Sunday, June 30, 2019

Animated Thoughts: Erik Timmerman

During the years that I attended R.I.T., they were operating on the quarter system--a schedule that I much preferred to the semester system that Taylor University used.

With only ten weeks per quarter, there was really no time to slack off. If you didn't use your time wisely, it was easy to get overwhelmed and fall behind to a point where you couldn't catch up.

Case in point: during my first year's Winter quarter, we had a class where we grad students were taught the process of producing an animation. By the end of Winter quarter, we were expected to have our treatment, script, and storyboards completed and be ready to start animating on day one of Spring quarter.

So there we were, sitting in a circle and pitching ideas for our Spring films. I pitched an interactive comic book--something where I'd scan an existing comic into a multimedia program and then animate certain panels when the user clicked on them. Erik said, rather bluntly, that I didn't have the drawing skills for something like that. It stung. A lot. But he was right. When I started grad school, I could barely draw stick figures. Granted within one Fall quarter of figure drawing class, I had made tremendous progress, so much so that my professor said that she'd never seen anyone come so far in so short a time. Maybe I was operating at that intersection of desire and hard work or maybe desperation breeds miracles. Who knows. Again, if I'm being honest about the whole situation, Erik was right and I wasn't ready to tackle such a project. And that was part of his job, giving us enough rope to stretch and grow as animators but making sure we didn't hang ourselves on a project that we couldn't complete in ten weeks.

So there I was, sitting in a room, getting called out in front of my classmates about the level of my artistic skills.

I then had a choice: feelings or logic. I could react to what my feelings were interpreting as an assault on my personhood (and receive the consequences of said action), like I had done so many times before in my life, or I could shoulder the embarrassment and grow as a person. I made that rare choice to listen to the logical side of my brain and take another step forward towards maturity. I said, 'okay' and then stated that the only other idea I had was about a Chameleon who got stuck in an art gallery. Well, it turns out that Erik loved the art gallery idea and over the following ten weeks, he helped me develop the idea from treatment to finished script. And while "visually" it never matched up with what was in my head, due to both my drawing skills being what they were and the fact that I had to draw the whole thing in the computer using a mouse (these were the days before tablets caught on), The Chameleon would be finished on time, screened, and would go on to win 2nd place in that year's SMTPE/RAVA awards.

Unlike most of my fellow grad students, my background was in English writing and computer programming, not art. So I had to work harder to catch up to their skill and experience level within the visual medium and Erik was always there to help me in that regard by encouraging me through a judicious use of both the 'carrot and the stick', helping me select projects that were within my skillset and skill level AND would be just out of my reach slightly enough so that I had to grow as an artist.

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