Chad walked away from an animation career at Disney because the pressure to perform had slowly robbed him of the joy he felt when animating and drawing. He shares his tips for budding artists and animators on embracing imperfection and looking for learning opportunities.
By Chad Stewart | Founder of The Animation Course
One of the most heartbreaking things I see as a teacher, parent, or animator is a young person putting so much pressure on themselves that they lose the joy that attracted them to an art form (or activity) in the first place.
As a young animation student I was drawn into a sequence of excitement, opportunity, achievement, and comparison (to those more advanced than myself), and then to insecurity and frustration. Each time I saw someone’s animation I had to know if I could do better. If I could be more valuable. As if becoming more adept at a certain skill had any bearing on who I was or my value as a person. But I continued to put pressure on myself to understand complicated concepts instantly and execute them effortlessly. Little by little that pressure robbed me of the joy I felt when animating. And it continued not just through school, but well into my career. Until finally I couldn’t keep up with it.
Why I said goodbye to Disney
After four years working for Walt Disney Feature Animation in the late ‘90’s, I found myself cleaning out my desk and saying goodbye to the job that had been my dream since 6th grade. While I had talent, I couldn’t draw or animate as well as the other artists there, some who were my age, but many who had been animating for decades. And instead of approaching my position with a humble curiosity, I had instead withdrawn into myself hoping that I could somehow pull some animation off on my own that would ‘Wow!’ those around me, which of course I couldn’t.
As a result, I found myself without a position on the newest film, without the opportunity to learn from those who had so much more skill than myself, and without a desire to continue animating, a process that had always fascinated me and something I truly loved to do.
What had I done wrong?
I had expected to learn too much too quickly. I had attached my character and self-worth to a skill that took thousands of hours to master. I had abandoned the joy of learning.
I finally gave up putting that unachievable pressure on myself and I have enjoyed animating in the world of film over the last 26 years, although I still feel it sneak up on me every once in a while. Now I see the pressure in new places, the eyes of my children and my students.
I think with the technological advancements today it makes it even harder for this next generation. A world of information and opportunity is at their fingertips. Almost everything is effortless… and yet there are still things in life that are truly hard to master. Growing up and maturing. Learning to interact with people. Knowing thyself. And, in the case of my students, animation.
When the moviegoer watches an animated movie, they ingest years of work from hundreds of people in a couple of hours. Unfortunately, sometimes a student will expect the same level of skill and expertise from themselves that they see on the screen.
I make it a point to always take the pressure off an assignment. Each of them is at a different point in their journey. Each is valuable. And it’s getting them excited about the journey that is the real key.
If they're passionate, then doing something wrong becomes a fantastic opportunity to learn.
And not a discouragement, but rather a moment to build momentum. If we embrace failure and mistakes as the catalyst for understanding and disconnect it from our value as people then we have a learning model that is powerful, and enjoyable! At least it was that way for me.
Tips for budding animators and artists
1. Find a mentor on YouTube or Instagram, someone you can follow and be inspired by, who encourages artists to create.
2. Take the pressure off assignments or the marks you'll get. Focus on animating and drawing for the love of the art.
3. If you mess up or need to start an artwork again, see it as an opportunity to learn.
4. Know that it takes years of work by hundreds of creatives to make an animated movie that you watch in a few hours. Do not expect the same level of skill for yourself as what you've seen onscreen. That's a combined effort.
5. Watch animation or Disney Pixar behind the scenes for particular movies that show the process.
Chad had some great advice. What's your favourite tip? Tell us in the comments below.
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Chad is an artist and animator who has over 27 years of experience in the feature animation world in 2D (hand drawn) and 3D (computer). He has worked with Disney Pixar on projects well-loved movies like Polar Express, Emperor’s New Groove, Tarzan, and the Smurfs movies. He has been a traditional animator, a 3D animator, and has supervised other animators on multiple films. Chad founded an online course for children called The Animation Course.
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By Indrani Perera | indraniperera.com
Painting with small children can seem very daunting. All that mess! But with the right materials and preparation it can be a little less messy and lots of fun. I started painting weekly with my daughters when they were 3 and 7. We all loved sitting around the kitchen table painting.
Painting wet on wet lets the colours magically blend and swirl together. The paint on the wet paper mixes together to form new colours and interesting patterns. It’s easy to get absorbed in the process.
Painting in the Steiner style adds songs and verse to the activity. Older children in particular may struggle to come up with an idea of what to paint. A verse or story will appeal to their imagination and fill their mind with pictures to share on the page.
Notes: buy good quality art paper, it’s really worth the investment as it won’t disintegrate as you’re painting.
Stockmar watercolours can seem quite expensive but a little bit goes a long way. You only need the primary colours - with them you can make everything else. They come in two of each primary colour. Choose either carmine red, ultramarine blue and lemon yellow OR vermillion, Prussian blue and golden yellow.
Tip: have a sponge handy to clean paint off the walls as it happens.
1. Preparing the paint
Give the paint bottle a good shake. Put a small amount (about a five cent piece) of paint into the small glass jar.
Add some water and mix together with a brush. Repeat for each colour.
Once made, the paints can be stored in the fridge in their jars with the lids on. They will last a few weeks, you’ll just need to give them a stir before use.
When starting, only give two colours to your child (eg red and blue) so that they learn how they mix together. After a few weeks when they have explored those colours, give them another combination (eg blue and yellow). When you have done all the colour combinations, let them experiment with all three colours at once.
2. Set up the art space
Set up the table for each child with a painting board, 2 glass jars half full of water and brushes in a jar, bristles facing up (this keeps them nice and pointy for painting).
3. Name and dating
Write your child’s name and date on the back of the piece of paper. Round the corners of each piece of paper with a pair of scissors.
4. Apron tying
Ask your kids to roll up their sleeves, put on art smocks and tie their hair back.
5. Wetting paper
Have your child help you run the paper under water from the tap. Drain excess water into the sink and place the paper on the painting board.
When they are sitting at the table, read a poem or tell a story to inspire ideas.
7. Handing out the colours
Sing or say this verse as you give each child their colours.
“Rainbow fairies soft and light, bring us colours bright.”
8. Knock knock
By now they’ll be itching to paint. Just one more step before they can. Teach your kids to keep their brushes clean with this little story:
Take your child’s brush and tap on the paint jar and say, “Knock, knock, knock. May I come in?” In a different voice, sing out, “Only if you’re very clean.” Then take the brush and dip it in the water, then back to the paint. “Knock, knock, knock. May I come in now?” and the paint replies, “Oh you’re nice and clean. Yes you may.”
For very small children you may need to repeat this little story.
9. Start painting
Now the fun begins - paint away!
When your child wants to change colours from red to blue, help them use the rinsing water jar to clean. Then dip the brush into the clean water jar, pressing excess water from the brush against the top of the jar.
10. Drying and packing away
When the paintings are finished, move the painting board somewhere out of the way to dry.
Get your child to help put the paint away in the fridge, wash the brushes and clean the table.
Indrani Perera is a a homeschooling mama of two girls aged 7 and 11. They're currently into their fifth year of homeschooling. Indrani shares insights and experiences in making the life she wants on her blog and Instagram. Her big passions are craft and nature and sharing them with her girls.
Being able to communicate effectively, charismatically and persuasively is a skill that doesn't come naturally to many, so helping your children learn this from an early age is really important.
By Claudine Clarke
Finding our voice as a child is part of discovering our place in the world. Speaking with confidence and clarity can bring so much empowerment and self-esteem into the realm of developing conservational skills, building relationships and how children cope with learning interactions, educational tasks and presentations. It helps children to ask questions when they are unsure of where they are headed, whether that be in a classroom setting, with peers and siblings, developing emotional intelligence and feeling happy in their own space.
Many studies show that when people speak in front of a group as small as 5 people, their heart rate increases, their palms start sweating, they stammer and reach a general state of anxiety.
It can be a scary prospect to get up in front of a crowd and try to entertain them with your words. Being able to speak confidently and engagingly in front of a group of people is a valuable asset.
Children tend to be open to new experiences and a little less fearful than adults, so they often do well in public speaking programs and speech and drama classes.
Through learning effective communication processes children can attain:
Getting up in front of people to talk can be daunting, but once a child does it, they often feel a great sense of pride and self-satisfaction which boosts their confidence and self-esteem.
Being a good communicator takes practice so ideas can be shared with clarity. Through speech and drama lessons, most children leave class with a new sense of how to convey their own unique message out to the world.
Another awesome tool, developed with public speaking and performance, is the skill of planning. It requires preparation, and it helps children to think ahead - something that will benefit a child for the rest of their lives.
When public speaking, there is usually a purpose or a particular message, and therefore children learn persuasive skills (all great leaders know how to persuade others). From here, the sky is the limit in terms of the positive influence they can have on others. Along with these beneficial learnings and skill development, the most important thing a child can get from enhancing their public speaking acumen is feeling comfortable speaking in front of people and having belief in their own communication abilities - written and verbal.
At the end of the day, giving our kids the ability to confidently communicate with one another is invaluable. As well as the wonderful skills above, speech and drama teaches empathy. It gives children the opportunity to experience the world from an outside perspective.
Effective communication, speech processes, drama, characterisation, improvisation and mime, are all techniques that the imaginative mind of a child relishes. Learning public speaking is part of speech and drama lessons.
Shy, reserved kids can get just as much benefit from improving their communication and performance skills as the more exhuberant ones. Drama is a great medium where children can use their energies to discover creative ways of expressing themselves.
Sometimes children find it difficult to express themselves freely in a typical classroom setting or even in a homeschool environment. Encouraging imagination and experimenting through speech and drama creates enthusiastic communicators. They gain the courage to step out of the box. It also promotes an appreciation of the arts and literature, and becomes a solid foundation for your child’s future.
*This is a sponsored post.
Claudine Clarke has been a speech and drama teacher for over 20 years with qualifications in youth work and with the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and Trinity College London. She immerses herself in all aspects of speech and drama teaching in the Gold Coast Hinterland and Scenic Rim region of Queensland.
Please contact Claudine if you want to know more about how speech and drama can enhance your child’s learning life. You can find out more on her Facebook page or send her an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ever wanted to teach your kids about music and rhythm, but felt totally un-musical? Here's an easy place to start on all things rhythm.
Whether you're encouraging your child to learn an instrument, or simply looking to explore music together, this beginner's guide to rhythm gives you the basic concepts.
I'm the kind of person who's always tapping on stuff. You know those annoying moments when you're having a meal and notice that the table's shaking? Yep, that's me down the other end.
When we started this magazine, I thought "oh that's nice for Grace, I'll build her a website", but always thought I wouldn't have much to contribute.
I think that's a symptomatic issue for a lot of homeschooling parents too - the old fear "What if I don't know what to teach?". I now realise it's not about knowing everything, but rather 'sharing the load' with a bunch of influential people in your children's lives.
I mean sure, you might not know much about maths but your engineer uncle might. And you might be a total 'brown-thumb' (opposite of a green thumb), but the lady next door with the epic garden seems to know a thing or two.
Play to your strengths, understand what you're well equipped with and either explore it together, or don't be afraid outsource some of the rest with someone more knowledgeable.
Well, apart from being the website designer/digital marketer/entrepreneurial-type, I'm also a drummer, so I know a fair bit about rhythm.
We had an article back in issue 3 covering the importance of teaching music appreciation that our readers really enjoyed, so I thought it would be good to go into a bit more depth on rhythm specifically.
So let's share some skills. Here's some basic concepts and tips for how you can explore rhythm with your kids.
Time signature: this is the foundation of your beat. The easiest way for me to put this is to say that it's the pattern you follow in a consistent count of usually 2, 3, 4 or 6.
Try this with your kids:
Count 1, 2, 3, 4 out loud: 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4 etc
Tempo: This just means the speed at which you're playing or counting. I suggest you start slow and then build up your speed. Everyone wants to get faster and faster but a great challenge with your kids is to see how slow you can play before it becomes too hard to keep a consistent rhythm.
Accent: No this doesn't just mean speaking with a foreign accent. An accent is the focal point or emphasis of your time signature. So if you're counting 1, 2, 3, 4... you can accentuate any of the four beats. 1, 2, 3, 4... or 1, 2, 3, 4... or 1, 2, 3, 4. It's kind of like reading a sentence where the emphasis on a single word can change the inflection of the sentence's meaning.
Dynamics: This is basically just how loud or soft you play. A great exercise is to find a mix of materials to find rhythm with and record which one is the loudest through to the softest.
Syncopation: Think about syncopation as the 'notes between the notes'. When we're talking about counting in 1, 2, 3, 4 there is actually a series of notes in between all of these too.
So if you sounds this out: "1-and-2-and-3-and-4-and" you'll notice that there are now 8 points we could accent on - either any of the numbers or any of the 'and's. So try sounding this out with the accents:
To really grasp the concept and explore it further, you'll be much better to play a beat together. Being in rhythm with each other is great for team work and non-verbal communication (though try recounting your last 3 meals while keeping the beat as a game too!).
There are countless household items to add to your rhythm section. The typical ones are pots and pans or knocking a couple of blocks of wood together. But think alternatively - brush your teeth or use a scrubbing brush for a maraca sound, use a book as a bongo, or your leg, use your mouth to beatbox, play a lounge cushion with your palm (for a nice deep sound). The options are everywhere. Have fun exploring the drum kit that is your house.
Use a clock as a metronome. A 'metronome' is anything that has a consistent tempo to help you stay in time. A clock that actually makes an audible ticking noise is ideal. Try and stay in time with the seconds hand first. When you're ready, try and fill the spaces between the seconds ticks with a beat.
Put the radio on and try and count whether the song has a time signature that counts in 2, 3, 4 or 6. To clarify, if you can count the beat with a consistent pattern, then that will be the time signature.
The best way to find the beat is to move to it. Especially for kids. They seem to naturally find the rhythm and then end up swaying, jumping and dancing to the right tempo and beat. Your body naturally finds it when you relax.
I hope you have found these useful and feel ready to give them a go for yourselves.
If you have any tips on rhythm, we'd love to hear from you. Just add your comments below and like or share.
Words and images by Kirsty Shadiac, Director at Artventure
I’m envious of your children being educated at home. Learning at home means your students have the flexibility to draw and paint and get crafty a lot more than I did going to a ‘regular’ school when I was growing up. And my instincts with wanting to do art turned out to be correct!
Today, more and more research is showing that art actually increases the quality of the whole education and learning
Did you know that kids who are exposed to a wide variety of arts and crafts are more likely to have measurable success later in life? Researchers from Michigan State University found that childhood engagement in the creative arts had a very strong correlation later in life with creating unique inventions worthy of patents, coming up with ideas worthy of starting a new
The researchers suggest that children exposed to arts and crafts are able to think “outside the square” since a lot of working with hands involves figuring out how to problem solve using creativity. After studying many scientists, co-authors Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein reached this conclusion: “The most eminent and innovative among them are significantly more likely to engage in arts and crafts avocations” than the average Joe.
Drawing, painting and moments of inspiration don’t come scheduled on the calendar; creativity can strike at any time. Educating your kids at home gives you a massive advantage: you have flexibility! No matter what time of day (or night, if you choose!), your kids can be creative whenever they feel like it.
Make sure you always have a space with art and craft materials (paints, brushes, pastels, paper, pencils, scissors, cardboard, glue, sticky tape, wrapping paper and scrap materials) available for when inspiration strikes the kids. If your supplies are always packed away you could be missing out on moments of spontaneous creativity, and possibly moments of genius!
I hear from parents who tell me about experiences where their child is getting bogged down by mathematics, science or other mentally-intensive topics. I am told that getting the kids to put their pens down and engage their creativity with some spontaneous art activities refreshes their
Countless research papers show that the more we incorporate things like painting, drawing, music,
There is no right or wrong in art. Whatever your children draw, paint or make, display it with pride and celebrate their creations. The best way to boost the confidence of children, especially those who aren’t as fast at picking up academic topics, is to encourage their art. By engaging in art, displaying and talking about what they’ve created, you’re building the child’s confidence. Giving the child a sense of achievement is so valuable and their motivation to learn in all areas will grow as a result.
Many parents tell me they love using my online art classes for themselves as well as their children because they “couldn’t even draw a stick figure” previously. This is usually because the adults weren’t taught to draw when they were growing up. So take a collaborative approach to teaching and learning; sit with your child and get stuck into an artwork of your own! It’s fun and you’re showing the child how valuable art is as a lifelong activity.
Art is creative, expressive, relaxing and inspiring. I’ve loved creating art since I was a child and I wholeheartedly believe that art is an essential part of every homeschool curriculum. As you continue on your home education journey, support your child through their learning as best you can and ensure that art is a key component of their everyday learning. Grab some art materials and get creative!
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Kirsty is an artist and mother of two from South Australia. She is passionate about teaching kids to draw and created her online classes to share with the world at artventure.com.au
Any adult in any profession knows everyday you have to think up new ways of doing things and new solutions, because you’ll rarely find a way that fits every situation. This is why it’s so imperative we equip our kids with the right tools from a young age to develop the skills they will carry throughout their lives; and play is the building block for becoming an effective creative thinker.
As an adult, we construct things through constructing knowledge in our head. You figure out there could be one way of doing it or there could be fifteen. You try it out, re-do it and reflect, and build again; each time makes you broaden your perspective to find the most effective solution. For young kids, this process is learnt through play as they haven’t developed the ability to process information just in their head. Just as adults do in their head, kids will use tools like DUPLO to construct and reconstruct, and through trial and error will find a solution.
Tip 1: Sit down on the floor with the kids and use a story that is the starter. Perhaps a story about two friends who live on opposite sides of the river that want to meet up, how can you build something that will help them? This will spark your child’s imagination as they think on what to build to help them. The more variety of bricks you have the greater your imagination will be. Different brick sizes and colours are also very inspirational.
Any parent will know the experience where you watch the moment your child figures out how to fit the DUPLO together. They will sit and fiddle with bricks and through trial and error use their intuition to figure it out. Each time they build, they are able to transfer the knowledge learnt through their play and start to construct more complex structures each time. This process of play is how kids learn and develop the most fundamental cognitive skills that we as adults use every single day. Equipping them with the right tools is critical to this process, and building bricks such as DUPLO is, for me, one of the best, if not the best.
Tip 2: A good exercise that demonstrates this learning experience is asking them to build a bridge. Once they’ve built it once, it becomes a natural reflection for them next time they need to build it – they learn a bridge has to go over, it has to be stable and it’s a structure. Building out of DUPLO is literally building their experience and this is something that you cannot explain to kids in any other way than learning through making.
This is by far one of the most important skills we need in life, and equipping kids with the right tools from a young age is imperative. Storytelling is a big part of our imagination. Think about your everyday life, how many times a day do you have to explain things to other people? Or needing the ability to sell in any ideas you come up with through explanation. That ability to actually structure a story where there’s a beginning, middle and an end, so it’s clear for everyone else, holds their attention and most importantly convinces them it’s something worth listening to is such an important part of our communication, and not something everyone is skilled at.
We don’t learn from a blank screen, we learn from things that inspire us. Knowledge is built by adding on top of something you already know or from satisfying curiosity. This is where storytelling is so crucial for kids to build these vital skills. A story doesn’t spring out of nothing it is inspired by something, and it’s about kick starting it.
Take the DUPLO box for example, the pictures on the outside may spark the story. From there, it’s about working with kids to encourage them to continue telling it through their play and guiding them to solve problems they face throughout. It’s helping their imagination by thinking up a story, finding inspiration through their building on how the story unfolds.
Learning descriptive language is a whole other language development skill. What do I call this shape? How do I tell someone else to put it in that? That descriptive language and being very accurate about things, being able to understand instructions from others and listen to it or asking a clarifying question back.
It might seem like a basic skill for you now, but it’s something kids are yet to develop. I’m sure every parent has experienced the frustration of not being able to understand because kids cannot explain effectively, but for them, play is the most important way they develop their language and lean to be very specific with their language.
Just to demonstrate the importance of developing effective descriptive language skills, think about how many times you’ve left a meeting at work feeling puzzled by what was just said, and turning to colleagues and asking them “what was that all about”. Learning this skill from a young age will benefit kids throughout their whole life.
Tip 3: There is a great exercise you can do with kids to help build and refine their storytelling skills through developing skills in descriptive language. You each need seven identical blocks, and sitting back to back, your child creates a build. From there, they need to help you to build the same thing they have through explaining it to you.
Repeat the process, each time providing feedback to your child on how they can refine their description (for example teaching them how to describe a brick with a curve and the direction it needs to face) that will help guide you through the build and each time they will learn how best to solve the problem.
This is one area of creative play that DUPLO is probably the most effective tool I’ve worked with because it is both creative and systematic at the same time. It’s a range of things from a visual tool to help understand fractions, to identifying colour patterns and stacking them as a representation of numbers; there is just so many basic math problems that are made easier to understand with bricks.
Most children all over the world are intuitive; it’s not difficult to put bricks on a building plate and to build rows of four and rows of five, but understanding this as a representation of a number is not something that comes naturally for kids. All parents will be able to relate to kids pointing to items and miscounting there are eight items when there are only five. This is because kids can’t connect numbers by pointing, they need an item to associate with a number. Building bricks helps kids to make connections between the bricks they are stacking and the number they are up to, eventually understanding what five looks like as opposed to 10 and so on.
Tip 4: Kids are very visual in how they learn, so next time there is a math problem you are trying to explain, use aids like DUPLO to demonstrate and help them understand. It could be basic things that are easy, up to building fractions and equations. The whole DUPLO system is like a mathematical system, which is in itself wonderful.
Looking at the problem of building a bridge, when constructing it, you need to consider that it needs to be stable enough for someone to step on it. Then if you were to build a high bridge it would differ from what you have to consider for a long bridge. That whole science thinking is inbuilt in LEGO DUPLO. The understanding of how you make things stable or build different structures is like basic engineering. It’s a science that kids can understand - these two halves make a whole and I put that in here because it fits. It’s all about science and structures.
Tip 5: This one is as simple as giving kids scenarios and asking them what they would construct to help solve the problem. Thinking about builds that require thought on stability for differing heights, strength to bear the weight of a car or a person, etc and help them understand along the way how they can improve the structure. Building a bridge is probably the most simple way to help build this understanding, but give them different scenarios to consider. For example, ask them to build a bridge that needs to be tall, one that needs to be short, one that needs to be wide enough to fit a truck.
Hanne Boutrup is a Danish Play Expert, with more than 20 years experience across 56 countries. She has worked closely with numerous experts to develop targeted workshops that put theory into practice. Through her extensive knowledge and experience in the area she has found that children’s building bricks, such as DUPLO, is the most effective tool she has worked with for kids to build the most fundamental skills during childhood.