Just as there are an infinite number of ways to animate a scene, there are just as many ways to improve as an animator. The ability to observe from life and reflect whatever it is we see in our work helps to make our art more personal and therefore enrich us as artists.
A great way to improve your powers of observation is by keeping a sketchbook and sketching from life as much as possible. This, to me, is the equivalent of a musician practicing their scales. An accomplished musician does not sit there and think about the next note they’ll be playing. Rather, they are more concerned with letting their passion and inspiration drive their performance. Similarly, it is beneficial for an animator to learn and absorb as much technical knowledge as possible so that they can instead focus on bringing convincing performances to life. If you constantly observe the world around you, you will have a better idea of what will make your animation feel more natural and true to life.
Learning from the masters is a great way to improve as well but don't limit yourself to just watching animation...live-action films are a goldmine because they offer a great deal of amazing performances that are fresh and avoid cliched animation acting. One thing I like to do is take a performance I admire and try to deconstruct it by thumbnailing all the key poses and analyzing what makes it work. By doing this, you can really distill the actor's work and learn a fresh approach to constructing a similar shot in animation.
Another important (and often hard thing to do) is to step away from your animation and try to enrich your life. Do anything that will inspire you, whether it is listening to music, going to a museum, seeing a theater performance or reading a book. It can be really easy to fall into a rut when you are animating all day so setting your work aside and recharging those creative batteries will do wonders for your scene.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid of getting feedback on your shots and have the attitude of a student. Show your shot to the people you trust and learn from their constructive critiques. KNOW that you are learning and improving as you do each shot and things don't necessarily have to be perfect each time out. Have fun! If you set realistic goals and enjoy yourself along the way, there is no doubt that you will constantly improve and surprise yourself with how much you are growing both artistically and personally.
Guest Blogger Chris Chua