantly get an animator feedback that was well suited for this type of shot or stage I was at to help. Nick Bruno and Mark Harris were great for coming up with comedy and crazy ideas. Melvin Tan was always full of gold for posing and breakdowns, and Hans or Juan Carlos helped me personally many times with adding subtle beats while splining. At one point or another I had asked for advice from every person in the department. Of course the directors and supervisors always had great feedback but every other artist around you may contribute great advice too. My best shots were the ones full of other peoples’ ideas.
I believe a shot can be a group project, a work of art that gets better with each person that puts his mark on it. Although at the end of the day you are the one doing most of the work, the final result should be a team effort. I was lucky to have a great talented team that felt like family. I know not every studio has that situation, but there are always people that can help. And you don't always have to go to who you think is the 'best.' One of my favorite stories I've heard about was when Glen Keane started at Disney, he said Ollie Johnson told him how important it was to show work or poses to others for help. Shortly after he started animating, Ollie knocked on his door and asked Glen to help him with a pose Ollie himself was struggling with and set down a "perfect drawing of Penny" for him to somehow improve. Glen proceeded to, in his own words, mangle the drawing, but Ollie still thanked him for his ideas and walked out. Whether or not Glen actually helped him is not the point, the point is Ollie was willing to go anywhere for assistance.
Now go show someone your shot!
-Guest blogger jmart (Jason Martinsen)