This is a question you may have heard many times before, and if you're new to animation, it's something you've probably asked your peers a few times as well. Drawing is always something that has been closely related to animation, after all, in the early days of animation everything was 2D so everything had to be hand drawn. Times have changed, and the majority of animated films are done with 3D animation; however, the question still looms, "Do I need to know how to draw to be an animator?" It's an important question and often times have several different answers - depending on who you ask.
In this article, we're going to take a closer look at this question from a few different stand points so you'll be able to decide for yourself if you need to invest time into learning how to be a great artist in order to be a great animator.
If you're a professional animator or just studying it through classes or our courses, you've probably heard this response a few times when you tell your friends or family you're an animator, their reaction is usually something along these lines..."Wow, so you must be really good at drawing cartoons and stuff?"
Instead of getting into the details of 3D and 2D animation you might just nod and agree. As you already know, if you're animating in 3D you're really not drawing at all, instead you're posing a puppet, in much the same way stop motion is done.
Why It's Not Needed
If you want to get into 3D animation, then the answer is very simple, you don't need to be a great artist to be a great animator. As mentioned above, in 3D animation you're posing a puppet. As long as you have a strong understanding of the 12 principles of animation your animations are going to be excellent, regardless of whether or not you know how to draw. That is kind of the wonderful thing about 3D animation; while you may not be the best traditional artist, you can still create excellent animations regardless. There are many professional 3D animators that can create amazing animations, but aren't the best traditional artists.
Many of the pioneer animators stood by the belief that your animation always comes first, and knowing how to be a great draftsman came second. It's not about whether or not your drawing is pleasing to the eyes, but rather that it's moving in a believable and entertaining way. Animation has always been about the movement and not the drawing. Amazing artists do not consistently make great animators, and vice versa.
Now, if you're wanting to learn 2D animation, then yes, knowing how to draw is going to be vital, but even then you need to have a strong understanding of the foundations of animation. You can have an excellent animation that is done with just stick figures, and it's still going to look good regardless of whether or not you spent hours on each drawing. For more info, download our handy PDF on the 12 Principles of Animation.
Why It Can Be Helpful
Even though knowing how to draw is not vital for being a great 3D animator, it still can be helpful. Knowing how to draw and establish clean silhouettes can translate into your 3D animation and help you create better posing for your characters. Taking life drawing classes in addition can be beneficial for understanding weight and anatomy.
It can also be very helpful in your planning stages, and working through your animation early on. Being able to experiment with different poses on paper is always faster than trying to pose out your character in the 3D application.
Probably one of the biggest benefits to being a great traditional artist is that it can open up more opportunities for you. There are still many studios that animate in 2D so showing that you can also animate in either medium can make you more appealing to recruiters.
What Should You Do?
With all of this said, what should you do? Well, if you're not the best artist, there's no need to feel like you can't be a great animator, because that just isn't the case. Animation comes down to knowing how to create believable and appealing movement, and bringing characters to life, knowing how to draw doesn't have a direct effect on 3D animation. Sure, it can help in many places, but it's not a game changer.
Now, if you want to spend the time to really increase your traditional art skills than there is no reason you shouldn't, because it never hurts. As long as you understand that it's about the animation. If you want to push your animations skills further, be sure to check out the in-depth animation tutorials at the Digital-Tutors library.