Animator, character designer, storyboard artist, visual development artist, layout artist, effects animator, modeler - all of these animation career paths have one thing in common: training.
Dani Elizondo flips through her 2015 animation portfolio.
If your dream is to work in animation, you need to go to animation school. To get into animation school, you need to know how to draw. Every top animation school will ask you to submit a portfolio of drawings to show that you possess specific drawing skills. How your animation portfolio is judged is one of the main factors that will decide if you receive an offer of admission. Competition for spots in the top animation schools is fierce. It's not enough to simply meet the requirements when submitting a portfolio. To get into an animation program you need to aim high and distinguish yourself with outstanding drawings. The more prepared you are the greater the advantage you can give yourself. A typical animation entrance portfolio will contain some mixture of these elements:
What's in a Portfolio?
Several drawings of the human figure in various poses. These conte, charcoal or graphite drawings must be drawn "from life" and not from a photograph. A Life Drawing class with instruction is your best bet but the next best thing is an open Life Drawing session (3 hour session where participants each pay $10 per class toward the cost of a model and draw various poses ranging from 30 seconds to 15 minutes in duration). The key is to find pportunities to draw the nude model.
Drawings of individual common household objects. Often these objects are based on basic geometric forms such as a sphere (an orange?), a box (milk carton?), a cylinder (water bottle?), a cone etc. An awareness of the structure that lies beneath the surface of the objects you draw will enable you to draw any given object from different angles.
Drawings of an interior - a room - can demonstrate a working knowledge of linear perspective and enable you to compose a convincing and interesting layout. Use 2 point perspective to draw a room in your house (kitchen, bedroom?). When choosing a view of a room, avoid facing a wall directly. Look toward a corner instead. 12 to 15 feet away from a corner of the room will allow you to see and draw a satisfying wide-angle view of the room.
Your character design will show your ability to take something right out of your imagination and give it a concrete form. Other portfolio drawings are based more on observation and this one is all about visualization and imagination. Design an animation character and draw a turn-around of the character (front view, ¾ view, side view etc.) along with various action poses and facial expressions.
A number of drawings of your hand (sometimes in a befor/after sequence) should show familiarity with gesture and structure.
Grab a sketchbook and head to a zoo or a farm, get your pet to sit and sleep while you draw, draw, draw. The goal here is gesture and structure.
A series of drawings that show shots as in a film sequence. You may be given an open-ended outline of a simple story, a character design to work from and asked to draw a number of storyboard panels or you may be asked to come up with your own story and characters. Basic story-telling skills, character drawing skills and creativity are evaluated.
In addition to the required drawings, you may be asked to include artwork of your own choosing. Some schools will offer parameters for this portfolio piece (paintings, illustrations etc.). This is an opportunity to show your experience in other areas of art.
The format for the final portfolio will vary from school to school. Some schools will ask for 8.5 X 11 scans or photocopies of your artwork in a folder or envelope. Other schools will require original artwork to be submitted in a large portfolio display case. If you invest the necessary time and effort into each of the drawings that make up the portfolio and then present the final drawings in a professional manner, your portfolio can highlight your drawing skills and help you get into animation school!