Are drawing or artistic abilities necessary to attend animation school?

November 7, 2014

One of the most common questions asked in terms of prerequisites for attending animation school – like the New York Film Academy’s animation school in New York or Los Angeles – is whether or not one must have artistic skills prior to attending. 

Robert Appleton, chair of animation at the New York campus, dives into this question and answers below…

Robert Appleton: Art school and/or drawing experience is a great asset as it provides training in visualizing characters and scenes.

For modelers drawing skills are definitely an advantage. It is not uncommon to see modeling job postings which state “Traditional art skills and ability to draft occasional concept drawings/paintings is a major plus.” The ability to design a character and draw a decent turnaround, then draw him/her in an action pose, and model the character accurately with correct topology can be a nice addition to an artist’s showreel.

However, not all good modelers are great draftsmen, and in a lot of companies artists specialize. One person does the drawings and another does the models.

Students with skill in drawing (or, again, other areas such as programming) will definitely be able to exploit those skills. Students who have not done much drawing will get the chance to develop and subsequently flex those muscles thanks to the instruction offered. For instance, character design, storyboarding, and life drawing classes are all part of the NYFA animation curriculum.

Technical abilities are valued in the animation industry as much as artistic abilities. so you can be lacking artistically and still do well in such areas as shading and lighting, rigging, rendering, and simulation. These areas require good skills in scripting languages such as Python, Maxscript and MEL, and programming languages such as C++.

Computer animation attracts a wide variety of personalities and incorporates a variety of interests. A glance at the credits of any CG or visual effects-heavy film will show just how many different roles and people are incorporated.

Not only are there the artists, character designers, and modelers, there are also people in charge of dynamic simulations (i.e. cloth, crumbling buildings, explosions) and developing and maintaining the pipeline (i.e. streamlining the interaction of various departments through programming and scripting).

Not everyone has to be da Vinci — or, on the flip side, a tech genius! — to find a niche in CG.